Wednesday, October 17, 2012

PEAC Ewing 5K

Right from the start I was a bit behind. Frank is all the way to the right. Matthew next to him in red and in the lead!

20:57 (6:45 pace) 6th Overall (My highest place finish in a race, ever? :)

I had considered possibly doing a race just like my training schedule suggested, but never got around to actually looking for one, so I decided I would just do a tempo run instead. But then I talked to Frank, who is also following a Pfitzinger marathon plan (although he is peaking at over 70 miles) and he was doing a local 5K by him in Ewing. A couple days before the race I decided why not go for it. It also helped that Andy was planning on doing a 5K the following day. I had traded the speed work earlier in the week for a few strides so I was feeling relatively fresh for the race. I knew that my fitness wasn't at it's peak, but I was thinking I was more fit than I was when I did my last 5K. I was definitely thinking I was going to get a new PR. I had even thought about the possibility of breaking 20 minutes if conditions were favorable and the course was flat. Well conditions were questionable (32 degrees at the start) and the course was definitely NOT flat and I  missed a PR by 7 seconds.

The Race

I was so cold when I first got there. I had a hard time filling
out the form with my shivering hand!
I arrived about 45 minutes before the start. I knew it was a very small race (about 100 people) so I wasn't worried about getting there super early. It was ridiculously cold outside for this early in the season. It was the first frost, actually. I had the usual level of nervousness and after signing up and attaching my racing bib, I did a little warm-up. It was a bit too short and then I got a text from Frank saying he was there. I met up with him and his family and waited with them for about 15 minutes before the start of the race. A few minutes after 8:15, we lined up and I was pretty much right at the front. The mayor of Ewing said a few words and we were off.

The first 100 meters were pretty fast as expected. And even so, Frank and his son, Matthew were already way out ahead. I was feeling like I was likely running fast enough so I decided to take it easy. Perhaps too easy. What I didn't realize was how much of a downhill the first half mile really was, but I would find that out later. I hit the first mile in just under 6:30 which sounded perfect to me, again if this was totally flat. The start of the second mile was a fairly significant hill. I looked down at my Garmin a little after I started and it said 8 something! I remember thinking "What is this nonsense?!" I knew I was going up a hill, but I didn't think I was going that slow. That whole 2nd mile I just tried to get it under 7 minutes, and I couldn't do it. I was pretty upset but then I figured, I would just really have to pick it up in the third mile.

I think I actually said "Crap" as I crossed the line and stopped my Garmin.
Ha! The third mile was ridiculous. It was pretty much entirely uphill. My thoughts of picking it up started to fade. I was pretty upset at this point, because it was dawning on me that I was not going to be getting a good time, but I still thought  I could eek out a PR. Usually at about half a mile out I start to really pick it up, except this was the point where the hill got even steeper, so even though I felt like I was pushing harder, my pace stayed at right around 7 minutes.

The last quarter is flat to downhill, but it was too late by then. I kicked it in pretty well, but I could already see 20:4X when I was still more than 10 seconds away from the clock and I realized I wasn't going to even PR. I crossed the line in 20:57 and I was pretty darn upset.

I just thought this was a great picture of
Frank and Matthew (happy with a PR!)
Frank came in a minute ahead of me in 4th place in just under 20 minutes. That made it the 3rd time he broke 20 minutes in a 5K. I remember when he was chasing that for a while. After him, was his son Matthew (age 13) in 20:32. I remember only 2 years ago when Matthew came in just ahead of Abby in about 27 minutes in the Princeton 5K. He improved over 6 minutes from then! It's pretty clear he has a bright running future ahead of him. I'm going to make a prediction and say his high school PR will be 17:14. I was behind him in 6th place overall.  Despite my upsetting performance, this turned out to be my highest place finish in any race I've ever run. I guess that's what you get with  a local 5K with a field of ~100 runners.

Here come the factors (AKA excuses)

So what happened? Why did I not even PR? Were my expectations off? Was I not as fit as I thought? Now that I've had some time to think about it, I've come up with my list of reasons in order of increasing affect on final race performance.

  1. It was too cold. I am totally down for cold weather running. Even 32 degrees is fine, but I was not fully ready for it this early in the season. When the race started and I was huffing and puffing the cold air, I felt a little like the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz.  +5 seconds.
  2. Not enough warm up. This kind of goes with the cold weather. I ran less than a mile and only did a couple strides and I don't think this was enough of a warm up especially for how cold it was. +10 seconds.
  3. Too Hilly. This course is definitely the hilliest 5K course that I've run on since High School. Now granted, I've been mostly running on flat courses, so it doesn't take that much to be the hilliest. But still, this course starts with a major down hill and then you are running up and down some hills in the 2nd mile and then going back up the big hill on the last mile. There's about 125 ft. of elevation gain for that last mile. My previous PR at the Hillsborough Hop has a net downhill of a bout 70 ft. and it feels like a pancake compared to this one. +20 seconds.
  4. I did not push hard enough. Ultimately, these other factors are beyond my control. But, this is what really gets under my skin. I finished the race feeling like I had more to give. I was upset with the hills and I did not push hard enough. If I compare this race to two years ago when I ran a then, 21:16 PR at the Princeton 5K, I remember not having much of a kick at the end because I was too tired. That's when I know I have pushed enough. Here, I had plenty left in the tank. And this was made even more clear once I looked at my Garmin results. Average HR of 169! What the heck?! That is way too low. Maybe part of it was the cold, but still, I should be pushing way closer to my max for such a short race, and I did not do that. This is what I am most upset about. +25 seconds.
Add it all up and you get 60 seconds and a new sub 20 minute 5K PR! Ha, if only it really worked this way.  It's not like I really believe these made up numbers have any value, but I like to play around with things like this anyway.

The take away

Right now I am mainly focused on the Marine Corps Marathon in 11 days. This race doesn't change anything in that regard. If anything, I feel like based on the conditions and my HR, I'm in a good spot to go for my 3:30 goal, but I will really have to work on number 4 to get there. Now, once the Marine Corps Marathon is over, then I think I would like to focus on running a faster 5K time. I plan on doing a November 5K at Colonial Park which I believe is relatively flat. And then I think I would like to continue working on some shorter stuff into the early Spring. I am still optimistic that the 20 minute barrier will go down in the coming months!


  1. Awesome job!!! I'm extremely jealous of your "disappointing time". Especially since I suffered what could be another season ending injury. I think you are being way too harsh on yourself as usual, especially considering the course. You're not even 5k training and almost PR'd. Also think your predictions for your friends' son may be on the conservative side. But who knows how teenagers develop. But I have a couple of kids on my team that came through middle school slower than him in a 5k. They were running 21s on flat courses. One is running 17:20s as a freshman. Another is consistently in the 16:40s as a junior.

    1. Thanks, Justin! Now that some time has passed, I am pretty happy with the result. Now my focus is 100% on next Sunday!

      That really sucks about you being injured again. You can't catch a break. Anytime you start coming back, something happens.

      Those are some crazy 5K times by those high school kids. Maybe you are right and my guess of 17:14 is conservative, I just have this idea of sub 17 being completely crazy, but who knows. We'll just have to see.