Well, what can I say? Sometimes you feel great and execute a race perfectly, and sometimes you don’t. In this case, it was completely my own fault. As I went through 3k, finally getting dropped from the lead pack for good, “riding the stugglebus” or whatever it is the kids say these days, I thought to myself, “hey Leslie, there is probably a good reason why you’re in fifth place and feeling like crap right now, don’t you feel like an idiot?”
The race in question was the Speed River Inferno on May 31st. I had run a good race there last year, putting in a big move and breaking the race open with 1400m to go. I got caught on the last lap, but it felt great to go for the win like that, controlling the race and making moves as opposed to simply responding to others. (If you want the full recap, I wrote about it somewhere in here.) In any case, this year’s 5000m was shaping up to be even more competitive than last year’s race. I was excited to compete against a strong field and have a go at breaking sixteen minutes, a goal I have been chasing for the past few years.
I had recovered pretty well from the 10,000m two weeks earlier and training had been going fairly well. Allergy season usually hits me pretty hard every year during May and June, but for the most part I was able to keep my allergies under control and run some decent workouts. So, what went wrong? I became obsessed with numbers, once again. For most of my running career, it has been a struggle for me to back off, especially when it comes to mileage. I hate tapering and when I have to back off for a race, I do it begrudgingly. Thankfully, I wasn’t backing off completely for this race. I was assigned a medium week of 150k, but I always get a range of +/- 10k on my weekly mileage. So of course I had to run 160k, because more is always better, right? To make things worse, I front-loaded the week so that I could take Friday easy before the Saturday race, which probably made me even more tired. Add in a few hours spent out in the sun coaching on the morning of my race and I was feeling a little rough on race day. Nevertheless, I warmed up and gave it a go. My legs felt decent on the warm up, so put my fatigue out of my mind.
The gun went off and I followed the plan, settling into the middle of the pack so that I didn’t blast the first lap. Our rabbit was supposed to hit 4:45 at 1500m, but I figured I would hang back in case the first few laps were uneven in pacing. I rolled through in 75 and did my best to move around other runners and stay with the leaders in the first kilometer. The paced slowed a bit over the next two laps and the rabbit pulled off at 1200m. Rachel Hannah took over the lead and surged a little to get back on 3:10/km pace. The lead women gapped me slightly, and for the first of several times I ignored the fatigue in my legs and fought my up there. Over the next few laps it was the same – I let myself get gapped, or I was a little slow to move around someone, but I knew I had to stay with the leaders, so I tried to cling to that lead pack as if my life depended on it. But by the 3k mark they had opened up some space on me again and I was starting to feel pretty rough. The negative jerkface part of my brain started telling me what an idiot I was for not resting enough for this race, but I still had five laps to run and splitting 9:33 meant I still had a shot at breaking sixteen, so I told it to shut up.
The last few laps got rough. I was rigging pretty badly, Heather Petrick passed me…oh, and I lost about ten seconds in the span of two kilometers. No sub-sixteen for me this time! Nevertheless, it was still a decent little five-plus second personal best of 16:05.84. Sure, I didn’t break sixteen and it sucks to lose to five other women. But I don’t like to complain about a PB. It wasn’t the PB I wanted, but it was probably the PB I deserved. I got a good reminder about the importance of rest and how, once again, I should be listening to my body instead of obsessing over numbers. It is a tough lesson to learn, but I am used to learning some things the hard way.
I will have another go at the 5000m this Sunday at the Portland Track Festival. I am very excited to race at a high caliber meet like this. And in case you were wondering: yes, I have rested up for this race.