Track Race Recap and Review and Berlin Marathon Training Week #1 Day 6

Location: West LA College in Culver City, CA.

Temperature: Sunny, 79 to 82 degrees

Type of run: 5,000 meter race and 1,500 meter race

Length: 4.04 miles total–3.1 miles in the 5,000 meters and .932 miles for the 1,500 meters

Type of route: 400 meter oval track

Time: 17:22 for 5,000 meters and 4:51 for 1,500 meters

Pace Per Mile: 5:36 for 5,000 meter race and 5:12 for 1,500 meters

Race Recap: This was the Southern California USATF Masters Track & Field Championships at West LA College. It was a track and field meet for adults of all ages who still enjoy competing in these events. The oldest competitor I saw out there was an 88-year-old man who ran the 2,000 meter steeplechase. Incredible!

The race was well-organized and I’d recommend running in one of these all-comers meets if you have an itch to race on the track. There were timing clocks every 200 meters so you could track your pace which I thought was great and gave it the feel of a professional meet. The day was sunny and quite warm, especially for running the longer distances. Usually, temperatures on the westside are cooler than the valleys and inland areas of southern California but not on Saturday.

I chose to run both the 5,000 meters (5k) and 1,500 meters. As I had mentioned in my training log on Friday, I had never raced 5,000 meters on a track. Also, I wanted to run the 1,500 meters just for fun and to see where I was at leg-speed wise for a race close to 1-mile. There was a 10,000 meter (10k) race but I felt at this point in my training the 5,000 meters would be best. Since the race would be on a track, I could keep track of my pace every 400 meters. My goal was to run each lap between 1:20 and 1:25 or 80 to 85 seconds.

The race only had four competitors, including myself. Yes, only four. I knew I was going to be running most, if not all, of the race by myself. The gun fired and we shot off around the corner of the track. The race winner took off quickly. I knew he was simply faster than me and going with him would be silly as I’d tire out quickly, fall back and ruin any chance of running a quality time. Sometimes when you compete in races, people are just faster. It is what it is. You should never let that get in the way of doing what you’re capable of doing on that day.

Sure enough, I was alone to start with no one to run next to or draft. I finished the first lap in 80 seconds along with the second, third and fourth laps. My first mile was 5:20 which is what I wanted. I figured the second and third miles would be slower and that’s ok in a 5k race. 

The second and third miles were, in fact, slower. I crossed the 3,200 meter mark at about 11 minutes then I crossed the 4,800 meter mark at 16:42. As the race progressed, I stopped worrying about my pace every 400 meters and focused on maintaining the fastest pace I could. I had at least two hours before the 1,500 meters which is sufficient recovery time so I wasn’t worried about not having anything left for that race. When other racers are near you and roughly at your pace they push you just by being there. You go with them without much thought. However, when you’re alone it becomes all mental. It’s easy to slow down with no one around you and cruise but I was pushing for time and not place. I told myself to keep going and keep on pace to run under 17:30.

What went through my mind? Not a whole lot. I looked at the clocks to make sure I was on pace. I saw I was and told myself to keep going. That’s it. It was simple. It was simple due to experience. When you run and race enough, you know what you’re capable of accomplishing overall and on that particular day. You’re used to the natural discomfort and effort of the pace at that particular distance. It’s familiar so you push knowing what to expect. That’s what I did. I crossed the finish line in 17:22. I was pleased with the time especially since I’ve hardly done any speed workouts in the past few months and since it was 79 degrees and sunny. On a track, there are no trees to block the sun. It beats on you the whole way so that 79 degrees felt much warmer. I was second overall and first place in my age group, though I also was the only person in my age group but hey I’ll take it and you would too 😉

I had some down time between races, more than two hours. What did I do? I rested, of course. I sat down, stretched a bit to keep my muscles loose and relaxed, though my calves were tight. My lovely wife made a new friend pictured below.

This squirrel is eating part of my granola bar that my wife decided the squirrel needed more than I did.

The 1,500 meters is a completely different race than the 5,000 meters. It’s much shorter, obviously, which means it’s much more intense. You’ll be running much faster. Is it easier? Depends on who you ask. It’s shorter but the greater intensity cancels out the shorter length. I don’t train for the 1,500 meters. If I did, my workouts would consist of more speed training. This isn’t a race I’m used to running as an adult but I did run the 1,600 meters in high school so I know what to expect.

The competition for this race was much better. There were more runners in my race (9). I’m not sure my warm-up for this was sufficient. I jogged around and did some strides but I didn’t feel terribly fast. My legs didn’t feel worn out from the 5,000 meter race but they didn’t feel fresh either.  It didn’t matter. I had to deal with it. Since I don’t train for the 1,500 meters so I had no clear idea what to expect time-wise other than I felt I should be able to run anywhere from 4:30 to 5:00.

The race started and we dashed down the sunny straightaway with the sun hitting us at 82 degrees. I started in fourth place around the first turn. I felt comfortable given the faster pace. I crossed the 400 meter mark at 1:12 or 72 seconds. I was ok with that though I was hoping for something a bit faster although it was about as fast as I could go given the fact it was warm and I had already raced.

I was passed by another runner at about 500 meters into the race. I drafted off him and kept up. I crossed 800 meters in about 2:36. The second lap was considerably slower but what could I do at that point? I was running the best I could and I was following another racer the best I could. We crossed 1,200 meters at about 3:55. I figured if I was going to get fourth place I would have to make a move with 300 meters left because I would probably be out-kicked if I tried later. However, I didn’t quite have a kick in me at that time. We went around the final turn with me one stride behind. Down the final straightaway, the other racer kicked. I chased but knew I couldn’t catch him though I tried and followed with a kick of my own. He crossed the finish line one second ahead of me. My time was 4:51. I was happy to go under 5 minutes but felt I could run a 1,500 meter race faster. I’m fairly certain I could. I did, however, win my age group and I had fun competing. Again, I was the only competitor in the age group but I’ll take it. I walked away with two age-group gold medals.

It was a warm day. This was me following my races. 

Overall I was happy following the meet. I feel I’m in a good position to run well in Berlin in September. My next race will be June 3rd at the Fontana Days 5k. It’s a fast, downhill 5k that I enjoy racing every year. These 5ks and other shorter races are basically speed workouts that help my marathon training. They help improve my leg turnover and mechanics as well as my cardiovascular fitness. They get my body used to intense physical activity.

Week 1 is done. On now to Week 2.

Running With You,

Donald

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