Sunday the 13th of November 2011 was like any other morning except for one thing, it was race day for me. This was the culmination of a 12 week program to finally supplant myself as a sub-20min 5K sub-elite jogger! I knew it was going to be a hot morning. At the time I was waking up at 4:00am I could feel the humidity and the fast rising morning temperatures. Running anaerobic distances is a feat by itself, running in humid conditions makes it the more challenging. I consoled myself as I was leaving my abode. After all, I said to myself, there are a few more races before the Christmas break, so if this does not work, I would bite my lip, and take it in stride.
Runrio races do not disappoint when it comes to pulling crowds. I arrived 30minutes to time and found the 5K runners had already made an almost 50m long swarm from the start to way back as I could see. I managed to jostle myself at the head of the swarm. One gaze around me to size my opposition did not disappoint either. I could easily pick out 8-9 rabbits (young college students with very fast paces). One of the organizers even came along the start line and specifically jotted down our bib numbers. This he said was to help
them gauge our manual splits versus the electronic ones for verification and validation. For a minute or so I felt “elite”, wow! I said, they think I’m elite!
4-3-2-1…the race was on. The problem with fun runs is that even the crawlers, the picture takers, barkada types, name it will also be at the front. You have no choice but to navigate your way around them the first 100-200m. Then there are what I call shooters (those who are off the start line in a jiffy!), setting a brazen pace the first 400m and then fading off almost immediately. The last are of course the crawlers. These are the ones you must be very aware of. They maintain a 1mile race pace in a 3mile race with the head runners and then crawl towards the end with barley any breathe left on them. You can easily be distracted with them since they seem to be genuine competitors and maintain a fast pace with the elites for longer periods giving you the false feeling that you must keep up with them or you are vegetable. I mentioned earlier that I had surveyed the start line and had figured 8-9 elites. There is one I judged wrongly. He seemed elite but actually he is a crawler. I would pass him at the 3km mark looking dazed and trying to maintain a semblance of running.
Suffice to say, I also got caught up in the frenetic initial pace. My game plan was simple; run an even 3:48min/km pace and I would make it in 19min versus the 18:58min my 12 week program said I could do. I figured I could still have a minute to spare if anything goes wrong. The first km I was at 3:24min! I could feel myself panting more than usual for the target pace. The next km I did in 3:43min, not so far away from my target pace, but I could feel the increased breathing and the lactic build-up in the muscles basically telling me I risk conking out. This was definitely going to be a positive split whether I liked it or not. Very bad indeed, especially because positive splits are normally recommended for race distances of less than 800 or utmost 1500m.
I overshoot a bend in the 2.5km mark and a marshal had to call me back and keep me on track. I had no idea the route had been changed! Argh! By the 3rd km, I was at 10:58min! 3:51min for the 3rd km! I had no choice but to slow down. I reached the 4km mark at the 15:05min mark. That makes it 4:14min! I felt good. I could feel my chest opening up again and my leg muscles clearing the excess lactic acid. To make it to 19min in 5km, I had to do 3:55min for the last km. By this time true to my prediction, I was either 6th or 7th in place, with the rabbits ahead of me. As I neared the finish line, I knew this would be the run of my life as a sub-elite jogger. This time, there was not time to jog. Joseph, run, run! I could hear a voice in my left year. Crossing the finish line in a time of 18:54min meant I did the last km in 3:49min or so!
For 12 weeks, I could look back and conclude that the smart coach training program I used is fairly accurate in its predictive training paces for the time it predicted I would finish the 5K and the actual time I did it in. In retrospect, it was Luis, yes the ever smiling Luis, who in our gimmick in Ortigas a week or so earlier had corrected me by insisting when I told him I was targeting sub-20min, that no, it will be sub-19. I wish I had those powers to foretell the future! At that time I thought to myself, well, we have just cheered to our second round of beers with him, so expected na siya to tongue slip! Now, I would be listening to him more and the many that encouraged me through all this. See you all at the Milo finals as I try a sub-40min 10K PB. Feels good to be a a powerfpuff boy diba!