Apr 8, 2014

Race Report: Wharton 5K, Philadelphia PA - 23:56 (PR)

This race was sponsored by Hertz, and as an employee I got a free entry.

It's not very often where you enter a race where you know before the race that you'll easily PR. My previous 5K PR was a 25:48 set in Mahwah back in October 2011 (also at a race sponsored by Hertz). But that race PR has been beat by 82 seconds in training last Monday when I ran 12.5 loops on a track in 24:26.. So I knew I could break the race PR. The only question was would I be able to beat my training PR.

Well, that wasn't really my only question. The other question was would I be able to make it to the race on time? It started at 8:30am "sharp" and was held in Philadelphia on the University of Pennsylvania campus near its largest train station. We didn't leave Suffern until 6:10am and I was getting a little stressed as 7am and then 7:30am ticked by and we were still on the Turnpike. Making a long story short, I arrived at the race shortly after 8:20 and after a far-too-fast bathroom stop I was in the starting area a few minutes before 8:30.

This being a college 5K, I quickly realized that I was one of the old guys in this race. I'm 37. According to the results, there were 25 people (out of 577) in this race who are 38 or older. I'm not often the old fart, so this was a new experience for me. Not that it changed anything.

The Course
The course is a double out-and back from one end of the campus to the other. There was a small bridge with a steep hill several hundred meters from the starting line, and we had to cross it four times. The course was otherwise flat-ish - there was a noticeable grade to much of it but it wasn't substantial. Weather for the morning featured a rather nasty headwind on the "out", especially after the bridge, but otherwise cool and sunny. Surface was half asphalt, half brick.

The bridge (Google Street View)
My goal for this race was 24 minutes. This requires a 7:44 per mile pace.

Mile 1
Having not raced a short race like this in a couple of years, I got caught up in the wrong crowd early and went a tad too fast at the very beginning. I ran that first mile in 7:26 - perhaps my fastest mile ever.  I didn't realize this at the time because I didn't look at my split when the mile ticked by. I actually figured this mile was run in about 8 minutes because the very beginning of this race was quite crowded and it didn't feel like I was going very fast for the first quarter.

Mile 2
In retrospect, I know that the 7:26 first mile was why I crashed - but at the time I thought I ran the first mile in 8. So when I struggled to maintain that 8-minute pace in the second mile I figured that it just wasn't going to be my day to run sub-24. Some days you just don't have it, and I chalked that up as the reason. I knew I would still PR, and since I was racing, might as well dig deep and do whatever I can to stay under 8. This was a very difficult mile for me. On the second lap, when I crested the bridge outbound at about mile 1.9, I came very close to walking. I was definitely working hard at this point. Mile 2 was 7:59 - just made it.

In the pain cave at the end of lap 1/Mile 1.55
Mile 3
I recovered modestly in mile 3, and actually sped up a bit. I still didn't think sub-24 was in the cards, but I figured I could probably break 25 if I kept it up. So I kept pushing at my limit, which was 7:52 for the third mile. I happened to look at my watch with less than 100 meters to go and for the first time I realized that maybe I could break 24 after all. I didn't understand why, but it read 23:40. Turning up the intensity to near max, the last tenth was at a 7:27-per-mile pace, which was actually slower than my first mile. But it was fast enough - my official chip time came was 23:56, a PR and under my 24-minute goal. Gun time was 24:16.

Afterwards, we celebrated my new PR with Breakfast at my favorite place to eat in Philadelphia - a cheesesteak from John's Roast Pork. 
mmm, breakfast

My official time: 23:56 (PR), 166th place out of 577, 123rd place out of 275 males, 21st place out of 61 in the M30-40 age group.