Today I jogged out to the near edge of Crissy Field to make another attempt at my goal of running a sub-30 minute 5K, at the DSE Marina Green race I'd run several times before. I felt good about my chances, having seen my fitness improve over the last month despite a reduction in total running mileage and scaling back on cross-training (more on that later). The weather and course were certainly favorable; overcast and flat, respectively.
The start came as a bit of a surprise as the announcements were inaudible from my position in the pack. I also quickly realized that I had placed myself too far back, out of habit from when I consistently finished near the bottom. I maneuvered past many slower runners, and soon found my rhythm. I tried to listen only to my footsteps, like the clip-clop of the horse, striving to find and maintain a cadence of 180 beats per minute. I held that metronome marking in my head and stuck to it as closely as possible, occasionally surging ahead to pass other runners that were not in sync with my beat.
I hit the first mile marker in 9:28, and knew my goal was achievable if I maintained the pace. We moved off asphalt and back onto a dirt path, where it was harder to hear my footsteps. I felt myself slowing down, and fought off the encroaching fatigue. My legs were feeling too warm, and I began wishing I'd worn shorts instead of tights despite the cool (~55 degrees) weather. (I'd already ditched my jacket at the registration table before the race.)
Mile 2 came in 19:19, and I knew I would have to pick up the pace. I surged past a small knot of runners and continued on, watching the eventual winners speeding back toward the finish. Hit the turnaround and the air was suddenly still. There hadn't been a strong wind, but the change in direction was noticeable, and I felt even more overheated. My lungs were burning, but I kept going, trying to stay in lockstep with the metronome beat in my head.
Hit mile 3 at 29:04. I knew I could run the last tenth of a mile in under a minute, but just to make sure, I started my sprint immediately rather than waiting until I was within sight of the finish line. I was pounding the ground and gulping air. I spotted boyziggy, poised with camera to get my victory shot, but was too focused on crossing that line to even acknowledge his presence.
Crossed the finish line in 29:49, as verified by Ziggy's photos; I was too tired to remember to stop my watch. I was so happy he came out to support me. I don't have any close friends in the club, and it would have been a hollow celebration without him.
(My exhausted approximation of a "3" and a "0")
I'm very pleased with myself for achieving this goal. I've been running 5K races off and on since '98, and it was high time I get there. This summer of structured, calendared workouts has really improved my fitness. This despite the fact that I skipped several runs and completely abandoned lifting weights and doing stairs workouts after the first week of August.
The main reason I changed my workout schedule was that I started doing volunteer work at the Free Farm and Free Farm Stand, both of which require a fair amount of physical labor, plus three hilly miles of walking to/from the farm. I decided those work shifts would substitute for the stairs and weights. I also started a vinyasa yoga class at The Sun Room, with a great teacher, James, a fellow Food Not Bombs volunteer. Though I've had trouble with yoga in the past, I feel that working on these poses will be much more effective than the stretches and crunches I'd been doing. Finally, I skipped a couple of scheduled runs because of increasing tenderness in the ball of my right foot, which I determined was due to my minimalist New Balance shoes not giving me enough forefoot protection on rough surfaces. I switched back to my preferred brand, Newton, and am so far very happy with the Lady Isaac S model that I got locally at See Jane Run, a good store devoted to women's fitness. (They even gave me a discount for being in race training!)
Today's 5K was the first of three races this month. I'm really looking forward to the next one, the Big Gay 10K on September 15. I've raised $250 so far for this event, to benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation; there's still time to sponsor me if you wish! The final race of the month will be the Bridge to Bridge 7K/10K. The longer distance option is usually 12K but was shortened this year due to construction, so I'll be going for the 10K.
I hope to break 60 minutes in a 10K soon, as my next racing goal, but I doubt I'll be able to do it this month; I don't think I can sustain a 9.6 min/mile pace for a full hour yet. I also have the US Half Marathon in November to train for, though I don't have a time goal in mind for it yet. My long run is now up to 10 miles, which I can currently do at under 12 min/mile with 9/1 run/walk intervals, so I'm in pretty good shape.
In other fitness news, my weight is down to 119 lbs (BMI 20.4) and my waist size (measured at the navel) is down to 28", for a total loss of five pounds and three inches for the summer. Considering I wasn't trying to lose any more weight when I started this fitness program in June, I was surprised to see the scale continuing to edge downwards. But I suppose this is the weight I was supposed to be all along. I'll continue to monitor my weight and waist size on a weekly basis, but I'm much more interested in improving my aerobic fitness, boosting my energy levels, and increasing my physical strength and flexibility so I can work more effectively and have a happier life in general. It's the big picture that really matters.