Sunday, March 5, 2017

Race report: St. Patrick's Day 5K, March 5, 2017

I ran the St. Patricks 5K today, finishing in a time of 19:27, which was good enough for top masters and 6th female overall.

I'm a bit meh about the performance - I thought I was in better shape, and this is a very fast course.  But it wasn't a poor performance by any means, just slightly slower than I had expected to run.

The St. Patricks 10K and 5K are both held on a portion of the lightning fast Cherry Blossom 10 Miler course.  The 5K starts at 8:15 am, while the 10K starts at 9 am - meaning that it's possible to do both races if you can finish the 5K in less than 45 minutes.  And quite a few people do complete the "double."  It's not for me though.  I know myself, and there's no way I could give 100% in the 5K if I had another race lurking.   One and done.

I was originally entered in the 10K but opted to drop down to the 5K for a few reasons.  The first was that I've run the 10K the last two years, and wanted to try a different course.  Additionally, I had a pet theory that the 5K was actually a slightly faster course than the 10K - this was based on my observation that many friends had been slightly disappointed in their 10K performances last year.   Finally, I'm trying to work on my speed this spring, and racing 5Ks plays right into that.  Even if the race doesn't go as I wanted, I'm getting something out of racing the distance.

When I saw the weather forecast, I debated sticking with the 10K instead.  Frigid temperatures (low 20s) were predicted for the morning, and the 10K would be slightly warmer than the 5K because of the later start time.  Additionally, the longer distance of the 10K meant more time to warm-up and ease into the race - very helpful when it's sub-freezing.  But I decided to stick with the 5K.  I often run very well when it's really cold, so no reason to shy away.


The morning was as cold as predicted (24 degrees, DP of -8), but with bright sunshine and a fair amount of wind.  I had debated whether to race in a longsleeve shirt or a singlet, and started my warm-up in my longsleeve with a jacket on top.   (tights were a given).   But, as I thought more about it, I remembered tempo workouts in similar conditions where I felt too hot in a longsleeve, so I switched into my singlet before donning my jacket again for the rest of my warm-up.   The fact that I find it difficult to get into a racing mindset when wearing a longsleeve also factored in.

(since I was wearing a sportsbra underneath, I just changed from longsleeve to singlet on the lawn by the start area - wearing nothing but a sportsbra for a few comic moments.  This earned me a few stares unrelated to how well or poorly endowed I am, bra size-wise.)

With about 10 minutes to go, I gave my coach my jacket and longsleeve,   And I started to question my choices (sartorial and otherwise).  Oh well, I was committed.  Fortunately there was a metallic space blanket lying on the ground, so I "rescued" it to get me through the remaining minutes in the corral.

With 40 seconds to go before race start, I tossed the blanket.  Then the horn went off and the race started.

The course starts with an uphill for about 60 seconds, while the balance of the first mile is flat to downhill.  I went out cautiously on the uphill, but then picked up the pace as soon as I crested it.  During my last 5K, I had gone out too cautiously for too long, and I wanted to avoid that this time around.    Soon, I ended up running with a pack of masters runners (and friends) from another running club, and so I hung with them for a the first mile.  I could tell we were running a strong pace, but I also felt tight and stiff, with my stride restricted, so that my speed was coming from leg turnover, rather than stride length.  A stiff wind was blowing directly at us, and I was freezing.  I felt tense and locked up - not good.
A bit after the first mile, there is a hairpin turn (the only one on course), and then a long straightaway. After the hairpin turn, I backed off the effort slightly to try to get myself to relax a bit, and to lengthen my stride.  Despite this, I was still passing people regularly, which was reassuring.   I saw a woman in green up ahead slowly coming back to me, so I reeled her in while staying relaxed.  My stride still didn't feel great, but it felt better than it had previously.  Once we passed mile 2, I started chasing in earnest.
I'm a failure as a blogger, because I never include pictures
of myself.  So here you go.  I refuse to do that instagram thing
with the pace and time and distance on the bottom, though.
(photo by Cheryl Hendry Young)

In the third mile, the course has some slight elevation changes.  Only one of them, near the end, is a hill, the others are best described as "undulations."  I worked these very slight rollers, using each "descent" to build a bit more speed as I continued to reel others in.

The course ends just like the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler - up a moderate hill, and then a nice downhill to the finish line.  I know how to run this finish - attack the hill, and then let the downhill carry you to the finish.  So that's what I did, surging authoritatively past woman in green.

Only to learn that this strategy works better for the 10 miler - probably because of the lower oxygen debt involved in that distance.   This time, when I crested the top, I started tying up.  The last 200m was run on fumes, with woman in green passing me back - adding insult to my already injured ego.  I still finished respectably, but without the strong downhill kick I'd envisioned.


My manual  race splits were:

Mile 1: 6:03
Mile 2: 6:29
Mile 3: 6:18
last bit: 0:37 (downhill assist)

It's worth noting that the first mile marker was off a fair bit, so these splits aren't as uneven as they first appear.  My Garmin claims that the first mile was run at 6:11 pace, and the second at 6:17.  So not bad by any means, though still a fade from start to end.  Especially since the 6:11 was into a headwind and the 6:17 had mostly a tailwind.

The heart rate data from this race is interesting.

 It's pretty clear that my effort eased up some in the second mile.  Part of this could be explained by the course - there was a substantial wind that was a tailwind for most of the second mile, but a headwind for the rest of the course.  The direction of the wind matches exactly with the dip in heart rate here.  But  I also lost focus and gave up time here, and it shows in both the heart rate and the split  So that's something to work on for next time - go out slightly more conservatively in the first mile, and then stay focused and build in the second mile.

(BTW, anyone who follows my heart rate geeking will note that these are pretty low heart rate values for me - my maximum heart rate is in the low 190s.  However, I've noted that when temps get very cold and I'm chilled, my running heart rate values stay very low for even the hardest of efforts.  I think that's what happened here.)

My other takeaway is that I should make more of an effort to stay warm before and during these very cold short races.   As a friend noted, 5K is so short that if you overheat slightly in the last mile, it won't make too much difference.   My stride, which felt fluid and long during a great workout on Tuesday, felt tight, stiff, short today, and I think that's because I was too cold from being underdressed.  

(Of course, if I'd dressed warmer, I might be writing right now about how I just don't run my best when I'm overdressed...)


Ah well, though not the time I wanted, this race was still faster than last month's 5K, which was on a faster course in better weather.  So there is definitely progress.  And it wasn't too long ago that I wasn't consistently breaking 20, so it's nice to be over that hump again.

Other notes:

  • Got to the race at 7:15 for an 8:15 start, which was the perfect time to find parking.  An added bonus to racing the 5K is the earlier start means better parking and better availability of restrooms.
  • Wore singlet, heavy mittens with handwarmers, headband, and thin running tights.  Right after the race, I thought this was the right choice, since I was comfortable in the last mile.  Problem is - that was only 1/3rd the distance.  As I've already alluded to above, I think next time in these temperatures for this distance, I'll go with the long sleeve shirt.
  • I think I finished my warm-up too early for this race too, and stood in the corral for too long (10+ minutes).  Normally, this isn't an issue.  But I think that when it is this cold, if I'm going to dress lightly, I need to take care to stay moving and warm as long as possible,  Or alternately, I can just wear more clothes.
  • Having now raced the 5K and the 10K, I prefer the 5K course.  Which is unusual, because I almost always prefer longer races over shorter.    But I think the 5K course has a better flow.  And it's nice to be done first, before cheering your teammates on.
  • Breathing was pretty good for this race.  Not great, but then again, the air was very very dry, so challenging for many people, including those without asthma.
  • Got to run next to my podiatrist for part of this race.  It's always nice to be running with him, rather than sitting in an office with him, pointing at my foot.
  • I debated whether to wear my Adios 2s (my shoe for longer races and track workouts) or my Takumi Sens (what I use for mile races - they've also done me well for up to 10 miles).  I finally went with the Adios.  This was partially because I wasn't crazy about the Takumi Sens when I wore them on Friday, but mostly because with the cold temperatures, I wanted the extra protection and structure of the Adios (slightly heavier, with a higher heel).  
  • Nearly all of my teammates in the 10K had great performances, with many PRs.  Which completely disproves my theory that the 10K isn't a great course.  In the best possible way.


  1. Awesome race. You're super fast lately (or as usual, I should say!). And it WAS kind of nice to have a picture, I must admit. I can clearly see that you are freezing your face off.

  2. Great race, Cris! Congrats. I can't believe you wore a singlet for such cold temps, although I do understand it helps it feel more race-like. :-)