The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

I Ran Fast, Part Deux

Alternate Title: Taming the 21 minute monkey.

Three years ago, I set a personal best at the 5K mark, 21:56, in an "unofficial" event (an old 5K route through my old neighbourhood).

Since then, I've tried to break the 21 minute barrier several times. Most recently at the Cornwall Sea Lions Duathlon, the Glengarry Cancer run and the Children's Treatment Centre 5K. I was never successful for various reasons.

This morning, I lined up for the Great Raisin River Foot Race. I really wasn't sure how I'd do. I haven't been training particularly fast (with the exception of the weekly club duathlons).


Before I knew it, we were off, and I was picking my way through the traffic at what seemed like a snail's pace for the first 250 meters. Shortly enough, we made the right hand turn onto the road and I was running free - desperately trying to keep up with an amazingly fit older gentleman (who I would later find out was in his sixties).

As we approached the first kilometer, the "Cornwall Multisport Club" van was blasting the tunes by the side of the road. I split my watch and cursed a bit: 3:59. (I was going too fast; a sure recipe for a burn-out). I continued and started to lose focus somewhat - the 60 year old guy was well beyond reach.

The first water station appeared at 2K and I opted not to take anything. I split the watch again, 4:11. "Slowing down big time", I thought. I was sure I was on a downward spiral towards progressively slower splits that would yet again deny my my precious sub-21. Had I been thinking more clearly, I would have thrown in the towel and cruised to a much slower finish.

But then, the 2.5K turnaround appeared, and was shocked to see a sub-2 minute half-k. The race was back on... and now, I had a young kid in front of me to run down.

Back through the water station, which I had agonized with the question of whether to grab a cup for the 50 meters preceding, I kept running. Somehow, I messed up my watch and didn't get a proper split. Fatigue was really starting to set in, and this is where my ultimate weakness takes over... my mind.

Mind-to-Phil: "Phil, this hurts, why are you doing this?"

Mind-to-Phil: "Phil, look how many people are behind you - you've already had a great race, dial it back and cruise home."

Mind-to-Phil: "Phil, you're probably not going to break 21 - so let up! People are still going to love you."

4K Net time: 16:28 (I've passed the kid, he's hanging on behind me). Quick mental math - SUB 4:30 for the last K. It was still possible.

Mind-to-Phil: "Ok, let's go!"

The last kilometer, although my slowest, was mentally my strongest. "Run fast, run fast, run fast" I'd repeat to myself. I used some of my duathlon strategies (spotting a mark in the distance and sprinting to it, then repeating).

I did panic partway home, and took a wrong turn, ending up in a field of horses. I recovered quickly and fortunately, only lost a few seconds.

Finally, the finish chute appeared, and I saw the clock with a bit of time to spare.. I gave it everything I had for a strong finish (getting passed by the 15-year old in the process) and crossed at 20:53! Phew, what a run.

So now what? Sub-20??? I don't think so. Fast 5-Ks hurt. I think the next monkey will be an "official" 45 minute 10K.

Final splits and stats:
3:59, 4:11, 4:06, 4:11, 4:24. Final Time. 20:53.3 (4:11 pace). 12/218 Overall, 12/100 Men, 5/18 M30-39.

Complete results here.