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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 Week Two

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, April 16, 2014
in Road Races

Last night was week two of the Good Times 5k Spring Series. After the extremely windy conditions of week one I was hoping for better weather. Despite the wind and rain throughout the day, the weather actually improved slightly by race time. It was still windy but it was a warm 60 degrees with little to no rain for the race.

My goal for week two was to run a steady pace and get close to my time from week one. Even though the weather was a lot better my legs were still tired from my triathlon this past Sunday. I am getting a little old to be racing twice in three days with no effect on my performance.

I started nice and strong running a decent 6:17 for the first mile. I knew right away my legs had no zip but felt OK. As I started the second mile I began to fall apart. I am beginning to think this new second mile for Good Times is a lot tougher than the old course. The hill up to the bridge is longer and the running is awkward with potholes, sewer drains, and jersey barriers in your way. I ended up running 6:41 for mile 2 which was only 7 seconds better than the week before when I almost came down to a walk due to the wind. After mile two my legs gave out and I had to concentrate to avoid losing a ton of time. I ended up with a 6:46 3rd mile. After a sprint to the finish I ended up with 20:16. This was 7 seconds better than last week and the same time I got in the 5k at the triathlon two days earlier.

I have done the Good Times Series many times and it is important to not get too high or too low week to week. Running a 5k for ten weeks straight is not easy.  Many things happen week to week that can effect the way your legs feel. Other races, tough work schedules, sickness, etc. can all have an effect on your body resulting in a poor or mediocre performance. The key is to run as steady as you can and fight through the bad weeks and then really take advantage of the weeks you feel great. You never know how your competition is feeling week to week but assume they are having as many ups and downs as you are.

Good Times rolls on....week 3 next week.

My results week two: 20:16   10th overall   2nd in age group

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Good Times 5k Series Week One Race Report

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, April 09, 2014
in Road Races

Finally after what seemed like the longest winter of all time the 12th Good Times 5k Spring Series began last night. This series has come to symbolize the start of spring and the racing season for me and many other local residents. It is always interesting to see who starts the season in good form or who may have put on a few pounds over the winter months. 

 The New Course

The series started with a slightly new course due to the demolition of the University Avenue Bridge over the winter. The start line of the course was moved up a bit but was in the same general area behind the parking garage. The course remained the same until a new but very short gravel section near the dorms. After passing the dorms, the new bridge is about a block past the old bridge so now the hill up to the bridge is longer. After that the course remains the same until the finish. After the left turn to the finish behind the parking garage the finish line is almost right away. Now you should start your finish line sprint before the turn to account for this.

The Race

If you had asked me mid-day yesterday how the weather looked for the race I would have said fantastic! Winds were calm and it was 65 degrees. Unfortunately as the afternoon waned, the winds picked up significantly. By race time it was about 55 degrees with a heavy wind.

It was nice running in shorts and a t-shirt on April 8th but the wind ended up being a huge factor. The first mile is somewhat protected from the wind but you could definitely feel it. I ended up running a nice and controlled 6:18 for the first mile.

Soon after the first mile mark the protection of the dorms is gone and the wind was in full effect. I really struggled running up the hill to the new bridge. As I climbed the hill the wind was blowing hard from my right and I felt like my race number was going to be ripped off. After I turned right on the new bridge the wind was in my face and I felt like I came to a stand still. I was barely moving and struggling. I recovered a bit on the downhill after the bridge and tried to get some kind of running form back on the VFW highway. I crossed mile two with a split of 6:48...ouch!

Once I reached the Aiken Street Bridge I again was faced with a tremendous wind. I ended up holding my race number down with my left hand the whole way across the bridge. I finally got to the final straightaway and muscled home to the finish. My mile 3 split was 6:38. One interesting point is that I ran 13:26 for the last two miles of the race and only three people passed me. That would never happen in a normal Good Times Race. Usually 20 people would have passed me if I ran that slow after mile 1. That proves to me that I was not the only one struggling with the conditions. 


After the race we checked out the new venue for the event. Finn's Pub had a much bigger downstairs bar than Hookslide Kellys and a much bigger area for the pre and post race announcements. The bathrooms were cleaner as well. I think this new venue will work just fine. I will miss the outside patio area but for the Spring Series most of the time it is cold or rainy so being indoors is probably better.

My results: 20:23   14th overall and 2nd age group

 Hope to do better next week!

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