On Sunday, March 13 I ran the St. Patrick’s Day 8k in Washington, DC. This was a tune-up for my main goal this spring: the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on April 3rd. I had a few objectives for this race, including running under 26 minutes, cracking the top 10 overall, and if that failed – breaking my PR of 26:19. I didn’t meet any of those goals.
But overall, I’m not that upset. I gave a really solid effort. Despite some slight wind, four hairpin turns, and seven ninety-degree turns I still ran 26:26. When any runner runs close to their personal record, that’s still a success.
I know that I’m in incredible shape right now and can run faster than my best over 8,000 meters than what I did in the St. Patrick’s Day 8k – it just didn’t happen this time. The course isn’t particularly fast, despite being practically flat. With all of those ridiculous turns (seriously, check out the course map), I was losing momentum every few minutes. It’s hard to find your rhythm when you can’t settle into the pace you want.
I learned a lot of good things from this race:
- My first mile was 5:03, which was admittedly too fast, but not really that taxing. While I should have gone out slower, I’m convinced I shouldn’t have gone out that much slower. Somewhere in the 5:08-5:10 range would have been ideal.
- My 5k was 16:14 – a scant 12 seconds away from my PR of 16:02. If I were racing 5k instead of 8k, I could have demolished my best time.
- I put on a huge surge at the beginning of mile 4, only to lose steam after two sharp turns. Given a mostly straight last mile, I know I can continue that effort and have a monster last mile.
St. Patrick’s Day 8k – Race Day Overview
Racing on the day when the clocks spring forward isn’t fun – you lose an hour of sleep on a day when rest is crucial. But that’s what coffee is for! For a 9AM race start, I was up at 5:30 to have breakfast and wake up. I typically have two pieces of toast with a little peanut butter and a banana on race day. Nothing fancy.
I learned in a pharmacology class that caffeine reaches its peak effect in 2 hours, so I like to start drinking coffee two hours before the start of the race. I like to still have a great caffeine buzz going at the gun, so I drink about two cups over the course of an hour. For you non-believers, the health benefits of coffee and its performance benefits have been well documented.
I did my standard warm-up to prep my body for running and ran 21 minutes with one minute of faster running to get the blood flowing. I wore my Adidas Adizero Mana’s – they have a harder sole than my other trainers so I was hoping to further increase muscle tension before the race.
After changing into my racing flats, the ASICS Hyper Speeds, I jogged to the starting line and did 6 strides on Pennsylvania Avenue (you can see a picture of the starting line here – I’m in the yellow singlet). The Irish ambassador gave a short speech and then we were off. My goal for the first mile was in the 5:06 – 5:08 range, but I was feeling really good and went out a bit fast in 5:03.
Even before I hit the two-mile mark, my breathing was labored and my legs were heavier than they should have been.
I split 5:18 for my second mile and 10:21.5 through two miles. I was running in 11th place for the majority of the race and knew that if I were in the top ten I’d receive an award. The 10th place runner got $60 – nothing huge, but a nice bonus for doing something you already love to do.
I was still in 11th at the three mile mark, splitting 5:19 and 15:40. Shortly thereafter I ran through the 5k mark in 16:14, only twelve seconds slower than my best on the track.
I felt the worse during the fourth mile. My breathing was ragged, my legs were like lead, and I felt the familiar burn. It showed: my fourth mile was a pedestrian 5:28, which threw off any hope of reaching my time goals. I knew I needed a monster final mile, but I felt like I was carrying another runner. My four-mile split was 21:09 – I needed a 4:50 final mile, which was definitely not happening.
After turning a quick corner, I put on a big surge to pass another runner to get in 10th place. I just needed to hold it for about four minutes. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. There were a few more sharp turns to take and I lost all momentum, finding it very difficult to pick up the pace again.
I struggled home in 26:26 with my final mile being 5:17 for 12th place. I warmed down two miles and called it a day, with a quick Myrtl Routine when I got home.
Lessons Learned from the St. Patrick’s Day 8k
- You’re not going to feel “good” in a race. Once you realize that racing is painful, the more prepared you’ll be.
- Going out fast when you’re in good shape can be a good thing. Not always, but being aggressive has its place in shorter races.
- If you’re attempting a personal record, pick your course wisely: numerous sharp turns will slow you down.
- The faster you finish, the better food selection there will be at the finisher’s tent.
- Run your warm down as soon as possible after you finish – no dawdling at the food tent.
- Without specific workouts at race pace, it will be very difficult to run a personal record (I should have known this, but secretly thought I could run faster based on aerobic fitness alone – lesson learned).
- Running a personal record in the middle of a long-term high volume training cycle is difficult.
The Next Guide is Coming…
Last month I told my newsletter readers to ask me anything about running. I was planning to put together a big Q&A blog post. Well, I got a lot more questions than I anticipated so I’m putting all of the questions into an ebook.
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