Race Report: President’s Day Weekend Run 5-K

Duck Crossing SignThis morning, I ran my first race of the year– the President’s Day 5-K race in Magnuson Park.  Not much to say– it was a slow, early season race that felt harder than it should have.  Here’s the race report.


  • Good early season race
  • Great warmup
  • Still have a great sprint
  • Despite a short race, a good distance day


  • A touch slow but not atypical for this time of year
  • Probably went out too fast– according to my SmO2 data
  • Muddy, slippery course

Dive FinsThe Magnuson Series is a series of 5k, 10k, and 15k races in Magnuson Park, located about 2 miles from my house.  Magnuson Park is an interested place.  A former military base, Magnuson Park now serves as an eclectic blend of modern art, military artifacts, playgrounds, and other Seattle park amenities.  Near the race start, there is an open field with black metal monoliths– all dive fins from decommissioned Navy nuclear submarines.  They form a public arts project.  Scattered throughout the park are large earthen mounds with stout metal doors– I can only assume that they are military depots?  Step-like concrete structure on side of small hillAt other places, there are other oddities that just leave me befuddled.  For instance, is this step-like structure on the right the remains of a military building or another arts project?  Coming upon many of these oddities in Magnuson Park, I feel as if I am some future anthropologist looking back on a then-ancient culture.  Maybe these 21st Century Americans used this structure for annual sacrifices to the Gods?  Or maybe this structure was part of some kind of eclectic athletic competition?  Even to a contemporary like me, the purpose of this structure is an utter mystery.

I jogged from my house to the start of the race– an easy jog that is just over two miles.  While registering, I met my friend Elly who is now a full-time trail runner.  It was great seeing her, of course.  But I have to admit that I also had a nagging fear that my lack of quality running over the last few months would mean that she was going to kick my butt in this race.   But I arrived late.  So I hustled to the start line.  I was a bit surprised by my complete lack of nervousness.  Yes, this was going to be painful but I had no hopes of coming near a PR.  In fact, the bigger concern was that this would be my slowest 5-K to date (it wasn’t– but it was close).  A few seconds later, the gun went off.

Crazy Course MapThe course itself is crazy.  I’ve tried to run it by myself and invariably get lost– and I’ve run this course at least a half-dozen times!  At left is a screenshot from my TrainingPeaks GPS file.  Right around the 2-mile mark is where the race started (remember, it’s a 2-mile jog from my house so 2 miles is about where the race started).

As I mentioned, this wasn’t going to be a fast race for me.  I had a flare up of my achilles tendinitis a few weeks back and my training has been pretty minimal.  Right now, it’s healing great– and I want to keep it that way!  So that means that I haven’t been doing the usual degree of harder track work that I would like to.  It’s also okay because I have tended to peak a little too early in years past so I don’t mind being slower right now.

Right off the start, I settled quickly into a manageable pace.  I was pretty well warmed up from the long jog to the race start and my legs were feeling fine.  My breathing also settled down quickly– I was breathing hard but not as bad as during my track workouts.  It was definitely uncomfortable but sustainable.  A lot of the early rabbits started fading after the first muddy hill.  I was slipping all over the place, which may affected my end time but I don’t think it was a huge factor.  About a mile into the race, I passed a guy wearing a bright orange Seattle Marathon shirt– he was much younger and I could hear him huffing and puffing behind me for the rest of the race.

After up and down the first hill, the course settled into a pancake flat course with a few muddy turns and trail sections.  Again, not ideal but manageable.  I was following a guy who was comfortably running– he was racing one of the longer races.  I kept running, still feeling comfortably uncomfortable.  The guy in the bright orange shirt was still behind me and he still sounded just awful– huffing and puffing, clearing his throat every now and then in a painful kind of way.  I kept thinking about stories of Emil Zátopek, who ran so awkwardly and breathed so heavily that no one wanted to run next to him because his fellow competitors would quickly lose heart.

With about a half mile to go, the course turned in an unexpected direction– probably to tweak the course distance to closer to a true 5K.  By this time, the guy in orange was closing on me and the guy running the longer race was some distance in front of me.  Another guy passed me with about 600 meters to go and I just settled in to follow him.

I’ve mentioned before that I tend to be a fast-twitch kind of runner.  I’ve always been frustrated by my inability to withstand a steady diet of long hard runs, by my dislike for over-under workouts and by workouts that call for fast jogging recoveries.  Well, with less than 400 meters to go, that disadvantage wasn’t going to hold me back.  Yes, it was payback time!  I could hear the guy in orange right behind me and was still following right behind the guy who just passed me.  With 200-300 meters to go, I said to myself, “oh what the hell?” and decided to drop the hammer.  I went into a hard sprint– running super hard but also still being mindful of the competition.  The guy who passed me and the guy in orange didn’t take the bait.  I then passed two other guys and passed by the guy I was tailing, which was quite a surprise since he was quite a distance ahead.  One of the last guys I passed decided to challenge my move and tried to keep pace.  So I then changed into a full sprint and dropped him like a hot rock.  Not too bad for a guy who must have been at least 15 years older than any of the guys I passed!  Hah, take that you slow-twitch young whippersnappers!

Right after the race, I chatted with the other competitors.  The guy in the orange shirt was bent over, still heaving from the hard race.  He mentioned that he wasn’t used to shorter races as he had been focusing on much longer races.  Yup, that’s exactly why it’s important to do these shorter races early in the season.  The guy who sprinted with me at the very end didn’t seem as happy to chat. 😉

While the official race times aren’t up yet, my watch has my time around 21:29, which puts my pace at about 6:56 per mile.  Definitely one of my slower races but not as slow as the Fitness for Vitality 5-K race that I ran almost exactly a year ago.  But, even though I had a touch of achilles tendinitis, I feel much better than I did a year ago.  I’m super-excited about this year because I have a few new training tricks up my sleeve.  Once I validate them with this season, I’ll hopefully get around to posting a few of this tricks.

Muscle Oxygen DataImmediately after the race, I started my jog back home.  On my slower runs, I have been trying to keep my pace slower to facilitate maximal muscle oxygenation.  Based on testing, this seems to come around 105-110 bpm.  On the jog back home, this frequently meant walking to keep my heart rate down.  My iPhone was recording data off my BSX Insight and I wasn’t using it to maximize my muscle oxygen– instead, I was using heart rate from a past test.  While this strategy was highly imperfect, it seemed to accomplish what it needed to– my muscle oxygenation was pretty good on the return jog.  The image at the right shows my muscle oxygenation.  The big trough in the middle was my 5K run.  I was a bit surprised that it was so symmetric.  But I think it also shows that that I went out too fast.  But analyzing this data is for another post.  By the time I got to my house, I had put in just about 8 miles of running– not a bad distance day for also being a race day!

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