Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Running A PR 5 K: Get In Gear, April 30th, 2016
Back in high school, I ran a couple 5 K road races. I realized these were really really hard requiring a brutal pace for about 20 minutes. This means breathing hard and being uncomfortable for this amount of time. So I pretty much never ran 5 Ks. Well, I did a couple times, never seriously, and hence my PR was in the 25 minute range.
It’s funny how things change over the years and somehow running a good marathon time for me actually made me want to run a true PR 5 K. I started looking for some 5 Ks to do. I didn’t want to spend too much money but also wanted a competitive field and didn’t want it to be too hot. I ended up choosing the Get In Gear 5 K. The race was a bit early in the year which gave me less than 2 months of running intervals after ski season. I felt a bit dumb running a race called “Get In Gear” and a distance of 5 K which is of absolutely no challenge for me; however, the goal was to run a PR, and that’s no easy task.
Part of my goal is to see if I can kick my high school butt. After PRs in track my sophomore year (6:11 mile and 13:35 two mile) I blew up and started running a lot of 2 miles in the 14:30 range and 2.5 miles cross country races in the 19 minute range with a PR of 18:20. Back in high school I always wondered why I couldn’t run consistent 7 minute miles, and now is my chance to try.
Although April is typically considered a month off from structured training for cross country skiers, I trained seriously for a 5 K.
I consider that all my training for this 5 K was in two phases.
Phase one began 15 years earlier when I first joined track. It involved all those high school speed workouts, years of distance but no intervals, then finally getting back into intervals and while continuing distance. I know Phase one is pretty extended, but I truly believe what I did 10 or 15 years ago has an impact on my performance now.
Phase two began about a year ago, around May 1st, which coincides with the start of the training year for cross country skiers. My body felt amazing this whole year. I have never done so many back-to-back interval sessions and distance sessions and still not felt super tired. I’ve just had unending energy this past year. Or maybe I should have pushed harder during all those intervals!
I did some running intervals in November, but no more until March. After the Minnesota Finlandia I started training for this 5 K running race, two months before the event. First I did an altitude block in Canmore where I mostly skied but also got in a couple slow runs. Then I returned to low elevation and began running one speed session and one interval session a week. The speed sessions consisted of mostly sprinting or running fast for up to 1 minute to really work on my top speed. My intervals were 4 x 3 min, 3 x 4 min, and 3 x 5 min. 

Me on top of Ha Ling Peak above Canmore. The trail up this mountain climbed about 2,000 vertical feet. Photo: Erik
 After 3 weeks, I did a second altitude block in Utah. OK, I admit, this sounds absolutely ridiculous, and I really just put this in for effect. I’m pretty sure it’s terrible training to do 2 weeks at altitude in an 8 week period to train for a 5 K. One altitude block was probably sufficient and working on speed and intervals would probably have been more advantageous. The altitude blocks were quite coincidental, coinciding with planned vacations. I decided on the vacations first and the 5 K second. Unlike a marathon, this is a 5 K; they are dime a dozen and require significantly less commitment and so if this race doesn’t go perfect, so what, I can do another one. 
I went to Utah with my friend Amy and we met my friend Kathryn (in picture above) there. We encountered some snow when we tried to climb Mt. Olympus above Salt Lake City. I spent 5 nights total at 8,000 feet making it some good altitude training. Photo: Amy

A selfie on the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park. We did a lot of hiking here and the trails are some of the best I have ever been on...amazing scenery, ups and downs, and very well graded. I didn't have to watch where I was walking and could look around!
Jumping around to get some extra altitude training at the highest point in Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo: Amy
Next we went to a slot canyon. This is Little Wildhorse Canyon which is the easiest of all the slot canyons. This photo was too good not to include and will hopefully inspire some readers to check it out. Photo: Amy
No trip to the desert of Utah would be complete without a picture under the iconic Delicate Arch (it's on the license plate after all) but at a mere 4,000 feet, the Moab area didn't provide the best altitude training. Photo: Amy
 After my second altitude block I only had two weeks to run intervals before the 5 K. I started with a 3 x 1 mile workout with only 3 minutes rest in between. My first mile was a 7:06, the second a 7:01, and the third a 7:13. After the second mile I did not feel recovered before starting the third; however, that is the goal of the workout. This is a chance to see what my pace could be for the 5 K. We did this workout twice my senior year of high school and my times were pretty comparable.
I completed my training with a couple more sprint workouts, easy runs, and then one final 3 x 4 minute set of intervals on the track where my latter two average paces were right around 6:15. This was pretty incredible for me and might have been due to a slight tail wind advantage (yes, on a track, largely due to wind direction and a large set of bleachers). 
Ever wonder if it's really necessary for the street sweepers to clean the streets in the Spring? It turns out the answer is yes. This is how dirty my legs got after running on the streets of St. Paul for a speed workout after a rain. This is from running on STREETS only! Signs were posted that the street sweepers were supposed to be out the next day.
 Two days before the race I had an easy 6 mile run planned but seeing as I had ran the two previous days, it was raining, 40 degrees, and April, I thought “What Would Jessie [Diggins] Do? The answer was easy as I curled up on the couch and read a couple more chapters in my book.
So I felt relatively strong and confident heading into the race. I was surprised by how little I thought about it the day before and was even somewhat worried that I didn’t wake up feeling nervous. I wanted to pay $30 or less for the race, but justified the $35 entry fee to Get In Gear because I could run my warm up on the way there and cool down on the way home. It doesn’t get much easier than that. It was a 2.5 mile run to the start with three pull outs at about race effort. I got hot in my long sleeve top and bottoms so was glad I had decided to go just running bra and shorts for the race. Erik did the race as well. We watched the 10 K/Half marathon start which had a lot of really good runners.
There didn’t appear to be many fast people in the start gate of the 5 K. I lined up in about row 3. Usually I ski races for place and run races for time, but this was looking like a race in which I could place pretty well. The gun went off and the race started. I wanted to make sure I didn’t start too fast. I had set my Garmin to get splits every half mile so was right on pace with a 3:33 half mile. My second half mile was a bit slower at 3:38. I passed a couple women and a couple more passed me. I just tried to maintain for the second mile, not wanting to breathe too hard yet. I wanted to race a bit conservative the first and second miles and then ramp up the pace for the third mile if I was feeling good. By the third mile I was pretty winded. I tried to ramp up the pace and did slightly but not really until the last .1 miles. One woman passed me in the last mile. That last mile I was breathing hard and didn’t feel like pushing harder. I also lacked motivation to push further into oxygen debt.
I had set a goal of running sub 22 minutes which seemed possible by averaging a pace in the low 7 minutes per mile. I did underestimate how long it would take me to run the additional .1 miles. My GPS had told me I was doing this well so was disappointed when I saw the finish clock reading over 22 minutes. I was breathing very hard when I finished and was barely walking forward in a dazed state when I finished. I could have pushed harder but it’s so easy to forget how hard I was working at the time. My end time was 22:26. The field was not very strong so I actually finished 8th of 870 women (top women’s time was 21:15). I did have other racers, including women, to run with the whole time which was good. 
My race outfit. My bib had my name on it! I didn't hear anyone cheering for me by name though so I like to think I was running too fast for it to be read (as opposed to my name being too difficult to read/pronounce:). Photo: Erik
Back to a comparison of my high school self, according to my time I averaged 7:14 minutes per mile. Both times are about as fast as many of my 2 mile races in track in high school and both times are faster than I ever ran 2.5 miles in high school cross country! Not bad and a decent new PR benchmark. I think I might take the month of May off from running intervals.