I dug deep and found a PR

Percival's Island, James River, Lynchburg, running You know those moments where you plan something and it plays out perfectly? Well, that didn't happen today. For one of the first races ever, I set a very specific goal for today's Percival's Island 5 Miler in Lynchburg. I even went as far as writing on my wrist where I needed to be each mile to hit 36:54.

My time today was 36:47. That's right, 7 seconds faster than my goal. It was also 12 seconds better than my PR in this race from 4 years ago, and it was nearly 3 minutes faster than last year.

The best laid plans of running a consistent, even-paced race -- hitting about 7:22 each mile -- just didn't happen. Not that it's a problem, but it turned this into a race in which I dug deep both physically and mentally  in the second half to make up time after losing precious seconds in the first couple of miles.

I got caught up in a little more traffic than I usually do in the first mile and hit it in 7:28. I hit mile 2 in 7:25. That put me about 10 seconds off where I wanted to be.

When I hit the halfway point and the clock read 19 something, I had a decision to make -- lay off the gas pedal a bit and still have a solid race, but accept missing my goal, or ... well ... let's just say I wasn't going to play the mental game today. I picked my ass up and went for it.

Through mile 3 and 4 I was able to get my pace down a bit, but I still had some work to do. When I hit mile 4, the clock was right at 29:59 -- I still had to do a 7-minute mile just to tie my time from 4 years ago. It was shut up and go time.

At that same moment, I passed a couple of people who had just passed me; then a quarter mile later a guy passed me; I stuck with him and we passed a guy on a bridge who told us we were looking strong; the guy we passed on the bridge passed me with a tenth of a mile to go and said "Come on"; I passed that guy 3 feet from the finish line; the other guy was just in front of me.

Lynchburg, running, Percival's Island

Instead of thinking about what I was doing, it was some very friendly competition in the last half mile that led to a sub-7 minute mile and a PR.

In the end, I learned a lot today:

  • Lynchburg, running, Percival's IslandFor these community races I need to get closer to the front -- I was 42nd out of 225 people. There's no reason for me anymore not to start a little closer to the front than I do.
  • Writing the splits on my wrist is a huge help in keeping focused. I don't know how many races I've done in which I tried to do math in my head to hit certain times, but I felt more at ease mentally today. I will definitely have more specific goals for future races.
  • Keeping my arms lower continues to help keep me relaxed when pushing it. I heard someone at the end telling runners to "work your arms; finish strong." While I probably did use my arms at the end to push myself, that technique is not for me for a flat race anymore. For hills, yeah, you need to use your arms, but I had a lot of energy left at the end because I didn't waste any with big arm movement the first 4 miles.
  • When the weather cooperates, push it harder. Today's temperature at the start was in the mid-60s, about 20 degrees cooler than at the same time for much of the first half of the week. We had highs in the mid-90s to near 100 until Thursday, and those temperatures are coming back, so I felt like I had a small window today to push things even harder than I usually would.
  • Compression calf sleeves are great for recovering. I'll write a full review later, but my legs do not feel like they ran a hard 5 miles this morning.

Today's race also caps off the first quarter of marathon training. I couldn't have asked for a better start with some strong runs, steady long runs and two race PRs.