Sunday, June 3, 2012

Race Report: A triumph of hope over experience

I call this a triumph of hope over experience because the hope that I could go out in 3:34 and hold that pace triumphed over 20 years of experience which clearly told me that, based on recent work-outs, I could not.
One should really only go out at 3:34 pace if one is in 17:50 shape. Otherwise even if one deliberately slows down in the second kilometer to 3:50 to try to correct the huge error and manages to scrape together a 3:46 third kilometer, inevitably one will end up dying like the dumb dog she is and barely break 4:00 for each of the last 2 km (3:56, 3:57) to finish off in 19:05. Worse luck, beaten by someone she really should not have been beaten by (which matters because of overall series standing).

This race was a(nother) lesson on how starting out too quickly can have a startling negative effect on performance. It's frustrating because conditions were perfect (almost a wind still 15 deg C), I felt amazing during the warm-up, I was primed to go under 18:30 and just blew it for no good reason. It's frustrating because I know better. Seriously, how many times do I have to re-learn this lesson? It's frustrating because barring a change in plans, I won't be racing again until mid-August. I know why it happened. There was one speedy girl there (she actually finished 2nd overall in 17:11) and her quick, appropriate-to-her-fitness start drew some of the other women and probably many men to go out over their heads. Rather than sitting back confident in the knowledge that many of those people would come back to me, I went with them. Sigh.

This is also part of a disturbing pattern I see present in other parts of my life where I tend to go out like gangbusters and appear to be on this impressive trajectory and then just fizzle. I am doing it with post-partum weight loss. I do it with courses I take. I do it with various hobbies. I do it on some projects. I am a quick starter but lack follow-up. Exhibit a: my post-partum races have been 19:01, 38:46, 40:10 (sick), 19:05 (stupid). Something to chew on.

Speaking of chewing, I am also starting to wonder if there might be something to this controversial article that was published in Time magazine 3 years. It was titled "Why exercise won't make you thin" and essentially argued that the calories burned by aerobic exercise are vastly overcompensated for by additional calories consumed due to the appetite stimulating effects of exercise. Further that the effect of raising baseline metabolism by increasing % lean muscle is trivial. He includes some interesting math to make his point. I can't help notice that in pregnancy number 1 in which I had a c-section and could not really exercise for the first 25 days, I had lost all my pregnancy weight by 30 days. This time, I started running after taking 2 days off and almost 3 months later, I am still 3-5 pounds up.

But whatever. I am healthy, happy, running... I really have nothing to complain about and I will (finally) learn this lesson and come back faster next time.


  1. Forgive me for saying I wish I had your problem: I wish I could just for 20 steps keep up with someone running at 3:34 km pace. Trust me, if I could, I would do it and fizzle too. Who IS this female creature who can run 17:10??!! Please don't introduce her to my husband.

    Starting out too fast will always take you down and hard and we have all been there and it is oh so tempting every time. Maybe you need to do something wrong in your warm-up so you don't start TOO fast. ;).

    That whole thing about exercise making you hungry and gain weight is just a bunch of bs. I mean, sure it makes you hungry, but in turn lean and healthy. Plus if you really push it, I find it makes you hungry for all of the right foods. When I don't exercise, I feel like chocolate brownies all day long.

  2. OK, so when I was training for the 5K and googled a lot pacing for 5Ks, and came across many articles that said that the fastest 5K runners run their first mile the fastest, and then hang on for the last one, which ends up being the slowest. That has never worked out with me, mostly bc I am too much of a chicken to start out too fast. But, Katie from Experimental Running has always employed the run the first 2 miles as fast as you can and hang on for the last mile and it has worked for her.

    Personally I think the 5K is such a tough distance to race. In a marathon, if I do the training, I pretty much can nail the pace. In the 5K, it is SO important to have a good day. SOmething else that I discovered for myself. I can do many 5x1000 very fast, like 3:30 fast, but the 1 min jog that I take in between is giving me such recovery (my HR goes down v quickly) that I can run the next interval just as fast. However, in races you do not have that rest time, hence, at least for me, I can never go as fast as I go during the 1000m intervals. People talk about doing float intervals, where you take the 1 min recovery at MP or faster, so that you don't recover fully between intervals.
    Regardless, I think you are a stud runner and way too tough on yourself. You are still recovering from giving birth, probably sleeping v little, etc.
    Having said that, I know how you feel bc I feel the same way about the 5K; I have not achieved my true potential. But I will.

  3. Ahhh, what the heck! Think about it as a (re-)learning experience:)

  4. I am exactly the same way, in racing and in life. Start out super strong and then fizzle. I keep learning the same damn lesson over and over. I have confidence you will wise up well before me.