Monday, February 11, 2013

Pacing isn't easy

My goal for the Cupid's Cup 5K on Sunday was simple: Run it in as close to 21 minutes and 22 seconds as possible without going over.

I was pacing my friend Roberta Vilneff in a dry-run attempt at the North Carolina record for a 5K by a woman age 60-65.

A 21:22 works out to a 6:52 per mile pace. But of course, when you're running the race, you're not exactly sure whether your Garmin is going to match the official mileage of the race. To be sure, we decided that I'd be running a 6:45 pace. The plan was for me to stay as close to that pace as possible while fellow DARTer Chad Randolph stayed with Roberta.

The course starts uphill, so we expected that I would pull ahead of them, but hopefully they'd reel me in on the downhill finish.

I started up the hill, and as is often the case for me, I ended up running a bit fast. At about .75 miles, my average pace for the first mile was 6:37. Then the course headed downhill, and I had to really hold back as several runners passed me. I passed the 1-mile marker while my watch still read 0.98 miles. I clicked "lap" on my watch and saw that I had completed the first mile in 6:33. Oops.

The next mile started out flat, then headed up a steep little hill. I had to force myself to put out a little extra effort to maintain my pace. But I also wanted to slow down a bit to try to get my average pace back up to 6:45. I decided that I needed to keep a 6:48 pace for the rest of the race.

As the course flattened out I was able to keep my watch at 6:48. But then I noticed that I was at 2.1 miles -- I hadn't seen the 2-mile marker, so I didn't know whether I was behind or ahead relative to the official measurement. As the course headed downhill I had to consciously put on the brakes again. Now lots of runners were passing me as I ran what felt like a very comfortable pace down the hill. I wasn't even really breathing hard. But my watch was stuck on 6:48, just as I planned.

I tried to look over my shoulder every once in a while to see if Roberta and Chad were there, but I couldn't spot them. I kept my steady pace all the way through the finish, and I ended up at 20:50 for the race -- about 30 seconds too fast.

I cross the line (Bobby Aswell Photo)

But that meant Roberta still had a shot at the record, so I ran back past the starting line to see if I could spot her. Roberta and Chad came across at 21:56 -- close to a PR for Roberta, and just 34 seconds off the record.

Roberta and Chad in perfect sync (Richard Hefner Photo)

I felt bad because I had taken off too fast, and had finished 30 seconds faster than I needed too. Maybe if I had started off at a true 6:45 pace, Roberta would have kept me in sight and picked it up enough to get the record. That said, my Garmin measured the course a touch short -- at 3.09 miles, and my average pace for that distance was indeed 6:45, so I got fairly close to what I had been shooting for.

At least we can take solace in the fact that this race wouldn't have counted anyways. It was actually fairly hilly, so I think with another month or so of speed work and a truly flat course, Roberta has a great shot at the record.

My Garmin record of the race is below.

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