Saturday, February 25, 2012

Race Recap: The JCL Good for the Heart 5K

I went into the JCL 5K with two goals: First, break 20 minutes. Second, break 19 minutes. A 19-minute 5K requires a 6:07 per mile pace, and I had done 6:01 per mile for 2.2 miles a couple weeks back, so 19 minutes definitely seemed like it should be doable. That said, my last two short road races both involved wrong turns, so I was also prepared for the worst.

Fortunately, this was a familiar course for me, since I had PRed on it last summer, completing the Streetlight 5K in 20:37. Also fortunately, my friend Bobby Aswell was at the race, and he'd be running a similar pace. Bobby takes lots of photos when he races, so here's one of me getting ready:

After watching Bobby's daughters run the fun run (his oldest was the fastest girl!), I lined up in the second row next to Bobby, who had told me before the race that he would probably be running around a 19-minute race. If I was going to break 19 minutes, I'd have to beat Bobby (on a good day, Bobby can run sub-18, but he had just run a marathon last week).

There was the usual bunch of kids who like to start out in front at these small races, a very strong-looking 30-ish man, and not many others who looked like they would be very fast. After an awkward start down a steep hill, I settled into a stride, with about 10 runners ahead of me and Bobby just behind me. Bobby and I wove through the pretenders and soon realized there were just two runners ahead of us, a very young teen, and Strong 30something.

We were nearing the end of Mile 1, running into a small headwind, so I decided to let Bobby break the wind for a while. Glancing at my watch I could see I was running about a 6-minute pace. I was breathing very heavily and my throat started to feel a little sore. The temperature was about 40 degrees, which would be perfect for a marathon, but I found myself wishing it was a bit warmer. Finally I decided it was time to pass Bobby, so I took off past him, and was relieved to hear he was breathing just as hard as I was.

We passed Mile Marker 1, and I glanced at my watch to see 5:37 flash by. Really? The marker was in a different spot than it had been last year, so I was inclined to believe it was in the wrong spot. My Garmin beeped in with my 1-mile split a little later: 6:00. That seemed more likely. Meanwhile, Strong 30something was running away with the race, but Young Teen looked like he might be catchable. We headed up the only major hill on the course, and I focused on staying strong. I glanced down at my watch and saw that I was running a 6:30 pace. Had I really slowed down that much? I tried to pick up the pace.

We reached the turnaround, with Young Teen about 10 seconds ahead of me. Bobby had dropped quite a ways back -- he said he timed the gap at the turnaround and I had a 16-second lead on him. He gave me a thumbs-up as I passed. Now I had a quarter-mile of downhill to regroup before trying to hang on for the finish. I didn't see Mile Marker 2, but when my Garmin beeped it registered a 6:20 for the second mile. If I was going to break 19 minutes, I would have to pick it up for the rest of the race.

Young Teen was maintaining his 10-second lead, but he was also looking back every 15 seconds or so. A sign of weakness? I mustered all I could but couldn't seem to close the gap on him. I was truly gasping for breath now, and my throat felt raw from the volume of cold air passing through it.

As we approached the 3-mile marker, I noticed Strong 30something standing on the side of the trail cheering us on. Had he already finished and run back to this point? It didn't seem possible.

All that was left now was the final uphill stretch. I could see that I wasn't going to catch Young Teen but I thought I might have a shot at 19 minutes. I turned the final corner. The last 100 feet or so was a steep uphill. I could see the official clock ticking 18:51, 18:52, 18:53. Would I make it? I sprinted across the line and stopped my watch. After catching my breath and congratulating Bobby, who was just behind me, I looked down at my wrist. This is what I saw:

I had done it! Or had I? This wasn't the official time; that would have to wait for the official results. After a cooldown run with Bobby we checked out the results and saw that I was clocked at 19:00 even. Bobby said he thought the timers usually rounded official results up, so we went and asked him to look up my exact time on the computer: 18:59.13. That's close enough for me; I'm calling it an 18:59, my first sub-20-minute 5K, and my first sub-19-minute 5K.

Bobby then pointed out what should have been obvious to me: Strong 30something hadn't registered for the race; that's why he had stopped at the 3 mile marker. That meant Young Teen was first, I was second, and Bobby was third overall. That's my best finish in a race, ever!

The top 3 finishers: Shad McGrew, me, and Bobby Aswell

At the awards celebration, the host made a fuss about the fact that the first-place finisher was only 14 years old. Then she said "And our second place finisher is," and looked at me, asking "can I tell?"

"Sure," I said.

"Forty-Five! It's Dave Munger." The assembled runners clapped in admiration as I picked up my award, a really nice gear bag. That settles it, I'm officially old. And fast. Better than old and slow, right?

The Garmin record of the results is below.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Race Strategy: The JCL Good For The Heart 5K

A couple weeks ago I won free entry into the JCL Good For The Heart 5K. It's the same course I set my PR on last July in the Streetlight 5K: 20:37. This time around I'm hoping to finally break the 20-minute barrier in a 5K.

The last couple short road races I've done have involved wrong turns, so despite running below the required 6:26 pace in both events, I still haven't completed a 5K in under 20 minutes.

The prudent thing to do on Saturday would be to go out at a roughly 6:20 pace, giving myself a little cushion and allowing me to comfortably finish under 20 minutes. I'm not planning on being prudent, though. I want to give myself a shot at a sub-19-minute 5K, which requires a 6:06 pace. So I'm going to head out at 6 minutes flat and just see if I can hold on. Here's an elevation profile of the course:

Note the large hill in the middle!

This makes it look worse than it really is. The only hill of consequence is the large one in the middle, and it's short enough that it's over fairly quickly. Then you have a nice downhill to rest, and then a flat mile where you try not to slow down. There is a steep little uphill at the start / finish line that somehow doesn't show up in the elevation profile, but I find it to be more troubling at the beginning of the race than at the end.

I think being familiar with the course will be a real plus, and assuming the weather cooperates, I should have a shot at a PR. Currently the forecast is for a windy morning, but a perfect 45 degrees at race time. Most of the course is sheltered from the wind so I don't think the wind will be much of an issue. Looking good! Details of today's workout are below.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Not easy in the Big Easy

I jumped at the chance to get a free hotel room in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. But that didn't mean I was going to take it easy with my workout program. Today I wanted to do a little speed / distance work, so I decided on 40 minutes at marathon pace, then 5 at tempo pace, then 20 at MP and 5 tempo.

New Orleans is nothing if not flat, so I wasn't worried about terrain. I decided to define MP as 7:30 and Tempo pace as 6:30. What I didn't count on was the humidity. It was 70 degrees and 85 percent humidity during my workout. As I started warming up at an 8:15 pace, I could tell this wasn't going to be easy. After two miles, I tried to start building up to MP. I wasn't even close: My first mile was a 7:53. Four miles at 8+ minute pace followed. Finally by the end of the fifth "marathon pace" mile I was starting to get used to the heat, so I tried to turn it on for my first 5-minute tempo run. 6:30 was definitely not happening, but I managed a 7:00 pace for 5 minutes. Somehow I hung on for 2.5 miles at an 8:00 pace, then did another 7:00 pace for 5 minutes.

I was drenched in sweat and had underestimated the distance home, so my cooldown ended up being 3 miles for a total of 14. I was spent. The workout wasn't as fast as I had been hoping, but how did I do given the conditions?

Mark Hadley says you should add 0.75 percent to your mile pace for every 5 degrees above 60 during a workout. If the humidity is over 80 percent, add another 10 degrees to the temperature. So today it should have felt like I was running in dry, 80-degree weather. That sounds about right. That means I should add 3 percent to my planned speeds. At a 7:30 pace that would be 13.5 seconds, or 7:43.5 per mile. At a 6:30 pace that would be 11.7 seconds, or 6:41.7 per mile.

So no, even accounting for the weather, I still didn't hit my target times. But at least I wasn't so far off!

Details of today's workout are below.