Sunday, September 4, 2011

The anatomy of a 5k DNF. Run More Run Faster?

Happy Labor Day weekend!  The days go by slow but the weeks go by fast.

I really went big or went home running-wise this weekend.
Well...I went home that is.  

I DNF'd a 5k on Saturday. is it possible to DNF a 3 mile race?  It's possible.  Here's the story.

Saturday morning, I woke up around 6 AM, ready for the 5k that I'd signed up for a few weeks back.  I was exhausted from the week, other random life stuff (whine whine), but I figured, time to run this and just see what I could do.

Turns out not much.

My friend Laura and I got to the park in Irvine where the 5k was and I warmed up a bit.  The race was taking place in some giant asphalt field.  Sort of like an airport runway.   I didn't feel great..didn't feel terrible either.  I figured shooting for sub 20 was a little ambitious, but that I would go out and try.  As we were on the line, the race director announced that the race was more like 2.95 miles...or really knows.

This baffled me.  If you're organizing a 5k in a park with plenty of space and you know the course is short, why not just make it a little longer.

Also, the course wasn't chip timed but had prize money for the winners.  Weird stuff.

Before I knew it we were off.  I remember looking at my watch about 4:30 into the race and thinking "man...I feel like I've run at least over a mile".   As we approached the mile mark, I saw the clock tick to 6:42 for the first split.  Some dude pushing a stroller passed me, and I was already way off goal pace.  Right around then, I just didn't feel like running anymore.

I quit a race and wasn't even hurt.   I just felt slow.  My feet felt heavy and pushing through 13 more minutes was not my idea of fun.

Logically I could excuse this in saying that since my body was physically pretty broken down from little sleep and the relay last week, and there was no need to push through.  But really, I was just being lazy and a tad prideful in not wanting to finish a "bad" 5k.   I don't feel that bad about it though.  Stuff happens and sometimes you're just not up for life's challenges.

After deciding to leave the race, I pulled off the course, and jogged back to the start of the race just in time to see the first racers finish.  I saw the first woman.  She was on the heels of a couple really fast dudes.  Graceful and long legged with a ridiculously fast stride, she finished around 16:00.  Daannnggg.   

Watching her, I felt jealousy.  I wished I could be that girl, right up there with the fast dudes, kicking butt, looking great.  And I know I'll never be at her level.  Which sometimes makes me think..."why even bother?".   Which is a dumb thought.  If you don't do something because you can't be the best, no one would ever do anything.

Then I thought, how can we realize our full potential?  What are we capable of, running-wise?

To improve, maybe I need to just run more in addition to my increased intensity workouts.  My 25-30 miles a week I put in is pretty ridiculously low.  And probably the reason I take forever to recover from races.  That night, I spent some time Googling terms like "Does running more mileage help you get faster?".

And honestly, I don't know.  I've never run more than about 40 miles a week.   It seems counter-intuitive to me that putting some more 9 minute miles would really benefit anything besides being able to eat more cookies and not gain weight.   But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe there is a real benefit to just getting out there and putting in the time needed to excel.  And where do you get the time to put in those miles?  Sigh.

So...I think I may give up this 5k chasing for a bit and start building more of a base.   More time to run long and relaxed outside and get my body more used to running.   Less time to beat myself up over short distance races.    The sub 20 5k dream isn't over, just on the back burner for a bit.

What works for you, running-wise?  More miles?  More intensity?   Have you ever DNF'd a race? 


  1. As your "un"official booster club chairwoman i think this is a good idea. i personally am of the opinion that you have the potential to cut some time from your marathon. maybe doing some relaxed no-pressure slow, long run base building miles could start you on a good path to tackling another marathon?

  2. Also I was thinking, what would have happend if you had gone sub-20? The race director didn't even think it was a 5k . . .so you would never have known if it was a real 5k PR or not. Better that it'll happen sometime when you know for sure (and with chip timing).

  3. "miles make champions" or something like that. Not sure if it applies to 5k's. Even with My usual 25-35 (low marathon mileage) with a double digit long run gives me the ability to bounce back fast after a hard run. Of course I'm not doing 5k's, but I can run a hard 13.1 and feel completely fresh the next day. That didn't happen when I was running 25 or less miles a week without a long run. Maybe find some advanced 5k training plan to follow and see if that helps.

  4. I don't know how to get faster, but I do know that the more long, slow miles you do, the better your body recovers.

    When you are ready to run some of those "slow" 9 minute miles, let me know. I would love to go running with you. After my October marathon, let's go hit some of the great trails around us.

  5. I had an identical experience to this in early July. I finished but my pace was way worse than my 10k pace today. It was an awful feeling but my body and heart just weren't in it that day. Shake it off and move on. I run high miles because I am ocd and just love running but honestly I think quality workouts with good recovery are most important. I do think high mileage improves my fitness and threshold but I'm not convinced it has improved my speed.

  6. So I have not had a DNF yet but the half I ran a few weeks ago...I mentally gave up at mile 7. I felt similar to what you described. I just wasnt mentally in the race and kinda realized I didn't care that much. I was tired, the race had started 45 minutes late and was just over it.

    Mileage-wise...I sometimes wish I could be a high mileage person but I think my body just does best with 30-40 miles per week. More than that and I just feel tired and my legs feel run down. But less than that...I also feel sluggish from not pushing myself enough. Good luck! I hope you find what works best for you...and I know you will get that sub-20!

  7. Ask me after my marathon in two weeks and I'll tell you if I do OK with higher miles or higher intensity. :^) My highest mileage week this cycle was 44 miles--that's a lot more than I have done in several years. I feel stronger. But the training program has also featured more faster running. I really liked it. I hope it works so I can do something similar for Houston.

    I think you did the right thing. I've never DNF'd but I've mentally dropped out. I'm sure anyone who runs long enough has both happen.

  8. That completely sucks about the race -- like if you'd run a 19:50, could you even count that as a 5k pr? Most our races here have certified distances and I guess it's for good reason. I can't imagine how pissed I'd be to show up to race something that wouldn't even count as being the right distance.

    I think you did the right thing too. I like higher miles, but I don't know enough about 5k training to give any real input.

  9. I DNF'd a 10K after a motorcycle cop pushed me out of the way (from behind, while on his motorcycle) for the first place 10K-er to pass (course was two loops). I twisted my ankle and was too pissed off to finish the race. What irritates me about it is I think he was just being a dick. I was within the cones set out for the race but had headphones on so never heard anything. He probably thought I was ignoring him.

    Oh, and I DNS'd a race because I went to see Britney Spears the night before and was in no shape to run a race. Totally worth it though.

  10. I've never DNF'd a race but that's honestly because (I think) I don't push hard enough sometimes. Not that I'd want to push so hard that I'd have to DNF, but I'm always scared of overdoing it. I'm a wuss.

    In your case, I think you did the right thing though. Sometimes, you're just not feeling it, 5k, half mary, full marathon, whatever. In that situation, I think it's better to just take a time out. The more I run in time when I'm not enjoying the run, the more I grow to hate the sport. And I don't want to hate it.

    So yeah... resting and DNF'ing is ok. You'll be back on track as soon as your body says GO!

  11. You know what, I think it's pretty ballsy to be able to DNF. Even if it was for pride reasons, that sure ain't easy to step off and still show your face at the finish line. If you're not running because you're having a good time, what's the point?

  12. I haven't DNF'ed except due to an injury but I think if your head's not into it, no point in pushing on.
    As for the 5k vs marathon... I'm starting from scratch on my training (due to injury) and all I'm in shape for right now is a 5k so in interest of keeping my miles low, I'm contemplating bagging my half marathon goals and training seriously for a 5k for a change. I FEEL A NEED FOR SPEED? The elusive sub-20:00 would be a great goal (best I have is 20:02 but that was...when I was youngER) but I don't think it's in reach for me these days. I'd settle for a <22:00. So my vote is for you to continue pursuing that sub20 so I can live vicariously through YOU!!!

    Have an awesome time in Mexico. Tulum is gorgeous.

  13. You'll get 'em next time. There's always another race! I've never DNF'd and never knew of that term until I started reading running blogs.

    I find that I perform better in my races when I run a min. of 45 mi. a week for 5k's, 10k's, halfs. 60-75 mi. for marathons. Everyone is so different so, you have to do what works for you. I feel that intensity should vary if you want to achieve a higher level of fitness.

    Have the best time in Mexico! :)