Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Two June 5ks: Gaspee and Coyote (Race Reviews)

I'm a bit late on writing race reviews for the two 5ks that I ran in June. It's been a very busy month between parenting, work ending for the school year, meetings, training, and racing. I've been pretty active on the Instagram I've started, and posting after races or other events.

I'm going to reference rabbit here, a couple of times. I don't usually endorse brands specifically on the blog (even though the readership isn't really huge) but I've joined rabbit's Runners and Dreamers (RAD) squad for the 19-20 season. Part of that team has meant putting more content out featuring rabbit's stuff, which I'm OK with because I like the stuff.

I'll be writing another post this week to check in with my goals as Q2 of 2019 wraps up. It's been a long year with an amazing bulk of miles, but I'm feeling fresh mentally and physically in a way I haven't in years.


Gaspee Days 5k

This race took place on my "Ongoing Run Streak, Day #200"

The Gaspee Days 5k is a footrace held to celebrate the burning of the HMS Gaspee in one of the first acts of defiance by American colonists that led up to the revolution. It takes place before the Gaspee Days Parade, and uses the same route. Being a Rhode Islander the event always holds a special place in my heart so I've run the race several times. Here are my past finishing times (from Strava, so maybe not accurate to my official times):

2014 -- 21:50
2015 -- 22:20
2016 --22:09
2017 --23:31
2018 -- 23:27

Generally speaking these times are pretty consistent, and being one of the only 5k races I run I've never really given it an all-out kind of effort. I see myself more as a long distance runner. I feel like I had to make a choice a bunch of years ago on "longer v. faster" and I chose to go longer.

That said those are not slow 5k times, and I've always been very aware of how close to that 2014 time my PR is at the distance. It's a tough race to pace mentally, because it is an out-and-back that goes downhill, and so it's steadily climbing through rolling hills on the way back. My basic strategy for pacing the thing was to not look at my watch and see what I had in me. I figured if I could handle a 5k at about a 21-minute finish time I'd be in pretty good shape heading into the summer, because I'd like to see what I can do about bringing a really solid effort to my 10-mile race in July.

I started of with an easy jog around, and a little jog with my toddler. I did about one and a quarter miles warming up, just trying to get things loose. I had some caffeine and hydration stuff, and I'd had a bagel with cream cheese earlier in the morning. Stomach felt good, legs felt good.

I put myself closer to the start in the chute, because I know from previous years that the start chute at this event can be kind of a kerfuffle. The race always has a massive field, and the elite runners are usually running sub-5 pace, so it is really hard to figure out where you should be. Usually I'm too far back, and I end up fighting though a crowd. This helped with some of that.

Went down the first few hills feeling strong, definitely putting in a solid effort. I did not bother looking at my watch -- I was pretty confident based on the look of the field around me and the feeling in my legs that I was putting in a good effort. Got to the bottom of the hill at the turn around and knew that the game from then on was keeping my focus, and not letting my mind wander into a "you can't do this" head space.

Ended up climbing the last hill, rounding the corner, and coming through the finish @ 20:19.5, way ahead of where I expected to be. It was an amazing feeling, a 6:32/mi pace I had no clue I had in my legs. Faster than my previous course PR by more than a minute. That was an amazing feeling.

The next couple of days I was bone tired and sore in a way I haven't been after racing for a long time. I took a solid nap after the race, but mostly I chalk the tiredness up to the fact that I just don't race that fast. Must have pulled everything I had in my fast-twitch fibers out of me. I was still very happy with the performance and it's given me a bit more interest in racing the distance. I feel like I've learnd something about focus and how easily my mind wanders, as well as the true potential of taming it.


Coyote 5k

Race took place on my "Ongoing Run Streak, Day #207."

The Inaugural Coyote 5k was held to benefit the Charles D. Looff Carousel at Crescent Park. I have fond memories of the carousel from my childhood, and have enjoyed bringing my girls recently. The carousel has this excellent band organ, a Ruth and Sohn 38, and we've even taken a trip to the New England Carousel Museum to see some of the horses being restored.

Charles Looff built the carousel as a gift to his daughter on her wedding, and he hand carved all the horses himself. Dad respect.

Picked up my bib (#30) and got stuff setup while the family walked around the park. Warmed up with a mile around the neighborhood -- I train here a lot and this specific neighborhood was real fixture in my long runs a couple of years ago.

The race had a small field (maybe less than 150 runners.) I lined up at the front of the pack, after knowing my previous performance at the Gaspee a week prior I was sure I had another 20 minute and change 5k in my legs, and I didn't want to limit myself by setting too far back. I'm also very aware of hubris so I stood back from the starting line as not to jinx myself.

I heard some of the runners talking and one of them was a kid who goes to school in the city I teach in. After the national anthem we started off and I had already mentally reviewed the course so many times I found it pretty easy to drop a decent pace from the get-go. The course for this 5k is shaped like a Coyote -- it starts by the Carousel, heads into a neighborhood before meeting up with the East Bay Bike Path and coming back around to a neighborhood by the Carousel for the finish. I knew if I could give it a strong first mile heading to the bike path I'd really be able to drop the hammer there because the remaining road is extremely flat, with very little variation at all.

Mile one had some little foothills, and the pack broke up. I knew I was in the top 5 heading into mile 2.  I ended up shouting to that kid to keep him on course as he almost missed a turn. Strong runner, though, and I talked to him for a bit after the turn. I mean I was having a conversation keeping a 6:30 pace. That was pretty bananas. I refocused myself for the bike path and just focused on putting as much energy into it as I could. I didn't give myself head space to focus on the "what ifs" or even the local landmarks I know. I think that was pretty critical because this would have been the easiest place to get distracted.

I came out of the bike path and thanked the cop watching traffic as I made the left towards the Carousel. Had a brief run through a neighborhood where I almost missed a cone (someone parked in a way that obstructed the view of the course.) There was another runner quick behind me, and just as me rounded a corner (maybe the last quarter mile) he passed me. I could hear the finish line announcer call out "Here's finisher number 2 and 3!"

I came through the chute in 20:14, 3rd place overall and 1st place 3039. I talked to the 2nd place finisher at the end who thanked me for pushing him towards a new PR. We got our medals, took a picture together as the top 3, and then my wife and I ended up talking to the kid from the race and his dad. It was a really nice group of runners. I'm not used to so many positive interactions at races, because at the middle of the pack everyone is working hard, and generally very focused on their own thing. That's great, but it's not a social thing, and it can be tough for an extrovert.

Additionally, I felt super strong after this race, and I wasn't nearly as tired as the week before.


The day after Coyote was father's day, so we went out for donuts. The donut shop we went to is this nice little local place where they make fresh donuts, and you pick toppings and glaze. Anyone who knows me knows that I love junk food. I made three donuts (we got six): a chocolate glazed topped with potato chips, cookie bits, and bacon, a hazelnut glazed topped with espresso powder, and a chocolate glaze topped with peanut butter cups and cheet-ohs. That combined with some wicked strong coffee and I was ready to run laps around the building.

I had wanted to do some trail running that day, and maybe do some of the running with my toddler so that we could get some pictures of us running together. She's a pretty good little runner and we've been having fun running around and "racing" after my races.

It rained really miserably, so we still went out to the local trails but we only did about a half a mile. We did have a little race on a strip of asphalt that runs along the reservoir, so I still got some pictures. It was a really great day punctuated with an 11 mile run through some of the worst humidity (but during a break in the rain.)

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