Race Report: St. Patrick’s Day 8k (Plus, the Next Guide!)

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.

St. Patrick's Day 8k

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Full results for the men’s race can be seen here. To view the women’s, teams, and division results, see here (look for the St. Patrick’s Day 8k on 3/13/2011).

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.

Tentatively titled The Strength Running PR Guide, it should be ready by the end of next week – absolutely free. A huge thank you to all of my newsletter readers – I could not have done this without your help. There’s still some time, so if you want to shoot me another question then go for it! –> support@strengthrunning.com

Since I’m indebted to them for helping provide me with the spark for this ebook, I am only releasing it to my email list at first. I may launch it at a later date to all of my blog readers, but it could be a month or more until that happens. If you’re not signed up by next week then the guide won’t be available. If you’re on the list, you’ll receive behind the scenes info, giveaways, and exclusive content that’s not on the blog. Sign up below to get the guide.

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