LMJS December 2017 Volunteering & Holiday 5K

In Running, Race

Chip Time: 19:03.4 (6:08 min/mile avg)
Overall: 2/67. M20-29: 1/2.
AG% (2015 road event factor): 68.15%

1. Improve my LMJS 2017 Total Time (i.e. beat 20:38): SUCCESS.
2. Break 19:00 minutes: FAIL.
3. Break my 18:21 PR: FAIL.
4. Establish a new personal 5K baseline: DONE.

Last race of the year, fourth 5K overall this year, and third 5K this year around Lake Merritt with LMJS.

In January, I ran a 20:38 (6:39). In February: 19:51 (6:23). [1] And today, almost one year later: 19:03 (6:08).

I wish I could say I had a plan today. I didn’t. The only things I knew at the start line were

(1) that I’d need a 6:06 average to break 19;
(2) that I’ve been able to run two consecutive 6-minute miles recently, so 6:06 pace over 3.1 miles was possible;
(3) that hopefully there’d be someone(s) faster than me, for me to chase, in today’s holiday-depleted field; and
(4) that this was going to be short and painful — no worries about long-distance bonking and GI issues, only whether I’d have a heart attack before finishing.

I started with Evan. He was targeting a 6:10 pace. “I’ll follow you”, I told him at the start line. “Push me if I fall behind,” he replied.

At the signal, I burst out of the starting line with three guys ahead of me (let’s call them A, B and C) and Evan slightly behind me. We headed uphill for about a minute before Evan remarked: “We’re going 5:40.”

“I know,” I said. We were going too fast, and I started letting up. Unfortunately for me, the two guys ahead of me didn’t have the same idea. Finally, I settled for a middle ground: I’d let them get ahead of me but not so far I couldn’t conceivably catch them. Mile 1: 6:01 average (including some 50+ feet of ascent).

I think I lost Evan somewhere around the end of Mile 1. I also lost Person C somewhere around Mile 1.25. Runners A and B were within 25 meters ahead of me when I checked my watch. I had settled into a 6:08 pace. Slightly alarmed, I was reminded of a running vlog I watched a couple days ago. The vlog was by an elite runner. He was explaining the training behind a 2:40 marathon. “The faster you race, the more each second counts,” he mentioned. “A few seconds per mile will feel so different for a 3-hour marathoner versus for a 4-hour marathoner.” So of course, I tried to push a 6:00 pace.

I felt suffocated after just two minutes. [2] Fail. I had to let go of the gas. As I started resting (at a 6:10-6:20 pace), I was startled. From out of nowhere, another runner passed me! This Runner D then proceeded to close in on Runner B. At the bridge at Mile 1.6, I was again trailing three runners. Mile 2: 6:09 average.

Miles 2.3 through 2.6 is by far my least favorite stretch of the Lake Merritt course. It’s narrow. It’s against the water. And inevitably, there’re people blocking the path. At this point, I felt like I had enough gas to pass at least Runners B and D, who were now again within 20-25 meters (Runner A was ahead by some 50 meters now). The question was if I should let them alert pedestrians during Mile 2.3-2.6 stretch, and potentially clear a path for me to follow. Or if I should pass them early and take my chances.

I decided to take my chances. Kicking my pace back to 6:00, I passed Runners B and D somewhere before Mile 2.3. Now my attention was on just Runner A.

I gained on Runner A. Then as we made the turn into the final half mile, I couldn’t hold my pace any longer. I dropped back to 6:10-6:20. As I slowed, I saw Runner A push away. Then I heard Runner D’s footfalls gaining on me. Mile 3: 6:08 average.

The last 0.15 miles was half a mixture of me attempting to (unsuccessfully) gain on Runner A who kept his lead despite me kicking toward a 5:00 pace, and me attempting to (successfully) keep Runner D at bay behind me.

As I closed into the finish chute, I saw the counter change from 19:02 to 19:03. First thought past the finish line: “Fudge.”

# What’s Next

I think I would’ve been surprised if I broke 19 today. I’ll settle for my rounded-up 19:04. It was fun! It only hurt a little bit, and I could still walk around and do life afterward. This portends well for my next 5K. It’ll be next week on New Year’s Day, in Arlington, Virgina.

Until then: nightly runs this week in Virginia? I heard it’s pretty cold there in December.

# Footnotes

[1] I ran 20 miles at an 8:08 min/mile the day before the February 5K. I only ran some 8-9 miles yesterday. This February race was also a two-person “Couples Relay”; I ran the second half.
[2] As it turns out, the data matches up really well to me pushing into 90%+ heart rate at this point.

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