Sunday, July 21, 2013

The 5k PR That Wasn’t

I recently raced to a new personal record for five kilometers in Everett’s fourth of July Yankee Doodle Dash, except I really didn’t.  How is that you ask, well, it sort of went like this.  The Yankee Doodle Dash 5k is a certified course race that is run every year on July fourth.   I ran this race last year finishing in 17:08. 

Not seeing anything to indicate otherwise, I and other runners expected the race to follow the same course as previous years, as stated in the course map on the race website. 

The start of the Yankee Doodle Dash 5k.  That's me in the middle under the "S".

Surveying the field at the start I could tell I would probably be one of the top ten finishers, and might even sneak into the top five like last year.  Accordingly, I lined up near the front of the start line and got off to a good position in the first one hundred meters.   In this race the start is all uphill for two blocks before turning right onto a relatively flat stretch.  At least, that’s how it is supposed to be run.  Unfortunately this year a volunteer on the course steered the lead motorcycle to the left after one block against the vocal protests of many of us runners near the front of the race who knew better.  The motorcycle kept going and the very front runners followed and the rest of us said “aw shit, I guess we’re committed”.    In hindsight it is understandable how the mistake was made, as the volunteer sent the lead cycle to the left just as he had correctly done for the 10k race that started fifteen minutes earlier and was supposed to go left at that corner. 

Lead runners after having just made the incorrect left turn early in the race.

With the new, unmapped addition, we were soon routed back onto the correct course and followed the known route as expected back to the finish line.  Unfortunately this resulted in a course that was surely longer than 3.1 mile or five kilometers.  Overall, I was pretty happy with how I ran, dropping a number of folks over the first two miles and reeling in a couple more in the last mile.  Effort-wise and fitness-wise I knew I was in the ballpark for a sub 17 minute effort and the weather was perfect for 5k racing.  Because of the early race snafu, I was not able to get an accurate mile or two mile split so I never really had a good idea of where I was in the race as far as pace goes, but I ran hard and finished strong, sporting my ever-so-patriotic USA flag split shorts.

 Bringing it home down the hill to the finish in all my patriotic glory!

At the finish line a few of the front runners were less than happy with the extra distance we had to run, not because it made it harder, but because it messed up our ability to compare this effort to a true 5k result, both our own and others.  Upon my noting out loud at the finish line that the race was long and they screwed up the directions, one race volunteer said to me “does it matter, were you racing for a specific time?”  To which I said, yeah, yeah it matters a lot when you are racing”.

Upon returning home I hopped online and mapped and remapped the actual route we ran using the USATF course mapping website.  Each time I arrived at a distance of 3.50 and 3.51 miles.  Facebook posts from people who also ran the 5k with gps watches reported distances of 3.5 miles as well.   So, we had a new distance to kinda tell us how we performed.  What about  the time?  Well, the race was chip timed so that was a little harder to mess up, marking me down with a 18:49 finishing time.   

Being the racer that I am, what I really wanted to know was what did I actually run for 5k that morning.  Here are a few ways to look at it.  Since this was 3.5 miles and longer than 3.1 miles, I could take my overall pace and use that to calculate what I likely ran as my 3.1 mile split.   That would look something like this:

18:49 for 3.50 miles = 5:22/mile pace = 16:42 for 3.1 miles.

OK, 16:42 is a good time for me right now and I would be more than happy with that result, but it led me to ask if there was a way to get an even more accurate estimate?  Considering we know that as a race gets longer we all run a little bit slower pace.  Does that .4 miles make a difference in this case?  I probably ran faster overall pace than 5:22, but how much? Well it is almost a half mile and I’m pretty sure it might have made a second or two difference per mile.  Based on my 18:49 effort for 3.50 miles, what should my equivalent performance have been that day for 3.1 miles?  Trusting the “experts” of the internet running world, there are a number of race time prediction calculators out there to which I could pose this question.

Here is what I found from the following sites –

Interesting… that makes me pretty happy since my previous certified course 5k PR on the road was a 16:38 that I ran last November at the Gobble Gallop in Duluth, Minnesota.  These predictions suggest that had we run the correct course at the Yankee Doodle Dash, I very well would have run a new PR at 16:35.  Dang it!  Oh well, I’ll have to chalk this one up as the 5k PR that wasn’t.

Strutting my stuff doing a little victory jug after the race.