The wonderful thing about the Super Bowl is that it is always on the same day as the Super Bowl 5K race in Lansing. This is a great race to test where your fitness level is early in the year...maybe.
Comparing your running fitness to the previous year's fitness level is never as straight forward as comparing the results of one 5K race to the same race the previous year. The truth is that 'where' you are on the island of Runland--located somewhere between your head and your heart--has a lot to do with where you think you are. If you think you are standing on Runland's cliffs of despair then you run like it. If you are somewhere in Runland's forest of underprepared and looking for a way out, then you know the only way out is hard work and dedication. And if you are in the great flatlands, the key to Runland's kingdom is yours.
Let me explain.
Last year at this time I had run a 22M long run the day before dropping a mid 19min 5K. The pace for the 22M run was 7:55/M. This weekend saw a 7:10/M average for my 20M long run and a 10 second slower 5K. Sure, it could be argued that I'm obviously running my long runs at a much higher rate; therefore, the slower 5K time is natural. Yes and no. Last week on my 18M I only managed a 7:55/M average. True, last weekend's long run was mere hours after 6 inches of snow and run mostly on unplowed country roads. But the better road conditions from a year ago are tempered by the fact that I was running the 'Hills of Death' route.
The times from this year and last year are not so dramatically different that one can simply declare a definative change. And yet, unquestioningly, I am at a much better place in Runland than I was this time last year. Even though my times are roughly comparable. And this is the big secret. It is more about where you believe you are than what the times are.
As for the race itself? Like last year, the first mile was on clear roads, but the next mile and a half were spent on disasterously mushy subdivision roads where you foot slid with every step you took. It was druing that part of the race that my legs, like last year, began to feel every step of the massive long run 24 hours prior. By the time I exited the subdivison I was ready for the race to be over. I just tried to pick up the pace a bit and grind my way to the finish where the Redhead and Jen B were there to cheer me on.