5k training has been a wild ride.
That extreme of a description would usually be reserved for longer distances or crazier races. I still remember hitting a major wall the first time I ran over 15 miles for marathon training, and not moving off the couch for a full day after 20 miles on Saturday and 14 miles on Sunday trying to mentally and physically prepare for an ultra.
But a 5k?
My only excuse for this is I’ve completely hit a plateau in running, and this 5k is the only way I’m ever going to bounce back after not really racing for about two years and having a baby.
When I decided in February I had to do this 5k, the thought of running a 6-something minute mile was so foreign I even couldn’t picture those numbers on my watch. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure my watch went down that far anymore. Several speed workouts in, those numbers are getting slightly more familiar–a face in the crowd that you can’t quite place–but definitely not any easier. And definitely increasingly intimidating.
These past three weeks have been filled with some serious running highs and lows–something I haven’t experienced in years. I’ve had speed workouts that gave me the confidence that I could break 20 if every single tiny detail lined up and maybe the course was slightly short (I’m joking, whenever there is a short course I feel like I have to keep running until my watch hits the mark. Anyone else?). I’ve also had some workouts where my legs felt like wooden pogo sticks, I couldn’t catch my breath and I decided that realistically, my goal should be closer to an hour, since I’m not meant to be a runner.
I started logging my workouts to remind myself that there are always ups and downs, and that one terrible workout day is often followed by the best workout, or race, of your training. There’s so much more that goes into a good run, what you ate that day, if you’re stressed, slept well, how much you overthink it and often something out of your control, like a sudden heat wave and all you packed were fleece tights.
Warm up, 3.1 mile treadmill tempo, cool down.
Story: I was angry about a bad two mile tempo last Monday, so on Wednesday, I hit the gym at lunch, did a .5 mile warm up, a 3.1 mile tempo and a half mile cool down. My mile times were 7:18, 6:58, 6:31. I felt incredible and definitely think I could have started off faster. That run gave me hope that I can pull out a good race next week. And if I don’t make my under 20 time that’s ok, I had to aim extremely high to push myself.
2x .75 miles and 1x .5 miles tempo pace (with .25 rest pace in between each set) in the middle of 5.5 miles
Story: My coworker wanted to go for a run on a trail near work, so we ran a 1.25 mile warm up until we reached the path when I took off for my speed work. I started off way too fast, in the high 5’s, for about a quarter mile, then started feeling extremely hot and heavy. My tempo times were abysmal. I hadn’t worn the right clothes for the unseasonably hot and humid weather, I felt overheated, sick and my legs hadn’t fully recovered from my track workout on Saturday. Lesson learned. I’m cross training the rest of the week until Saturday, when I’m going to do a tempo run of the course.
What This 5k Training Says
It’s been a long time since I’ve done speed work this consistently, and between the time off from short races–and all races–and simply getting older, my body now needs more recovery days, even when I’m running less miles. I’m also awful at eating right after working out, usually having to jump right back into mommy mode, and it seems fairly safe to say that that’s not helping my body recover. Working on it.
The hardest part has been getting over the mental hump that I can’t run fast anymore, or that I’ll embarrass myself if I can’t pull off a decent 5k. The reality is the opposite, the 5k presents challenges that I’m inherently not good at, and pushing myself to face those has been a huge step in evolving as a runner, especially as I enter running in my 30’s.
Stacking three fast miles on top of each other is a huge physical challenge, for anyone, whether you’re breaking 30, 20 or you’re an elite. You don’t have time to have a bad mile, like you can in a marathon, and there’s not much course to make up time. It’s especially hard when your mind tells you constantly that you can’t or you need to stop.
I can stop when I finish. It’s only a 5k.