5k Race Report - My first in-person race in more than a year! Even splits, a wrong-turn, a PR, and first across the line!

#1
Yesterday my local running store decided to celebrate its two year anniversary but putting on a 5k race. Our state is ahead of the curve with vaccination but I am still a little more than a month out before I am eligible to receive my first dose... while I cannot wait to compete I don't want to put myself in a risky situation so close to vaccination! That said, my shop did a great job with this. They limited the field to 50 runners and further staggered that into five waves of 10 runners. Masks were also required before, during, and after the event. Add on to that, my impromptu race strategy of just leading the entire time and I had an extra level of security...

Training: I am currently in week 6 of a 24 week marathon training program, for a race at the end of June. This 5k seemingly popped up out of nowhere and I decided to cram it onto my calendar given that I am still in the early stages of that program. I ran a rather hard fartlek-style 14 miler the day before (7:30 pace for 8 miles and 6:45-7:15 pace for 6 miles) and race day was supposed be 5 miles at recovery pace (whoops!). Add on to that, I have some speedwork (200 repeats) the day after the 5k. This is obviously not ideal, but sometimes you just gotta throw a little caution to the wind and have some fun.

Goals: With the above training in mind, I expected my legs to feel pretty trashed on the day of. Usually after my Saturday workout I am very happy to settle into an 8-8:30 recovery pace for my Sunday runs. That said, everything felt pretty good on the morning of. I have never been a speedy middle distance runner but my training for the past year has been really consistent, so I set a modest goal of sub 20 minutes. I should also note that this isn't a distance that I have ever focused on. I ran the 400 in college and then very slowly built up to the marathon, only ever running a handful of shorter races along the way. I think my race PR was somewhere in the 21s? I probably have a few workout PRs in the low 20s or maybe high 19s? I went into the day thinking it would be "neat" to post an official time under 20.

Pre-Race: Had a black iced coffee and, like any elite runner, a delicious coconut mounds brownie from a local bakery. Chugged some water. I drove down to the shop and chatted with the owners, who were pretty pumped to be putting on the race. Like any amateur, I proceeded to size up the competition. Old people? Young people? Would I be back of the pack? It has been so long since I have run a race and I really missed chatting with other runners. Everyone was excited to get out there. Oh, and, as it turns out you can still just reliably size up the pack by seeing who is wearing vaporflys. Race conditions weren't perfect but they were still very good. Dry, overcast, no wind, but just a touch too cold at around 40. We have had some random spikes here and there but it is still very much winter... I really wanted to get away with shorts and a singlet but I had on long compression tights, shorts, a singlet, and gloves (and a gaiter). I opted to use my Vaporfly 4%s, which may be nearing 600 miles at this point !?!? I had used my Endorphin Pro's the day before and they were pretty waterlogged thanks to a persistent drizzle during my 14 milers. Even if those were dry, I think I would have gone with the 4%s. I stand by my comments that the Nikes just have that "super shoe" feel, while the Sauconys just have that "really great shoe" feel.

I was in Wave 2 so mentally this prepared me for "there's no way you're winning this thing with 10 runners seeded faster than you". However, I am not really sure how this race was seeded. Maybe loosely by predicted finish? When they called Wave 1, the runners ahead of me all looked to be older than me by about 10 to 15 years. Certainly not to say that they couldn't whoop me but it shook me out of my comfort. Maybe I could sneak into the top finishers after all? The gun went off and they took off at what looked to be low to mid 7s pace.

Race: Still a little confused about seeding I shuffled to the mat and 30 seconds later another gun! I was off. I have such a hard time controlling my initial pace in the half and full but that sort of eagerness is perfectly suited for a 5k. I dropped right into a 6:15 pace and within about 800 meters or so I had caught and passed the first wave. My legs were not 100% after the previous day's run but they definitely felt much better than anticipated. My breathing still felt pretty relaxed here, with a tinge of urgency. Again, I am super inexperienced at racing this distance so I figured the idea was just to push it as hard as I could and hold on to that until the finish line snuck up on me.

It was very weird leading the race from this point on but I just stuck in my gear and did my thing. My first mile clicked through in 6:14.5, which was definitely a little quick for my sub 20 goal but nothing felt wrong about it. This was a funky course, with a turn around feature somewhere in between miles 1 and 2, and I used that to gauge the field. At this point I really wanted to settle into a comfortable pace but I quickly shook that idea off after I saw two runners about 50-100m behind me. Next up was a slight downhill, which I used to ratchet back up the pace. Mile 2 clicked through in 6:14.8, right on! This portion of the course went through some residential suburbs and I passed a woman walking her dog. With the gaiter and my pace, I was breathing pretty heavy. I must have sounded like some mix of darth vader or jason because she whirled around pretty shocked. She asked "are you the winner?" "Maybe? Is there anyone back there? trying to sneakily to get information on the field without looking back... "oh yea, look at that". Any hope of settling in died right there. Then mini-disaster struck! No, not the delicious brownie I had earlier in the day (although I could start to feel that working around)...

The course approached a Y intersection and I could see a volunteer hanging out in her car. I knew this was a right or left decision point but I couldn't remember the course. No sign. I think the volunteer was checking her phone? I went left (the way we had run previously) and, as it turns out, chose incorrectly. I had my doubts but I pressed on. About 100 feet later one of the volunteers is shouting down an intersection "WRONG WAY!" I knew it! I turned down the street to get back on course. I was still ahead of the pack (who had made the correct turn) by about 100m. It was foot on the gas from there on out. My watch buzzed for mile 3. I didn't look to see what that was (6:13.6) but I knew it meant the finish line was right there. It felt really cool to run across the mat first (they had an announcer!) and I stopped my watch. 19:17

Post-Race: I gathered myself and walked over to the owner to get a high-five. "Imnothammer, did you make a wrong turn?" My heart sank... "uh yea... back at that Y intersection... nobody was there..." "It's fine - you ran a little extra, man...". Sure enough, I went back today on Google Maps and with the wrong turn added about 300 extra feet. Once all of the results were processed, someone from the last wave ended up beating me by about 20 seconds and I have to laugh about it even more now.

All and all I am super happy with the results. A new PR and a funny story. Most of all I was really happy to race again! This was a very small, controlled race but I hope local stuff starts popping up for all of us in the summer! I think had I been able to run with the event winner (and had I not made a wrong turn) sub 19 would have been very realistic. There's always next time!
 
#4
that was a good read, thanks for sharing and congrats on the PR! you're ready to rip the next one once you taper... that iced coffee and coconut mounds brownie sounds good right now about!!!
 
#5
Dan, I was totally worried about that at the onset but I didn't expect to be out in front! All things considered it makes for a good laugh.

Brutus, I regret nothing about the brownie/coffee combo! If I can finally manage a BQ I would love to move back towards middle-distance events. I had a lot of fun with this and I think there's a lot of room for improvement on that time if I focus more on speedwork.
 

RW Admin

Administrator
Staff member
#6
Yesterday my local running store decided to celebrate its two year anniversary but putting on a 5k race. Our state is ahead of the curve with vaccination but I am still a little more than a month out before I am eligible to receive my first dose... while I cannot wait to compete I don't want to put myself in a risky situation so close to vaccination! That said, my shop did a great job with this. They limited the field to 50 runners and further staggered that into five waves of 10 runners. Masks were also required before, during, and after the event. Add on to that, my impromptu race strategy of just leading the entire time and I had an extra level of security...

Training: I am currently in week 6 of a 24 week marathon training program, for a race at the end of June. This 5k seemingly popped up out of nowhere and I decided to cram it onto my calendar given that I am still in the early stages of that program. I ran a rather hard fartlek-style 14 miler the day before (7:30 pace for 8 miles and 6:45-7:15 pace for 6 miles) and race day was supposed be 5 miles at recovery pace (whoops!). Add on to that, I have some speedwork (200 repeats) the day after the 5k. This is obviously not ideal, but sometimes you just gotta throw a little caution to the wind and have some fun.

Goals: With the above training in mind, I expected my legs to feel pretty trashed on the day of. Usually after my Saturday workout I am very happy to settle into an 8-8:30 recovery pace for my Sunday runs. That said, everything felt pretty good on the morning of. I have never been a speedy middle distance runner but my training for the past year has been really consistent, so I set a modest goal of sub 20 minutes. I should also note that this isn't a distance that I have ever focused on. I ran the 400 in college and then very slowly built up to the marathon, only ever running a handful of shorter races along the way. I think my race PR was somewhere in the 21s? I probably have a few workout PRs in the low 20s or maybe high 19s? I went into the day thinking it would be "neat" to post an official time under 20.

Pre-Race: Had a black iced coffee and, like any elite runner, a delicious coconut mounds brownie from a local bakery. Chugged some water. I drove down to the shop and chatted with the owners, who were pretty pumped to be putting on the race. Like any amateur, I proceeded to size up the competition. Old people? Young people? Would I be back of the pack? It has been so long since I have run a race and I really missed chatting with other runners. Everyone was excited to get out there. Oh, and, as it turns out you can still just reliably size up the pack by seeing who is wearing vaporflys. Race conditions weren't perfect but they were still very good. Dry, overcast, no wind, but just a touch too cold at around 40. We have had some random spikes here and there but it is still very much winter... I really wanted to get away with shorts and a singlet but I had on long compression tights, shorts, a singlet, and gloves (and a gaiter). I opted to use my Vaporfly 4%s, which may be nearing 600 miles at this point !?!? I had used my Endorphin Pro's the day before and they were pretty waterlogged thanks to a persistent drizzle during my 14 milers. Even if those were dry, I think I would have gone with the 4%s. I stand by my comments that the Nikes just have that "super shoe" feel, while the Sauconys just have that "really great shoe" feel.

I was in Wave 2 so mentally this prepared me for "there's no way you're winning this thing with 10 runners seeded faster than you". However, I am not really sure how this race was seeded. Maybe loosely by predicted finish? When they called Wave 1, the runners ahead of me all looked to be older than me by about 10 to 15 years. Certainly not to say that they couldn't whoop me but it shook me out of my comfort. Maybe I could sneak into the top finishers after all? The gun went off and they took off at what looked to be low to mid 7s pace.

Race: Still a little confused about seeding I shuffled to the mat and 30 seconds later another gun! I was off. I have such a hard time controlling my initial pace in the half and full but that sort of eagerness is perfectly suited for a 5k. I dropped right into a 6:15 pace and within about 800 meters or so I had caught and passed the first wave. My legs were not 100% after the previous day's run but they definitely felt much better than anticipated. My breathing still felt pretty relaxed here, with a tinge of urgency. Again, I am super inexperienced at racing this distance so I figured the idea was just to push it as hard as I could and hold on to that until the finish line snuck up on me.

It was very weird leading the race from this point on but I just stuck in my gear and did my thing. My first mile clicked through in 6:14.5, which was definitely a little quick for my sub 20 goal but nothing felt wrong about it. This was a funky course, with a turn around feature somewhere in between miles 1 and 2, and I used that to gauge the field. At this point I really wanted to settle into a comfortable pace but I quickly shook that idea off after I saw two runners about 50-100m behind me. Next up was a slight downhill, which I used to ratchet back up the pace. Mile 2 clicked through in 6:14.8, right on! This portion of the course went through some residential suburbs and I passed a woman walking her dog. With the gaiter and my pace, I was breathing pretty heavy. I must have sounded like some mix of darth vader or jason because she whirled around pretty shocked. She asked "are you the winner?" "Maybe? Is there anyone back there? trying to sneakily to get information on the field without looking back... "oh yea, look at that". Any hope of settling in died right there. Then mini-disaster struck! No, not the delicious brownie I had earlier in the day (although I could start to feel that working around)...

The course approached a Y intersection and I could see a volunteer hanging out in her car. I knew this was a right or left decision point but I couldn't remember the course. No sign. I think the volunteer was checking her phone? I went left (the way we had run previously) and, as it turns out, chose incorrectly. I had my doubts but I pressed on. About 100 feet later one of the volunteers is shouting down an intersection "WRONG WAY!" I knew it! I turned down the street to get back on course. I was still ahead of the pack (who had made the correct turn) by about 100m. It was foot on the gas from there on out. My watch buzzed for mile 3. I didn't look to see what that was (6:13.6) but I knew it meant the finish line was right there. It felt really cool to run across the mat first (they had an announcer!) and I stopped my watch. 19:17

Post-Race: I gathered myself and walked over to the owner to get a high-five. "Imnothammer, did you make a wrong turn?" My heart sank... "uh yea... back at that Y intersection... nobody was there..." "It's fine - you ran a little extra, man...". Sure enough, I went back today on Google Maps and with the wrong turn added about 300 extra feet. Once all of the results were processed, someone from the last wave ended up beating me by about 20 seconds and I have to laugh about it even more now.

All and all I am super happy with the results. A new PR and a funny story. Most of all I was really happy to race again! This was a very small, controlled race but I hope local stuff starts popping up for all of us in the summer! I think had I been able to run with the event winner (and had I not made a wrong turn) sub 19 would have been very realistic. There's always next time!
Congrats on the PR, @imnothammer! Thank you for sharing your story. It was nice just reading about a race. I can't wait until more come back!


Justin
RW Staff
 
#8
Congrats on your PR! That’s great work. I’ve had success in the past with getting PRs when training for a different distance. I set my 5K PR a month out from a half marathon I was training for and my marathon PR was a virtual race last fall after a summer of mostly doing shorter runs and speedwork. Jumping into a race like that without expectations or pressure is awesome. I’m hopeful that in late summer/fall I can jump into a few different races of varying distances and just see what happens!
 
#9
Yea - it is neat to hit up some of these other distances because, as you said, the expectation/pressure isn't there. This race was more "Lets see where I am at?" as opposed to "I need to run under 20!"

I alluded to it in my Goal notes but my running history is so backwards. I competed in the 400m and, after injuring myself, I slowly returned by jogging further and further until I had completed my first marathon. My PR there is nothing remarkable but my (pre-pandemic) new year's resolution for 2020 had been to train for a BQ at London 2021. A year of serious training has really opened my eyes to how much fun distance running can be and now it is really cool to come back down and throw myself at some of these other distances.

BQ is my only goal at the moment but after that I would love to set my sights on the 5k or maybe even something closer to sprinting... it would be wild if I could get my mile time back under 5 after all of these years.
 
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