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Strategy for a Fast 5k

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
in Road Races

Before the Good Times 5k last night I once again tried to figure out a strategy to run a faster time. You would think after running the Good Times course over 50x I would have a solid game plan. Every week I say I will start with a controlled  pace and then hold that effort for the entire race. That seems like a reasonable game plan.

The problem with the 5k is that it is such a short event there really is no time to "run easy". In order to have a great time you have to hurt the whole way with close to maximum effort. Let's be honest....that is not fun. Don't get me wrong. I love racing and the pain required to push yourself to the max. When competing in a ten week series some weeks you just don't "feel" like killing yourself and look for a way out. You will hear things like...I am tired this week, I will just take it easy...or Don't expect much from me this week. Unfortunately I do not operate this way. Regardless of what I say before the race as soon as the race starts I give 100% effort. I might not be at the top of my game each week but the effort will always be there.

What is my official 5k strategy? 

Mile 1-Close to 100% (but controlled) effort. Depending on the day you will know what kind of "zip" you have in your legs by the mile 1 mark.

Mile 2- Sustain a pace as close to mile 1 as you can...speed will probably slip but try to hold on.

Mile 3-Stay steady until half way through mile 3 and then try to push to the finish. Always sprint to the finish.

Seems pretty simple doesn't it? The biggest problem I see with 5k runners is people running too slow on the first mile. There is no time to settle into a pace. Once the race starts you got to go! Now obviously you do not want to burn out in the first mile but I have found it is better to be close to burn out and try to hold on than to willingly give up 30 seconds on the first mile. More often than not you will never get that time back.

The best way to master your 5k race strategy is to experiment. Enter a ton of 5k's and see what works for you. If you try to avoid pain in a 5k you will never have a good time. You have to train your body to tolerate maximum effort for the entire 3.1 miles. This distance is not for everyone but I like it because in 20 minutes or less the race is done and you can try it again next week.

Good Times 5k Series Week 4 Results

Time: 20:14    11th overall 3rd age group

Really crazy but ended up with the exact same time as last week. The race felt harder and the weather conditions were totally different but the end result was the same.


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Good Times 5k Spring Series Race Report

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, April 17, 2013
in Road Races

After a day of tremendous sadness over the senseless violence that was inflicted on our beloved Boston Marathon, the Good Times runners towed the line on most likely the first organized road race after the horrific events of April 15th. Runners are a resilient group by nature and almost 400 showed up on Tuesday night to show support for the innocent people whose lives were changed forever on Monday. Race Director Dave Camire had some moving remarks prior to the start of the race and asked runners to observe a moment of silence.

Like many of you I was devastated by the news of a bombing at the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately acts of senseless violence seem to be happening all too often. The sheer evil required to plan and carry out any of the recent mass shootings and the bombing at the Boston Marathon is beyond comprehension. There is no valid reason as to why someone commits these acts. Senseless violence doesn't make any sense. The only thing we can do is to hold the  perpetrator of each act accountable, increase our efforts on prevention, and make sure the victims of these acts have the full support of our nation.


The Race

This week's race was a unique event named the Rose Maguire's Great Mill Girl Chase 5K. In this event the women start the race first and 2:30 later the men start. The overall winner of the event receives $100, man or woman. This is a fun event for all. Even though I am not in competition for the $100, my focus is always to try to catch my wife before the finish line. I have done this race several times before and beat her for the first time last year.

This race is challenging to me for a few reasons. It is not just the 2.5 minutes that is tough to make up. I am used to starting in the front. When you start in the front and typically finish in the top 20 there are not usually many people in your way. In this race the men need to weave through many of the 200 woman that started ahead of them. There are many narrow sections of the Good Times course (check out the course) and this is always challenging and can really slow you down.

The race started and I waited the interminable 2:30 before I could begin. After running sub-par times for the first two weeks I decided to run without a watch. I like to run by feel in the shorter events. In a 5k I'm always running a 100% effort, so seeing my mile splits doesn't help me run faster. I caught up to the first large group of women fairly quickly and had a tough time navigating for about half a mile. At one point I was flying down the left side of the road third in a line of three men. There was a large group of women in front of us and the lead guy quickly went further left only to find 3 benches blocking our way. Much to my surprise he jumped up on the first bench and then jumped from bench to bench, hit the ground, and kept running. I have never seen someone do this in a road race before. This was impressive but must have taken a lot out of him because soon after he was dropped.

I suffered for most of the race. I finally broke free from the crowds and tried to focus on maintaining a fast pace. At one point on the course as you cross the Aiken Street bridge you can look to the right and see the runners ahead of you going underneath the bridge. As I got to this point on the course I looked and saw my wife about 20 seconds ahead. Unfortunately my legs were close to the red line of effort and I didn't have much left. I tried a surge on the last straightaway in an attempt to bridge the gap. Up the final "S" curves I could see her just ahead of me but the bottom line is I just couldn't do it. She ended up beating me by 4 seconds. However, I did run my fastest time of the season 19:58. Good Times!



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Freeze Your Buns Off 5k Race Report

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Sunday, March 03, 2013
in Road Races



One thing you should know about me is that I love racing. I especially love running in 5k road races. (check out my race history here) Over the past couple of years I have been focused on Ironman training so I have missed out on a lot of 5k's and sprint distance triathlons that I really enjoy. Despite the fact that the weather was terrible and my performance wasn't great, I think running in the Hyannis Half Marathon last weekend started to get my racing juices flowing. I have to admit that after last week I was not excited to sign up for another half marathon but I started to get excited about getting back to racing shorter distances.

I am really excited about the Spring Good Times 5k Series in Lowell and I knew I needed to enter a few 5k's before the series starts on April 2nd. (see the course here) Now I have no illusion as to my current conditioning. I am in the words of the famous movie "Full Metal Jacket" quote a  "disgusting fat body". When I am feeling out of shape and overweight I always think about the below several lines of dialogue from that movie when the drill instructor found a jelly donut in the barracks. This really has nothing to do with the 5k I ran today but if you are wondering about what I think about during the race this is it.


Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Holy Jesus! What is that? What the f%#k is that? WHAT IS THAT, PRIVATE PYLE?
Private Gomer Pyle: Sir, a jelly doughnut, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: A jelly doughnut?
Private Gomer Pyle: Sir, yes, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: How did it get here?
Private Gomer Pyle: Sir, I took it from the mess hall, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Is chow allowed in the barracks, Private Pyle?
Private Gomer Pyle: Sir, no, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Are you allowed to eat jelly doughnuts, Private Pyle?
Private Gomer Pyle: Sir, no, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: And why not, Private Pyle?
Private Gomer Pyle: Sir, because I'm too heavy, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Because you are a disgusting fat body, Private Pyle!
Private Gomer Pyle: Sir, yes, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Then why did you try to sneak a jelly doughnut in your footlocker, Private Pyle?
Private Gomer Pyle: Sir, because I was hungry, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Because you were hungry...
[turns and addresses rest of platoon]
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Private Pyle has dishonored himself and dishonored the platoon. I have tried to help him. But I have failed. I have failed because YOU have not helped me. YOU people have not given Private Pyle the proper motivation! So, from now on, whenever Private Pyle f*&ks up, I will not punish him! I will punish all of YOU! And the way I see it ladies, you owe me for ONE JELLY DOUGHNUT! NOW GET ON YOUR FACES!
[rest of recruits get in front-leaning-rest position, Hartman turns to Pyle]
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Open your mouth!
[shoves jelly doughnut into PYLE's mouth]
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: They're payin' for it; YOU eat it! Ready! Exercise!

First 5k Race of 2013

Since the racing juices were flowing I wanted to enter a 5k close to home. I wanted a quick and easy fitness test to see what kind of shape I am in. The Freeze Your Buns Off 5k in Nashua, New Hampshire is a no frills, well organized 5k race series managed by the Gate City Striders. This race was exactly what I needed today. The race only costs $5 and has a simple rolling course around Nashua High School.

After a nice warmup I hit the start line. Conditions were not bad for winter...30 degrees and snowing. Not snow that sticks to the ground,  just nuisance snow that goes into your face and eyes. Certainly the weather was a lot better than last week's pouring rain. I ran a hard but controlled pace for the entire race but didn't have the fitness to maintain my pace. I won't bore you with the details but my splits tell the whole story:

Mile 1-  6:19

Mile 2- 6:34

Mile 3- 6:53

5k Official time:  20:18  (6:32 pace)

Not bad for the first 5k of the year and a decent starting point. For me I always think if I break 20 minutes in a 5k then I had a decent time. Over 20 minutes sucks...I plan on entering a few more races this month and continue training for speed. The cool thing about racing short distances is that you can race every week if you want to....I am looking forward to the 2013 racing season!  See you out there!

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Thanks 4 Giving 5k Race Report

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Friday, November 23, 2012
in Road Races

What a great morning to race! The weather conditions for yesterday's Thanks 4 Giving 5k Road Race in Lowell, Massachusetts were absolutely perfect. Temp's in the 40's, sunny, and no wind. This is my hometown race, and I completed this race for the 9th time yesterday. I love racing on Thanksgiving Day!

This was my first race since completing the Ironman in early September. I have been training consistently since the race but have reduced volumes considerably. I have been running around 18-23 miles a week and biking on the trainer once a week. Swimming is out until next year. The last time I raced in a 5k was the last week of the Spring Good Times 5k series in June. Since that time basically I have been doing long, slow distance training. I had no idea what kind of shape I was in or how my body would react to 5k race pace.


My day started with sharp pain in my lower back due to an intense leaf raking session the day before. I took 2 Advil and ran to the start of the race from my house. A little bit longer than I would usually run for a warm-up prior to a 5k but I felt like I needed it to work out the pain in my back. Total warmup: 2.1 miles


This is a well organized race so registration is a breeze. Registration is inside the Lowell Elks and I was in and out with my number in 5 minutes. Bathroom was wide open too (the women's line was crazy) and I was quickly ready to head to the start. No issues.


I timed my arrival to the race perfectly and after just a few minutes of waiting the race was ready to start. I always start in the front and decided to place myself in the second row of people just behind the start mat. The race started and for some reason I was quickly swamped on all sides. Maybe I didn't react quickly enough to the start but for the first few hundred yards I was pinned behind slower runners. As a racing veteran I knew I just had to be patient and wait until the road cleared a bit. This is always a little stressful because you feel like you are losing time every second you are pinned in a crowd. I finally broke free shortly after the right turn on Varnum Avenue and I immediately moved to the center of the road. At this point I had the road to myself and started running hard. I probably passed 20-30 people in the next quarter mile and felt good. The only hill on the course is at the .75 mile mark (check out the video) and I felt like I was running a strong tempo pace and felt in control. I ran the first mile in 6:23. Now I usually run the first mile closer to 6 minutes but with the only hill on the course out of the way and that slow start I was happy with my time. The second mile starts slightly rolling and I just continued to run a strong tempo pace. Normally in a 5k I would have a couple of more gears but my high end speed is gone. Strong tempo is all I have right now until I get my speed back. I started to feel it a bit as I rounded the turn on Pawtucket Boulevard and quickly looked over my shoulder and saw a friend of mine only about 20 yards back.

**** Side note. Every year several of my friends run this race. One of my friends, Henry, always tries to beat me. Now we are not overly competitive with each other but for some reason every Thanksgiving there is an unwritten competition between us. This year was no different. I completed the Ironman in September and ended my season. He ran his PR at the Chicago Marathon and ended his season so we were pretty similar. We both are a little fat and happy and really don't care about our Thanksgiving 5k time. But guess what...that unwritten competition remains and I want to make sure he doesn't beat me.****

Returning to my story I look over my shoulder at the turn on Pawtucket Boulevard and sure enough 20 yards back is Henry. I knew I was starting to lose it but I threw in a "surge" and tried to increase my pace. I was hoping he was hurting too and hoped if I accelerated he would be discouraged and shut it down. I refused to turn around and check if it worked and kept pressing. I passed through mile 2 in 12:46 (another 6:23 mile) and kept pressing. Unfortunately, the wheels were starting to come off. My breath was fine. The problem was I just couldn't increase my leg turnover and I was starting to fade. Several people passed me over the next half mile. I still refused to turn around and ran as hard as my dead legs would carry me. I rounded the turn on Old Ferry and sprinted to the finish in 20:18. I really died toward the end but all things considered I think I did OK. Henry finished in 20:33. Come to find out he thought he would get me after the turn on Pawtucket Boulevard but just couldn't close the gap. Fun race on a great day.

Time: 20:18   Overall Place: 20th   Age Group: 6th

What's next?

If you have followed my blog posts or seen my race history you will know I love to race. Due to all of my Ironman training in the last 18 months I have really had to cut back on racing due to all of the training. Now that I have completed my first race I feel like I am back in the game. It may be premature but my next race is going to be Sunday. Yes... this Sunday. I have entered a new half marathon in Mine's Falls Park in Nashua, New Hampshire called the Wolf Hollow Half Marathon. Look for my race report next week.

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