The Summer of the 5k

Earlier this summer, I went on a 5k PR adventure. After having PRed on frozen legs in the frozen tundra in MN on Christmas Day this past holiday season, I knew that I had it in me to run a much faster 5k. The time to beat? 23:56.

So, I signed up for Nisene Marks 5k on June 2nd in Aptos, California with the hopes of achieving the seemingly elusive PR (and running after than an 8:00/mile pace.

Me, Alisyn and Meg [post-race: yes, we all finished]

Race morning arrived, and Meg, Alisyn and I found our way to the front of the pack. Even though the field was small, we put ourselves out there to push ourselves to achieve greatness. Unfortunately, there was a mental block in the way. For the first year the race started with a huge uphill right at the start, before turning up the fire road and into Nisene. It was that hill (I’m convinced) that separated me from achieving that 5k greatness. It mentally conquered me, and landed me 8 seconds (yes, only 8) shy of that PR, finishing with a 24:03.

Wasn’t all bad new though, as I did manage to place 2nd in my age class.


And we celebrated finishing the race with post-race beers on the trunk of a car…in Starbucks Christmas cups. We’re classy, what can I say.


With the first PR attempt a fail, I wasn’t ready to give up, so Meg and I immediately signed up for Run in the Name of Love 5k in Carmel, CA, just a mere two weeks later.

Race day came and Meg and I were rearing to go, despite the fact we had both been on long bike rides the day before. Meg had just done her longest ride to date, and I had stupidly conquered the intense hill climb ride. Regardless, we both wanted to go out strong, and hopefully finish strong — and would be damned if we weren’t getting our PRs. We were reppin’ ourselves, and our team: Santa Cruz Endurance, and were ready to show ourselves what we were made of.


Twinsies rockin’ the skirts pre-race. [No we did not plan this. Pinky swear.]

When the gun went off, so did we. With a vengeance.

The first mile of the race was downhill, so speed away we did. In fact, we sped so fast, that I ran my fasted mile of my life in that first mile: a 6:11. Running a 6:11 on quads that are already partially shot? Probably not the wisest choice. We slowed a little into the 7:xx range, and at the 1.5 mile mark, I let my brain take over, and it told me I needed to walk for water. Not a good choice. I then quickly calculated the slowest I could run and still achieve my goal of hitting a 22:xx 5k.

[Note: being really good at math can sometimes come back to bite you…it allows you to calculate minimum effort needed to achieve a goal. Not something I’m really proud of — I know I could have pushed myself more, especially in this instance.]

So, I took off, with the goal of having an 8:45 min/mile average pace for the last 1.6 miles, and do that I did. I finished with a 22:45, a PR by over a minute — but something I knew I could’ve blown by even further. Still, I was ecstatic: I finally managed that PR — with a 7:18 min/mile pace! Speeeeeed demon! And the icing on the cake? 2nd in my age class (FYI, I love being in the 25-29 age class, I’m relatively fast for my age group!). Meg also achieved her PR, with a 21 and some change min PR, but due to her overwhelmingly popular and super fast age group, she missed the ‘podium’ by only a little bit.


Super excited post-race by the ocean, with our brand-spankin’ new PRs!!

I wasn’t completely over my PR attempts, however. I signed up for a 5k in MN with my sister, the Torchlight 5k — a night race through downtown Minneapolis during my 3 week stay in my home state.

My third attempt was a valiant one. I was rearin’ to go race night. I knew there was probably a 50-50 chance of a PR. I hadn’t run a whole lot in MN. I mean, you really can’t when the average temperature at 8 am in 90 with like 85% humidity — and it only gets worse as the day goes on, and it never cools down. Yeah it was gross, and hard to breathe there. But, I still knew I had fast legs, and that it wasn’t completely out of the question.

Regardless, my sister and I lined up race day, and wished each other luck. I stuck with my sister until I crossed the startling, meaning I was starting in the middle of the pack. [SPOILER ALERT] To have actually been able to achieve my PR I should’ve positioned myself at the start of the race, but I wanted to hang out with my sister, so, I probably set myself up for PR failure — but definitely set myself up for maximum pre-race fun.

My sister and I pre-race.

I ran with my heart on my sleeve during this race. It was “cool” for the weather we had been having, the humidity wasn’t too ridiculous, and the course was FLAT. It was amazing. The course was great, the people were nice, but I did so much weaving around runners that I think my 5k was actually like 3.25, and I finished in 23:17. Not a PR, but a time I was happy with — happy enough to celebrate with the post-race free beers!


Disclosure: I only had one of those beers. Michelob Ultra tastes like piss, IMHO, and I found a couple frat-looking boys who seemed like they would like a few extra beers more than I did. I’d rather drink something that tastes good with 12304972 more calories, than waste a whole 65 of them on something I don’t enjoy drinking. Priorities people.

Still, all races should end with free beer for those 21+. The Midwest definitely has got this down pat, now California needs to get fully on board as there have only been a select few races I’ve been to where they have post-race beers. And most of them are after super long, tough races after which the thought of beer makes me want to vom.

Regardless of the fact that I didn’t have the best 1st and 3rd 5k races, I still achieved an awesome PR this summer with an average mile time that I wouldn’t have thought possible just over a year ago. And, I think I’ve learned a lot about running 5ks this summer — Its about 70% mental, and 30% whether or not you can physically run as fast as you want to. I know I can run faster than my PR of 22:45 — hell, I’ve done it at the track running 800s in 3:15-3:20s and 1600s in 6:40s. I just have to translate that to the road, overcome my uncanny ability to calculate the minimum effort needed to achieve my goal, and just let it all rip. And I’m excited to say I should have plenty of opportunity to try this method out this fall, because cross-country season is coming up!

Have you ever had to overcome mental barriers in your racing or in working out in general? How did you do it, and were you able to achieve your goals? What difficulties have you had in overcoming said barriers?


One thought on “The Summer of the 5k

  1. You are a 5K machine!!!!! Congrats on the shiny new PR and placing in your age group not once, but multiple times. I have a love/hate relationship with 5Ks. I love them because they are short, but I hate them because they hurt. 🙂

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