After a thoroughly disappointing 5k race just three weeks earlier, I felt the need to redeem myself at the earliest opportunity. Luckily for me, every first weekend in September, Skiløperne, a local run group I have run with a fair bit, put on a local race called Skiløpet. The race consists of a 10k, a 5k and two shorter distances targeted towards children. My original plan had been to run the 10k here, but that changed when I crashed and failed to go below 18 minutes during my previous 5k.
Training and Lead Up to the Race
As noted in my training log entries, I altered my training slightly after failing so badly in my last race. Out with the good-for-nothing in-between runs that were neither fast nor slow, which had characterised the month and a half after my marathon. Instead, I went back to running my easy days easy, and strictly adhering to heart rate zones to make sure, and then banging it all out during workouts two or three times per week.
The final two weeks leading into this race were obviously a bit special for me, given that my wife gave birth to our son a week and a half before the race. Thankfully, he seems to have avoided the ailments that sometimes trouble infants, and is overall a very relaxed baby. As long as he gets fed and changed when he pleases! This let me get back to running quite quickly after we came home from the hospital, so I very much felt ready for the race. As the start and finish of the race was just a five-minute walk from our house, my wife brought the little one along and came out to cheer me on, which I thought was pretty awesome. Perhaps next year he’ll participate in the shortest distance for the kids?
After a shakeout run in the morning, I warmed up with a couple of laps around the block before jogging down the starting area of the race with my wife and the baby. We watched the start for the 10k, and I ran a couple of easy strides to get my heart going before I jogged to the starting line. A little while later, the mayor of the town sounded the horn, and we were off.
1k (3:40 – 3:40)
Around ten runners shot ahead of me right from the start, and a group of three runners formed at the front. The first kilometre is hilly, with 20 meters (65 feet) net elevation gain, and I played it cool out of fear of blowing up once more.
2k (3:25 – 7:05)
Given that the race quite literally took place in my neighbourhood, I have run the course hundreds of time. This gave me the obvious advantage of knowing every single hill and turn. I knew that the second and third kilometre was where I had to make up for the hill at the start, and near the end. Soon after cresting the first hill, I passed a couple of people, and by my reckoning, I was in fifth place by the time I reached the 2k mark.
3k (3:31 – 10:36)
At this point, I was really starting to feel it. Which is probably par for the course during a 5k. But, as I was still scared of blowing up, I took the foot off the gas a little too much during this stretch, and it probably cost me a good few seconds in the end. One of the guys who went out with the leaders was now being caught by the two kids between us, and he looked to be fading fast.
4k (3:39 – 14:15)
The guy who was previously fading was now blowing up, and I thought “been there, done that!” as I passed him. I was heading into the final climb of the course, which is about 25 meters (82 feet) and spans the second half of the fourth kilometre and the first half of the fifth k, in fifth place. Two kids, a girl and boy who I later discovered were just 14 and 13 years old respectively (and both ran sub-18!) were between me and a podium finish. Knowing that they’ll both probably smash me in any race a mere few months from now, I thought to myself that I needed to dig deep and come out on top today. So I dug deep, and I passed them both as we started the final climb.
5k (3:35 – 17:50)
Nearing the end of the final climb, I saw the back of the guy in second place but knew he was too far off for me to catch him. So I glanced back and saw that I had put a fair amount of distance between me and the girl who was now my closest competitor for a podium finish. Running down the final descent, and the homestretch, this probably made me a bit complacent. And, unfortunately, I didn’t have the necessary mental fortitude to leave it all out there during the finish, which was a bit disappointing. This made my wife unnecessarily nervous during the finish, as the girl in fourth sprinted all out and ended up finishing just two seconds behind me.
Stepping over the line and stopping my watch, I was a bit disappointed to see that I hadn’t been able to run faster than 17:50. I had been hoping to get close to 17:30. As the race unfolded, however, I felt it became more a race for places than a time trial, and I was happy to grab that third spot.
Takeaways to Improve my 5k Racing Performance
Looking back now, it is clear that I became too cautious in the middle part of the race, and the third kilometre especially. I think I could have pushed quite a bit harder here without it affecting the rest of my race. Between that and the lacklustre finish, it feels like I could’ve been capable of going around 10 seconds faster.
But, as I am learning, 5ks are a special distance to race. It takes practice and trial and error to figure out just how hard you can push without going over the limit, and this was another learning experience for me. That said, this was in all likelihood the last 5k I will be running this year, which means that I won’t realise my 2018 fall season goal of going below 17:30.
Extra Shoe Money
After the race, I went home for a quick change into some dry clothes, before going back to the finish area for the award ceremony. It was a lot of fun to get up there on the podium for the first time and receive a giant symbolic cash cheque, and definitely something I hope to repeat in the future. The cash prize for third place amounts to something like $60 USD. In other words, nothing that will let me claim a pro badge on Strava, but it is a nice addition to my shoe budget as we near the release of the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit.
Check out the race activity on my Strava profile if you want to see all the nitty, gritty details.