Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Race Strategy: The ACC Fan 5k

On Saturday I'm taking on another 5k, this one a fairly big local race, the ACC Fan 5k, part of the festivities for the ACC Championship football game in Charlotte (the race used to be called the Championship Chase). My goal is to beat my season's best time of 18:19, set just over a month ago at the Balloonfest 5k. That would require a pace of better than 5:53, so the plan is to set myself up to run a 5:45 pace if I'm feeling good, or maybe a 5:50 if things aren't going quite so well.

The race doesn't set up quite ideally for me, but it's not too bad either. Here's the course map and elevation profile:

Ignore the little dips near the start and finish of the race; they are artifacts of the overpass where Tryon crosses the freeway (this is because the map measures the ground elevation, not the elevation of the bridge). The actual course proceeds smoothly over those dips. This means the first mile is flat, Mile 2 has a long downhill and a short 70-foot climb, and the finish is flat.

I'd prefer to have that climb before the downhill, but I have to run the race I'm given, so here's the strategy. I'll start out at a 5:45 pace for Mile 1, then try to ride the downhill and pick up the pace just a touch, maybe to 5:40. Then I'll give some of that time back on the climb; how much will depend on how I'm feeling. If I'm crushing it, my average pace for the mile will be right at 5:45. If not, hopefully I won't slow below 5:50. Then I'll try to hold whatever pace I had for Mile 2 all the way to the end. If I slow to 5:55, I'll still have a season's best, but if I keep it at 5:45 the whole way, I just might break 18:00. My 17:49 PR is probably not in play for this race; that would require a pace of 5:43, which I doubt I can hit right now.

This morning I tried to do about 1.4 miles of my run at 5k pace and didn't quite make it: I was closer to a 6:10 pace. But yesterday I ran a fairly hard 10-miler, and my route today was hillier than the race route, so I think with a couple days of easy running, I will have a better shot at that 5:45-5:50 pace. Wish me luck! The details on today's workout are below.

The pickup started about 4.7 miles in.