Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Race Report: Spring Forward 5K

Holy shit I almost smiled in a race picture.
Soooo I may or may not have spent the night before this race eating a giant Italian dinner, drinking over half a bottle of wine, & staying up past midnight, and I also may or may not have been *incredibly* depressed when my alarm went off Saturday morning at 6:15 a.m., but I was pre-registered, and had plans to meet up with bt (who was running the 10K) after the race, so I sucked it up, got dressed, & drove to Mountain View.

The Microsoft (one of the big race sponsors) campus is right off the 101 & I'd been there before, so getting there was easy, & parking was no problem thanks to the campus's huge lot. I am a bit of a fanatic about giving myself plenty of extra time before a race, but since getting there was so easy I arrived an hour before the 8:30 gun. Everything was well-laid out & well-organized, & in less than 15 minutes I'd signed all the waivers, picked up my bib, hit the port-a-potties, & taken the requisite blog pics of the staging area.

I was excited to be able to warm up for this race (small victories) & as I jogged/strided/butt-kicked my way around the parking lot, my legs felt good & keeping good form felt easy. There was a little confusion about when exactly the 5K was going off (the 10K had started at 8:00) & I had a hard time at first figuring out which direction was the front & which was the back (a course map wasn't published & there were people facing both ways), but finally all the strollers migrated to one side, so I took that as my cue to go to the other one, lining up not right at the front with all the lanky cross country-looking dudes but just a few rows back & hoping I was more or less in the right spot. (There was no starting mat & the timing chips registered only at the finish, so this cost me a few seconds in terms of my official time, but whatever.)

One of my goals for this race was to go out at a more reasonable pace, which I kind of-sort of did. I ran the .1 from the start to the Shoreline Park entrance at what felt like a fast but comfortable pace, figuring I was probably around 7:00/mile & wasn't sure whether to feel annoyed or reassured when I looked at my watch & realized I was running ~6:33 at that point. It was nice, though, to let myself slow down pretty significantly and know that I was still running faster than I'd averaged at Get Lucky three weeks earlier.

My main goal in mile 1 was to keep the pace right around 7:00, so I was pleased when my watch ticked it off in 7:02. I am definitely out of practice running 5Ks, though, so there was still a part of my brain that was a little freaked out by working as hard as I was after only one mile. I know that I have a habit of slowing down in mile 2 because that's where it starts to feel uncomfortably hard, but there's still too much race left to start telling myself "only x left!" So in that mile, I wanted to push myself just a little, just beyond what felt safe and comfortable, knowing that I nearly always find something extra for the last mile. As expected my watch marked mile 2 ~0.1 mile before the marker, but I was happy to see the 6:58 split.

I don't want to say that I was comfortable at this point exactly, but there was a point not far into mile 3 where I did a quick body check & had to admit, "Nope, *definitely* not hurting enough for the last mile of a 5K." So I stepped it up a bit, started counting back from 400 (the best mental trick I know for getting through a tough final mile), & tried to just embrace the suck. I kind of felt like I could be running faster but, in contrast to how I felt toward the end of Get Lucky, had a really hard time forcing myself to dig for a little more, which I think means that I've got some mental work ahead of me in terms of getting back to that place where I can force myself to punch the accelerator even when I know it's really going to hurt. On the other hand, my third mile split was 6:52, so Operation: Negative Splits = accomplished.

There is something magical that happens once I can see the finish line; can I run any faster right before it comes into view? Positively, absolutely not. No way. But once I can see it it's like a switch is flipped, and suddenly I am sprinting close to a full minute per mile faster. Based on where I'd hit the various mile markers, I was expecting the course to run about .1 long, so I hit 'lap' when my watch hit 3.1 (0:37 / 6:10 pace) & crossed the mat at 3.21 as expected. I am definitely not one to rant about inaccurate course measurements at small community races, but I did want to know what my time was at that point (you know, to within the precision of my watch) for my own information.

Home stretch

Garmin (whole course): 3.21 miles / 22:13 / 6:56 pace
Garmin @ 3.1: 3.1 / 21:29 / 6:56 pace
Official: 3.1 miles / 22:15 / 7:13 pace

I'd run hard in the last couple of minutes & was obviously happy to be done, but if I'm honest, I knew that I felt way too good & recovered way too quickly for a hard 5K. Like, after maybe 2-3 minutes I felt completely normal. I'm guessing this is connected to that mental skill of digging really deep in the last quarter or so of a race & forcing yourself to the very edge of your ability, knowing it's going to be excruciatingly painful, against the objections of other parts of your brain. Feeling that good that quickly, I knew that physically I'd very probably had more to give towards the end & I'm just not in the mental shape to be able to do it yet.

Now, obviously the 21:29 I clocked on my watch is not official, and that's fine, but like I said before, knowing what that number was (more or less) gives me some interesting information:

  • It's 37 seconds faster (!) than I ran at Get Lucky three weeks ago.
  • It's a solidly sub-7:00 average pace, which I really truly honestly did not think I was up to.
  • It's the second fastest 5K of my adult life, edging out PrideRun '12 by seven seconds.
  • It's unquestionably the best performance-to-average weekly mileage I have ever thrown down *ever*. My 5K PR of 20:44 was set when I'd been running 40-50 miles / week consistently for at least a couple of months, and the 21:36 at PrideRun '12 happened just a few weeks after that (granted, it was a harder course & I wasn't feeling well, but still). I mean, I've been averaging less than 10 miles a week.

So, *obviously*, we can conclude that:

  • Cross-training totally effing works. OR...
  • Putting a shit tonne of effort into improving your form is absolutely worth it. OR...
  • Consistent, high-quality strength work makes a big difference. OR...
  • Getting your nutrition in line & paying super close attention to what you eat has a huge impact.

...Or none of the above & Saturday was a total freak accident. YOU BE THE JUDGE. Or don't.

In all seriousness, though, it does make me feel very optimistic about the summer, when we get back from Italy & I'm able to get my mileage back up to what I think of as "normal." If this is what I can do on ~10 miles / week plus cross-training (and consistent strength training, and improving my form, and eating really well), I'm excited to see what I can do on 40-50ish.

I hung out while the 10K-ers finished & not long after heard bt calling my name. (Apparently she recognized me by the back of my legs! Aren't blogs crazy??) We chatted about our races for a bit, went out to brunch (FRENCH TOAST OMG SOOOOO GOOD), then came back at 10:00 for the awards ceremony. Apparently my 22:15 gun time got me 2nd place in the 30-39 bracket, which was pretty cool.

Overall: 27/628
Women: 7/380
A/G: 2/86

So.........yeah. That's how I spent my Saturday. :)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Deal: A small charity race benefiting Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, sponsored by SGI & Microsoft (among others). Stroller-friendly (asked to start at the back); dogs are not allowed in Shoreline Park.

Location: Mountain View, CA (staged in the Microsoft Silicon Valley campus parking lot)

Date: Early April (April 5, 2014 this year)

Price: $40 for both the 5K & 10K & $15 for the children's race, & $5 more on race day. Groups of 10 or more could get a $5 discount, plus there was an online coupon circulating for $5 off individual entries (which I used). With a discount I feel like this is *pretty* reasonable for a charity 5K, and really not bad for a chip-timed 10K even at full price. (Although, see reservations about the course below.)

Deadlines/sellout factor: Online registration closed on April 2 (three days before the race), but race day registration was allowed for $5 extra.

Field Size: 628 finishers listed for the 5K, & probably comparable for the 10K. So bigger than I was expecting for a small local race.


The Microsoft parking lot is kind of perfect for staging a race; plentiful parking, open space for registration / bib pickup / snack tables / etc., & easy access to the Shoreline Park trail. The campus is super easy to find right off the freeway, but volunteers were still stationed at the three turns to direct people to the right place. Once in the parking lot it's pretty obvious where to go.

All the different tables one might need to visit (waiver, race day registration, bib pickup, T-shirt pickup) were well labeled & easy to navigate, & I did not have to wait long at any of them (I arrived ~7:30). On the other hand, bt registered that morning pretty close to the 8:00 10K start & said that there was a longer line for that.

Port-a-potty count seemed up to the job. There were lines pretty much from the time I arrived until the races started, but I don't think they were ever more than a few people long. I don't know if there was a bag check; I didn't see one, but I also didn't look since it was such a short walk from my car to the start area & it was easy to just throw everything in my trunk.

Starting area

"Why is that girl taking pictures of the port-a-potties?"
Because shut up, runners know what runners care about.

The Course:

Both courses (which are basically the same, except the 5K turns around sooner) are out-and-back, starting on the road in front of the Microsoft parking lot & then pretty quickly turning onto the paved trail that runs through Shoreline Park. There was mention on the website of dirt trails in some places; this must have been part of the 10K course past the 5K turnaround, because my race was 100% paved.

Of course you never know what you're going to get with small, community races & I always do my best to go in with no expectations, but it is worth noting that most of us marked the 5K course as 3.2 miles instead of 3.1 (the first/third mile was ~.05 long going by my watch, which would do it) & most of the 10K-ers marked that course closer to 5.9 than 6.2. (bt remarked that mile 3 in particular seemed SUPER short.)


Like I said, in the Microsoft lot, which is plentiful & like ~1-2 minutes' walk from the staging / start area.


A nice tech shirt, plenty of post-race food, and FREE HIGH-QUALITY RACES PICS FOR DOWNLOAD. They were even searchable!

Overall male & female winners in the open & masters categories got gift certificates to a local running store (I think?); race logo medals were awarded three deep in (mostly) 10-year A/G brackets.

Overall Assessment:

Not a bad little local race. Well-run & and fairly reasonably priced. I probably would not run it for a PR because of the aforementioned issues with the course length, plus there was one spot where the course actually crossed over itself which resulted in the outbound 5K leaders & home-bound 10K leaders having to run through/around each other. It worked out fine for me, but it wasn't exactly ideal.


  1. Nicely done. Any day you can negative split is a good day in my book. Even better is you end up with an age group award/ Congratulations!

  2. Congratulations! No doubt strength training, nutrition, cross training and form have a huge impact on our running. When you go back to high weekly mileage you'll be doing 5Ks under 20:00!

    1. Here's hoping! That's pretty much my ultimate 5K goal, I think. :)

  3. Nice!!! As for this:
    "Feeling that good that quickly, I knew that physically I'd very probably had more to give towards the end & I'm just not in the mental shape to be able to do it yet."

    OR maybe you're being smart about not overdoing things while you're coming back from injury?

    1. Lol....While I would love to be able to claim that I was intentionally being smart, I have to admit that I just couldn't make myself do it that day. This is why I need to get my mileage back up, so I can get back into practice suffering!

  4. Recognised you by the back of your legs?
    *peers at the other photos on your blog* they all seem to be of the front of your legs; getting a good shot of the back of one's own legs takes a special level of selfie l33t.

    Either way, congratulations! Solid post-injury comeback.

    1. Heh, I think she just meant she recognized my legs & just happened to spot me from the back.


  5. Fantastic race - congratulations. Bodes so well for the summer, as you said!

  6. Nice job! And the answer is "all of the above." The Don't Run Run Faster works!

    1. YES! I am going to get on marketing this amazing breakthrough right away.