I still need to do several ultra race reports, but ran a 5k today that I wanted to record. The RDT is a great competitive race in Greenville, one of the more competitive of the year. It’s well organized and a nice loop course, with 200 ft of climbing. Winning time is usually around mid-14’s, and there are often 20 guys under 17 min. It’s also the only race I’ve done every year since I moved to Greenville SC, so is a good benchmark. I’ve never done 5k speedwork or tapered for it (I ran 18 miles yesterday), but I still try to be competitive.
In 2011, RDT was my first 5k race in years and I was happy with my 16:58, 15th place finish. Last year I improved to 16:34 and 14th place, setting my road race PR. I reviewed my splits from last year (5:21, 5:20, 5:52 for 1.1) and knew I could beat them today, though not for any training-related reasons. In fact, my PR from last year was coming off a 395 mile December and no hard races, while this year I only ran 211 miles in December and killed myself in a 50k two weeks ago. My right knee is still balky from that ultramarathon, and my left knee is bruised and extremely painful from a hard tumble I took yesterday on the trails (seriously, it was so stiff and painful that I couldn’t walk down stairs last night). Plus I’m fighting a cold and haven’t been sleeping much. Nevertheless, I’ve truly felt I’ve always underperformed in 5k’s due to not pushing hard enough and have really learned that race performances can depend on guts/stupidity/toughness/tenacity more than training. I decided to basically go all-out like this was a 1 mile race, then depend on my endurance to carry me. After all, no amount of pain in a 5k can match the hours of pain in ultras.
Despite 3.5 inches of rain in the past week, the weather dawned clear and dry. Temps at the start were a cool 32 deg with a tiny breeze. I warmed up with Byron Backer, then stripped down to just my singlet, green shorts, and stretchy gloves and was appropriately cold for a short race. Greeting a few of my GE teammates, we lined up and started right on time.
Per my plan, I started very hard and was in 4th place after 100 yards. 2 runners really took off the front followed by a big group. I had settled into 11th at the half mile mark and felt good, if breathing hard. We crested a hill at about .8 miles and all of a sudden my legs warmed up and my lungs relaxed- it was go time. Looking around, I was confident that I was the only ultrarunner in the group and the only old guy, so wanted to see how many young bucks I could catch. I passed most of the group, reaching the 1 mile mark in 7th place at 5:12. Sweet. Mile 2 is net downhill and allowed me to stretch my legs, which my bruised knee did not particularly enjoy. At all. I reached the mile marker on the shoulder of 6th place with a 5:10 split (I think that is my 2 mile PR, or at least post-collegiate PR). We passed a couple guys on the long climb as injured GE teammate Jim cheered. I reached the top in 5th place. My legs were absolutely maxed out and my vision was blurry while my lungs screamed. Ahh, the aliveness of racing. Someone passed me, and I let him pull me along to pass a slowing runner. My brain faintly saw the clock counting closer to 16:00 despite my best efforts to stop time. I crossed the finish line in 5th place at the 16:01 mark. I was very happy to see GE teammates Phil, Dan, and Barry run great races, as well as many others. It was a fun, fast day. Final results here.
Approaching the finish (photo from Greenville News)
Today was a 20 second PR and I am very pleased with the result. I certainly would have liked to break 16 min, but it wasn’t to be. Heck, I was amazed at my time given my lack of mileage, injuries, no speedwork, and ongoing recovery. I really feel I ran my best today and finally have a 5k time I am satisfied with. Maybe I’ll have to write a 5k break-up letter and stop running them like I did with the marathon. Per runworks.com calculator, my time would be 15:44 on a flat track- wow.
5k’s are definitely a young guy race- the average age of the top 10 finishers was 24 years old, and I was the oldest in that group. In fact, I was 11 years older than any of the other top 5. Similar to last year, this just reinforces that a strong mileage base and stubbornness can make up for youth and speed. I’ve been feeling a bit down with my training the past few months, but I’d say I’m in ok shape. Anyways, now we’re waiting for child number 4 to join our family this week, and then it’s onwards with the rest of 2013. It will be a great year.