Saturday, March 17, 2012

Set your 5k PR with 100 miler training and Leprechaun power (Milliken 5k race report)

A funny thing happened on the way to the 100 mile race- I set my 5k PR (sort of). This is the second time this has happened. Last year, I set my 5k all-time PR running of 16:24 by myself on the track, 1 week into my taper for Old Dominion 100. And now, I set my road/cross country 5k PR of 16:30, 1 week into my taper for Umstead 100. Both times my speedwork was limited to marathon pace long tempo runs. World, I submit myself to you as proof that 90+% of running speed comes from base miles. If you want to set a 5k PR, run lots and lots of miles. Don’t worry about 200 or 400 m intervals or any Runner’s World 3-day-a-week training program. Just run base.

Anyways, today was the Milliken Earth Run 5k. It’s a very splendid cross-country race run on the gently rolling hills of the Milliken Arboretum in Spartanburg. It’s a natural grass course which they mow, meaning it’s rather lumpy and bumpy with a few trees and roots thrown in. The course is marked with some (very) faint white paint every 5-10 yards, which makes it exciting because you can’t tell which was the course will turn until you’re 20 yards away. I think it is the perfect location for a race. Weather was nice with a humid mid-60’s overcast day.

Last year, I ran 16:58 at RDT and 17:22 at Milliken. Based on my road PR 16:34 at RDT this year, I was thinking 17:00 was a good goal. But, there was one drastically different item this year- based on a strange confluence of the moon and stars, today’s Earth Run coincided with St. Patrick’s Day. Combine that with the power of my Green Shorts, and strange things were bound to happen. In addition, I found a small Leprechaun hat that my 3 year old wears. The elastic is tight when I wear it, but the hat stays neatly on top of my head. Green power x2 + St. Patricks day power.

Anyways, the usual suspects were at the start. Most people loved my festive hat, though I received some very funny looks from the high schoolers at the start line who I’m sure were thinking anyone wearing a holiday prop should not be at the front. The race began and I again started fast, settling into third between Mike (last name?) and Jim, my co-worker who soundly beats me at every 5k. The first mile was a speedy 5:03, just 4 seconds slower than my recent 1 mile race. A small surge took me past Mike and into the lead, Jim on my shoulder. We continued to push hard, with Jim retaking a 10 yard lead and Mike falling off pace. Mile 2 had a fair amount of uphill and was a slower 5:30. Just past 2 miles, I suddenly realized that I felt great- my breathing wasn’t as labored and my legs felt strong. Summoning the strength of the leprechaun, I pushed to catch up. A small surge at mile 2.5 saw me pass Jim, who held on for 30 seconds but then slowly faded back a bit. I gave it my all and stretched my legs on a long, gradual climb and then descent to the finish line. I smiled at the cheering crowd, pointing to the hat and yelling, “It’s the power of the leprechaun” (or something like that). Finished with 5:56 for the last 1.1, for a final time of 16:30. Jim was about 15 seconds behind, and Mike was just over 17:00 minutes. Had a good time at the finish, talking with lots of great people while they gave out tons of door prizes and winning two tiny cilantro potted plants.

If 5k races can predict 100 mile races, then I’d say I’m in the best shape of my life right now. My training over the past 4 months is the best ever (even higher mileage than before UROC), and I just set a road/off-road 5k PR on a lumpy course that includes 150 ft of climbing. But, I haven’t done many long runs, definitely my biggest weakness. And 5k races definitely cannot predict 100 mile races. So, let’s go race Umstead and see what happens.


  1. Congrats on the PR. Here's some more anecdotal evidence for you.

    I set a new 5k PR while training for my first ultra (a 50-miler). I dropped from 16:26 to 16:06. Thinking it was an accident and greedy to break 16:00, I did another 5k the following weekend and ran 16:08. Both courses were USATF certified too. I ran 5:50:58 for my 50-miler.

  2. Congratulations on your PR. I can't believe that time. I think I ran an 18:30 5 K at your age.

  3. That's a big improvement, Eric, and an impressive 50 mile time.

    Dad- thanks.

  4. Way to go, Jon! But I want to see a picture of you with that hat on!

  5. I'm nervous for your next 100. And I agree with Mom- where's a picture?