Memorial Day morning I ran the Hilton Head Freedom 5K which benefited the Low Country Foundation for Wounded Military Heroes. My 8 week training program culminated in this final 5K test.

Final 5K Test Veteran

Foundation member and his jeep

Last week, I beat my 5K goal of a 25:00 race during my practice race and felt satisfied with my performance (read: had trouble caring for next race). This weekend, family visited and enticed me into touristy and foody things.

All in all, the immediate circumstances did not lend themselves to a final 5K test PR. I ate poorly for a race (great for a family weekend) and felt like a swollen slug the night before. I lamented to TH on all my poor choices and the characteristics of slugs. He listened and instead of telling me to suck it up, he asked if I would like him to play support crew.

Final 5K Test Selfie

Pre Race Selfie

We woke up at 6AM. I felt nauseous. I took my breakfast to go and we drove the hour to a shopping center/community park on Hilton Head Island.

Final 5K Test Park Sign

Final 5K test Broad Creek

Broad Creek by the park

The Palmetto Running Company hosted the 2nd annual Freedom 5K. Tropical storm/depression Bonnie stopped a lot of people from registering until day-of and race participation doubled from last year. The store did their best, but I could tell they were struggling. Even though I registered months ago, they gave me a shirt 2 sizes too big, and the race started 15 minutes late.

While waiting, my legs stiffened and I didn’t know if I had time to warm up again. TH noticed from the sidewalk that I was getting increasingly anxious. He gestured for me to calm down. I tried to relax myself by smiling and lowering my shoulders which had crept toward my ears. I noticed someone was wearing a Miles for Meals shirt (the race I did 9 days ago) and I struck up a conversation to pass the time.

Final 5K Test Start

Starting Line

Final 5K Test

While last week’s goal was to go out too fast, this week’s goal was to hone in on a great starting pace. I aimed for a slightly uncomfortable feeling which I knew would be close to 8 min/mile. I focused on my breathing, syncing it with my steps. I didn’t want to go into oxygen debt too fast. I completed the first mile around 7:57.

Final 5K test

Out from the starting line

The second mile I found someone my pace and held on. I kept up, but couldn’t summon the strength to pass my pacer. I told myself that the hay was in the barn (southern saying?) and all of my training was currently supporting me (even though I may have been furiously chucking hay out of the barn with beer and curly fries the night before).

I enjoyed watching the leaders run past me on the out & backs, but disliked all the opportunities for people to cut the course. I ran the second mile in about 8:03.

Final 5K test

(My running form is getting better)

I know myself. I know that when I feel drained, I overcompensate. I drive myself into the ground going faster and faster, simply because I feel tired. And that’s OK in a 5K. I let my body do that in the background, as I mentally readied myself for a final hard push. I pulled away from my “pacer” and sprinted to the finish. I ran the last 1.1 miles in ~8:27 or ~7:41 min/mile.

5K Results

I finished the race in 24:27, winning 2nd in the female 20-29 age group (big age range!). I actually placed 3rd; the overall female winner was in my age group. I was 17th female and 66th overall. I averaged 7:52/mile.

Final 5K test award

Medal and bag

Just like last race, I ended up with a strong start/middle float strategy, but slowing down 10 seconds on the first mile gained me 17 seconds at the end. This race didn’t feel as hard, because I wasn’t recovering from such severe oxygen debt like the last.

5K training is officially over. Look out this week for lessons I have learned in my 5K racing and my review of this training plan. Then, we’re going to spend a month talking about yoga for runners. Please email me your yoga questions.

Thanks for your support in this 5K endeavor. Despite or because of the struggles I’ve had this month, I’ve come out a better runner. I can’t can wait for marathon training with my faster legs.

Any 5K questions?