Last week, we discussed the tune-up race dilemma: what to do when your plan calls for a practice road race and there’s nary an organized run within a thousand miles. Although Alaska provides an ideal setting for holiday card photos, the winter racing scene is unfortunately not nearly as picturesque. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s much easier to find an actual reindeer around here than it is to find a 10k Reindeer Run.
So after reading the helpful feedback I received in the comments, I “signed up” to run a 5 mile time trial on an indoor track, committing to report the results here for the Salty Running world to see. In keeping with this commitment, I now present to you the full report on Basil’s First Annual Fake-it-till-you-make-it Five Miler.
Spoiler alert: I won! This may be the one advantage of racing all by your lonesome. First in my age group. First overall female. First overall finisher. First to be institutionalized for imaginary racing. Oh, the thrill of victory, the agony of being the idiot who signed up for a winter marathon….
So, as it turns out, running 20 miles on a treadmill is CAKE compared to running 20 fast-as-you-can laps on a track. Because my week was fairly packed with company two weekends in a row, I had to squeeze my runs for the week within a short span. I didn’t taper or modify any workouts, which meant I ran a speed workout on Monday (albeit a relatively easy one– 8 miles with 5×600 at 5k pace of 6:53) and an easy 5 miler on Tuesday. This teed up Wednesday to double as hump / race day.
I normally run in the morning, but my daughter was receiving an award at school so I spent the morning taking blurry faraway pictures of her adorable face and listening to the cutest ever elementary school rendition of “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. I came home to change, throw dinner in the crockpot, and wolf down a peanut butter bagel, the cornerstone of my Trusty Pre-Race Breakfast.
I arrived at the indoor track around 12:30 p.m. and got right to work warming up. I ate a gel, ran a couple of easy miles, and then came back to the bench to grab some water before doing strides. It was then that I noticed a gal who looked like she might be a collegiate runner tying her shoes and doing some dynamic stretches. I thought about striking up a conversation, maybe drumming up some more accountability to run this awful race. But in the end I shied away and scampered off to use the bathroom one more time before strides.
My goal was to run five miles 15 seconds faster than my normal tempo pace, which would put me at a 7:15 pace . In spite of kicking off my first day of “girl problems” earlier that morning, despite the fact that I was racing during my normally sluggish afternoon hours, and in spite of not having tapered or trained much at all for speed, I felt pretty damn good when that pretend gun went off.
I ran the first mile in 7:13. Yay! I’m a total badass! I can do this!
I ran the second mile in 7:30. It’s okay. You’ve got this. You’ve got this. You’ve got this.
I ran the third mile in 7:30. You sluggish little sh…. You call this a race? You just got lapped by that gazelle disguised as a woman. She isn’t even breathing hard, and you sound like a wounded walrus. Pull it together! Pull it together! Don’t get lapped again. Just don’t get lapped again and you can walk out of here with your dignity. Oh crap, my shoelace is loose. I HATE when my shoelace is loose. I want to stop and retie it. But this is a race! You can’t stop during a race! Forget about the $#@& shoelace! RUN!! This was also the point where I burped some awful combination of chocolate mint gel and peanut butter bagel. It’s a miracle I didn’t hurl on my too-loose shoelaces.
I ran the fourth mile in 7:34. Clearly all that deprecating self talk was less than productive. Ok, self, this isn’t over. Four more laps. Don’t get lapped again. Three more laps. Don’t get lapped again. Dig in. Run until you hurl. Just GO. Two more laps. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There are only two people on this track, and you just got lapped again. I HATE MY LIFE.
The last 800m, I ran as fast as my tired legs and burning lungs would take me. Fifth mile, 7:25. Overall, 37:12.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with that time. It was barely 4 seconds per mile faster than my tempo pace. But I am satisfied with the effort I put in. I gave it what I had to give. I’m not allowing myself to draw conclusions about my fitness level based upon this time trial. This is part of my marathon preparation, mentally and physically. I may not be as fast as I want to be right now, but I’m sure as heck going to be prepared!
I was a mile into cool-down when I spotted the familiar backside of the girl who’d breezed past me twice during my 17th circle of hell. I caught up to her to say thanks for providing some inspiration to go faster. She was as friendly and sweet as she was fast, so I unfortunately had to stop hating her at that point. After I told her what I was doing, she offered to pace me on the next one. (Next one!?)
This is why I love the running community. I can strike up a conversation with a complete stranger–a lady 16 years my junior who would likely beat me in a 5k by a solid 4 minutes–and by the end of the chat, we’re making plans to run sometime. I’d go as far to say that I love this sport and the athletes within it as much as I hate fake tune-up races. And after this experience I can confidently say I really, really hate fake tune-up races.
So there you have it. My First Annual Fake-it-till-you-make-it Five Miler!
Have you ever done a time trial or fake tune-up? How did it go?