Saturday, September 5, 2015

Race report: Kentlands 5K, September 5, 2015

I ran the Kentlands 5K today, finishing in a time of 19:51.  Fourth (and missing out on the podium) for the second race in a row.  Oh well. 

19:51 is still a fair bit off of my PR (19:10, which I set at this race in 2012), but it's the fastest I've run a 5K in the past 2 years, so it indicates that my fitness is moving the right direction.  Which I knew anyway, but it's nice to have some validation.

The Kentlands 5K is held on a "gently rolling" course in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  It's a bit far from where I live now, but pretty close to where I grew up, which makes it a fun race for me.  And, despite the hills, it can be a very fast course (see, e.g., my PR). 

And so I schelpped up to Gaithersburg, registered, did some stretching, and then started my 3 mile plus strides warm-up, aiming to finish by 7:45 for the 8:00 am start.  Which I did beautifully.  Only to learn that I had misread the website, and it was the kid's race that started at 8, while the 5K that started at 8:30.  Oops.  

So I hung out for a while, waited until 8:10, and then jogged another mile plus some strides, bringing me up to a 4 mile warm-up.   Good thing I'm a marathoner - the extra long warm-up was a non-issue for my race.

The race start was split into corrals starting in 1 minute waves, with the first corral being 6:30 pace and faster.  I wasn't thrilled about this, since I knew there was a big risk of being pulled out too fast (increased by the fact that a lot of high school kids were running this race).  But it was what it was.  Fortunately, they modified the corrals to 7:30 pace and faster, which was better.

The gun went off, and just as I had expected, it was a sprint, accentuated by the fact that much of the first mile of this race is downhill.  There were the fast guys, going out at a pace that was appropriate for them.  There was the high school kids, doing what high school kids always do in a race.  And... there was a third group.  This race was apparently also the "Senior Olympics Championships for Maryland", which meant that there was a large contingent of 50+ runners going for glory.  And they all sprinted also. 

I was getting massively dropped by people old enough to be my parents (and I'm a masters runner).  It was a quarter mile into the race, and I was in something like 200th place.  And I wasn't running slow.  It was a bit disconcerting, but I just reminded myself that everyone ahead of me fell into two groups - those who were faster than me (and I shouldn't try to hang with), and those who were going to blow up at the end of this downhill first mile.

As it turned out, most of the 200+ ahead of me fell into the second category, and I got to spend the next mile and a half chasing down people - trying to hold steady on the uphills as they faded, and then building speed on the downhills and blowing past others.

By the time we passed the second mile, another woman and I were alternately leading each other.  I'll pull ahead on the downhills, she'd get me on the uphills.   The third mile of this 5K includes the longest climb of the course - it's followed by a long downhill almost to the finish.  For the last hill, I decided to hang with her rather than letting her pull ahead - I knew the downhill was coming, and I could regroup.

In retrospect, this was a bad decision.  For one thing, I had forgotten just how long this hill was - it weaves a bit, and so you think you're approaching the top only to realize you have a way to go. 

I pushed pretty hard up the hill, but lost her anyway.  And then, when we turned to the downhill, I was so deep into oxygen debt that I couldn't regroup and work the downhill the way I had planned.  Instead, I blew up, including having to drastically slow up for few seconds just to get my breathing pattern restablished.  In the end, the splits don't look that bad, but I think I could have run a bit faster had I been more patient on the uphill.  I'll remember that next year.

But it was satisfying to come around the final turn, and see that despite the blow up I was still going to break 20.  In the past years, I've broken 40 for 10K more than I've broken 20 for 5K, which has to be right up there with silly running statistics. 


Mile 1: 6:19
Mile 2: 6:23
Mile 3+last bit: 7:10 (6:28 pace)

Other notes:

  • Pretty sticky morning - temperature of 72 and dewpoint of 69 at race time.  A cold front came through today, but a bit too late for my race, sigh.
  • For the past 15+ years, I've avoided caffeine - in my teens and 20s I consumed a lot of caffeine and had problems with migraines from caffeine withdrawal.  However, recently I've been experimenting with caffeinated gels, to see if a small dose of caffeine will help me in my races (and if so, what the right amount and timing is).  For this race, I took a gel with caffeine (I tried the salted watermelon GU) about 45 minutes before race start. 

    Results?  a) I was really jumpy at the start (and also post race).  b) I did run my fastest 5K in a few years.  c) I got too aggressive near the end and blew up.   

    a) is probably the result of the caffeine, but it's hard to be certain about b) and c).   I do run my races off of perceived effort, and I think the caffeine changed my perception - so mental note to be extra careful to stay relaxed when I try this again.

    (and yes, I'm actually feeling a bit guilty about using a substance - caffeine - for performance enhancing purposes.  Which is admittedly ridiculous, and perhaps indicates that my moral compass is a bit too tightly wound.)

  • The whole day was a big flashback for me.  First...I saw two friends from my clubbing days at the race, including one I haven't seen in nearly a decade.  One, Brian (AKA Zooom - it's a club thing), I expected to see - it's
    It's not a MD race without
    seeing Zoooom!
    been wonderful running into him at various races over the past few years.  The other, Nick, was a complete surprise - I saw someone very familiar looking at the start line, so thought I'd ask.  Yup - it was him.  The last time I saw him was the last night that Alchemy was held at Nation.

    I haven't seen Nick since a dance floor in 2006. race I swung by the house where I grew up (my parents owned it from 1979-1999, which means I lived there on and off from age 5 until my last year of law school).  It's been many years since I've been there, though I've checked it out on Zillow and Google Maps.
    Some things have changed; some things are the same

    Afterwards, I headed into the city to get a contract signed for some property I own and rent out in DC.  Which gave me the opportunity to do my cooldown jog on the same route I used to run when I lived in Dupont Circle.  All in all, a very fun flashback day.


  1. Great to see those improvements. I also use caffeine on race day, but then, I also use it every single other day of the year, so...
    I've heard of people going off caffeine for a week, then having some on race day for an extra boost, and I think that's a terrible idea. You'll screw your metabolism up and hit the wall in longer distances, plus you could react in a weird way - who knows. It's hard to predict the impact after a caffeine fast.

  2. Congratulations! Running your fastest 5K in two years in such sticky warm conditions is really a great indication of your fitness.