Monday, July 16, 2018

Gabriel Park 5k

Each summer the Portland Parks district does a series of $5 5ks. They're very low key, maybe leave a little to be desired in terms of organization and race-logistics, but, you get what you pay for, right? They are fun, and are a nice small race setting to participate in. 

I did one a couple years ago when pregnant - looking at that race recap after the fact now, it would have been good to have read that before doing this year's 5k - it would have reminded me that (spoiler alert) the route might involve some trail-type terrain and there are sometimes issues with the race setup. 

This time we signed up for Gabriel Park, as it's the nearest park to us. They had a "sprinters" 5k for people expecting to finish under 30 minutes first (Abe did that one), then the regular 5k. (There was also a kids race, but we didn't think N was quite ready to run a whole 1k!)

We arrived about 8:30 and easily found parking at the adjacent community center. We walked right up to get our bibs, and then tried to figure out what the course was. The sign above shows two options - 3 laps of the shorter loop, or 2 laps (actually, not clearly indicated as 2 laps on that sign, I'm realizing now) of the longer loop. I also hadn't seen this "tough runner" designation on any other materials leading up to the race. We finally asked someone at the bib table, who was only semi-helpful but after some prodding was able to tell me that the longer loop was effectively the default course; the shorter loop was if you had a stroller or otherwise wanted a slightly easier course. I decided that I'd do the default/main route.

I hung out on the park playground with N while Abe did his race, then it was my turn! 

At start time, a guy briefly announced about the two loops, but when someone asked to clarify the distances, he stated that the 3-loop course was 5k and the 2-loop course was "just under 5k". Uhh, news to me. If you can't line up the routes to be the same, maybe err on the side of longer than shorter? Or have two starts lines? I get that it's a "fun run", but some of us think fun includes accuracy. At a minimum, maybe disclose ahead of time on your website and signage if your distance won't actually be 5k. I wouldn't have minded doing a 3-mile race if I'd known that ahead of time.

My goal was to be under 11:00 pace - I was around 11:30 at my March 5k, and based on my current training I thought this improvement was feasible. I think it would have been on a comparable course under comparable conditions. (Or at least I'm going to claim that.)

Anyway, the first couple minutes of the race felt fantastic! The loop started off down hill and I was actually seeing sub-10:00 on my watch. Then I realized how hilly the course was, and the varying terrain (the majority was probably paved path, but there were also sections of dirt and sections of gravel). Did I mention it was already 80 degrees?! 

So, I quickly had a hard time keeping up my pace. I kept my first mile under 11:00, but just barely. Then there were more hills, I walked a chunk of the second mile and tried in vain to keep it under 12:00. Then while I occasionally sped up I basically gave up on the third mile. There were two water stations per loop, and I got water all but one time (would have had to wait for more cups to be filled), and also dumped water on my head for the first time in a race both times on the second loop. Icy cold and felt great, but dried too quickly!

As promised (/threatened) at the start line, the 2-lap course was short. My garmin showed 2.97, so a few minutes later I ran a loop around the parking lot to get to 3.1. So on the course itself my time was 36:15 - basically right on par with my March 5k. Stable time for racing in much harder conditions is actually progress, in my mind. But it is kind of frustrating to not actually have hard data that shows that progress explicitly. 

My next race is two half marathons, Portlandia (what's temporarily taking over for the now-defunct Portland Marathon) in October, and Rock n Roll Las Vegas in November. The Rock n Roll weekend will also include a 5k the day before - probably won't go all out on that, but hopefully the half training will improve fitness to the point of a post-baby PR regardless! 

I planned to use whatever this 5k time was to set my training times for half training. I honestly think my fitness will allow a faster time that this would reflect. I think I'll stick with what my goal 5k time had been (34:10 per the Run Less Run Faster pace charts), which would be just under a 2:40 half time. Or at least start there and see how training goes! For it to work, I do know I need to work on improving my speed on my long runs (per the RLRF methodology). 

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