The Achilles 5K was supposed to be my first race of the year, however my injury a couple of weeks back put that at risk. Fortunately, the knee has gotten much better and after yesterday's eight miler, I elected to head out anyway and treat it as a fun run. The weather was forecast to be pretty much perfect (~6C, clear with little to no wind) so it looked like a great opportunity.
My last 5K race was back in May, and I've come a long way since then so I originally had high hopes for this race. Had I gone all out, I likely would have been able to approach 20 minutes this time around. Given the knee, however, I didn't want to push anything to make sure that I'd be 100% ready for Around the Bay in two weeks. As such, the plan was to play it by ear but air on the side of caution.
I headed out so that I'd arrive a little over an hour early, picked up my chip and headed down to the start. While I was waiting, I did a number of quick jogs and carefully stretched after each one to make sure that everything was ready for the race. As the start grew closer, I met up with yumke and got into position near the front of the pack.
1K 4:12 168bpm
Once the starter's horn sounded, I took off with the group and everything was feeling pretty good. Initially, I stuck with the pack at about a 4min/km pace but elected to fall back to play it safe. I eventually settled into roughly a 4:15 pace, as it felt quite comfortable but was hard enough to be a challenge. After getting onto Wellington, the crowd had thinned out significantly and I was running with a relatively steady group of people.
2K 4:08 180bpm
Shortly after the 2K mark, unfortunately, my left shoelaces came undone so I had to stop for a little over twenty seconds to retie them. After I got them retied, I accelerated to catch back up to the group that I was running with before the interruption and then picked up the planned pace. I caught up with them just after the turnaround point (~2.4km), however they were beginning to fade so I ended up passing them after a minute or so.
3K 4:05* 184bpm
* Pace calculation excludes the interruption to tie shoelaces as Polar's software doesn't count zero-speed segments in averages.
I slowed down a bit after hitting the 3K mark, as the average pace over the last kilometer was higher than I targeted. While I was still feeling pretty good, I didn't want to push the knee too hard so I elected to pull back a little and play it safe. Regardless, a lot of the people ahead of me were fading so I was still passing people regularly during this period.
4K 4:12 186bpm
After I hit the fourth kilometer, I was still feeling quite good and hadn't had any sign of pain from the knee. As I was making extremely good time, I figured that opening up a bit wouldn't hurt so I carefully began accelerating. This went well, and there was still no sign of problems so I pushed myself past the 4min/km mark. As I approached the final hundred meters, I saw the clock approaching 21 minutes so I broke into a full sprint to try and make it in under the line.
5K 3:55 190bpm
As it was close, I wasn't 100% sure whether I managed to sneak in before the 21 minute mark. My watch read 20m58s, but there is always some degree of variability in when exactly the buttons are pressed so I wasn't sure. The official clock was a couple of meters in front of the finishing mats, so it was impossible to see it as I hit the line.
It's been a while since I've pushed myself that hard for any significant distance. I held back for the first four kilometers, but the last one was definately a hard push. I don't think that I would have been able to maintain that pace over the full distance, so even without the injury a sub-20 5K was likely not in the cards but I certainly could have been able to get close. It would have been nice to see what was possible with an all-out 5K, but unfortunately that wasn't practical this time out.
Regardless, I managed to take 1:46 off of my personal best even with the injury which is something to be happy about. I've got another 5K race in three weeks (Harry's), however it's a week after Around the Bay (30K) and has some pretty substantial hills, so it's unlikely that I'm going to be setting any other records there ;) While I may have lost some fitness over the last couple of weeks, it will return as I get back into my regular routine.
Chip time: 20:55.6 (overall results)
Gun time: 20:58.2
Place overall: 95/1337 (92.9 percentile)
Place in men: 84/578 (85.4 percentile)
Place in age group: 22/109 (79.8 percentile)
Average Heart Rate: 181bpm (~87% MHR)