The Final Exams – Part 2: Fall Semester

If you missed part one, start here: part one.

November 10th. 7:58 am.

Two minutes before the fall semester final exam. I pressed the play button on my wireless headphones. The new addition to my race day playlist began: The Prelude.



I Feel the Need. The Need for…

My less than satisfying run performance in my August triathlon gave me the next short-term goal: recapture some speed. The summer of healing had put speed on the back burner in favor of healing, but I didn’t know how far I’d slipped until the triathlon.

Truthfully, the week before the tri gave me a pretty good idea.  I forgot to mention the local 5K I did the week before the tri. I expected to be a bit slow due to the August heat, but my 23:50 in the Sweet Baby O was my worst 5K ever. If I had plateaued in 2016, I was slip-sliding backward down the mountain fast.

Can’t Let Go

There are two race results that still bug me. The first is my 4:10:45 at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Logic tells me to let it go. After all, I was injured, and the weather conditions were brutal, so that time was really not that bad, considering. I try to let it go, but I can’t. We all have our flaws. More on that later.

The second result is the May 2016 Jailbreak 5K. With a time of 20:03, I came oh so close to one of my big racing goals – breaking 20 in a 5K.  I decided I really needed to approach 20 again, and on August 13,  I set out on a renewed quest for a sub-20 5K.

To go along with this renewal, I needed a target race. I normally do the Lexington Half Marathon in early November, but this year I checked my schedule and saw the half marathon conflicted with my daughter’s soccer schedule.  I wouldn’t have time to do the half before soccer, but I could do a 5K. We now had our target race, and coach and I went to work, whipping me into 5K shape over the next three months.

I progressed well, and about a week before the 5K, I decided to do a one-mile time trial to give me an idea of my abilities for race day. I managed a 6:18. This was a little bit slower than I hoped but was a sign my speed was heading in the right direction. I reset my goal time for the 5K to a more realistic 21:00. A sub-21 would be my second best 5K ever, and I’d be semi-content with that for now.

Race Plan: Negative Split

Another one of my obsessions is the concept of the negative split. You’ve likely heard this from me before, but this means running the second half of a race faster than the first. It is very had to do, especially in a 5K, and I’ve never done it in a 5K race. I did pull off a negative split in the 5K of the Charleston Sprint Tri back in August, but I’m not counting that since the time was so slow. Based on my mile time trial, I set a goal for my mile splits to be 6:45, 6:40, and 6:35. This would give me a sub 21 and negative split.

Make a Big Noise

I also set out to work on my playlist, a very important aspect to my race plan. In honor of the recently released Queen Biopic movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, I created an all-Queen playlist – complete with a previously mentioned new feature for race day, The Prelude.

Here was my playlist, approximately 23 minutes:

  • The Prelude: “We Will Will Rock You” (Live)
  • Song 1: “Keep Yourself Alive”
  • Song 2: “Hammer to Fall” (Live)
  • Song 3: “Don’t Stop Me Now” (Live)
  • Song 4: “Radio Ga Ga” (Live)
Coach and Me after the race

Race week finally brought some seasonably cool weather to central South Carolina and the race temperature was great for racing – about 50 degrees.  Another welcome development: my son and coach made a surprise visit home from college the night before the race. The professor would be witnessing the fall semester final exam in person.  Talk about being under pressure.

November 10th – Go Time

Just before 8 a.m., I lined up at the start and soon pressed play for my prelude. We had a bit of delay and when we finally took off, I immediately regretted my decision to start behind some of the young runners. It was like dodging squirrels during the first quarter mile as I weaved through them.

The course for the Run Hard 5K is fairly flat. The first and third miles are basically a shared out and back on Ballpark Road in Lexington. The small downhill on mile one turns into a small uphill during mile three. Mile two is a loop through the Cherokee Lakes subdivision.

My mile one split was close to plan at 6:47. I tried to speed up, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t. Mile two ended up being 6:55. This perplexed me as I didn’t feel like I was slowing. At this point, I knew my goal of beating 21:00 was in jeopardy, and I’d need to push it to have a chance. I dug deep.

Mile three went better, somehow managing a 6:40.  At this point, we made the turn into left field of the Lexington Blowfish baseball stadium, and I tried to increase my speed as we circled the warning track and finished down the first base line.

Unfortunately, the last mile and stadium surge weren’t enough. I finished at 21:15, but it was good enough for 9th overall and 1st in the Male Masters (over 40) division. Most of the fast runners seem to have either run the 10K or half marathon races of this event. I didn’t have time to hang around for awards, though. I did an abbreviated cooldown and hopped in the car to head home.  A quick shower, and I was on the road to Charleston to play Soccer Dad.

Run Hard 5K 2018. Male Masters.

The Grade

So, there’s plenty of good news here. First, this ended up being my second fastest 5K ever by a few seconds. Also, for the first time ever, I ran the last mile of a 5K road race faster than the first. I’m still a ways from my ultimate goal of sub-20, but there was finally speed progress again. The best good news: my hamstring seems to be 100% and my body held up well during the more intense workouts of the past three months.

If there’s any bad news, it’s that I’m putting the 5K focus on the back burner for now as I move into the next big goal race – the 2019 Myrtle Beach Marathon. This is the first step toward doing something about that 4:10 number that bugs me.  Not only do a want to crush a marathon again, but I also want to make it back to Boston for another crack there as a healthy runner.

Fall semester grade: B+.

The Long Term What’s Next?

The last six months of healing and smarter training took care of the short-term “What’s Next?” question. Along the way, I also finally developed the answer to the long-term “What’s Next?” question, but I’m not ready to reveal that yet. I will tell you a sub-20 minute 5K is still part of that answer, but my coach I are going to take a different approach to it.

Stay Tuned.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *