Race Report: Sunset & Suds 5K

Racing a 5K while trying to peak for a road mile probably wasn’t the wisest move. Conventional training wisdom would probably dictate shorter, faster work in the weeks leading up to the Fifth Avenue Mile (which is next Saturday). But following conventional training wisdom has often been a crapshoot for me, so I figured I’d race it and get some fitness on the endurance end of the spectrum.

The heat in New York has finally broken (I hope) for the summer and we were given cool, overcast conditions on Thursday evening. Unfortunately, there was a hellacious NW to SE headwind (although it shifted around at times). I stupidly failed to heed it in the first half mile of the race and paid for that stubbornness later on.

Long story short, I finished in 21:46, which is 24 33 seconds off my PR at the 5K distance. I have a feeling that I might have been able to get closer to, or perhaps even best, that time had it not been so windy, but I’ll never know. The wind affected us for about half the race, which is run along a north-south path that runs along the Hudson in Riverside Park. I had a feeling that I was running slightly too fast in the beginning, but since this wasn’t a goal race I figured I could afford to experiment. I came through the first mile in 6:49. Yes, with that headwind, that was probably about 10 seconds too fast.

In the second mile we headed south, then turned around. But by this time the sun was down and we were running in the dark. Since was afraid of twisting an ankle on uneven pavement, I was somewhat cautious going under an overpass. Yeah, lost tons of time there. Sure. No, I was just tired during that mile. That one clocked in at 7:11.

Heading back north into the third mile I was feeling low energy. This was a good thing to experience because it convinced me that I need to lay off the calorie restriction in the days before the Fifth Avenue race. I was also incredibly thirsty and grabbed a bottle of water off the table, took a few sips and then — feeling awkward — dropped it off to the side. No one else was taking water and I hate throwing bottles on the ground. It seems so rude.

As we headed up toward the little loop that marks the northern end of the course I got some energy back, but, boy, was I sick of that full on headwind coming from the north by then. I will say that we had a lovely sunset over New Jersey (that’s the “sunset” part), although it’s hard to appreciate a sunset when you feel as if you’re about to puke up your spleen. We turned to head south and that was a relief, but I was feeling done. When the woman calling the splits at mile 3 said, “21:10,” I knew I’d blown a chance at a PR. And yet, in front of me was a woman with whom I’d been playing “Pass me! Now I’ll pass you!” throughout the entire race. I decided to try passing her, which I did, and found some speed for the last .1, which I ran at 6:22 pace.

The woman who won the race in just under 19 minutes is 39. So it’s a little hard to be proud of a “first master” status. I’ll take it, though. I was 7th female overall. The race field was probably under 100 total. I love small races. The post-race beer (that’s the “suds” part) and chitchat with teammates and others was a bonus.

What I learned, besides the fact that I need to eat more before racing, is that if you train for a mile it’s hard to pull off even a decent 5K. My endurance over anything longer than about 3K is not there anymore. That’s so odd to me. I’m so used to being able to sustain an effort over long (sometimes very long) distances. I wouldn’t dare enter even a 10K now.

Even though the mile race is next weekend, I’m already looking ahead. In some ways I feel that the Fifth Avenue race will take care of itself. There’s no workout I can do at this late stage that will get me any readier for it, and in fact doing too much will only detract. I have a little session planned for Tuesday, just 1-2 800s and a couple of 400s. But I may even skip that if I’m feeling at all tired or if anything anywhere hurts.

I’ll take a little down time in the week after that race and just run easy. Then I go straight into 5K training with one tempo run and one speed session every week, plus one longer recovery pace run. I think those will top out at 10 miles. Upper mileage limit will be around 55 or so.

My next planned race is a 5 miler in late October, the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff (a raincheck for the cancelled Percy Sutton race). The last time I ran that race I suffered a violent hamstring pull. Good times. I did find another road mile in mid-October, the Harry Chapin Run Against Hunger. That’s billed as a “fun run.” But I am incapable of doing fun runs. I will be out for blood as usual.

9 Responses

  1. Hi! I don’t mean to be a stalker, but I suppose I am, a bit. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, and just noticed that you were running the same 5k I’d just signed up for, and I think I /saw/ you at this race–I was #73, and came in 4th female (19:57, PR for me); I was wearing all black and bouncing around nervously beforehand (due in part to not knowing almost anyone). I just wanted to say that I love your blog. I am impressed by your mileage and speedwork and think you may well have me beat on the mile.

    BTW (does this make it less stalkerish?) I may see you at a Harriers practice, since I talked to some of your teammates and would love to stop by for Wednesday track work.

    I agree with you about the wind. I was wheezing by the first 1/4 mile and my lungs were aching for a day and a half afterwards. Glad I wasn’t the only one to notice that. At least it was a flat course.

    • I have friends who started out as stalkers so, really, I don’t mind. I’d say you’re more of a lurker. Either way, I’m glad you commented! Congratulations on the new PR — I think that course is probably PR material for many if you can catch it on a day that isn’t so windy. I will definitely run it again next year if I can.

      I was #79 and slower than you. :) Thanks for the kind words on the blog. I try to make it lovable.

      I have never been to a Harriers practice, so you’ll have to be a little more creative in your stalking. But you should go, because they are friendly people.

      Are you running the mile on Saturday? If so, good luck!

      • Yes, I am! Good luck to you, too. :) I’m eagerly watching your blog for the 1500 runners’ warmup strategies; warming up right is so key to getting in the right mentality for a race, body aside.

  2. Yes, it’s a shame about the headwind. And being slightly too fast early could have hurt the second half of the race. “I decided to try passing her” — C’mon Julie! You need to run angrier in the second half of races! .) I’d do the session Tuesday (and if the race is Sunday), some 200s or 150s Friday.

    It is interesting about endurance dropping away. I feel the same when I get to about the 7k mark of a 10k training run. In the race last week I think it was conservative early pacing which saved me. 5k is about the maximum racing distance I feel confident about.

    Oh yes, my ‘headwind’ theory… when one gets alternating headwinds and tailwinds (as per a track 5k), I think the body just uses the tailwind for a ‘rest’, rather than running faster. It’s like how most people don’t run fast on the downs of an undulating course. I think it’s a neuro-muscular thing too (as well as a brain thing). The heart is getting a rest (with a tailwind) but the legs aren’t up to accelerating the pace. I think if one were to practise surging long runs a la the Kenyans, we could make better use of tailwinds, and run better on undulating courses.

    Must go – well and truly exceeded my 140 character limit there.

    • That’s a good theory about headwinds vs. tailwinds. I’ll think about those 200s. I typically just do a 3-4 mile run with some 100m strides the day before.

    • I like the headwind/hill theory. A cross-country/trail racer I know said something similar about hills on trails. “The road racers in particular will always take a little breather at the top of a hill. That’s when you pass them.” So it’s behavior that can be corrected once you realize you are doing it.

  3. hi Julie, have you already written on how you warmup for races?
    Just saw a good video on Flotrack w/ J. Daniels about warmups…he recommends hard running for 3-4 minutes about 10 minutes before start. Just wondering if you had any particular theories. I think i’ve been going about it all wrong…

    • Probably, but I don’t know the right way to warm up, so whatever I’ve written should be ignored. That’s why, on Thursday, I’m going to ask some of the fastest 1500 runners in the world how they warm up.

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