I have competed twice in the last week in a 5k race in Maryland and a sprint triathlon on the Jersey Shore. Neither of them were very spectacular in terms of performance level, but I’m happy with both efforts.
Normally, I don’t race twice in a week because I think you need more time to recover both physically and mentally. But I made an exception because I wasn’t giving the races my best effort. I thought that I could tempo the 5k for the win and I did the triathlon simply for fun (that, and my girlfriend made me do it).
Run for the Animals 5k
The 5k was hosted by the Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary on May 23rd. The previous year’s winner ran 17:44 so my only goal was to run just fast enough to win the race. The conditions were wet and muddy and the course proved to be very difficult. I don’t think there was more than a half-mile of flat ground for the entire race. The downhills were steep and the majority of the course was on a paved trail through the woods.
At the start, I was in about 8th place through the half-mile mark. The pace was quick and I thought that I may not win after all. Then the hills started and by the first mile I had caught up to the lead pack of 4 runners. After another minute or so, I put in a big surge at the top of a hill and gapped the field. I surged a few more times during the second mile to make sure I stayed in the lead but kept the last mile fairly easy.
I could tell that the hills, especially the downhills on pavement, were starting to bang me up. I really tried to keep the entire race aerobic and not destroy my legs during the last mile. I coasted in for the last 100m and won in 17:30, 14 seconds ahead of 2nd place.
I was surprised my time was so slow based on the effort but apparently all those hills slowed things down significantly. My mile splits were 5:38, 5:47 (probably long), and 6:04 for the last 1.1 miles (probably short). Full results.
Tri for Our Veterans Sprint Triathlon
The triathlon was on May 29 and in memory of Matt McCulley, the founder of the race who passed away this year. The race distances were 1/4 mile ocean swim, 8.3 mile bike, and 5k run. It was definitely the shortest sprint triathlon I’ve ever done.
I had no goals for this race except to survive the swim, see how fast I could do the bike leg, and just run comfortably hard for the run. Mission accomplished. I’m pretty happy with the overall performance and had a great time. My overall place was 58 / 380.
The swim was open ocean and pretty intimidating – there were some good sized swells and I am not a strong swimmer. That’s a a lie…I am GOD AWFUL. I sink like a rock and I really dislike it. So I just tried to swim freestyle as calmly as possible.
The transition was close to a 1/4 mile away from the swim exit so I had to run barefoot through soft sand to get there. The 12:54 swim leg includes nearly two minutes of jogging (I was about 11 minutes coming out of the water). Then I took awhile to get the sand off my feet which is why my transition time was 3:24.
Cycling a fast 8.3 miles was definitely my favorite part. I was averaging 23-24 mph for the first two miles but then I realized this was a little too fast. I slowed down to about 22 mph until the turn around point. The wind was strong on the way back and I had difficulty riding 20-21 mph but managed to hang on. My average mph was 22.1 mph
After changing into my flats and wobbling out of the transition, I felt like I was taking baby steps for the first mile. My legs were shot after the bike. I didn’t want to hammer the run too hard because I was still a bit sore from the 5k race the week before. I picked it up a little during the last 400m to outkick as many people as I could, but it was not a hard effort by any means. My 5k split was 18:10 and the course was flat. Full results.
I ran 17:52 on the same course in February to win a small 5k, but I had run 13 miles right before the race so I was pretty tired.
In hindsight, I think I could train for this same triathlon and cut 7-8 minutes off my overall time. I could easily become a better swimmer and take 2-3 minutes off of my transitions by being better prepared. I might be able to take 1-2 minutes off my bike time if I put in more training miles. The 5k was slow and I think I could easily take a minute off my 18:10 time.
Unfortunately, I have neither the time to devote to triathlon nor the motivation to train for three disciplines. It’s incredibly time consuming and I just don’t like swimming. I tried swimming more often two years ago and I hated every second of it. I think the duathlon would better fit my strengths and interests.
Thoughts on Racing Frequently
These races are outliers in terms of how frequently I race so don’t think this is normal for me. I normally like to pick a goal race and 1-2 tune-up races during the few weeks beforehand. The only reasons I did these races so close to one another is because I was not racing them at 100% and both were also for social reasons.
Racing at a high level is incredibly stressful, both physically and mentally. The deep anaerobic stimulus from racing can peak you very quickly. If you race too frequently, you won’t ever be at your best and may feel “flat” for many of your races.
I’m going to use June and the majority of July to get in monster shape for a 10 mile race August 14th, 2010. This training cycle will peak at about 83 miles per week with an 18 mile long run. The length of time that I am over 70 miles per week should be enough for me to take a crack at my 10 mile PR from 2007 – 54:50. I ran that on a course with many rolling hills so on a flat course I think I could run 40-50 seconds faster.
I see huge value in taking a good chunk of time to devote only to training with no racing. You don’t have to worry about tapering, resting, or recovering from the race effort. You just grind out the miles and put in solid workouts.
The benefits of racing a lot can’t be ignored, though. The main benefit for me is that it becomes another routine and I worry less. As Coach Mark Wetmore of the University of Colorado has said, “Distance running is a callousing of the body and mind.” Frequent racing hardens your mind to the mental stress of toeing the starting line.
I want to hear from the weekend race warriors who can’t get enough. How often do you race? How often is too often? Are others like me and prefer a big block of uninterrupted training time?