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 Longest Day 5 Mile Report
Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Longest Day 5 Mile Report Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:16 pm 

I did an interesting race yesterday: the Longest Day 5 Mile, scheduled for sunset on the summer solstice. It proved to be a ton of fun. It was a real scorcher of a day all day, with highs in the upper 90's, and I was pretty worried about the heat. Fortunately the temperature cooled a little by sunset, and it was also cooler along the bay where the race was, so temperatures were in the mid-70's for the race. There was also a nice breeze, so it wasn't too bad.

Goals: My 5 mile PR is 34:21 (the 2004 Runworks Virtual 5 Mile Race). Last month's 10K, which was under nearly ideal conditions with strong competition pushing me the whole way, predicts a 33:19. For this race I wasn't feeling as sharp, and I knew I'd probably be running mostly alone, so I figured something around 34 minutes would be good, maybe more like 35 minutes considering the weather.

The course is an out-and-back, with one big hill at the beginning/end. You run up, over, and down the other side on the way out, and do the whole thing again on the way back just before the finish. Ah, a hill finish... should be exciting!

There were maybe 50 to 100 people at the race, and it was age and sex handicapped. Women and older runners got a head start of up to 7 minutes, while "fast" guys like me started last. There were no mile markers and my Nike speed/distance monitor is being repaired, so I had to judge my pace by feel the whole way.

I started with the maybe 10-20 guys in the fast group, and tried to take it a little easy over the hill and through the first mile or so. I was surprised to overtake most of the field who'd received a head start within the first 10 minutes or so. I passed a guy after about two miles, and he was the last person I saw for a long time. I'd passed all the slower people, and everyone else was very spread out, so it was empty and lonely out there. I kind of spaced out at the turn-around, and forgot to count the number of people ahead of me, but I think I was running in about 10th position. My split at the turn-around was 17:09.

On the way back, I didn't see anyone for a long time. I kept fading a little, and then catching myself and pushing the pace back down. There were a few curious people out walking their dogs, but that was about it. After a long time, maybe around 4 miles, I saw someone WAY up ahead, a long, long way off. I don't know if he'd started with me and was now fading, or if he'd gotten a head start. Very slowly I reeled him in, but he was WAY out ahead. I finally closed on him as we hit the base of the big hill we had to go up and over before the finish.

I have to say, I kicked some butt on this hill! I dug in and pushed it hard, and quickly caught and passed the guy I'd been chasing for so long. "This hill is killing me!" he screamed after me. Then I pushed on, but my breathing was getting ragged. Suddenly, there was another guy! I sped up to catch him to, closing on him agonizingly slowly as we both muscled up the hill. I thought that if I could catch him before the crest of the hill, I could hold him off on the downhill, so I gave it everything I had to run him down. I got him right before the top, except surprise! It was a false top, which I should have remembered from the start of the race. I didn't have the energy to keep up the effort, and this guy started to repass me, until I pushed it again and just floored it up to the top.

My breathing, which had been a pretty solid 2-2 rhythm this whole time, was now totally crazy. I don't think I was breathing in any rhythm at all, I was just gasping randomly. But the important thing was that I crested the hill and held off this second guy. Then, as I careened crazily back down the hill, within sight of the finish, I saw a third guy! He was pretty far ahead, with real estate running out fast, but I thought I might catch him. So I leaned forward and basically fell down the hill. I was gaining on him, but he heard me coming and picked up his pace a little more. Finally back on the flat, with only maybe 20 yards to go, I was right on his heels. It was an all-out sprint to make it to the line first. I thought I'd been maxed-out this whole time over the hill, but I uncovered another gear and positively blasted out the last stretch, edging out guy number 3. Finish time: 34:21.

I enjoyed this race a lot, and the handicapped format made it very interesting and quite unlike most races I've done. I think I finished something like 7th overall out of 75 or so people, which is pretty good after taking the handicapping into account! I also had nearly dead-even pacing despite having no pace feedback: 17:09 out, 17:12 back. And I *tied* my PR. Given the circumstances, that's definitely a result I can be happy with.


mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Longest Day 5 Mile Report Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 8:51 am 

Good job Rickshaw and another nice race report I'm very impressed at how well you ran without any visual pacing feedback. My guess is that having the three people out front to reel in helped you push the pace. Would you have been able to finish near the same time if they hand't been there to challenge you? I'm particularly impressed at what an even pace you ran. And it sounds like you're a "kicker." You seem able to be able to kick into another gear even after pushing hard. Though, some would argue that means you didn't run hard enough earlier in the race. What do you think?

Though, I think I'm learning that it's difficult to second guess a race performance. For example, not having mile markers can either cause you to run too slow or too fast. And so you either go out too slow but have energy to really pick it up in the second half and at the end, or go out too fast and really fade at the end. So, for me, it's always hard to know how I would have done in a particular race had some element been different (i.e. less crowded start, uphill in the begining rather at the end, flat rather than hilly course, etc.). My results have been all over the board for these different types of conditions.


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Longest Day 5 Mile Report Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:29 am 

mfox wrote:
I'm very impressed at how well you ran without any visual pacing feedback.

Thanks, but I'm not sure the pacing was really so great! Although the first and second halves were about the same average pace, I don't think I kept a consistent pace within each half. It felt more like I started too fast, was too slow in the middle, and sped up again at the end.

mfox wrote:
My guess is that having the three people out front to reel in helped you push the pace. Would you have been able to finish near the same time if they hand't been there to challenge you? I'm particularly impressed at what an even pace you ran. And it sounds like you're a "kicker." You seem able to be able to kick into another gear even after pushing hard. Though, some would argue that means you didn't run hard enough earlier in the race. What do you think?

I didn't get close to those three guys until the hill about 0.5 mile from the finish. They undoubtedly helped motivate me to push harder at the end, but since the race was nearly over, it probably made less than 30 seconds' difference.

I'm usually not much of a kicker, so my results suggest I didn't run hard enough earlier in the race, as you said. Normally I struggle just to avoid being passed at the finish, and I don't usually pass many other runners in the home stretch.

I think you're right that it's very difficult to second guess a race after the fact. There are so many variables: the course, the weather, the crowds, the hills (or lack of them), your diet, your hydration, your other recent workouts... I always find it a little too easy to draw on these ready-made excuses when a race doesn't go as well as I'd hoped. "I would have had a PR, except the course was a bit hilly, and it was hot, and the crowds threw off my pacing, and I didn't have my lucky socks."

It's difficult to know how much difference these factors make, but I'm confident they do all make at least a little difference (except maybe the socks). So I think the only thing you can say for certain is that your chances of a PR are best on a flat, well-marked course, in cool weather, against good competition, but without crowding. So race selection becomes an important skill.


mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Longest Day 5 Mile Report Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 12:49 pm 

I agree Rickshaw. Too many variables. I rarely race for PRs. I guess I should say that I "run" most of my races as workouts and don't feel I'm ready to race until the fall. That is, I don't taper before most races and so my body isn't rested and ready for a PR. I'm more concerned about not letting the mid season races detract from my workout schedule and so I try to work them in as hard training days (tempo runs). It's easy for me to run races as workouts when they only cost me $11 to register

Most of the races I enter are 5 miles or longer and I think it would require a bit more than just a day off the day before to be in PR shape. . Once in a while if a 5K comes along that fits my schedule I can easily arrange my workout schedule so I have an easier recovery run two days out and then take the next day off before the race. Then I feel I may be rested enough to try to PR for that short distance. And I won't have diminished my workout progress.


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