Concordia University put on a “St. Patrick’s Day” 5K today in an effort to raise funds for the school’s cross country and track programs. I didn’t plan on doing this event until I realized that the Coaster 10K was sold out, and I really wanted to get in another stand-alone running event to gauge my current fitness. Interestingly enough, this was my first legitimate 5K (3.1 miles), though I ran 3-mile races all the time in high school cross country (my last race was in November 2011).
(pictures will be posted as they become available)
I woke up at 4:30am, and checked the event website for last-minute details. I assumed the race started at 7am (just like every single triathlon and running event I’ve done), but it turns out the start time was actually scheduled for 9am. I (happily) went back to bed, waking up 7am and eating two bananas (200 kcal) for breakfast. I hopped on my bike and completed a short 18-mile ride to the University, rolling in at 8:30am. Somehow I got lost on the private school’s tiny campus, and didn’t find the start of the race until 8:45am. I quickly paid and registered for the event and changed my clothes before running over to the start line. Unfortunately, I ran out of a time for a warmup.
This was my first time doing a race this short in more than 16 months, so I wasn’t familiar with pacing. But I did know that I need to absolutely hammer myself for 16-18 minutes. Unfortunately, my watch was not working for some reason, so I would also be running my first event in over a year without a GPS doing all the pacing for me. The course looped through the University’s campus, which consisted of nothing but rolling hills. It felt like we were either going uphill or downhill throughout the whole run.
As soon as the gun went off, I hopped into second place. The race started with a 500m run around the University’s track, and when I came through 400m in 70 seconds (4:40/mile pace) I realized that I needed to slow down significantly. This incidence is a pretty good representative of my whole race.
The race leader took off and established a significant lead by the half-mile mark. I finally settled into a pace that felt appropriate, and ran side-by-side with a guy named Oliver. Throughout the first and second mile, I seriously considered asking him for our current pace (he had a watch), but I realized that it would be impolite and decided to refrain myself. As we finished the first “mile”, a volunteer read off 5:45. I believed him, of course, and got very frustrated. This was slower than my current projected 10K pace. Consequently, I decided to speed up, with Oliver following suit.
Throughout the second mile I was having trouble following the course. It was VERY technical, with lots of turns, and for the most part chalk and cones were used. However, the course looped in multiple areas, and thus I had difficulty distinguishing the correct route. Fortunately, Oliver had enough common sense to figure it out, and he corrected me multiple times as I was about to run off the course. As we came through the second “mile” another volunteer read off 11:00 (5:30/mile). This was when I realized that either their clocks were not synchronized, or that their distances were off. There was no way we ran the second mile in 5:15, especially because it contained the most significant climb of the course.
By this point, I was really hurting, and had the unfortunate sight of watching Oliver take off in front of me. I just tried to hold on and close with a decent third mile, as it was certainly slower than the first two. As I ran through the third “mile” marker, a volunteer read off 17:15 (5:45/mile). This agreed with the first volunteer, but not the second. I finished the race 35 seconds later in third place, with a time of 17:50.
After the race, I hung out with the first and second place finishers. It turns out both of them were also triathletes, so we briefly discussed upcoming events, and it turns out Oliver is also doing Ironman 70.3 Oceanside in two weekends. After this, one of them brought up the “true distance” for today’s race, and it turns out both of their watches clocked a further distance of approximately 3.2 miles. This was a HUGE relief for me. After a few seconds of arithmetic, I calculated my true 5K time to be 17:11 (5:32/mile).
I was stoked with my performance today. My current fitness suggested that I run this distance at 5:30/mile on a flat course, and I almost did that on a hilly course. In fact, if you neglect the hills from today’s event, my normalized pace would have been 5:23/mile, which would have given me a 5K time of 16:44 (based on 1.74 seconds lost per 10ft of ascent). This, in addition to my poor pacing in today’s event, suggests that I could likely run a flat 5K in a time closer to 16:30 (5:19/mile) if I have my watch to pace myself correctly. I am running in a 10K on the first Sunday of April. It is located on Fiesta Island in San Diego, which has practically 0ft in ascent, so this will be an excellent opportunity to run a fast time!