This 5K is held on DC's Hains Point, a pancake flat peninsula (with the exception of one "hump" - not really a hill, just a hump). It's a simple out and back that can be extremely fast unless you get a bad wind day. Bad wind days happen frequently on Hains Point, but we lucked out today. The wind was noticeable, but not horrible. The wind was also from the south, which meant that it was conveniently a headwind on the way out (when you have crowds to block it) and a tailwind on the way home.
I ran this race both as a rustbuster and as a baseline fitness test. I haven't raced since CIM in December (9 weeks ago), and it showed today in my splits:
Mile 1: 6:25
Mile 2: 6:23
Mile 3: 6:09
Last bit: 37 seconds (5:40 pace)
So....a bit uneven. And the splits match how the race felt. I started conservatively, wary of going out too fast. I felt like I was working fairly hard, but when I started chasing down others in the third mile, there were several extra gears that I didn't realize I had. It was fun to run down quite a few people in the third mile, but it's also an indication that I had a bit too much in the tank.
But that's what rustbusters are for. I race by effort, rather than pace, which usually works very well for me. However, when I haven't raced in a while, I lose my feel for race effort, and need to rediscover it. Like I did today in the last part of this race. So that's a nice reminder not to go too long between races.
[and in answer to the obvious question - I don't think it would have helped any to have raced by my watch this morning. For one thing, since I wasn't sure what shape I was in, I wouldn't have known what splits to target. Additionally, I doubt I would have run as fast in the third mile if I had been staring at my watch - I would have just settled at 6:2x pace.]
As a fitness test, I'm satisfied. I'm not in peak shape, but I'm in a good place for this point in the season. Of course, there's part of me that wants to go out and race another 5K next weekend. But I think that's not the best idea - when I race too often my progress tends to stagnate. So back to the trails and the track for a few more weeks.
- Since my normal parking spots on Rock Creek Parkway are still blocked, I parked at the Tidal Basin, which worked pretty well. I arrived at around 7:00 for the 8:00 am start, and had no trouble finding parking. (mental note to reduce my blog readership so that I can talk openly about the best paces to park pre-race).
- Temps were slightly above freezing, but the "feels-like" was in the mid-20s. I debated what to wear and ended up going with a tank top and tights, which felt very comfortable. I've worn shorts in the past in these temperatures, but have found that my legs tend to get too cold and tight in the start area. My legs also don't overheat the way my upper body does, and my favorite tights are lightweight, slightly loose, and very comfortable when running fast, so it was the logical choice, And it worked well.
- This race features a "combine" - immediately after the 5K you walk/hobble/crawl/whatever over to an area where you do a set of push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, and air squats. The race then gives a second set of awards for one's combined performance - the total time between when you start the 5K and when you finish the combine. As I've done every year, I skipped the combine. Competitively, I always find it tempting. But I'm usually shaky immediately post-race, and doing walking lunges while in that state just worries me too much. I'm injury prone, and I know when not to push it.
I really wish they'd offer the combine with a 10 minute break post-race. But I guess that would be much harder to manage. And also miss the point of the whole combined fitness test. Oh well - some year I'll just tempo this race and then do the combine.
- I debated which shoes to wear, and ultimately went with my Adios Boost 2s - the same shoes I wear for workouts, half-marathons, and marathons. I often run shorter stuff (10 miles or less) in my Takumi Sens, but I haven't worn those in nearly a year, and I didn't feel comfortable racing in them without doing a trial run to make sure I still liked them. Mental note to test them out in the next few weeks.