Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feel the Love 5K: A couple miles for couples

Bryn Mawr Running Store puts on an annual 5K race for couples called Feel the Love.  A little cheesy but hey, 'tis the season for mushy Valentiney stuff.  It was a fun race with a cool format: 2x 2.5K loops with a partner.  Each couple runs the same loop but in opposing directions so you get to see each other 3 times during the race.  Couples' combined times were used for the placing and individual results were still tabulated.

The race is held in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, a quick loop with a total 7 feet of elevation gain.   A stark contrast to our typical trail races and training runs, we both fully enjoyed the change in pace (quite literally).  We looked forward to the 5K for a little change up.  I was eager to see what kind of time I could put down since it's been a long time since my last official 5K.  The quickest 5K I had to date was 23:29 and that was a little time trial I did on my own one morning.  I can't find my last official race 5K time but I am pretty sure it was over 24 minutes.  I considered my recent training and what I thought would be an acceptable goal to set.  I thought that holding 7 minute miles would be great and figured I could easily do that for the first 2;  This would really be a test of maintaining the same pace I started with for the last 1.1 miles without letting myself slip.  Twenty two minutes would be a good goal to set.
The 2.5K loop
I had considered my cadence during the week prior.  I've become aware that it may be far more useful to maintain a higher turnover rate than longer strides.  Boning up on running cadence via intense Googling (over 5 minutes worth of research) I did my homework and settled on a target.  Any target is a great place to start, several sources indicate 180 is ideal so there's my target for this race: 180 steps per minute or 3 per second.  I'd tried counting my cadence manually during some runs in the woods by counting out loud: "one-one thousand, two-one thousand..." etc., trying to make it a good 3-beat cadence meter.  I found it a little tricky because I'm a simple man so I gave it up and let technology figure it out for me.

I don't always run with music, when I do, I use an iPod nano loaded with running songs.  It's more appropriate now to just call them pump-up songs because I've repopulated that playlist with truer running songs after this exercise with cadence.  Each song was picked less for how awesome I think it will be to go along with zooming around the trails or roads but now specifically for it's ability to help me maintain a proper cadence.  I downloaded a pretty awesome $7 program called... you guessed it: Cadence.  Cadence works as an extension of iTunes to measure each song's beats per minute quite well.  After analyzing my eclectic library of tunes, I sorted my iTunes library by BPM and after purging my iPod, threw a handful of songs on that were going to fit my raceplan.
Screenshot of Cadence
The race was in the afternoon, which I didn't complain too much about.  I prefer to get these done early and have a great full day afterwards.  We arrived about 30 minutes early, checked in, got some cool swag, and decided to stay warm in the car since it was only about 27 F that afternoon.

The pre-race couple, team Tired Feet. 
We lined up in our respective corrals as each departed from the start line in a different direction and our own races were off.  I lined up in the middle of my pack, Kristen directly beside me in the middle of hers and we were off on our first road 5K in over a year.

I don't remember which song I started off with but it wasn't working.  I was caught in a pack and could start off quite as planned.  After some patience and some maneuvering, I made my way into some daylight and cruised along as I fell into my pre-planned pace.  As is my habit, I didn't consult my Garmin during the race other than to accept its buzzing alerts for each mile covered.  I made the assumption my pace was on target.

It really didn't take too long to see runners coming from the opposite direction.  The leaders were running 5 minute miles, something I aspire to do, maybe once, maybe for just one mile.  Soon, I saw Kristen, we high-fived each other and continued on until the next time we saw each other.  I ran my race solely focused on keeping a steady pace, not mindful of my actual performance.  I was going to know nothing until I approached the finish line.

At about 2.5 miles I started feeling more labored breathing set in.  My  legs felt strong but I was getting winded.  I decided ain't nobody got time for that and just ignored it.  Sure, I enjoy longer races, but this is a road 5K, it's short but still supposed to be hard if I'm showing up to race in it.  I was in no danger of dying so I poured it on down the last stretch of road and through the finish in under 21 minutes.
Hooray for maintaining cadence!  Usually this looks like a hilly course profile.
My official chip time is 20:51 and I must admit, I wasn't overjoyed with crushing my goal but really just satisfied.  I have that sub-40 10K goal in the back of my mind and this was a huge step in that direction, I immediately recognized that while I've made great progress, I still have work to do.  At least it's work I'm glad to do.  I may have to plan a 10K time trial for next weekend.  With my race in the books, I grabbed a water, cheered on more racers and waited for Kristen to turn in her own PR and tell me how using songs for pace is her game-changer.  Happy to know it worked for both of us!

I'm sure you're dying to know what got my going on this run so here's the playlist, songs close to 180 or 90 BPM that I felt fit to run with.
Fun fact: Billy Idol's Dancing with Myself was my favorite of the race, getting me to the finish line ahead of schedule.

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