Race Recap: Payton Jordan

Photo by Jeff Cohen

from The Fete Blog

It’s been over a week since my outdoor track season opener– this recap is long overdue!

This year, I started my season with a 5k at Payton Jordan; in some ways, it was a deja vu from last year, when I kicked off the 2015 outdoor season with a 5k at Payton as well. But this time, I went into it with a completely different fitness and mindset.

Last year, I snuck into the “fast heat” of Payton’s 5k and really shocked myself by running a big 20-second Personal Best and snagging the Olympic A standard in the event. The training leading up to that race was great, but not geared specifically for a longer-distance event (I was training with 1500m girls at the time).

Photo by Jeff Cohen

This time around, there was more pressure, for three reasons:

  1. I had run the A standard already, so this time, it would be nice to run it again… but if I didn’t, what did that mean for the season ahead? It’s an Olympic year! You want all races to be a success.
  2. One of my training partners this year was a long distance-specific girl, who hopes to make the Olympic team in the 10k. That means a ton of my training HAS been geared towards longer, grind-it-out kind of distances. How would that translate to an actual race?
  3. The big jump I made last year meant that this year, big jumps are not as likely to happen— physically, there really isn’t 20 more seconds for me to cut off my 5k time unless I was ready to run close to the American Record or something. So if I were to run a PB, it would be a win, even if it was just by a second. As Coach said post-race, cutting off a few seconds at this level is a big victory.

But while there was more in my head, nerves-wise, there was also more in my head confidence-wise— and this is the biggest reason 2016 Payton Jordan was so much different than 2015 Payton Jordan. I was pretty ignorant about what a sub-15:20 5k would feel like last year. This year, I knew how much grit it would take to run that time again, but I also had so much hard work in the bank– overall, I have a calmer, more mature confidence that comes with running fast times consistently and training at a different level.

Don’t get me wrong: I was definitely nervous. A few days before the race, all I could think was, “It’s going to feel SO LONG. How am I going to hold a fast pace for that long?” But as race day drew closer, I quieted that part of my mind and tried to focus on the successful training I had completed, the health I was lucky to have, and the experience I was bringing to the starting line. I was ready to run just as well as I did last year.

Photo by Jeff Cohen

Photo by Jeff Cohen

The day leading into the race was long, but comfortable. I always schedule out my race days to the minute and was happy to have everything go to plan: delicious brunch, lunch from Whole Foods, an episode of Downton Abbey, getting my nails done, a nap, a new race kit. A bonus this year was having my training partner Heidi to warm up with– she was slated to pace the race, another confidence-booster (this girl KNOWS how to pace perfectly). The night was fairly cool, by California standards, and I felt calm during the warm up run and dynamic on the drills.

The biggest thing I wanted to bring to the starting line was courage. I knew the pace would go out hard– I needed to have the confidence to stick on the back of the lead pack, even though my brain would be worried I’d fall off and be alone in no-mans land.

Yikes! I'm not sure where I snagged this photo-- sorry for no photo cred!!

Yikes! I’m not sure where I snagged this photo– sorry for no photo cred!!

The gun went off. I got out well, tucking into a line of 3 or 4 girls. Heidi led us around perfectly– I ran a 73, then a 72, then a 71. I tried with all my might to ignore the lap counter– the last thing I wanted was to look up, see something like “8 laps to go” and collapse. Instead (and THANKFULLY) Lauren Paquette pulled up with me and I focused on working together with her as long as possible (side note: I had paced a 3k at Vanderbilt during the indoor season which Lauren had won; she also ran 15:20 in a previous 5k a few weeks before Payton, so I knew she was in the kind of shape I was in as well– this made her a great person to work with).

Magically, I never felt that panic mode of “Oh shit, this is so hard and I have so much more to run”. I really kept my head focused on the race in front of me and kept dialed in. Lauren and I weren’t too far off the lead pack, which was totally crushing the pace; we clipped along in a zone of 74s-72s for the bulk of the race.

One of my more glamorous finish line shots... Photo by 007 Track Fan

One of my more glamorous finish line shots… Photo by 007 Track Fan

Finally, I heard the announcer inform the crowd we had 3 laps to go. My last workout at altitude included 1200m repetitions, so I tried to channel that feeling into the last bit of the race. Two girls got around Lauren and I and I tried to follow with as much strength as I could muster. Now, this is the important part: Coach likes to joke that last year, my final lap was like an 85– that’s much slower than I was running the rest of the race. This year, he really wanted me to finish a little bitfaster than that. 800m to go, I tried to match the surge of the girls passing around us. 400m to go, I just wanted to get to the end without completely falling apart. My last lap wasn’t my fastest, but it was 11 seconds faster than an 85, which was a total WIN.

I crossed the line in 15:16.56— a three second PB from 2015 and a happy start to my outdoor season!

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