Thursday, July 14, 2011

Race Strategy: The Streetlight 5K

Tomorrow evening I'll be running the Concord Streetlight 5K, a 7:30 p.m. race that I'm planning on using to set my training paces for the summer. I haven't run a 5K road race since the UNCC Homecoming 5K last February, and given the likely warm temperatures, I'm not quite sure what to expect. The weather forecast for tomorrow says it should be around 78 degrees at starting time, which is actually unseasonably cool, but I believe still the warmest temperature I've ever raced in. There's also a threat of thundershowers, so that ought to be quite exciting!

So how should I approach this race? I found a Garmin plot of last year's course, which looks to be the same as this year. The course is an out-and back along a greenway. Here's the elevation profile:

Yikes! Look at that hill!

There's a fairly large hill right in the middle of the race. The good news: that means the second half is primarily downhill; the bad news: Look at that hill!

It looks like about a 100-vertical-foot climb in roughly a half mile. That sounds pretty bad, but compared to the UNCC homecoming 5K where I set my PR of 21:30, it's actually rather tame. Here's the profile of that race:

Yikes! Look at those hills!

There are three hills in this race comparable in size to the one hill in the Streetlight 5K. Streetlight's cumulative vertical gain is about 160 feet, compared to about 330 at UNCC. Then again, the weather was perfect at UNCC. So how should I approach Streetlight?

My average pace during the UNCC run was 6:55. I actually ran the first three miles of the Elizabeth 8K faster than that, about a 6:45 pace. Could I complete this race in a sub-6:45 time? I think I might be able to. Even though the heat will be daunting, there's not much chance of getting dehydrated in such a short race. I think I'm going to shoot for a 6:30 over the first mile, then a 6:45 in Mile 2 with its big hill, and see if I can hang on for Mile 3. If I maintain that 6:45 pace for the last mile, then I will be comfortably under 21 minutes. Even if I slow to a 7:00 pace for the last mile, the time I banked in Mile 1 would put me under 21 minutes. And if I'm feeling strong, I could run a 6:30 or better for that last mile and go sub-20:30.

Details of today's run are below:

Today I just did an easy 5.65 miler. Nothing much to it; I carried two full water bottles, which are now starting to feel like less of a burden. As I move from my previous plan onto the Jack Daniels plan, there is no distinction between an "easy" run and a "recovery" run -- "easy" pace is about 9:07 per mile, and I managed a 9:15, which, between the heat and the full bottles, strikes me as about right.


  1. Stop thinking and run. Looking at the map you have one real hill. It's about 1/4 mile long. At the paces you're describing that's going to occupy your time for at most a minute. Relax. You've been training. You'll keep training. Don't look too much at paces from past races on different courses. That's not where you are now. Next year you can compare apples and apples and talk about how to improve on this race course against your performance in it. Can't wait to hear the report!

  2. Cavetoad: Thanks. I'm not as worried about it as I may seem here—I just enjoy speculating about how it will go. I expect it won't go exactly according to this script, but it'll be interesting to compare the two.