I would have said “back on track”, but given the racing context it would have been misleading. This was a road race. A solid race with encouraging results thanks to my rabbits.
1) Break 19:44
2) Run a composed first mile slower than the final 2.1
Routines generally benefit athletes. In my case, my pre-race morning routine just serves to make me nervous. Laying my clothing out the night before and packing my bag stirs up pre-race nerves. Early in the morning, gearing up and stretching did the same. Maybe I’d perform better if I were accidentally running late?
I didn’t know what to expect… my last 5K was about one month ago where I ran a 19:57 that felt like an underperformance. My recent indoor mile (5:28) should translate to a much better 5K… but maybe I’m not very well-suited for the 5K distance? I felt like there was a lot at stake today. Today would be a good test of whether or not I was still improving or had hit a plateau.
I arrived at the race an hour early to grab my bib, warm up, and sneak into the nice bathrooms at the nearby hotel. General life tip: If you’re in public and looking for a decent bathroom, find a hotel, there is almost always a public bathroom in the lobby and they’re usually unlocked.
I found Murat and Brendan and we ran a solid warmup loop. I was very intentional about logging a few spurts at race pace just to get my heart rate up and my body used to moving that speed in the cold.
With a few minutes left, we changed into our racing outfits, I popped two Run Gums (Fruit was the flavor of choice today) and we headed off to the starting line.
Another strategic move: Starting back off the start line. Last race, we started up near the front and I think this had a negative psychological impact during the race. We probably went out a little too hard with the pack leaders in the first quarter-mile and I was disheartened when I was passed by other strategic runners about one mile into the race.
You. Shall. Not. Pass. (Me).
This time, I opted to start a few seconds off the front of the pack, though not too far behind so as to have to dart around many runners. This effectively turned my competitors into a group of Marcus Morris’ (Boston Celtics no-passing joke, sorry). This wouldn’t effect my overall placement, as the race is chip-to-chip timed, meaning that your time is calculated based on whenever you cross the start and finish line.
The plan worked.
Easing through the first mile, we avoided most slower runners and still had a nice group of runners to chase after. With Brendan and Murat flanking either side, I decided that I would try to run hard on the uphill sections so as not to lose any seconds off my target pace, and open my stride and cruise the downhills.
We reached the first mile marker right around pace: 6:22. I had hoped to cruise between 6:20-6:30 for the first mile to target a sub-6:20 overall pace.
The second mile was fun. A significant net-downhill, we opened it up, engulfing runners through the tangents and picking up the pace. Mile 2: 5:55.
I knew that if I could simply run a decent last 1.1 miles that my time would be strong.
My core strength was starting to give, however. The final third was almost entirely a slow, uphill climb. Murat decided to take off and run a hard last mile (as planned) while I tried my best to mimic Brendan’s smooth stride as we rounded a few turns and tried to chase down a few remaining runners.
The last mile didn’t feel very good – but it went pretty well. Bolstered by a hard final 200m, I averaged about a 6:08 pace for the last 1.1 miles for a final time of 19:06! The 6:09/mile pace average was way beyond my goals for the day and good for a decent 19 place overall finish out of 913 runners (4th age group, 18th overall men)!
Murat wound up winning our age group thanks to a strong last mile and Brendan was right with me up to the tape!
I still felt like I should be going much faster, but I’m not there just yet.
Overall, this was a strong showing. 19:06 for 5K is more on-par with my mile time and proved to me that I could run this distance decently and my last 5K had simply been a one-off bad race. Importantly, this was my first time running this course, and I really enjoyed it – I will definitely be doing more PR Races here.
Next up is a low-key four mile race in Westchester, NY, on next Sunday the 25th. Join me!