Race Report: Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5K

This race, put on by the Greater Long Island Running Club (GLIRC, not be be confused with the Long Island Road Runners Club — or, LIRRC), was the second of my three 5K tuneup races leading up to Houston in mid-January. I’m running these races to get a sense of where I am fitness-wise, so I can make any tweaks to training based on observations. I’m also running them to get some experience pacing the 5K, since this is the first time in my short running career that I’ve focused on training for and racing it.

This was a bigger race than I’d anticipated. I saw “Bethpage 5K” and thought maybe there’d be a few hundred people there tops. The race had over 1200 finishers. But I give kudos to GLIRC for putting on a good race. The streets were closed to traffic, there were plenty of volunteers, water stops were well-placed and well-manned. And the race started on time! I worried about this since it was near freezing and I was in shorts. I lined up in about the third row. Standing in front of me was a tiny woman who turned around and asked me my name. I introduced myself and she turned out to be Shari Klarfeld, a Harrier teammate whom I’d never met. She is a fast runner and won this race last year.

We wished each other well and watched as the wheelchair racers lined up, preparing to go out 30 seconds ahead of us. But then there was some chaos at the start as the race director intoned, “Only men who plan to run 5:00 minute miles should be in front; women running 6:00 miles.” He loosened it a bit and added 5:30/6:30, but people got worried and started moving back. Toes were trod upon. People were touching me. I thought, “If I’m going to get knocked down in a race, it will be this one.” So the start was a little dicey, but we got out okay and I had room around me.

I do not look at my watch when I run anymore. This is one of several pieces of advice from (former) Coach Sandra that I take to heart. It’s helped me, generally, although today I wish I had looked to confirm my suspicion that I was running slightly too fast in the first 1K. For 5Ks I set my watch to record each kilometer rather than mile. I like the more frequent feedback, knowing where I am in the race. But I don’t look it at it; I just note the buzz on my wrist every four minutes or so.

The course consists of a double loop through residential streets, most of which are wide enough to accommodate runners. There are quite a few momentum-killing 90 degree turns, but not nearly as many as the Flushing Meadows 5K a few weeks ago featured. The course is totally flat, which makes it a good one to run. But there was wind, unfortunately, along one long stretch of Stewart Avenue, probably totaling a little under 2K of the total 5K. It wasn’t terrible, but it was a noticeable, draining force.

Nothing that notable happened during the race. I did battle with a few teenaged boys during various parts of the race. And on the second loop there was a guy riding just behind me on a bicycle who kept screaming, “Go, girl! Come on! Go, girl!” It was kind of annoying and I was thinking, “Who is this girl? He’s not screaming at me, right? Because it’s annoying.” Then a teenaged girl in a rim racer pulled up alongside me and I understood that she was the girl. We turned into the wind at that point and I observed that I think it’s harder to race in a wheelchair into wind than it is to run into it. She was struggling and my guess is there’s more resistance because of the tire spokes. Just a theory.

Also, right at the finish some dude decided that he was going to outsprint me. But there were cones. He passed me, leaping over a cone at the same time, and his flying left fist nearly clocked me in the face. I hate idiots.

Anyway, about that pacing. Like I said, I had the suspicion that I was running too fast in the first 1K. And indeed I was. I had been going for a pace of 4:06 per kilometer (6:35/mile) to get me a 20:30. It did not play out that way, but I wasn’t ridiculously off either. Here were the splits:

1K: 3:53 (6:15). Oops! Dammit. That was extravagant.

2K: 4:11 (6:43) <– headwind

3K: 4:12 (6:45) <– mid-race torpor

4K: 4:15 (6:50) <– headwind

5K: 4:08 (6:39) <– “I will commit hari kari with a cheap steak knife if I don’t break 21:00 today.”

191 ft: 0:13 (5:34) <– did not hit tangents

Official time was 20:50. The good news is that I’ve finally broken 21:00, which is a major mental thing for me. The bad news is that I was way off my goal today. Here is what I need to work on based on observations from the last two races:

  • I need to rein things in for the first kilometer. If I run too fast, I develop a slow leak for the rest of the race. I may need to look at my watch, much as I hate to.
  • I need to work on endurance. I tend to flag both physically and mentally around the two mile mark. My mind drifts. I feel very tired. I know that I will not make today’s goal. Then I feel bad about myself. I wonder why I bother doing this. I start to give up. This whole fucked up mid-race cycle needs to stop.

I have a month left to fix these two problems. So I’m going to slightly alter training plans and start doing mile repeats rather than kilometer repeats. I will try a session with 3 x 1 mile at goal 5K race pace (I’m not telling you what that is yet), with 90-120 second rests. If I can do that workout then I’ll extend the next week’s to 4 (or 5) repeats with 75-90 second rests. If I can manage that, I’ll feel pretty good about Houston readiness. If I can’t, then I’ll adjust goals. In the meantime, I have one more 5K tuneup in two weeks. By then I will have done these two workouts. Between those track sessions and this New Year’s Day race, then a little bit of tapering, I am hoping I can reach a training peak in a month. Famous last words.

Other fun facts: I was 10th woman overall, although there were some speedy masters women there, so even with that I was second in the 45-49 AG.

11 Responses

  1. Geez, Julie, you’re such a runner! That was a pretty big PR for you, right? Congratulations!

    When I was training strictly for the 5k this summer, I had a minor mental breakthrough when I finally realize that everyone feels like crap and starts to doubt when things get super hard in a 5k, usually right around that 2nd mile. When I finally got that, I started using that during my speed work, really hunkering down and not being afraid of that feeling late in the speed session. I told myself I liked that feeling and that it meant I was working hard. Also, I liked doing 1k repeats with short rests rather than mile repeats. I would think that with your preference for watch beeps at the km marks in a race, it might be interesting to try that. My favorite workout that training cycle was 6 x 1k at race pace with 80 seconds rest. Good luck!

    • Jaymee, your advice is, naturally, very valuable given the level of runner you are. I’m torn about what to do with the next five workouts. I am thinking maybe I should do as you suggest — stick with the 1K repeats and shorten the recoveries. The Daniels workouts are just bizarre — a 45 minute tempo run + 200m repeats, for example. My instincts say to drop those and just focus on race pace work. Your comment confirms that this is probably the right way to go.

      I also think you’re dead on with regard to the 2 mile lag. The 5K is such a new animal for me — it’s such a high effort race — that I interpret that sensation at around 3200m as “I’m going to crater.” But when I look at my pace, I’m able to hold it or pick it up. So I guess that’s just how 5K races feel.

      Thanks for the advice and insights!

  2. […] you’re not as red-lined you’re at for longer.  (Speaking of which, Julie has a nice report of the second in her 5K-race […]

  3. Congratulations on the PR. I like the no-looking advice. Perhaps you could use those upcoming race-pace workouts to practice that? If you can run say the first 400m before looking, then see how close you can get. Just a thought. I’m working on the same problem.

    • Jim, I came across an interesting workout the other day that I may incorporate: 6 x 400/800. You run the 400s at goal 5K race pace, then 800s at tempo effort. No rests in between. I would think that this would help you learn to dial in to proper 5K pace. I will probably do this one at least once over the next month.

      • That looks like quite a decent workout, irrespective of dialing in race pace. Thanks, I’ll give it a try.

  4. Congrats on the PB Julie. Your first k was a little extravagant. You can afford to be a little under schedule in the first k — perhaps 4:00 to 4:03 if aiming for 20:30. At least with k markers you get an early indication of pace. Better would be an indication at 500 metres. I’d suggest (if it’s possible) to jog the first 500 of the Houston course a few times (for Garmin error, and if it’s not a downtown course) and make a note of where the 500m mark is. Then in the race glance at your watch at 500 to get an early idea about how your pace is going.

    On training, I like Jaymee’s suggestion. More 1k repeats (6 to 8 x 1k) with short recoveries (1 minute). Re Daniels, longish tempo runs are also good value, especially for runners such as yourself who are running low mileage. 8 or 9k tempo is good for aerobic conditioning and endurance.

  5. Ewen, that’s great advice all around. I like the idea of looking at the first 500m of the Houston course (and I think you mean “downhill” not “downtown,” right?). I also think you’re right about the tempo running, so I’m scattering in some tempo work over the coming weeks, although the focus will be primarily on race pace efforts. I think the 1K repeats (and racing) have contributed mightily to my improvement lately.

  6. I think he meant “Downtown” as in “No tall buildings to mess up the Garmin”. That is great advice about the 500m marker. Just hope no one moves that parked car….

  7. […] Comments jime2 on Race Report: Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5Kthrelkeld on Race Report: Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5KEwen on Race Report: Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5Kjime2 […]

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