When Plan A fails, you should have a Plan B, not Plan A recycled.

I ran the 5000m at the Athletics Ontario national qualifier on Saturday in an attempt to fulfill Plan B. Plan A is to qualify for the national championships by running under seventeen minutes in the 5000m. Plan B was to qualify by placing in the top three at the national qualifier in the event that I didn’t run the standard (sub-17). I may still carry out Plan A at the 5000m night in London on June 19th. Why would I carry out Plan B before Plan A? My logic is that I would rather break seventeen, but if I fail to do so in June, I will at least have the national qualifier to fall back on to enter me into the championships.

As has become common on days when I race, it was raining in the morning. By the evening, it was raining very lightly – not enough to notice while running, but sufficient to leave puddles on the track and make one wet and miserable after a while. To make matters worse, the meet was running about an hour behind when I arrived. When we finally got underway, I wasn’t exactly excited to race. I led the first few laps of the race, trying to set a solid pace, but I started feeling it pretty early. I led Speed River runner Samantha Beattie take over the lead and made the decision to stop worrying about pace and time and to run for a top three place instead. Samantha did a great job leading the race, clicking off 82-second laps consistently. I feel the need to apologize to her for my sit-and-kick tactics that night. I knew I wasn’t feeling wonderful, so I decided that I would stay with her for as long as I could, hopefully dropping the rest of the field along the way. At around the 3k mark I tried to make a surge to start a long drive to the finish. This unfortunately didn’t last very long, as I slowed after a lap and a half or so and Samantha took the lead again. I entered survival mode at this point and tried my best to tuck in and get pulled to a decent time. At around two laps to go, however, things seemed to look up. I was either suddenly feeling stronger or simply more willing to push and make it hurt. I put in a surge along the back stretch and took the lead just before 600m to go. From there I tried to maintain the pace as best as I could, holding the lead and putting about seven seconds on second place. I figured I ran in the 17:20s based on a misremembered split from 200m to go, so it was a bit of a nice surprise when I looked at the results the next day and found out that my time was 17:12.89.

My best time in the 5000m is 17:06, which I ran at the dome in Ottawa. The dome is a magical place where there is no rain or no wind because it is an indoor 400m track. So I figure my time from Saturday in the rain and (some) wind is pretty close to my personal best performance. For the record, I’m not trying to make excuses for my time. I do, however, find it encouraging that I am in the same sort of 5k-shape I was in back in 2007-2008 when I was All-Canadian in cross country and raced FISU. It tells me that I’m definitely back in shape after my injuries and setbacks. And my hope is that I will run even faster once I am a little more race-sharp.

In the end, I accomplished “Plan B” by taking the win at the national qualifier. Plan A is still on the table, though. Breaking seventeen minutes has been a goal of mine for years, and I am finally fit enough to attempt it again. My next shot at it will be at The 5k Showdown in London on Saturday June 19th. After that, I will forget about times and standards and simply work on sharpening up for nationals. I decided early in the month that June would be my time to chase standards, while July would be about speed work and dropping down to some shorter races (3ks and some 1500s…I’m dreading it already) in order to get ready for the championships. That’s the plan, anyway. Winning the national qualifier takes some of the pressure off, so I hopefully I can run a good time this weekend now that the do-or-die mentality isn’t there. And if sub-seventeen doesn’t happen in June, so be it. If I am fit and race-sharp at the end of July, fast times will follow.

The quote in the title, if anyone is interested, is from the show 24. I’ll do the Darths & Droids thing and link to TV Tropes. (Alternate title: “Failure is always an option!”)

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