Monday, October 1, 2012

Larchmont RAT Race 5k: Finally figuring it out

So again, I wouldn't normally write about something as "little" as a local 5k, but I think this is an important breakthrough sort of thing, showing what's happened in the last few weeks. If it's any indication, here is a tweet of mine from Patriot's Sprint a few weeks ago:

For the record, Bailey says she's part Kenyan. I have no reason to doubt that the little greenish-blue eyed blonde from Wisconsin is in fact Kenyan. None.
If you might have gleaned (meaning in case you might have done more than look at the pictures on here...I know that's all I would do), I haven't really had a race yet where I have been 100% satisfied with it yet this year. I've actually probably had more disappointing races this year than ever before (my two national championships specifically come to mind, as well as both attempts at playing ITU). That might be a function of asking too much maybe, but at the same time, I can make some legitimate year to year comparisons and prove that I haven't had a very good year...take my run splits on identical courses in both Burlington and Tuscaloosa. I don't want to look at them but I know they are both slower than 2011. My running in particular has been the greatest casualty, ever since about February. Back then, I realized I was only a few weeks out from Clermont and I hadn't pinned a number on in months, save for a New Years 5k that I did for funsies. I did two 5ks a couple weeks apart, one in New Haven up West Rock and back down, in 17:28, and one on the boardwalk in Long Branch NJ in 16:53. These were two of the fastest times I had ever run, and I had only even run in the 17s a few times. I'm not sure whether the Clermont Death March of a 23 minute 5k in 100 degree heat when I'd seen snow the day before in New England was a traumatic experience, but I haven't run well since.
Coach still thinks it's a simple fact of peaking at the wrong time, such as 5k/10k medalist at the Olympics, Galen Rupp, finishing dead last in the following few Diamond League track meets. I'm sure that's part of it, as was the absolute hell that was my life pretty much from February until mid-May, finishing up at the academy on an average of probably 3 hours of sleep. There's no single answer to it, but all season I've longed to get back to that January/February quality of my training, when I was dropping swim intervals every other week, nailing tempo runs, and slaving away on the trainer (OK, I don't miss Connecticut winter, but everything else yes)
One change I made a few weeks ago was changing up my regular Pandora station. I don't listen to music when I work out except sometimes on the trainer, but I still do all the time in the car on the way to/from swim practice, work, group rides, in my apartment when I'm cleaning or cooking (or any other jobs that I wear my cherry-print apron for). At some point, perhaps it may have been in Florida when my brother made fun of my Justice-based Pandora station, I switched...I mixed it up with Classic indie, Allman Brothers, and in Pat's opinion, a "better" mix of not-that-good electronica type music, based on another band. Admittedly, the mix had a lot less of a guido fist-pumping feel to it and probably was better music. In an effort to try to figure out what had changed since February that I could actually change back (obviously I'm not going back to being a cadet in New London...running well isn't worth that anyway), I remembered changing my go-to Pandora station. When I changed it, I also started doing some more active/dynamic warmup routines as prescribed by Jeff, who knew from 3,000 miles away that my run form and turnover was suffering. I also started adding in yoga, another thing that had somewhat fallen by the wayside.
My track workouts are often based on an ideal 5k or 10k pace, but broken up into smaller increments. I suddenly found I was back to holding the pace in these workouts at least near what I was hoping I could do. I also started to see improvements in my swim, which was also aided by a few near one on one sessions where I practically rebuilt a kick, saving TONS of energy in the water to not fight against my legs jack knifing and turning into a hydro parachute.
Anyway, with the realization to turn back to Justice Pandora (judge away...I wouldn't care if it was Ke$ha, though my roommate from sophomore/junior year at the academy would probably cringe at the memory of my "passive aggressive" iTunes playlist that very closely resembled the soundtrack of this year's Hy-Vee 5150 Triathlon coverage), I couldn't help but tell both my coach and my girlfriend, because...well, they're probably important people to hear that sort of thing. Stupidly, I didn't think of either of their particular backgrounds. Jeff is a sports psychologist. Bailey is a music therapy grad student who had previously been a singer and actor. They kind of both answered with the message of "oh wow really? You mean music has an impact on your way of thinking and your performance? Wow that's weird." Actually they were both nicer than that, providing a simple "yes, that's not really anything spectacular." The former sentiment is probably how I would have felt if somebody told me life jackets were important to have on a boat, so I appreciate their patience and understanding that I would most likely lack. Short message: music matters apparently, even if it's just ambient, not necessarily during a workout, like right now when my Pandora happens to be playing Daft Punk. I keep it quiet enough that I don't have to be embarrassed in case I open the door and my neighbors hear (yet I write it here on the interwebz...don't question my logic)
As far as the race that was a catalyst for this post: I actually did it naked (that means no heart rate or GPS pace data. Norfolk is a crazy place, but not that crazy) and just went by feel because it was an evening race and I forgot to pack my Garmin when I was getting ready for work in the morning. I ran harder than I thought possible, and I was teetering between second and third place the majority of the race and really thought I wasn't going to finish the race. I did crumble on the last quarter-mile or so, legs giving out from a hard week of training, but I did at least come up with an 18:10 and third place. I can't say I am pleased with that, but under this particular context, it's a monumental improvement over what I had been doing, so I will take it.
Now, just a little more time before my first ever double at Giant Acorn next weekend to close out the season!
In case you ever wondered what happens when a tall skinny coastal kid goes to the desert and sees a cactus for the first time, this is it. He pretends to be a cactus.

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