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.

A Hot and Heavy Experience at Oppegårdmila 10k 2018

I am lucky enough to be situated in an area with a large variety of races on offer, both locally and regionally. Oppegårdmila is a trail race of the former variety, taking place just a short few kilometres from my house. As the date for this race coincided with the final tune-up race in my marathon training schedule, signing up was a no-brainer.

Even if I had not participated in this race before, I have done quite a bit of running in the area of the course, so I felt familiar enough with the 5k loop that those of us who were signed up for the 10k got to run through twice. The heat wave which had half of Norway sweating over the past three weeks still hung around as the day of the race approached, and it became apparent that the race was going to be a hot experience.

Still, I think most people, including those associated with the race, had hoped that it would be a little cooler than the 31 degrees Celsius the temperature gauged showed as the gun went off. The local running scene didn’t let the heat dissuade them from participating, though, and around 200 people lined up to race the 10k.

Pre-race

I drove to the starting area of the race, together with my number one cheerleader. That is my wife, of course, who had once more volunteered to snap some photos in addition to her cheering duties. Despite the heat, I opted for a bit of a warm-up and ended up doing a couple of kilometres of light jogging, in addition to a few strides to get going.

Oppegårdmila 10k course profile
The course profile for the 10k race, which consists of around 150 meters of climbing

While the main focus of this race was to get a good session out of it, I had been targeting a sub-39 finish time. That might sound unambitious given that I ran a 36:57 10k a couple of months back, but this is a completely different race. For one, the course is actually certified at 10 298 meters, so it’s quite a bit longer. Additionally, the race is mostly on trail, and with about 150 meters (492 ft) of climbing, it’s not really comparable to a quick road race. The heat was a bit of an unknown factor for me, though, and I had no idea how much it would affect my time. Instead of focusing too much on time, I decided to run more based on feel, to avoid a blow-up and make sure this was a decent experience just two weeks out from my big goal race.

A good few of the runners, especially those who lined up at the front, opted to run only in shorts. I remembered reading that a singlet can actually help you stay cool when it’s as hot as this, so I decided to wear one. Right before lining up at the starting line, I soaked myself in cold water, and I definitely think wearing a soaked singlet allowed me to retain the coolness of the cold water a bit longer.

Race

0 – 3k

As the gun went off, I immediately tried to find a spot in a pack. After about 500 meters or so a sizeable gap had already opened between the pack I was in and the one ahead, and I felt that my pack was running just a tad bit too slow for me. So I set out on my own, but instead of burning a lot of energy to try and catch up to the group ahead, I just upped the pace a little.

Runners at the start of Oppegårdmila 10k 2018Runners at the start of Oppegårdmila 10k 2018
The start took place on an astroturf football field, before a stretch of asphalt lead us into the forest and onto the trails

About 1 500 meters in, I caught the first guy who dropped off from the group ahead, and I went right past. We were now properly climbing, and I felt pretty good as I was gaining on the group as well, without expending too much energy. That group was about five guys big at this point, and they probably pulled away from me a bit again on the third kilometre, as they sped up more than me on the flats and downhills.

Kilometre splits: 3:46, 4:04, 4:03

4 – 6k

As we started out on the fourth kilometre, I caught another youngster who had dropped off from the pack up ahead. He tried to hang on to me for a while but had to let me go after a few hundred meters. It sounded like he was struggling pretty hard in the heat.

The final kilometre of the loop is where you get back most of the climbing you’ve done, and it had a net drop of about 30 meters. One more guy had dropped from the now three people group ahead, and I overtook him just as we passed the halfway mark. I had no idea which position I was in at this point, but I thoroughly enjoyed passing other runners.

Runner at Oppegårdmila 10k 2018
I was happy to spot my wife as I started out on the second loop!

Going out on the second loop, I felt quite confident and thought that I would be capable of increasing the pace a bit compared to my first round. As I started climbing and struggled my way past yet another runner who had dropped from the pack ahead, I realised that a pace increase probably wasn’t on the cards today. My body just wouldn’t let me shift gears. Frustrating, and a bit of a strange feeling as my legs still felt decent, but it was probably the heat taking its toll.

Kilometre splits: 3:48, 4:01, 3:58

7 – 10k + 0.18k (GPS)

The pack turned duo ahead split up during the climbing part at the start of this segment of the race. While I wasn’t feeling particularly fresh as I overtook the guy who lagged behind, I was pleased to see that I was still gaining on the final remainder of the group that I’d been chasing from the start. At this point, I still had no idea what spot I was running for, but I decided to at least give a proper go at reeling him in before the home stretch, figuring that it might be the difference between finishing inside or outside the top 10.

As I caught up to him, someone spectating shouted out that we were competing for the 7th spot. This probably made a bit soft, because I was well pleased just knowing that if I kept it up, a comfortable top 10 finish was on the cards. The guy who was now just behind me was a youngster, probably no more than 15 or 16, and I realised that the group I had spent the race picking off one by one, was probably his training mates. I told him to hang on to my back, and he’d smash all his buddies, and he answered affirmatively.

Runner finishing Oppegårdmila 10k 2018
At the finish line

Coming up on the final descent down towards the finish line, I once more turned around and told my new running buddy that he’d get that 7th spot overall, but I’d make him work for it. Alright, he said, cockily, and more or less started spriting a few hundred meters out from the finish line. At this point, I had very little to respond with and settled into a more comfortable finish sprint to take home the 8th spot with the official time 40:05.

Kilometre splits: 4:09, 4:06, 3:46, 3:46 + 0:37

Post-race

Crossing the line I high fived the boy who beat me, handsomely in the end and told him well raced. After that, I immediately started looking for someplace cool, as I was absolutely toasting. I had to make due with a couple of cups of lukewarm water, most of which I just threw over my head to cool down.

Despite being more than a minute off the time I had set my sights on, I was pretty pleased with my performance overall. I competed reasonably well and felt decent overall, even though I was working pretty hard throughout. It was probably not an all-out effort, but I’m confident it was well within the prescribed range for a tune-up race, and I am unsure how much of a limiting factor the heat was.

Check out my Strava activity for all the data from the race.