Flat and fast just doesn’t work for me as a race course.
Interval workouts are only productive to a certain point; then you need to put on a number and actually race. On Wednesday night, I ran the local 5k race that NJ Trail Series puts on each Wednesday from late April until the end of August.
Located in Morris County’s Central Park, this 2.5 k loop is also used by local high schools for cross country races. The easy-to-run surface is primarily grass or gravel, with a short section of wood chips thrown in for good measure. There’s one gradual climb, a short steep grunt, and some rolling terrain for about 160 total vertical feet of gain over 5 k.
I arrived in plenty of time for a decent warmup. The race started promptly at 6:45 with about 50 people on the line. Across a field and downhill, we turned right to parallel West Hanover Ave.
Pre-race, I’d planned to start conservatively and ramp up my pace over the last kilometer, but that didn’t work out. What seemed to me to be an easy pace put my heart rate up quickly. The sketchy hamstring I’ve been nursing all spring didn’t seem interested in a harder pace than I was doing. Several runners passed me; I thought I’d reel them in on the second lap.
While I pinned my heart rate at on the last climb, my pace didn’t really change. I made time on the four guys directly in front of me, but I couldn’t reel them in. The good: I went hard at a steady pace for 23 minutes. The bad: Whatever is required for a flat 5 k – be it leg speed, more VO max etc, I didn’t have it today. But I know what I need to work on, and I have a benchmark to measure my fitness as summer progresses.