Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkey Trot 5K/10K Racing Tips

In the United States, tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  It’s a day for quickly saying what we are thankful for and then slowly over-indulging for the next 5 hours with a combination of turkey, pie, and football.  It’s essentially America all wrapped into one glorious food coma.

While I am not sure if it is because I’m fully embedded within the runner culture, but Turkey Trot 5Ks and 10Ks have also become a vital part to many people’s Thanksgiving Day routine.  Not only runners, but many non running family members will lace up whatever non-heeled shoes they have and enjoy in some free watered down Gatorade and a cotton T-Shirt with a turkey on the front.  In fact, for 3 out of the last 4 years, I’ve done a turkey trot 10K.  Race reports here here and here if you are interested (last year I was super sick so didn’t go).  This year I’m not only planning on doing the same 10k, but am also planning on RACING it.

Me after my current 10K PR of 39:44 two years ago
Since so many people are racing shorter distances in the next few days, I thought that I would put on my coaching hat (taking off one of those helmets with a beer can on both sides which is what I usually wear) and go through some of my tips for racing the “shorter” 5k and 10k distances. In short, just like peeing after hanging out with Snookie, it’s gonna hurt.

Of course, if you’re just cruising around with the fam or easy running as part of a training run, just do that.  This advice is mostly for people who are really going after it – regardless of how fast “going after it” might be.

Warm Up!!!!!
Start out by warming up for 0.5 miles (less experienced runners) or a full mile (more experienced) before the race. Do this basically as close as you can to the start w/out missing it / not getting lined up right.  Throw some 10 second bursts (3 is a good number) of nearly sprinting in there to get your legs fired up and reminded that they're about to move FAST.  Don't be jerky with your pace, try to speed up in a smooth fashion over the course of 5 seconds and then hold it for another 5.  If a 5K or a 10K is pushing as far as you’ve ever ran, just do some brisk walking for 5-10 min.  The trick here is twofold.  First, you are much less likely to injure yourself with warm muscles.  Second, muscles burn LOTS more fuel (skittles) when they are cold so warming them up is going to preserve as much gas in the tank as possible.

Race strategy for 5Ks is interesting.  You have to get past the fact that feeling out of breath by the mile mark is normal, only because you'll be done in 20 minutes or so after that. I find that splitting the race into 3 mile races is the way to go. The first mile is always a bit choppy, which is why I always like to start out a bit slower than normal (10ish sec/mile tops, but slightly more if you're inexperienced with racing 5ks).  I use this mile to really focus in on my pace – comfortably hard or about 90% of all out sprinting. I try my best to not get frustrated by grandma in jeans that lined up in front of me.

The middle mile is usually the worst.  You're already out of breath, but you're not half way done yet.  For this mile, the strategy should be finding your "goal" pace and holding it. By now you should be running among people your speed so use them as pacers.  I'm pretty focused in when I race, so I don't chit chat.  But, if that helps you, now is the time to talk!

That last mile is great because you know that you only have X min left. Of course, great in the "if I go any faster I might cough blood" kind of a way.  At this point it is all about tricking your brain.  Get into a rhythm of counting your steps to 10, alternating between lengthening your stride slightly and shortening it slightly - basically anything to take your mind off of the hurt!  Most people are really tentative this last mile. You should essentially feel like you're sprinting the last half a mile!  If you're not completely gassed at the 2.5 mile mark, you're not running fast enough.

For 10ks, the strategy is the same, but think of the race in 2 mile chunks instead of 1.  Don't start out TOO easy for too long, essentially try to be at "goal" pace by the start of mile 2, but still ease into goal pace like squeezing the toothpaste out of a tube.  Instead of sprinting the last half mile of a 10k, really open it up for the full last mile.  If you're used to racing half marathons or marathons, these races are SHORT, so the tendency is to not push as hard as you are able to at the end.

Oppsies :-(
If your goal is to run the entire race without walking, really fight the urge to walk and instead dial back the pace slightly.  With 5Ks and 10Ks, they are so short that any walk breaks will lower your overall pace quite a lot (vs a marathon where it is really easy to make up for walks through waterstops).  But, if you know that running the entire thing will be a challenge, plan on having walk breaks a specific time.  5 seconds? 10 seconds? 30?  Whatever it is, know beforehand because no matter what you're likely still going to be breathing hard when you start running again.

Post Race!!
Find the closest person you can in spandex and spray them with the bottle of champagne that you've been carrying this entire time!  Done!


SlimKatie said...

Thanks for this!! I despise 5k's, but I'm going for a specific goal in a couple of weeks, and these tips were helpful.

pensive pumpkin said...

I love that photo because it looks like the girl on the right is pooping champagne.

Thanks for this- I completed (not raced) my first 5k last weekend since before 3 half marys. I thought the 2 mile sign was 2k. In other news, I am a dork.

Sean - Team HRE said...

Love your work Adam, interesting seeing your 5km pace strategy in Miles. Certainly easy for us using metric, first km 10 seconds under goal pace, then km 2, 3 goal pace, km 4 is hurt zone and the last km is just smash yourself. Having said that I updated the garmin yesterday and it went back to miles for "laps" so was weird running this morning getting the mile splits, which means absolutely nothing!

Liz Hall said...

That is some great race advice. I am sure everyone will have fun on their Turkey Trots. :) Wish I as there.

Nelly said...

Great tips indeed. I despise running 5Ks because I feel like I literally want to die the entire time. Just not an enjoyable experience. A 10K is better since you can spread out your pain over a longer distance lol. 10K to half marathon is probably my favorite distance.

Denise said...

Last year I did a 5k Turkey Trot on Thursday and PR'd and then did a 10k one on Saturday and also PR'd!

This year I'm skipping the organized run on Thanksgiving and going back for more of the awesome 10K on Saturday.

chelseawanders said...

This is great! I've only ever really "raced" one 5k before (and I had no idea what I was doing). I have a Jingle Bell Run 5k I impulsively signed up for in December. Now I can actually try...and strategize. Exciting! It's two weeks after my marathon though, oops.

Sue's Ramblings said...

Happy Thanksgiving Adam! Lots of love to you and the family. Have a wonderful holiday.

Flaming June said...

This was actually very helpful! It is especially encouraging to hear that even "seasoned" 5K-ers feel out of breath after the first mile! I have only raced 5Ks (4 since I started running in June) and a 10 miler which was SO much more fun! It was awesome to cross a finish line and not feel like i was going to puke! I must remember to start out slower in future 5K races!

Laura said...

Ugh, I am so bummed I didn't read this before my 5K. GREAT advice, especially for those of us not used to racing!

{lifeasa}RunningMom said...

What great tips! It has been awhile since I have raced a 5K but I will remember your rules of thirds!

Elaine Hillis said...

Skittle Power!!