Race report: ASICS & AskMen Summer Series 5K

Why do I sign up for 5Ks? They always seem like such an awesome idea until I am actually racing one. The ASICS & AskMen Summer Series 5K was no exception to that. As a matter of fact, when I finished I was happy with the idea of never running a 5K ever again.

It all started about a month ago when I was reviewing my marathon training plan and noticed that training paces progressed every six weeks to account for natural progress during training. Me being the person that I am and needing all things to be logical and justified decided that I should run a race that fit into my training around the time of the increase. I found the ASICS & AskMen Summer Series 5K and totally did not give any thought to the fact that it was an hour away by train, on August 1st which would likely be hot, and was going to be on an exposed stretch next to the windy harbor. Nope, I just needed that justification for pace increases so I signed up.

The week before the race

I was traveling the week before the race so my training schedule got a little wonky. I ended up training 4 consecutive days in the week of the race and was only able to get in one rest day the day before. I had also delayed a full body circuit until late in the week. Who doesn’t like a challenge, right? So the day before the race I did my best to rest and recover. My hamstrings were sore and tight and later in the evening my heel started to bother me. I was also nervous about the heat and wasn’t sure what time goal to shoot for given I knew I had progressed since my last race, but I wasn’t sure how much. I decided on 3 goals:

A: 28:00 (9:00 mpm)
B: 28:31 (9:10 mpm)
C: 29:02 (9:20 mpm)

My “A” goal was based on a reasonable assumption of progress since my last race, “B” was a little less improvement, and “C” was based on my last race time. All were adjusted for an expected temperature of 76º using Jack Daniels’ VDOT Running Calculator.

The morning of the race

The morning of the race was pretty uneventful. I woke up just before my alarm at 5:15 am, ate, showered, dressed, did a little bit of stretching, then went to pick up the car. Drove down to the course, picked up my packet, checked my bag, and sat around for a bit waiting to warm-up. My warm-up was 2 miles at easy pace and I felt okay. I added a couple of 10 second strides in at the end just to remind myself what running fast feels like. Made a last minute pit stop and then hit the chute. I lined up in the crowd about 10′ back from the start line. The race director ended up popping in right next to me after making his announcements which was kind of neat.

The race

The air horn sounded and we were off. I crossed the start 5 seconds after the horn. I was mixed in with some fast runners and was running a 7-7:15 mpm pace for almost the first quarter mile. After blowing off that steam, I settled into a ~8:45 mpm pace. I knew I was running faster than anticipated, but I was trying to run by effort and figured if I crashed and burned later, at least I tried. There was a pretty significant headwind going on and I was a little nervous about effort going out, but told myself the awesome tailwind on the way back (it was an out-and-back course) would help me through the second half. I told myself when I hit mile 2, I would slow down slightly and recover a bit from the first mile before the last mile.

My race strategy was go out hard, float for the second mile, then push it home for the last mile. I found it difficult to slow down for some reason. I feel like sometimes I forget how to not push. I have noticed this on training runs, as well. At any rate, I was keeping an ~8:45 pace until mile 1.55 where we turned around. I slowed for the turnaround and the water stop directly after. By 1.7 miles I was back up to the ~8:45 pace.

Halfway point
Turning around at the halfway point.

Steve Prefontaine once said “The only good race pace is a suicide pace and today looks like a good day to die.” (I’m no Pre, but you really can’t argue the man’s logic given he never lost a collegiate 5K or 6K race.) By mile 3, I was definitely feeling like I was making a valiant attempt at suicide pace and a mile never seemed so long. Early in the mile I looked at my watch to see my race time and realized that even if I trotted the last mile at ~10:00, I would meet my “A” goal. But I didn’t slow and didn’t stop pushing even though it was feeling very much like a suicide pace. There was heavy breathing, some involuntary grunting, and a few people that passed me looking way to comfortable. One guy passed me quite easily and when I offered him a “good job” and commented on how effortless he looked, he told me he took it easy during the headwind before galloping off like a gazelle. I’m pretty sure that man was not running a suicide pace. Anywho, mile 3 was long and hard and to add insult to injury the sun decided to come out full force for the last quarter mile. It’s cool, I like a challenge.

Just before mile 3, I noticed a woman running off my shoulder. She definitely looked like she was running a suicide pace. I told myself that we would push each other through. Then she slowed down. I encouraged her to keep up, but around that time I noticed that two running team peeps were at the finish cheering for me. I picked up the pace and pulled away from the other runner to sprint through the finish. My last .11 was run at 7:16 pace. As I passed my cheering teammates, I threw my hands in the air and yelled to them “it’s gonna be a PR!!” I saw the clock and realized that I had totally shattered my PR goal. Final time: 27:16–43 seconds faster than my “A” goal.

Finish line
Crossing the finish line.

Race stats

Official finish: 27:16
Pace: 8:48/mile
Overall: 77 of 198
Age group (F 30-39): 8 of 37

Weather: Overcast, 75º, 66% humidity, 10mph wind

-Mile 1: 8:41
-Mile 2: 8:55
-Mile 3: 8:52
-Last .11: 7:16

Garmin distance: 3.11
Last comparable race (6/4, 3.2): 29:37, 9:03 pace

Marathon training starts in a week!

Photo Jun 20, 2 48 39 PM

I’ve had a few people ask me about my training plan. I ordered it from RunSMART. The plans are based on training schedules designed by the legendary coach Jack Daniels. Jack Daniels is a two-time Olympic medalist in the Modern Pentathlon and world-renowned exercise scientist. He was also named “The World’s Best Running Coach” by Runner’s World. He has lead many runners to the podium over his long and successful career as a coach.

I have been loosely following his training formula since the beginning of the year with amazing results. I shaved almost 5 minutes off my 5K in less than 3 months after returning from injury. (32:55 to 28:06) It was a minute and 43 second improvement from my PR at the end of last season. (29:49 to 28:06) I’m sure some of my development has come simply from an increase in mileage over the past few months, but I don’t think I would have seen such dramatic results if I were still heart rate training. (I’m interested in taking out my heart rate monitor for a little MAF test at same point to see how that has improved!) Heart rate training certainly did me well for 2 years especially in regards to keeping me injury-free. Daniels Running Formula has not only built on that base, but is far less boring than HRT/MAF.

Daniels divides running performance into six components. Daniels argues that each of these components requires a specific training intensity to improve. Daniels uses five specific training intensities to improve the different components. A runner can determine the correct speed for each intensity based on the VDOT from a recent performance. There are many videos of him online where he says that you when you head out for a run you should always know the goal of that run–if you don’t, you might as well sit home.

His training plans are different from those you will find for free online. All of my workouts are created to work a specific system which means running at a specific pace. I have 2 “quality” sessions a week and the rest is easy running. For my marathon training I do not have any 20 or 22 mile long runs. I think the longest distance I do is 17 miles. Not all long runs are done at easy pace, though. Some are done at marathon goal pace so I can practice running at that speed. He also incorporates “bunched runs” which are long runs scheduled within 12 hours of each other. This is to reduce the risk of injury during training. I will get in at least one 20 mile bunched run during marathon training.

If you are interested in a customized training plan you can order one on the RunSMART project site. You tell them what days you want to run (at least 4-5/wk), your average weekly mileage, and at least one recent race result. It takes 5 business days for them create it for you. After it is created, you can add races into the online calendar and have it update your training paces based on your performance. If you don’t want to enter races, they do naturally progress your paces over time to account for development. (It’s kinda crazy to see my paces in October!)

There are plenty of reviews online, but the most compelling I found was at The Running Jones. He not only used it to get back into shape for a marathon, he ended up BQing by 21 minutes at the NYC Marathon. I’m not looking to BQ, but I certainly want to know that the time that I am putting into training is optimal. Marathon training is huge commitment so why leave it to generic training plan that may get you to the finish line, but may not get you there at your best?