I recently competed in the Tracksmith Twilight 5000 race, held at the Englewood High School track in Denver. The vibes were great. Not only did this event mark my debut in track racing, but it was also my fifth official attempt at the 5K distance. With a finishing time of 22:08, I managed to set a new personal record.
As a warm-up before the race, I completed a three-mile run around the neighborhood. My heart rate was elevated for my running pace, but I attribute that to the time of day, humidity, and heat.
Going into the race, my strategy was to complete the first mile in approximately 7 minutes and 20 seconds, reduce that to 7:10 for the second mile, and then push my speed as much as I could for the final 1.1 miles. I wanted to be conservative and hedge against blowing up in the final laps.
I found the start of the race somewhat confusing. It was puzzling that despite being split into two groups within my heat, we all started simultaneously.
The race director fired a racing pistol and we were off. Of course I had trouble starting my watch. There was some jockeying for position as everyone moved to the inner most lane.
During the first 200 meters, I felt really strong. When I looked at my watch I was running at 6:20, so much for my conservative 7:20 first mile. I pumped the breaks and settled in at a 7 minute per mile pace. My heart rate had reached 167 bpm, a few beats higher than what I had anticipated for this stage of the race.
Spotting a close friend of mine leading the front group further ahead was a true morale booster.
As I came through 500 meters I ran by the stands which were filled with cheering spectators including my wife and two kids. It was really a great feeling. But, I had to balance spending energy to look their way with the focus I needed to maintain for the next nearly three miles. Very normal.
Over the course of the next several laps I felt comfortable at my 7 minute pace. Despite the intensity, I was confident I could maintain this pace. As the race progressed, I noticed the two runners ahead gradually coming into reach. It wasn't that I was speeding up, but they were both slowing down and I passed them both somewhere into mile two. By this point, my heart rate had climbed to 173 bpm.
After mile two I tried to really focus and push the effort. As my heart rate escalated to the upper 170s, I managed to quicken my pace to under 7 minutes per mile. The final few laps were confusing as the lead group lapped me, with the announcer calling out the remaining lap count based on that group's total.
Amid the intensity, it was challenging for me to divide my attention and do the simple calculations required to determine how many laps I still had to complete when my watch indicated 2.5 miles.
As I pushed through the final lap, my peripheral vision began to blur - a common occurrence during such intense efforts.
Looking at my pacing, there's a bit of room for improvement, but with mile 1 at 7:01, mile 2 at 7:05, mile 3 at 6:58, and the final .1 mile at 6:30, I was fairly close to the ideal split. In my next 5k, I aim to start closer to a 7:00 pace instead of 6:20, with hopes of slightly accelerating in the second mile and continuing to increase my pace for the final stretch.
Another thing I'll change for next time is to manually lap my watch after the first 200 meters and then again every 400 meters. Having a lap timer on my watch and aiming to run each 400 meter lap within 1 minute 40 seconds to 1 minute 45 seconds will lead to even better pacing.
Overall, I'm delighted with my performance. According to the VDOT running calculator, my 5K time equates to a 3:30 marathon in terms of fitness level. I'm optimistic that with consistent training from now until December, I can achieve this marathon timing at the CIM. If I manage that, it will be my fastest time since 2015 - before I had kids!