Total week is upon us, and there is a lot to be excited about. PR’s will be made, and benchmarks will be set, but there is always that one day of total week, that one skill, and that one measurement that we dread. For many of us it is Friday’s test day: the 5K run. There are a few of us that look forward to the 5K, and maybe dread the skill day, or maybe the Olympic lifting day. We all have our goats, and for me it’s the 500 meter row and the 5K run that really kick my nerves into overdrive.
Year after year I have showed up for all four days of total week, and survived both of my goats. I dread the 5K less these days, because each year I learn a little more about the course, my preparation, and my training. First thing, I had to accept that I will probably never be the fastest on 5K day, and I’m ok with that. What is important to me is bettering my own personal best, and how I feel during/following the run.
Here is my advice for 5K day:
1. Sleep. This is, or should be obvious: get a full night’s rest the night before the run.
2. Fuel up the day before, and the morning of, but give yourself an hour or two to digest before your run.
3. HYDRATE! Like numbers one and two, this should be obvious. Drink lots of water the hours leading up to your run. I tend to get the “nervous pees”, so I cut my water consumption down about 15 minutes prior to starting the course. Don’t let dehydration slow you down.
4. Know the course. I am going to be completely honest, our 5K course isn’t the most fun, or the flattest, and its chock-full of pavement. The run starts with an uphill (first up Eagle Rock, and then an even further distance up Florence). Don’t let this get into your head. The way I see it, the hardest part is out of the way when you are your freshest. However, remember not to go all out on the first half. Respect the uphill, and pace yourself. Breathe and stay smooth. The uphill sucks a little, yes, but where I have suffered the most is the downhill on the second half of the run. Two years ago I had a side stitch that lasted for days, no joke! It is easy to get ahead of yourself and just stomp through that downhill stretch. With a little bit of research and asking around I found that if you can focus on your breathing and try to exhale when your left foot strikes down you can prevent that nasty side stitch which most of us experience on our right side. It worked for me, but I really had to focus on my breathing, especially when I was slamming down the hill and creating lots of force on my body with each stride. Also try to take full stomach breaths, not shallow breaths using only your chest. Lastly, the final stretch is the same as the first, you know it’s almost over, so finish hard and sprint it in.
5. Just show up and get it over with. Do it with the group, it’s so much easier when you have someone to chase. Remember it’s just a 5K, you won’t die. At least it’s not Fran.