Mini Race Report: Another PR at the 5k Boardwalk Run in Atlantic City

My fall season of racing continues in November with another 5k race – and another PR.

At the end October, I dipped under 20 minutes at the Running with the Devils 5k in West Orange. A week and a half later, I’d at the NJEA Convention in Atlantic City – and I’d have a shot to improve that PR at the annual 5k Boardwalk Run.

Here’s a quick recap of my training between the two races and a report from the race itself.

Training Recap

October was a whirlwind, with three races in three consecutive weeks. I was happy to have a little respite between these two races. I had a full week without a race, and then the Boardwalk Run was the Friday at the end of the second week.

This meant I’d have a little extra time to train, instead of cramming in a mini-workout between recovering and racing.

The week after the Running with the Devils 5k, I managed total 70 miles:

  • Sunday (Race Day): 4 mi warm up, 3 mi race, 1 mi cooldown
  • Monday: 8 mi trail, 4.5 mi treadmill
  • Tuesday: 10.5 mi easy
  • Wednesday: 6 mi easy
  • Thursday: 7 mi easy plus strides, 4.5 mi treadmill
  • Friday: 11.5 mi workout
  • Saturday: 10 mi easy

I felt pretty good after the race, and I loosened up throughout the week. The workout on Friday was the same one that I’d run the week before – 4×5 minutes at threshold followed by 3 sets of 200-200-400m at mile pace.

My times were similar to the previous week – averaging around 6:30/mi for the threshold segments and 5:50 mi for the shorter intervals.

The following week, through the race and the following weekend, I ran 65 miles:

  • Sunday: 14 mi long run
  • Monday: 7.5 mi trail
  • Tuesday: 7 mi easy, 4.5 mi tread
  • Wednesday: 11.5 mi workout
  • Thursday: 6 mi easy
  • Friday: 4 mi warmup, 3 mi race, 0.5 mi cool down
  • Saturday: 8 mi easy

This was the first long run I’d had a chance to do in about a month, so it felt good to get out and run long again. The Wednesday workout was the same as the previous week, although the average pace on the threshold segments improved a bit to 6:26/mi.

I felt really good, and I was ready for another race.

The Boardwalk Run

The 5k Boardwalk Run is an annual tradition at the NJEA Convention – but it hasn’t taken place in person since COVID. This was the first year back. The course is a simple out and back along the boardwalk – starting at Boardwalk Hall, running west to Montgomery Ave, and then turning around to come back.

The race started at 9, so I had a leisurely morning in the hotel room. I drank my coffee, got ready, and left around 8. I jogged down to the boardwalk from the Sheraton and started up the boardwalk for my warm-up. Along the way, I ran into a friend of mine and we finished up my three mile warm up together. I waited around a bit, ran a final mile with some strides to finish warming up, and then we lined up to go.

It was a small crowd, and I didn’t expect there to be a lot of competition, so I was ready to pull out in the front and just run my own race. At the start, I shot out ahead and so did a younger runner (a middle school cross country athlete). I pulled up behind him for a bit and heard most of the rest of the runners fall away. About a half mile in, he sounded pretty tired, I checked my watch and saw we were going a bit slow, and I surged ahead. My split for the first mile was 6:16 – perfect.

At this point, I was all alone. I tried to keep maintain the pace, but it slipped just a little bit. When I got to the turnaround point, I slowed down and took it easy because there was a light rain. Better to give up a couple seconds than slip and fall. After I turned around, I could see a handful of runners strung out not too far behind me. I didn’t look at my watch until the lap, and the split was 6:26.

In the third mile, I wanted to pick up the pace and push hard. I started passing more of the field, and I got lots of encouragement from the other runners. There’s something really nice about an out and back course that lets the winners pass back past the slower runners. When I looked down at my watch, though, I saw my pace had slipped to 6:35. I gritted it out and tried to speed up, and I only made it back to around 6:25.

My split for the final full mile was 6:28. At that point, I could see the finish line ahead so I gave it a final push. My Garmin had my average pace as 5:41/mi for the final segment.

I crossed the finish line at 19:42.

Reflections and Next Steps

Overall, I’m quite happy.

In the past few races, it’s really helped me to have someone ahead of me to track down. It’s been the encouragement and motivation I needed to push through the hard part of the race.

This time, I was out front with no one to push me, and I still managed to gut it out for a PR. I might have finished stronger had I taken the first mile just a little bit slower, but my pacing was pretty consistent. I was just a little too gassed in the second half to push the pace and stay in the 6:15-6:20 range.

I’ve got another week ahead with no race and then I’m running the Ashenfelter 8k on Thanksgiving. My schedule is lighter, and I’m not traveling, so I’ll be able to get in two solid workouts next week, and then I’ll relax things a bit in the days leading up to the race.

My overall goal is to finish under 32 minutes, with a stretch goal of 31:30. I think that’s reasonable, given the recent 5k times. I’ll try and start off conservative for the first two miles or so (6:25-6:30/mi) and then see what I can do in the second half. Although there are a couple short, steep hills, so that may add a little bit of time.

This is a big race in north Jersey, with around 2,000 runners in a typical year, so I should have plenty of people to run with.

After that, I’ve got just over two weeks to the final race of the season – the Big Chill at Rutgers. But I’ll wait until after the Ashenfelter 8k to think about that and set a goal.

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