Mini Race Report: Breaking 20 Minutes at the Running with the Devils 5k

Another week, another race. This one went pretty well.

As with the past two weeks, I’ll just briefly recap my training for the week and then get into a quick race report.

The Week Between Races

At this point, I’m fully recovered from the Erie Marathon and enjoying some short races. Two weeks ago, I ran a 5k in Paramus and last week, I ran a 10k in Jersey City.

I took it easy this week to recover from that 10k, and then I ran another 5k this past Sunday.

On Sunday, I ran the Everybody’s 10k at Liberty State Park. Between the warm up and the race itself, I ran 9.5 miles. I was busy in the evening, so I couldn’t do a double to add in more mileage.

The rest of the week was all singles. Monday, I did 8 miles on the trails. I was a little slow, but I felt really good for having run a race the day before.

After Monday’s run, I went out of town for the NJSBA Convention in Atlantic City. I was down there through Thursday. This meant time in the morning for a run – but no time in the evenings for a double.

I woke up early and put in eight miles each day before the convention started. I was staying at Harrah’s, so I ran down to the boardwalk (about two miles) up the boardwalk past Tropicana (another two miles) and then back (four miles).

Tuesday and Thursday, I kept things strictly easy. Wednesday, I added in a set of strides at the end. I felt great, and by the time I got home Friday I was ready for a tough workout. Tuesday was slow, but by Thursday my pace was back to normal.

Friday, I did the same workout as the previous week – 4 x 5 minutes at Threshold with 1 minute rest followed by 3 sets of 200-200-400 at around mile pace. I was running around the Reservoir instead of at the track, so I converted the 2-2-4 to 40 second and 80 second intervals to approximate the distance.

For the threshold segments, I averaged 6:30/mi – a little better than the previous week. For the shorter intervals, I averaged around 5:50/mi. The 40 second intervals were a little faster, but I struggled to keep up the faster pace on the longer intervals. Still a good workout, though.

Saturday, I did 7 easy miles on the trails to round out a 60 mile week. I would have liked to have put in some more miles, but without the ability to run a double in the evenings or run longer before the Convention, this was the best I could do. I’ll get up to my usual 70 in the next few weeks.

Race Day – Running with the Devils 5k

That brings us to Sunday – race day.

After finishing the Paramus Run in 20:25, I was dead set on breaking 20 minutes this time around. The course wasn’t as hilly (or so I thought), and I was feeling great. If I paced things evenly, it shouldn’t be tough.

I woke up and went through the usual race morning routine – a snack, coffee, bathroom, and out the door. The race was at the Orange Reservoir – just down the street from my house – so my plan was to jog down, register, and jog back home to drop off the t-shirt.

I checked the weather before I left the house, and it was supposed to rain later in the morning. As luck would have it, I jogged a mile to register and the rain had already started. On my way back home, the skies opened up and I got soaked. So in addition to dropping off my t-shirt, I changed my clothes and waited a couple minutes to head back out.

By the time I left, though, the rain had stopped and we had beautiful weather the rest of the morning. I jogged back to the starting area, running a few strides along the way. I added on a couple minutes at threshold to feel extra warmed up.

I was feeling great … and then they announced that they were going to start 15 minutes late to accommodate people who were still trying to register. Oof. Oh well.

We stood around for a bit. I sipped some coffee and hit the porta-potty one last time. Eventually, we got lined up to get started.

Running the Race

The start was a little congested. They had us run through the archway that also served as the finish line, and it was only wide enough for 3-4 people to go through at once.

Luckily, the race wasn’t overly competitive so I just lined up towards the front. I was in the second or third row of people, and when the gun went off, I was able to make it through the arch easily. Things opened up after that and weren’t nearly as cramped.

The first mile was out and back along what I thought was a fairly flat stretch of road. It turns out it had some rolling hills. Regardless, my plan was to stick with around a 6:30 overall pace and speed up in the last two miles.

Shortly after the start, I glanced down and saw 5:55/mi on my watch. Yikes! But you always shoot out a little fast. I course corrected and reigned it in. A few people passed me, but we settled in after that once we hit the first little hill. I didn’t look at my watch the rest of the first mile, and I just kept pace with the people around me.

We hit the turnaround and I passed a couple people as we went up a gentle incline. We got to the first mile marker and the clock read 6:30 – right on schedule.

It was all downhill from there back to the start, so I sped up a bit on the decline. When we got near the starting area, we took a sharp turn into the Reservoir. The rest of the course was a loop around the Reservoir and then a turn back out to the road.

I had to slow down a bit to take the sharp turns – the road was wet and I didn’t want to split. When I came out of the turn, I looked at my watch to gauge my pace. It was a little slow – 6:35/mi – but I quickly improved that and settled in around 6:25/mi. Right where I wanted to be for this mile. I opened up my stride, and although things were starting to feel a little hard I felt good. No signs of slowing down.

As we looped around the back side of the Reservoir, I came up on the 2 mile mark. I didn’t check my watch, but I ran by the clock at around 12:50 to 12:55 – so right on pace. Garmin Connect has the lap at 6:24. If I could hold 6:25/mi for the last mile, or speed up slightly, I was golden.

I had been slowly gaining on a guy as we approached the mile marker, and shortly after the start of mile 3 I passed him. I heard his footsteps behind me for a little bit, but he eventually fell away. I opened up my stride a bit more, gritted my teeth, and powered through the final mile. It was hard – but I felt strong throughout. I never felt like my legs were dead or I was fading out.

I passed the 3 mile mark, and Garmin had my third mile at 6:19. Nice! I figured 20 minutes was in the bag.

I had to slow down a bit to take the turn out of the Reservoir, and then I sped up again. I made the final turn towards the finish line. There were some college mascots at the event, and I gave the Rutgers Scarlet Knight a high-five as a I ran by.

Then I looked up to see the clock and I saw 19:55. Uh oh. Maybe I was show boating a bit too much … so I hit the jets and sprinted the last bit. I stopped my watch, looked down, and finished in 19:59. Phew. Just made it.

Reflections and What’s Next

Overall, I’m very happy with this race. I was gassed as I crossed the finish line, but after I took a minute to catch my breath I felt great. I hung out for a little while, realized I’d taken first in my age group, and I grabbed my award. Then I jogged the mile home.

I’ve definitely still got some room for improvement, and I think the regular races are helping. I’ve got three races left on my calendar this fall – a 5k in two weeks in Atlantic City, an 8k two weeks later on Thanksgiving, and then a 5k two weeks later at Rutgers.

Running a race every week is a bit much, and it makes it hard to get solid training in. I’d love to get in two full workouts instead of the one combined workout that I’ve been doing. But with the extra week between races, I should be able to get in a couple solid workouts.

With six weeks of training and racing, along with the massive amount of miles I’ve put in over the last year, I think there’s substantial room for improvement. Over the last three weeks, I was still coming out of marathon training and getting some pep back in my step, but at this point I’m ready to go.

I think 19:30 in the final 5k is a relatively soft goal, and it shouldn’t be hard. Getting under 19 should be possible – but challenging.

Running 18:30 would be a dream – and it would make me really confident going into the next marathon training block. But that may also be a stretch, and I won’t be disappointed if I don’t quite get there this time around.

That’s it for now – but I’ll be back in two weeks with an update after my next 5k.

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