Skiløpet 5k 2018: There’s a First Time for Everything

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?

Race

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.

The start of Skiløpet 5k 2018
The start of the race just as the horn is blown. Photo by Peder Blümlein, Østlandets Blad.

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.

Runner finishes Skiløpet 5k 2018
Just 10 meters from the finish line, and feeling pretty beat up!

Post-race

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.

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.

Third place finisher Skiløpet 5k 2018
Proudly posing with my first ever giant, symbolic cheque. 

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.

Hytteplantesten 5k 2018: Blowing Up

Summarising my goals for this fall season of running is simple: PR on the road in the 5k, the 10k and half marathon. First out was the 5k, and I had found what I thought was the perfect race to grab a convincing PR. Hytteplantesten is a small 5k race run on wide forest trails, and the 2018 edition, which took place on August 11th, fit perfectly into my schedule.

The course is more or less flat, with my Strava activity showing as little as 10 meters (33 feet) of elevation for the race. With this in mind, I was looking to obliterate my old 5k PR of 18:56, which I ran during a time trial on track over a year back. Since then, I’ve run high 17 minutes 5ks twice this year, while finishing a 10k and a half marathon. Targeting a 17:30 finish time during this year didn’t feel overly ambitious based on my performances earlier in the year.

Training

My training over the past couple of months has been all about trying to bounce back from my marathon debut in June. It has been harder than I thought it would be, but over the past few weeks leading up to this race, I had started feeling much better, compared to the first few weeks. Over the four weeks leading up to the race, I averaged about 85 kilometres (53 miles) and thought myself ready to race close to my potential. I just didn’t know better.

As always, you can check the Training Logs for a more detailed overview of my training on a week-to-week basis.

Race

As with most 5ks, this one was a short and sweet affair characterised by never-ending suffering. My race plan was uncomplicated: Go out at goal pace (3:30/km – 5:38/mile), and try to hang on until the end. If at all possible, kick at the end.

Runner warming up for a 5k race
Warming up and getting ready to race.

1k (3:24 – 3:24)

It can be difficult to race smart, especially if you’re hoping to be near the front of the race. Some people will go out harder than what you are planning, and you will get caught up in the moment and hang on. That probably happened to me a bit here, because if I was being honest with myself, I felt pretty early that this pace was probably not sustainable. But it was more or less according to plan, and I didn’t think much at this point, I just ran.

2k (3:35 – 6:59)

I wish I could say that after the first split, I made a conscious decision to adjust the pace a bit to explain the eleven-second drop in pace here compared to the first split. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I was simply slowing down because I was already feeling it. Still, I hopefully thought “I just need to cover the last three kilometres in 3:30 each to make 17:30 happen” to myself, optimistically, as I noted the split on my watch.

3k (3:49 – 10:48)

Before reaching the halfway mark, I realised that this was not going to be my day. My pace was slipping further after a slow second kilometre, and there was not a fibre in my body that would let me respond. I capitulated at this point and realised that my goal time was out of the question.

4k (3:55 – 14:43)

What was strange, and quite frankly a bit worrying about this race, was that in addition to being physically unable to keep the pace I wanted, I was mentally shot as well. I could not muster any sort any sort of response to my slowing pace, and all I could think about was that it would be over soon enough. At this point, I am basically running somewhere between half marathon and marathon pace, which is obviously not just a physical thing.

5k (4:02 – 18:44)

The slide continued all the way through to the end, and I basically ran the final kilometre in marathon pace. And it felt excruciatingly hard, too! At this point, I had no idea what the final time would be, and I had essentially stopped looking at my watch. I just wanted it to be over, and I didn’t care in the slightest whether or not I would set a new PR. My goal time was so far off that it meant very little when I crossed the finish line and saw that I had beaten my 5k time trial time from a year back with 12 seconds. In fact, it felt more like an insult to see that I had barely improved after running 4000 kilometres (2485 miles) over the past twelve months.

Runner during Hytteplantesten, a 5k trail race
Feeling quite dejected as I’m about to cross the finish line.

Post-race

My dejection was palpable, and I got some comforting words from my wife, who had joined me on the three-hour round trip to watch me run for a few moments. I gave myself the drive home to just sulk, but I quickly started contemplating what went wrong and tried to reason why my physical shape had not suddenly vanished like dew before the sun.

So what went wrong? Well, first and foremost, I had a bad day. It happens from time to time, and when it does there is little you can do to counteract it. But, I am not entirely comfortable writing this off as a freak occurrence. Some post race introspection has made me realise that I have probably not been diligent enough in my training after coming back from my marathon.

Yes, the mileage has been around where I want it to be. However, how you run those miles matters, and I have simply been far too lackadaisical with regards to how I approach my runs over the past months. Instead of running my easy days easy, and really giving it all on hard days, I’ve spent most of the time in that comfortable no man’s land intensity that is neither hard nor easy.

As such, this race was a very important wake-up call. And I have every intention of making the necessary adjustments to my training in order to sharpen my shape, and hopefully run the rest of the races this fall closer to the level I know I’m capable of. In fact, I have already identified another 5k I hope to run the first weekend of September, where I am anxious to prove that I am better than what I was able to show here.