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New PR in the 5K - A Training Success Story

Back in May I decided I was old and tired and that I wasn't going to go gently into that goodnight. To placate my affronted self-image I decided that I would set a new PR (Personal Record) in the 5K (3.1 miles). My previous record had been 23:56 which I set back in the 2001 Bradley Beach 5K. I started too fast, but I ran a good race, but I didn't think I did as well as the final results indicated. There was a mix-up in the scoring and I'm pretty sure that I got moved-up in the times as a result. The bottom line is this: I haven't been able to beat that record for years and by heck, now that I'm old ... It's going DOWN!

My training consisted of running 5 or 6 days a week in 21 day "cycles". Each cycle had 4 days off and 5 key work-outs consisting of a selection of Long runs, tempo-runs, cross-training, hill-climbs, and Fartlek to keep it interesting. The other days are just easy-jog recovery days. It was important to me to remain flexible so weather & work-schedule juggled my cycle days a bit, but I always completed the cycle even if I was a day or two late.

Other training antics included seeing how fast I could run my short-loop, mapping mile markers for my long loop, running on the local high-school track & rewarding myself with high-tech sweat wicking shirts/pants. Oh, and losing 5 pounds while putting on muscle - in other words: getting lean & mean.

I planned on running a local weekend race at the end of September, but unfortunately, when I checked a few weeks before the race I learned that it had been canceled! I hastily planned to run my big race the following weekend at the Poricy Park 5k without knowing anything about the race or the course. This is something typically called a "Big Honking Mistake". If your only goal is speed, it's best to pick a Fast course - one that is flat & smooth & typically, paved. What I got was a trail run with a few hundred feet of ascents & descents including a scramble down an embankment, over a creek and up some wooden steps. This is not a course to try for a PR! Regardless, The day was beautiful, I was well rested & the crowd was minimal. I was going to go for it anyway.

And they're off! I'm on the far right behind the flag

The course started off across a field and down a hill and then through a forest and across some meadows. If I wasn't so bloody focused on breathing and keeping my legs pumping I think I would have really enjoyed this race!

Within the first mile the pack had slimmed, the Mercurial had sprinted far ahead and it was just me and one other guy running approximately the same 7:30 pace (#331 leading the pack above). In preparing for the race I had relied on the mile splits to know the pace I had been running. Unfortunately, this race didn't have a timer set up at the mile markers - in fact, I never saw marker 2 or 3! I had experience on my side though as I've run enough 5ks to get a feel for how far I've run - and I knew where in relationship to the course the finish line was located. :-)

The guy that was pacing me slowly pulled ahead on the hills as I hadn't done enough incline work and I was running way ahead of my target pace. Somewhere around 2.5 miles I really had to fight to avoid true gasping. Controlled breathing is always better for the race even if it doesn't get you as much oxygen as full-blown wind sucking. I forced myself back into the 1 full breath for every 4 steps rhythm that has served me well over the past few years. I guess I could have slowed down, but since I didn't even know where I was or how fast I was running, there was NO way I was going to risk missing my PR.

When I finally rounded the final turn and saw the finish line I pushed myself to run yet faster as I fancy myself a runner with a kick! As I got closer I heard the race announcer yell out "Here comes our third finisher!" Yikes! I never dreamed that I had passed that many people! I've never been top 10% yet alone a meddler! I didn't have time to dwell on this achievement because 2 seconds later I saw my time:

A new Personal Record 22:47!

As I crossed the finish line I pumped my fist in the air, yelled "New PR!" and generally made a fuss. They handed me my Bronze, and offered a winded congrats to the guys who finished ahead of me. Besides my well-run race, I'm proud to say that Heather also ran and ran well. She set her own PR with a time of 34:31!

There you have it folks. I'm old, but I have a new record that I'll probably never beat. Thank god I can start eating again!

The Official Race Results courtesy of the Jersey Shore Running Club
The Runners World Article that inspired my Cycle Training.