On Saturday, September 18 I raced in the Run Geek Run! 8k in West Potomac Park, Washington, DC. This was the second time that I raced on this small, man-made peninsula in DC and it’s now one of my favorite places to race. It’s picturesque, but more importantly it’s flat and fast!
The race is called Run Geek Run because it benefits the Equal Footing Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on youth development. Their aim is to provide kids an equal opportunity environment so that they can learn skills they’ll need to be competitive later in life. Not a bad deal.
The race started at 8AM, so unfortunately I was up at 5:15 to eat some oatmeal, pound coffee, and start hydrating. I drove downtown with my fiancée Meaghan and we got to the race area right after 7, just enough time to get our numbers and D-tag timing chips.
I have historically had difficulty with D-tag chips, which are basically a strip of light plastic that you have to loop underneath your shoe laces so the computer can time you. When I raced the Sea Isle 10 Mile Run I messed it up and the computer didn’t record my time; luckily I timed myself. Fortunately I didn’t screw it up this time.
Before the race, I tried to emulate what I normally do before a workout: the same dynamic flexibility drills and warm-up. It’s good practice to get into a routine and find something that works for you. After about 5-10 minutes of flexibility exercises, I headed out for a 20 minute run that include a 1-minute surge near the end. I like to increase my heart rate substantially before I do strides.
After four strides in my new ASICS Gel-Hyper Speeds, I was on the line and ready to roll.
Run Geek Run 8k Race
I spoke with a runner friend of mine a few days before the race and heeded his advice: take it very easy during the first 60-80 seconds; that’s when races can be lost. So I tucked behind the lead pack of 4 runners and ran very relaxed for the first minute or two.
I let them put about 5-10 seconds on me in the first mile because I didn’t want to start going into oxygen debt too fast. I hadn’t raced fast in a long time so I didn’t want to set myself up for feeling like shit later in the race. I also planned on dominating the last mile, so I went out a little conservative.
I hit the mile mark in 5:15, much faster than I thought I was going. This was good news to me so I immediately tried to maintain that speed. For the next two miles I ran alone, the lead pack of four runners slowly moving away from me. My mental thought process for most of the race was to stay calm and imagine that this was just a tempo.
I hit the two-mile mark in 10:41 with a 5:25 second mile. I went through three miles in 16:05 with a 5:24 mile. It was at about the 3 mile mark where I started to feel significantly more uncomfortable and I could tell I was slowing down. I knew that I could pull some magic out for the last mile, so I just needed to hang on.
I started pushing the effort and hit the fourth mile in 21:30 with another 5:24 mile. With less than a mile to go, I could see that a runner ahead of me had started to slow and I started to slowly reel him in.
At this point, I was moving as fast as I could. We hit a slight downhill section coming off a small bridge with about a half-mile left and I finally passed him. The finishing straight-away in West Potomac Park is almost 800m long and completely flat. It’s perfect and it sets everyone up to close hard.
Somehow, I managed to run my last mile in 5:04 – significantly faster than I thought (and I think faster than I’ve ever closed a race 5,000m or longer). My finishing time was 26:34 and I got 4th place (1st in the 25-29 age group).
- Having a strong finishing kick is not about “speed” – it’s about the aerobic capacity to tap into that speed when you’re already fatigued. So don’t practice tough intervals every other day hoping you’ll kick harder in your next race, just build your endurance.
- Your pre-race routine is very important. Find something that works for you when you do workouts and apply it on race day.
- Don’t go out too fast in your next race. Stay conservative in the first few minutes, focus on relaxation, and save your effort for the last half when it matters.
I’ve been really lucky to have received a $25 gift certificate to Health Designs, a company that sells health supplements online. I want to offer it to one of my readers so we’re going to have a contest. Simply do one of the following and you’re entered:
- Tweet this post to your followers on Twitter with the hashtag #strengthrunning
- Leave a comment in the comments section – you could even impress me with another “lesson learned” from my race (note: won’t help your chances, but will make me think you’re really smart)
- Stumble this post on StumbleUpon
One big caveat: you have to be a Strength Running newsletter subscriber. We have such a great community here and I always try to reward my subscribers. You can sign up on the right sidebar.
I’m not huge on supplements, but I do personally take a multivitamin, fish oil, and I use protein powder to speed recovery. The winner can use their gift certificate on whatever they want. Check them out and see what you like.