Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Some 5Ks I Have Run (and taking bets for Saturday!)

Since I'm about to run my first 5K in over a year and a half, I thought it might be good to do some sort of planning in terms of vaguely what pace I should be running and what kind of time would be reasonable to expect. (I mean, the time will be whatever it is but I would like to have some sense of whether, say, a 1:30 first lap is something to panic about.)

Unlike with the full and half marathon, my 5K history is kind of nebulous in my mind, and I've never had big, multi-year goals around that distance. (Not for any particular reason -- I don't feel like it's any less of a "legitimate" distance than longer ones, and I think it's kind of a shame that the 5K gets so ignored and dismissed by recreational road racers obsessed with going longer and longer and longer just for the sake of bigger numbers on the bumper sticker, or something.)

So, just for funsies, I decided to look back over my past 5Ks and see if I can spot any patterns & maybe come up with some sort of reasonable expectations.

Which I have to admit, was pretty amusing. It was actually kind of fun to read back over some of my old race reports and relive details I no doubt would have completely forgotten otherwise (for better or worse!). What I learned was:

    1) I almost never run 5Ks (as in, seven in my entire adult life),

    2) A weirdly large percentage of them were run when I was just starting to run again after an injury (go figure), and

    3) An equally weirdly large percentage had some kind of wonkiness about the course length or timing (probably related at least in part to how a lot of local 5Ks are tiny community events where people understandably aren't being as anal about the course & timing as they would be at a bigger/pricier/higher stakes event).

So, ultimately, not that helpful in terms of goal setting, but at least moderately entertaining! Read on, and at the end we'll take bets on Saturday's performance.

~ * ~ * ~ Angela's 5Ks Over the Years ~ * ~ * ~

1) Bay Vista 5K, May 2010 (San Mateo, CA). I think this is the first "official" 5K I ran as an adult. I didn't really train for it. I had no idea what I was doing and had only my old high school stopwatch as far as pacing myself. It was a sunny day and I just kind of showed up in tights (who knows why, don't ask). I went out way too fast but pushed it super super hard (for me, at that point) all the way to the end, won my age group, threw up a little, and spent at least a couple of minutes seeing stars and unable to walk straight. As far as I know this was a legit 3.1 miles, though I did not have a GPS watch then. My watch time matched the official time, though.

    Official Time: 22:00
    Watch Time: 22:00
    Official Course: 3.1 miles

Angela's analysis in hindsight: I was not in very good shape when I ran this race and had really no idea what I was doing, but I would say it was definitely a solid, all-out, honest effort at the time. I have no reason to think the course was particularly long or short so this is probably a pretty legit result.

2) Kaiser Permanente 5K, January 2011 (San Francisco, CA). This was kind of a random race and to be honest I can't even remember why I wanted to run it, or how particularly hard I ran it. Ah, well.

LOL at old timey heart rate monitor
    Official Time: 22:19
    Watch Time: 22:19
    Official Course: 3.2 miles
    Garmin Course: 3.21 miles

Angela's analysis in hindsight: The race directors had announced going into this course that it was in fact 3.2 miles, not 3.1 (no idea why), so it's not really legit in that respect. Pace-wise, that equates to about 21:37 for 5K for those keeping score at home. (I'm pretty sure they've changed the course since then.) Not that it matters much as I didn't really train for this race in any meaningful way. Also there was one MASSIVE hill in the middle.

3) Menlo-Atherton Big Bear Run 5K, May 2012 (Atherton, CA). This is probably the only 5K I've ever run when I've been in really good shape. I had been training quite hard for Windsor Green Half Marathon and this was just two weeks before that race, my first sub-1:40. According to my race report, I ran it respectably hard, but not fall-over-and-die-after hard.

    Official Time: 20:44
    Watch Time: ??? Dunno, forgot to stop my watch
    Official Course: 3.1
    Garmin Course: 3.25, but I also did not remember to stop it right at the finish so who knows.

Angela's analysis in hindsight: Officially, this is my PR, but if I am honest, there have always been a lot of little things about it that bothered me. First, at least according to my Garmin, the course was more than a little long, and I have always suspected that they started us at the wrong "starting line." Second, when I crossed the finish, the race clock said 20:56, but my official time was revised to 20:44 and I have no idea why. Third, I forgot to stop my watch so I don't even have a Garmin result to fall back on. I mean; it's definitely my PR and WAY faster than any other 5K I've ever run any way you slice it, but I've never felt all that confident in the exact time. My mile splits were 6:47, 6:40, 6:37, and that's all I really know for sure.

4) PrideRun 5K, June 2012 (San Francisco, CA). This is not a super fast course but it's still one of my favorite San Francisco races because it's just such a fun event. I guess I was in pretty good shape for this race as well given that it was not that long after Big Bear Run. Still, this was maybe a 90-95% effort, not a MACH-10-with-hair-on-fire effort, and it's a tougher course due to about a mile of it being significantly uphill on rocks & dirt.

    Official Time: 21:36
    Watch Time: 21:37
    Official Course: 3.1
    Garmin Course: 3.11

Angela's analysis in hindsight: Like I said, I think I was in pretty good shape for this race, but it was not a super fast course, I didn't run it that hard, and as I recall I actually almost didn't run it because I was feeling sick. Everyone I've ever run it with has clocked right around 3.1, so I feel pretty good about saying that this was a legit result and going all-out on a friendlier course I might have been capable of a bit better.

5) Get Lucky 5K, March 2014 (Rohnert Park, CA). This was my first post-stress fracture #1 race and I was pretty darn de-trained, so I wasn't expecting a great time. I would say it was a 60/40 not bad effort considering, but I was definitely out of practice pushing hard and still a little bit timid about my barely-healed leg. I'd call it maybe a 90% effort.

    Official Time: 22:06
    Watch Time: ??? Dunno, forgot to stop my watch for like 12 minutes.
    Official Course: 3.1 miles
    Garmin Course: ??? See above

Angela's analysis in hindsight: Who the heck even knows, I was just happy to be running.

6) Spring Forward 5K, April 2014 (Mountain View, CA). This was my second race post-stress fracture #1, and I only did it because 1) I wanted to see how much faster I'd gotten since Get Lucky the month before, and 2) it was my last chance to race before heading to Italy for a month. The course was a bit long, and I finished feeling like I'd run hard but prooooobably could have run harder if I'd really been willing to push myself.

    Official Time: 22:15
    Watch Time: 21:29 @ 3.1, 22:15 @ finish
    Official Course: 3.1
    Garmin Course: 3.21

Angela's analysis in hindsight: Most people in this race clocked 3.2-ish. I hit lap at 3.1 just to see, which showed 21:29. As this was a small community race, I don't put a ton of faith in the course, and I also couldn't have possibly been all that much fitter than Get Lucky the month before, so, once again who knows.

7) UCSF Holiday Classic 5K, December 2015 (San Francisco, CA). My first race post-stress fracture #2, again, pretty much completely de-trained, but I figured what the heck, let's jump into a local 5K three miles from home and see what happens. I really can't call this anything less than an all-out, balls-to-the-wall, 110% effort. Definitely seeing spots and barely not puking at the end, and regardless of the time it's always good to know you can still push yourself to that point, even if you haven't been training and are barely not injured.

    Official Time: 22:37
    Watch Time: ??? Forgot to stop my watch (BECAUSE THAT IS APPARENTLY A THING I DO IN 5Ks), BUT it said 22:15 when I finally remembered.
    Official Course: 3.1 miles
    Garmin Course: 2.85 miles, though my phone & everyone else I checked with got 3.1. That particular watch had been on its last legs so I kind of just assumed it was a GPS/Garmin death throes issue.

Angela's analysis in hindsight: The course was USATF certified so it's unlikely that it was short. I forgot to stop my watch until maybe 20-30ish seconds after finishing, & it read 22:15 at that point, so I was kind of mystified to see that my official time was so much slower. All I can come up with is the fact that there was a finish mat but all times were gun times (though I started almost right at the line) and the start was a few minutes delayed due to some issue with the timing equipment. So, again, not very clean data for a number of reasons, but in my head I've always called this race 21:45-22ish.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

So, there you go. Any bets? I have my own thoughts about what I should likely shoot for pace-wise on Saturday, but I'm curious to hear any predictions from the masses. (The one caveat I will remind you all of is that I have never run a track 5K, so I may suck at that aspect of it.)


  1. I've been trying to run more 5ks just because I DO think the distance is so tough, but I think you hit on one of the reasons why the 5k tends to be ignored - they're often these tiny neighborhood races with clock issues, course issues, or other problems. It's hard to make a 5k a goal race if you aren't sure it will be a legit PR. That, and they're an ordeal for just 3 miles. All the packet pick-up drama for a tenth of the distance.

  2. I say aim for an 18 min 5k just for the heck of it :) But seriously, maybe there's something to the track 5k in that you know exactly where you are at any given moment, and can adjust accordingly. Maybe that awareness is also terrifying (I'm like 50/50 on that myself...) Most of the 5ks in Chicago are crowded shit shows held in the depths of summer soup air, but there are a handful that are hosted on honest-to-god streets that can accommodate the masses. I've got one on tap next month with no real goals attached to it (focused on 26.2 right now), but I'd love to PR this year (she says as she makes no attempt to focus on that).

    1. Ha! I will be very curious to see how I feel about running hard in circles for three miles...

  3. Hmmm. Let's see. Your last race, the 10K you ran the first three miles in 21:16 soooo that is maybe a 21:4x 5K. Race equivalent tables put it around 21:38 5K. You have gone under 21:00 on several road races, but are you as in shape now as you were then? On the track, most can run their 5K faster. But...you haven't been doing any specific 5K workouts so your true capability in speed might feel a bit rough to maintain. Best to do a series of 5Ks and improve over a few months. You will probably find that track race pacing may depend upon who shows up, and you might throw all strategy out and just try to work with a pack who will pull you to a good time. My only suggestion is to not go out in something crazy like :40 200meter just because it feels good ("ooh track race go faaast!!!) as it will bite you in the butt later! LOL. Not that I have ever done anything like that. ;)

  4. I don't have any real good guesses, but I think you'll do better than you think you will :) cheering from afar!

  5. I'm betting it's an easy PR for you -- track surface, predictability, you're a good racer/competitor and will use other runners on the last few laps to power you through. As long as you go out reasonably, I think you'll shave some time, no problem. (2 cents, from someone who hasn't run seriously in a year... so take that for what it's worth)

  6. First quarter-half mile is crucial in a 5K. Let's say your goal is 20:00 (6:26 pace). Shoot for a 96-97 first lap. If you go out at 90, that would be like running the first mile of half marathon 25-30 seconds too fast.