It's time to get back on the 5k horse. My plan for the 2014-15 racing season is to focus on shorter road races: 5k, 8k, 10k, and 12k. In May I'd like to do one of the biggest races in the world, the Bloomsday Run in Spokane, WA, a 12k with over 50,000 participants. To qualify for "second seeding" and start just behind the elite invited runners, I need to run a sub-18:40 5k or a sub-39:00 10k during the year prior to the race. I don't have a qualifying time yet, so I've decided to go for it at this weekend's Lungstrong 5k in Cornelius, NC.
Lungstrong is a relatively flat course with a bit of a downhill near the start and an uphill finish. That does not set up well for me -- I prefer to have the uphill at the beginning and downhill at the end so I can cruise home. It's also said to be a slightly long course -- maybe 3.18 miles instead of 3.1. That may not seem like much, but if I want to run an 18:40 it's the difference between a 6:01 pace and a 5:52 pace for the race. That's a big difference!
So what's the strategy? Well, today I ran a set of 2-minute intervals (with 1-minute rests) on the road at "goal 5k pace," which I decided was 6:00 per mile. As it turned out, the first four intervals were on a downhill, and I ran them all at around a 5:45 pace. The last four were uphill, and I slowed to 5:58. That's 16 minutes of running at an average pace right around that 5:52 mark. If I can do that for 18:40, with no breaks, I should be able to complete 3.18 miles and hit my qualifying time. So by that logic, it makes sense to start out at a 5:45 pace for the mostly-downhill first half, then try to hang on and keep the pace below 6:00 for the second half.
That is likely to be quite painful. My feeling during the workout was that the uphill 5:58s were tougher than the downhill 5:45s, and my Strava lap analysis of the workout seems to confirm that it wasn't just because I was tired: It gave the last two uphill intervals a Grade-Adjusted Pace (GAP) of 5:33 and 5:27, compared to a GAP of 6:09 for the first interval, which I actually ran at a 5:42. This suggests that if I feel like picking it up even a bit faster than 5:45 during the race on the downhills, it wouldn't be a bad idea to just "go with it" and bank some time for the uphills.
That said, today's workout does give me some confidence that I'll be able to hit an 18:40 assuming the course really isn't any longer than 3.18 miles. What might help more than anything would be if there was another runner or two in my pace range. Last year an 18:40 would have been good for third overall, with first and second place over a minute ahead of that pace, so that doesn't bode well. I should probably expect to be running basically alone.
Current forecast for race day is an overnight low of 58 degrees the night before. It shouldn't warm up much by race time, so I expect the weather will be very favorable. I tend to like it just a bit cooler but I don't think it will be a problem for this distance as long as it stays in the low 60s.
This will actually be my first road 5k since the Spencer Mountain 5k last fall, nearly a year ago. I don't think I'm in quite the shape I was in back then, but I'm definitely excited to be racing 5ks again!