Today was the last of our three holiday races here in Florida, the Cool Summer Mornings 5k in Clermont and it was also our best one yet!
Out of the three, this is the race we look forward to the most for many reasons – it’s in the second week of our holiday and so we’ve got used to the heat, the route has got a few short hills in it which we’re used to running on at home, it’s a family affair as both Allison and I and Allison’s parents take part and also we usually pick up age category prizes. The race is part of a 4 race series and runs alongside a Triathlon series and makes for a great atmosphere although it’s fair to say the Triathlon is the most competitive although there was a field of 485 for today’s race.
I went into the race with confidence that I could get a PB (My PB of 19:54 was set in the first half of the 10k at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival in May) and the other two races we had done here had set me up to do it today. We arrived at Lake Minneola in plenty of time, which was just as well as the roads were busy with everyone heading to the same place and the car park was the busiest I’ve ever seen it with many people here for the Tri. We went to collect our race packets and souvenir t-shirts before heading back to the car to get ready. The organisation for this event was pretty good and the signs up at registration were very clear so it made everything go a bit more smoothly.
We went back to the car to get ready and walked back to the start and just had enough time for a quick trip to the toilet before getting into position for the start of the race. I felt pretty relaxed going into the race and the time of 19:53 had been in my head in the journey there and also the phrase “Run Your Run”, which Allison had spoken of and we had seen on t-shirts in a couple of running shops here. This phrase, which is a favourite of Kyla, a blogging friend of our’s, is quite powerful as it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of a race and go off too fast trying to keep up with others whereas you can only control what you put into it yourself and so I decided to focus on my own performance and see how it would unfold.
Running these short races has allowed me to perfect my pre-race build up and also find the gear that I feel comfortable in and can perform well in, which can make a huge difference to your performance if you find what works for you and stick to it. I recently bought a pair of Feetures socks and while I would never normally go into a race wearing anything I hadn’t worn in training, I did with these and they are easily the best running socks I’ve ever worn! That and lock laces in my shoes and I felt pretty good.
We got off to a great start and the first half mile weaves around the paths in the park beside the lake before leaving the park and onto the roads of the surrounding residential area. From this part on for the next half mile we started to climb, almost doubling back on ourselves and meeting those who were at the back of the field from the start. We took a right and headed up hill and could’ve been forgiven for thinking we’d reached the top as we took a right turn only for the next 100m or so to be uphill also! Once we got to that bit, the route flattened out a bit and it didn’t seem that long before we were heading downhill back towards the park and on an out and back section that would eventually take us to the finish.
I felt great all the way round and have seen in the past where I’ve gone flying out and tried to keep pace with others but today, I was completely oblivious to what everyone else was doing and ran to how my body felt. I felt pretty strong going uphill and downhill, where I managed to pass a number of people. I was once told only to pass someone if I felt confident I could stay ahead of them and so I became more aware of that today and found myself passing people when I felt ready to rather than when I wanted to. I felt I was gliding most of the way and I was also aware that having passed the turning point of the out and back section, there was at least half a mile to go and so it wasn’t time to start thinking about speeding up to the finish. In races that feature an out and back stretch, I usually check to see how far the person is behind me at the turning point but I didn’t really pay that much attention and only focussed on me and the guy in front. The guy in front of me pulled up with half a mile to go, his left knee didn’t appear to be that stable, but as I passed him I encouraged him to keep going. I glanced at my watch and saw that we had around 400yds to go and the time was around 18:30 and while I wanted to step up the pace a bit, the humidity had got to me and I just had the same pace to get me to the finish, not enough to catch the guy who was now in front of me. I heard my Garmin bleep for 3 miles and we moved onto the grass and the final sprint to the finish, where we got a bottle of water and a medal which is among the best I’ve ever seen!
I checked my watch and it said 19:53, exactly the time I had in my head before we started and a new pb! My delight was surpassed when the official results came out and my time was recorded as 19:51 and not only that, I finished 3rd overall! Amazing! I waited for my father-in-law to finish then walked back to cheer on Allison to the finish before heading across to the post-race spread of watermelon, grapes and banana. I did pick up a hot dog but didn’t like the taste of it after the first bite and threw it in the bin. The great thing about this race, and also Run Thru Hell, is that in the parks where they are held, there are shelters and pavilions that have a multitude of uses and were perfect as hubs for the events. It can’t be easy co-ordinating a 5k, a Sprint Triathlon and a Super Sprint Triathlon but I thought the organisers did a fantastic job today. This was the 4th time we’ve run this race and in each of the last three, there have been problems with either the lead cyclist getting lost, the finish area not funnelled properly but today was spot on.
I have recently finished the book Keep On Running by Phil Hewitt and there was a bit in it where he described his fastest marathon as being the easiest he’d run and that’s how it felt for me today. The easy runs are where everything comes together on the day and I think placing the focus on feeling relaxed, comfortable and in control of my pace helped me get the time I was aiming for much easier (actually, quicker) than I would have done had I gone out solely chasing the time and probably got nowhere near it.
I believe the secret to having a great run/race is to focus on the aspects of your own performance – feeling relaxed, comfortable and in control and you will never be disappointed. It’s what I teach in my Zero to 5k, 5k to 10k and 10k to Half Marathon Running Groups and I believe it works for everyone no matter what level you are at. Run your run!
I have been running these races as part of my 850 mile challenge from Paris to Loch Ness in memory of my Dad, who inspired me to start running, and raise money for Macmillan to help them support more people, and their families, on their journey with Cancer. If you’d like to sponsor me, please follow the link below. Thank you!