BAA 5K – Do You Want To PR? Yes.

On April 14, Rebecca and I ran the BAA 5K, a relatively recent addition to the festivities of Boston Marathon weekend.  On April 14, Rebecca and I PR’ed at the BAA 5K.

I first ran this race in 2010, posting a time of 21:15.  It happened to be my first race in Brooks gear, and my first skirt run to boot.  You can relive the experience here.   I ran again in 2011, but I seem to remember I didn’t intend to really race it, at least that’s what my time of 22:something tells me.  Signing up for the race this year, I knew I wanted to take a shot at a new 5K PR and had a good feeling about the possibility of one.  That said, I was apprehensive because my training for the 50K has only recently started to add some speedwork into the training plan, with no intervals shorter than one mile.  I knew my legs were stronger overall and my endurance peaking, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I could do it without the usual 1/4 and 1/2 mile repeats I’d done in the past.  Compounding the ever-increasing self doubts was a new course design that featured roughly 1000 turns, give or take.  It removed the long opening incline and hill up to the state house, but also the resultant screaming downhill.  I figured, “how can I run fast on a course with so many frickin turns?”

Now, on the best of race days I am a nervous wreck.  I just can’t shake that feeling of getting ready for a high school cross country race and my brain stats to flip out.  Thankfully, Rebecca was as calming an influence as possible, which made my brain slightly less flippy.  I told myself to calm down, that all my recent workouts indicated I could hit Coach Canaday’s target pace of 6:50-6:55 per mile.  “You can do this if you execute!” one part of me screamed.  “You’ll never be able to keep that pace up,” another part of me whispered, insidiously back.

Some day soon, I’m going to post on the power of a uniform, but for now I’ll say that I have always felt better about racing when I feel like I’m dressed ready to race.  I decided to go with my awesome Brooks green plaid shorts, along with my relatively new Brooks Pure Connect2 flats.  Looking in the mirror before headed down to the start line, I started kicking around the idea in my head that “I can run this race as fast as I want.”

In prior years, I placed myself in the 7 minute pace area of the corral, hoping to run faster but not wanting to venture into 6 minute land.  This year I threw caution to the wind and lined up with other hopeful 6 minuters and other racers who put themselves in the wrong spot.  I knew a danger might be going out too fast with those around me, but I figured that a) it wouldn’t feel as fast it would be if others were moving about the same pace, and 2) I’d be fighting through even more people than I knew I would anyways if I moved back.  I took a moment to compose myself, jumped up and down a few times, and got ready to have at it.

As expected, the first mile was a fast one, but surprisingly fast in that I was feeling the pace but thought I’d be lucky if it was under 7.  In fact I was already telling myself I’d have to make up a slow first mile in the second one.  It turns out my fears were baseless as I passed by the clock at 6:37.  It was around this time that I started working on the mental aspect of the race, first asking myself “do you want to PR today?” and then repeating the answer “I want to PR!”  By constantly reminding myself of the goal I was chasing, I made it through the seemingly endless turns of the second mile, which featured the course’s only section that could be called a “hill.”  Coming through mile 2 in 6:51, I knew that I was beginning to fade.

Picture 2

I knew that mile 3 was going to be a sufferfest, but reminded myself that, if I did it right, it would all be over in less than 8 minutes, I just had to hang on for dear life and fight the urges to slow.  Turning right on Hereford, I had flashbacks to last year’s death march of a marathon and told myself this finish was going to be completely different.  Where last year I had to stop several times on Boylston St. to stretch, this year I would accelerate to the line.  This year I’d finish strong.  My body protested.  My gut protested.  My legs yelled at me, but when I crossed the line my watch told me it had all been worth as I shaved off 7 seconds from my 2010 PR, even without a focus on speed, for a time of 21:07 officially.

Picture 1Finish 1

On any number of levels, I am thrilled with this race performance.  More important to me though was the fact that I overcame the negative feelings that were weighing me down pre-race, in no small part thanks to Rebecca’s encouragement.  It’s hard to PR at any distance, it’s even harder when you’re burdened with the feeling that your goal is not attainable.  As an additional note, Rebecca also achieved a great PR in her race, and even the fastest 4 miles she ever has when adding on the 0.9 miles she ran right up to the start.  I’m very proud of her!

Me and Becca

I can’t say I finished pretty in this race, and I know darn well I did not look pretty, but I can say with certainty that 21:07 never looked so beautiful to me.

Run Happy!


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