On Sunday I ran my first real 5k race at the Run Ajax 5k. The race is put on by Ajax Running Free, who have been a great resource for me to get running info, and meet other runners, so I decided it would be a good final fitness test before Chicago, and a chance to finally do a 5k.
I had a couple pieces of toast with almond butter and honey for breakfast around 6:45AM. This may have been a little early because I found myself hungry by 9:00AM (race start was 9:30). Packet pickup was easy, I had my bib and my bag was checked by 8:30AM. It was great to see so many familiar faces, and get a chance to chat before the race.
I did about a mile warmup before the race, which included a few strides. My legs still didn’t feel like they were there (I had been feeling slightly lethargic all week), but I just hoped on the start line all would settle into place.
I lined up on the front line of the start line. I recognized one of the other guys, he had beaten me at the Ajax 5k Warm-Up Fun Run in August. The gun sounded and we were off. I found myself (briefly) running out front at the start. There’s a small hill about 400m in. Just over the crest of the hill the guy who I recognized from the start ran past me. I tried to match his pace but he was too fast for me. My first km was 3:20. My second km I continued pushing but the gap was opening in front of me. I never looked behind, but I got the sense nobody else was right up on my heels. My second km was a 3:25. As I approached a right hand turn I noticed Todd taking photos for Run Ajax, always nice to see a familiar face on the race course. We circled around a park on the water for the turnaround, and then headed back north for the start/finish. At the halfway point there was water but I didn’t take anything. I was around the park and back onto the road with my 3rd km split in 3:31. I likely went out too fast (pacing, especially at shorter distances, isn’t my specialty) because I was really struggling and losing seconds every km. I knew there was a downhill at 4.5k so if I could just keep up my pace to there I could cruise in. My 4th km was 3:37 (notice a pattern?) and it was a real struggle. I was still in second but I knew I’d given too much at the start and if I was caught I wouldn’t have a finish kick in me.
I was relieved when I hit the downhill and knew it was just 500m to go. There were some people lining the street cheering everyone in, which is always great. I still didn’t look back, but I thought I had a bit of a cushion behind me. I came through the finish line in 17:17 (my watch read the course as 0.02k short, but others didn’t, so could have just been a problem with my watch) in 2nd place.
After the race I was relatively happy with my time. I set an arbitrary goal of 17:30, not really knowing what I was capable of, and beat it. But my legs didn’t feel great before the race, which gave me some cause for concern about what I had been doing/eating all week (I want to make sure I’m roaring to go on the Chicago start line). Also, it wasn’t until after the race that I realized I didn’t think about my stride as I was running; run tall, hips under me, wipe my foot on the ground, kick back hard. This is something I always think about during harder runs, but those thoughts didn’t creep into my mind. Not necessarily a good or bad thing, just something I noticed.
This was my first time doing the Run Ajax races and it was great. It was a beautiful day, lots of volunteers, well organized, plus pizza and massages after the race.
Also, Todd was there doing photography for Run Ajax, and they were kind enough to share a couple of the photos they got during the race with me.
Just passed 2k
Finish. 17:17, 3:28/km
This week I began to scale back the effort levels in the quality workouts. The plan for this week was that my volume will remain around the same level (100-110k), but quality workouts would be at a more controlled pace. At this point my priorities are to stay injury free, maintain fitness, and remain sharp for Chicago. I’m no longer looking at building fitness, just setting myself up to get the most out of the fitness I have.
My plan for this week did include the Ajax Waterfront 5k. This would be the first proper 5k I’d ever done. My plan for the race was to run all out, but if I had so much as a niggle I’d back right off. The 5k was 2 weeks before Chicago so I wasn’t worried about recovery.
M: Easy 16k. After taking Sunday off my legs felt good running 16k easy. I didn’t push the pace at all, was a good run.
Tu: 5k marathon pace. My plan was to run 7k at marathon pace but my effort to hold 3:59 pace seemed far too high so I cut it at 7k. Maybe between the Harvest Half, my 6x1k workout and my long run last week I took a lot more out of my legs than I thought and need more recovery.
W: Easy 18k. Easy run, legs felt alright. Pace was a little slow (just over 5:00/km) but that was likely more because of talking.
Th: Easy 16k w/strides. After Tuesday’s workout didn’t go great I decided not to do quality today, but I did get in 20 short stride pickups. I felt good and was able to get my foot speed up for each short pickup.
F: Easy 12k. My legs weren’t feeling great for this run. Don’t know if something was missing from my diet or if it was fatigue but I was lethargic throughout the run.
Sa: 24k long run. I wanted to run 24-28k, and ended up on the low end of the scale because of time constraints. The run was alright. I didn’t have much to eat before and took 1 gel at about 16k, but I felt really hungry for the final 4k.
Su: Run Ajax 5k. Good run for me, 17:17, which is about 3:28/km pace. Before the race I didn’t feel amazing, but once I got going I was able to run hard. A more thorough race report to follow.
Total milage: 112k for the week, 1215.25k total.
I’m into the final 4 weeks before race day. My biggest milage weeks are behind me, what’s most important in this final block is to keep up my fitness and get to Chicago healthy. This week will look similar to many of my past weeks, but my threshold for shutting down a workout if I feel a niggle or I’m overly fatigued is much lower.
My plan for the week was to do quality workouts on Tuesday and Thursday, and my long run Saturday. Heading into the week I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for my quality workouts, I wanted to see how I recovered from the Harvest Half over the weekend.
M: 7.2km easy. I woke up Monday still feeling the effects of Saturdays race. As opposed to running first thing, like I usually would, I decided to have breakfast first. After eating I was still feeling some fatigue so I decided to run a 7.2km route I’m very familiar with and see how I felt. The run went alright, I had heavy legs but no pain. I had intended to run the same loop again in the afternoon, but the weather was poor so I decided I’d rest as oppose to forcing another run.
Tu: 3 x 3km. My legs were still a little heavy when I woke up, but I figured once I got going I’d feel better. Sure enough that’s what happened. I wanted sub4:00/km pace for all of my splits, but I wasn’t worried about torching the route. I ran 3:54, 3:56, and 3:59 pace and was happy with the run. My legs came to life and even though I was working, I felt good running the 3k’s.
W: Easy 17k. Legs felt a little heavy from yesterday, but not too bad. Got this run in first thing (was done before 7AM). Pretty steady easy pace, wasn’t watching my watch as I ran.
Th: 6 x 1k. I woke up and my legs didn’t feel great. I put off running until just before lunch. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for a workout, but I decided I’d try some 1k’s along a flat stretch on Shepard. My first 1k was 3:30 and I was energized to keep going so I decided I’d do 6. I was really happy with 3:30, but that would turn out to be my slowest. My times were 3:30, 3:28, 3:25, 3:23, 3:21, and 3:25. I was running on about 2:00 rest in between them. This turned out to be a great workout for me and a huge confidence booster; I hadn’t done this workout in 6-8 weeks and it showed me just how far I’ve come.
F: Easy 15k. After yesterdays workout my run began a little gingerly as I still had some soreness. After a couple km’s my legs loosened up and it was a good, cruise 15k.
Sa: 30k long run. Saturday morning I still had some fatigue in my legs. My run started tight and I stopped to stretch at about 4k. I got going after that and felt a little better, but my legs were heavy. I ran 10 x 1:30 pickups, I wasn’t targeting a specific pace but I would have liked to have run them quicker. The final 4k of the run were pretty tough, it was a struggle to get back home. I only took 1 gel during the run, I felt a little off and wasn’t really interested in them. After the run I was extremely fatigued and really hungry.
Su: 0k run. I took an off day. My legs still had a deep fatigue from yesterdays workout. I thought of trying to go out for a short run, but thought better of it and just rested.
Total Milage: 101.5km for the week (first time in 4 weeks I’m back over 100k!), 1103.25 total.
This was an up and down week of training. It started on a low, my leg was sore so I skipped my run Monday, but ended on a high with a great race at the Harvest Half. 10 weeks down, 4 to go!
I was racing the Harvest Half on Saturday. Ideally I would have done my quality workouts on Monday and Wednesday, but between a tight left leg, and travelling home from Tremblant, I decided I wouldn’t run Monday. This meant quality would be Tuesday/Wednesday. I wouldn’t be able to get in the same level of workout as a Monday/Wednesday would allow, but it would work.
M: 0km run. There was still some soreness in my left leg, and I was travelling back from Tremblant, so I decided to skip an easy run in favour of rest.
Tu: 6k tempo. I ran 6k tempo at about 3:49/km pace. I was happy with this run, my legs felt good, and I was happy with my push. After the run my left leg tightened up again.
W: 4 x 1km intervals. I ran my 1k’s in 3:32, 3:36, 3:46, and 3:32. I was really happy to see times in the 3:30’s. I felt like I could get my legs moving really well. My left leg got a little tight between the second and third 1k, and I told myself if it got worse, or caused me to alter my run gait I’d stop. Fortunately it didn’t cause any troubles.
Th: Easy 10k. I originally planned to run 15k but my legs were sore from the previous couple of days. If I wasn’t racing on Saturday I would have likely pushed through. I wasn’t going to be fully tapered for Saturdays race, but it was a fitness test for me and I didn’t want to be bagged at the start line.
F: Easy 7.2k. I ran a familiar route to keep my legs loose the day before the race. I did a couple strides to get my leg speed up briefly, everything felt good.
Sa: Harvest Half 21.1k. The harvest half was a great race for me. I ran 1:19:19, approximately a 3:46/km pace. I was really happy with my results on an honest course and this race has set me up well for Chicago. I wrote a full race report HERE. My legs were pretty beat up after the race.
Su: 0km run. I decided to take an off day after the Harvest Half. My joints were sore when I woke up so I figured a day of recovery was much better than some easy milage.
Total Milage: 72km for the week, 1001.75km total.
The Harvest Half Marathon was a last minute decision after the Milton Half was cancelled. I wanted a half as a final fitness test to make sure I was on track for Chicago. My goal for the race was to run sub1:21. According to the McMillian Calculator if I want to run a 2:48 in Chicago I needed a 1:19:50 half (3:47/km), but being so new to running these kinds of speeds I felt like anything at 3:50/km pace or better would put me in a good spot.
Race morning I was up at 5:30AM. I had a french toast bagel from Tim Hortons with almond butter and honey (it was delicious!). I started working on a bottle of Gatorade, which I wanted to be done by 7:45AM (1:15 before my race…..didn’t want to have to pee 30 minutes in). We were on our way to the race site by 6:00AM, and arrived by 7:45AM. It was cool, about 7 or 8*C, and it had started to rain. I picked up my bib and then waited in the car to stay warm until 8:30AM. At 8:30 I changed into my running clothes and did a quick (really quick, about 500m) warmup, and then moved towards where the other runners were congregated, out of the rain, waiting to head to the start. I had meant to take a gel by 8:45, but forgot and took it just after 8:50.
On the start line there seemed to be a number of regulars of the Waterloo Running Series. They were chatting with each other and the officials. I slotted myself in on the second row behind two males, who seemed to be the local running studs, and a girl who fit a similar bill. I waited for the gun, and we were off.
First Half (10.5km in 39:24, 3:46/km)
Immediately off the start I moved past the girl lined up in front of me, and slotted in behind the two local runners. A VW Beetle with a cameraman hanging out the back was leading the race. Within 500m I realized the two runners I was trailing were a different class than myself and there was no point trying to maintain their pace. I ran through my first km in 3:26. Fast, but now that things had strung right out I could get into a rhythm. My next km was more reasonable, 3:42. As I was running up a small hill just before 3k a runner surged past me and opened up about a 50m gap. This ultimately proved to be a blessing, but more on that later. At about 3.5km we were off paved roads and onto hard packed dirt road, which we would stay on until about 19k. The surface was pretty good, there were spots with holes you needed to be careful of, but they were easy to spot. But this did make for a very messy race. The top layer of dirt had turned to mud. Traction was only a problem in corners, which you had to approach carefully, but it did mean that by the end of the race we would all be filthy.
I ran through 5k in about 18:56, approximately 3:47/km pace. I will still pursuing 3rd place by about 50m. I was able to use him as a motivation for me to continue to keep my foot on the throttle. He seemed to be running very evenly, so if I noticed a gap opening up there was a good chance my pace had slowed and I needed to pick it back up. I steadily clicked off km’s ranging from 3:43 – 3:55 to cross half way in about 39:24.
Right before I reached half I took a gel. I also took a sip of water at two of the aid stations. I wasn’t sure if I really needed any of this, or if it helped, but I wanted to get some experience doing this at race pace to try to avoid any surprises in Chicago when I will need to take in some fuel.
Just before the mud
Second Half (10.6km in 39:55, 3:46/km)
By this point in the race my legs were feeling very fatigued. My left calf/achilles that had been bothering me wasn’t much of a problem, but my quads were really sore. I thought I may have overdone it in the first half. The course is advertised as flat, and it’s true that there are no significant hills or steep sections, but I don’t think it was ever flat. It was constantly changing from slight uphill to slight downhill. About a km into the second half of the race there were two narrow turns. Everyone running the quarter marathon had already run this section so the ground was really soft. I had to be very careful here because I didn’t want to lose my footing.
No big hills but never flat
I continued to charge forward and by about 13km I began to think about trying to reel in 3rd place, who was still about 50m up the road. Just as I was slightly lifting my pace he seemed to be slightly slowing his and over the next few km’s the gap shrank until I caught him around 16k. I didn’t blow past, he was moving at only a slightly slower pace, and I could hear his footsteps just behind me in the mud. This chase helped keep my mind occupied from the pain in my legs, and now I wanted to stay ahead of him (I wasn’t going to overdo it, placing really didn’t matter and I didn’t want to hurt myself, but I would use it as motivation to keep pushing). At 18k I heard his cadence speed up and he caught up but didn’t run by. We exchanged a few words and kept pushing forwards. At this point my legs were ready to be done running for the day but I still had about 3k to go. I began counting down the distance, ‘2.8km, you’ve done hard intervals that long’, ‘2.5k, that’s less than 10 minutes’, ‘1600m, just 4 laps of the track’, etc.
3k to go
Just after 19k we turned off the dirt road and back on the pavement. With just over 2k to go I was ready to empty the tank. In looking back at my watch I didn’t speed up quite like I imagined I was doing, but I did grit my teeth and go for it (after the race I learned this is where I dropped the guy I was running with). Under 2k, just over 7 mins, I could suffer for 7 minutes. The last 2km were slightly uphill, and I managed 3:45 and 3:48 splits. I ran through the finish line in 1:19:19, a 3:46/km pace and good enough for 3rd overall.
Overall 1:19:19, 3:46/km, 3rd place
At the finish line my legs were wrecked, they had nothing left. My goal for the day was to see where my fitness was at for Chicago. 1:19:19 means a 2:48 marathon in Chicago is possible if I have a good day and execute. After some lacklustre training for the last 3 weeks this is a big boost. I can’t think of anything I would have done differently during the race, or how I could have gone quicker. I was really happy with my race.
This face sums up how I felt inside the final 3k
Maybe white was a bad idea