Saturday, February 13, 2021

2021 Sweethearts 5K Race Recap - Bountiful, UT

Official Time: 24:10
Placement: 3rd in age group, 27th overall male
Results: Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: 39, 5 mph winds from the south (felt like from the north)
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: [2020] [2019] [2018] [2016] [2015] [2014] [2013]

Mile TimeComments
17:31In control start -- slight downhill so I could gradually get into the race
27:58The grind starts here.  Slight uphill to get back to the start.
38:08Kept focusing here - get up the hill and then crush it to the finish
Total Miles: 3.08 - 24:11


For the past half dozen years I've done the Sweethearts 5K race in Bountiful Utah.  It is a bit of February tradition for me on Valentine's Day weekend.

It is a very affordable race -- usually around $15 - $20 and close by.  I've run the course at least a dozen times by now so I know how it works.  Plus, you have the nice recreation center to stay warm in should there be bad climate weather.

The Race

I rolled into the race site at about 8:15 for a 9 AM start.  Packet pickup was a snap (as usual) and I had my shirt and swag bag in no time at all.

Last week's 5K I felt like I didn't do enough of a warm-up prior to the race.  I decided this race I was going to do a proper warm-up.  About 30 minutes before the race I did about 10 minutes of warm-up: leg swings, dynamic range motions, etc and then another 10 - 15 minutes of a gentle run followed by some strides up to 5K pace.  

I sauntered over to the starting line for the 9 AM start and was worried I'd cool down too quickly.  Fortunately, the race started on time and the staggered start happened pretty quickly -- I was off and running within about 15 seconds of the start.

It was rainy / chilly but not deathly cold.  I opted to go with a skull cap hat, long sleeved technical shirt, shorts and thin gloves.  I had worn a marathon jacket to warm up with and ditched it at the race start.  I had toyed with the idea of running with the jacket but I am so glad I lost it.

The first mile of the race is very fast.  It is a gentle downhill down a residential street.  You get to enjoy that downhill for about 1.25 miles.  If the entire race was like that I'd be thrilled.

I kept an eye on my watch but as usual, the first mile felt very easy.  I held back a little as my heart rate started to climb because I knew the second half of the race was the more challenging part.

I was excited to see a 7:30 flash on my Garmin after the first mile.

Things started to get real as I turned the corner and headed east.  I could feel the lactic acid building up and saw the next right turn at the top of a small hill.  Usually at this point reality sets in and I start to slow down.  I was continuing to pass people although and I was feeling better than I thought I would be at this point.

The second half of the race is mostly uphill (with the exception of the last third of a mile or so).  There is a decent climb from miles 2 to 2.5 where I usually hit the wall.  And you can see the hill the second you make the right turn.

I just focused on doing quick turnover for my feet, making sure my arms weren't swinging wildly (they tend to come up in the latter portions of the race).  Fortunately I had some company and people to work off of.  And the number of people passing me was fairly minimal.

I didn't catch the time on my Garmin when I hit mile 2 and I was trying to do math in my head as to what the split might be.  I was worried it was in the 8:15 / 8:30 range and my chances of getting a great time were ruined.

Mile 2 to 3 is where I really have to focus.  Fortunately, I had a guy next to me who was pushing the pace and trying to keep up with me.  Anytime either one of us accelerated, the other would counter.  My breathing though seemed to be more in control and if it wasn't for the gradual grind of the uphill, I think I would've had another gear to really push it.  I was being patient despite my pace on my Garmin showing I was running about 8:30.

When I got to the top of the hill, I had about .3 of a mile to go.  I really hunkered down at the that point.  The final stretch is a slight downhill followed by some flats.  I actually felt "fast" and my turnover increased.  I started to put some ground on the guy that I had been running with.  Unfortunately there wasn't anyone within eyesight to catch but that didn't stop me.  

I didn't even look at my watch as I rounded the final corner.  I had a feeling I was going to knock off maybe 10 - 15 seconds off of my 5K time but I looked up and saw 24:2X on the timing screen.  Then I remembered, I had a good 10 - 15 seconds delay before starting.

I passed under the finish line arches and stopped my Garmin to see a stunning 24:11 on it!


Wow what a finish.  I could've jumped for joy.  Looking back at my previous times on Athlinks, I haven't run this fast on legitimate course since 2016.  

I've had some good signs in my training that I was going to have a good race, but I didn't expect to make up this much time.  Last year, I ran the race in a sluggish 25:55.

I grabbed my medal and re-masked up after the race.  Instead of recovering, I wound up doing a slow shuffle back over to the starting line (about a quarter mile away) to collect my discarded marathon jacket.  I felt that good!  I still felt like I had quite a bit more energy to even go faster.

With Covid-19 restrictions in place, there was no award ceremony.  I think you have to go collect your medal at the recreation center.  I actually don't mind that as it allowed me to go home right away and not hang around in damp conditions.

There was water and bananas at the finish.  I wound up not socializing very much -- again Covid-19 stuff going on.

I can't say how ecstatic I am with my time.  The course, I think, measures up to 3.10 (I had another person's Garmin say it did).  But I am finally starting to see the benefits of doing the harder workouts: intervals, long runs, eating right and core workouts.  Hopefully this is a positive trend that will continue into 2021.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

2021 Run SLC 5K Race Recap - Salt Lake City, UT

Official Time: 24:52
Placement: 65th overall, 4th in the 50 - 54 age group.
Results: Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: 29F, 12 mph from the south east. 
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: New to me

Mile TimeComments
17:48Strong start.
28:09Couldn't find my second gear here.  I think worrying about slipping was bothering me
38:14Surprised this mile was this slow. Not much room to close it at the finish.
3.090:39Final push to the finish
Total Miles: 3.09- 24:52


A few months ago a friend asked me to run the SLC 5K with them.  Being February is a pretty slim month as far as races go, I readily agreed.  

My training of late has been focused on 5K / 10K efforts, so I had high hopes for this race.  It is put on by the local running store and they can be counted on to have a legit distance 5K as well as a super organized event (I wasn't disappointed here).  It was also my first time running this race.  Normally, it starts at the shoe store itself, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, they held the race at the historic Liberty Park a mile or two north of the store.

Also due to Covid-19 restrictions, the race was done with staggered start.  The lead back started at approximately 7:30 with me set to run at 7:40 AM.  

I was one of the first to roll into the site and snagged a great parking spot.  I wound up doing a pretty quick warm-up and some drills and the time from 7 AM until I started went quickly (in fact too quickly).

The Race

I lined up (socially distanced of course) with about 10 other people and we started off every 10 - 15 seconds.  We started off into the snow but they had a path cleared to the sidewalk, whereupon we were supposed to run 2 laps (and change) around the park.

During my warm-up, I had noticed that the sidewalk was pock marked with splotches of thin ice.  Some of it was worse than others, particularly under the tall trees that surround the park.  Only once or twice though I felt my foot slip and didn't see anyone take a spill, but still, the thought of slipping was in the back of my mind.

I started off pretty strong and I felt in control.  I kept reminding myself to save some wind for the second half of the race.  The first mile of a 5K is always the easiest -- except for the first quarter mile, as suddenly your heart rate spikes. But I didn't feel like I was running out of control.  

I had a hard time running the tangents on the course since the closer you were to the road, the icier it got.  They had salted some of it, but it clearly hadn't taken effect yet.  My pace seemed sort of uneven as I accelerated in the dry spots and braked a bit when I saw wet / ice on the sidewalk.

I think the course mile markers were slightly off.  I ran by the first mile marker in about 7:23.  My Garmin said I had run .97.  Either I was doing way better than I thought or my Garmin was rounding the corners too much.  I knew this course was going to be a legit 3.10 so I went with it....

Mile 2 things got more challenging.  It was a little tough to run by the starting line again and then another quarter mile down the stretch pass by the finish line.  Some of the super fast runners who had had a 10 minute head start on me were already finishing.  I was passing some of the later starters and working to keep up with those that had started with me.  I never felt hemmed in though and the staggered start -- even on a looped course -- was working.

I didn't really pay too much attention to my Garmin nor my pace when I ran by the mile 2 marker (I do seem to recall my watch saying 1.97).  Normally, mile 2 is the roughest and I have a final kick in mile 3.  I was working hard but again, every time I felt like I was increasing my pace I felt like I had to brake to avoid 

The final push was tricky.  Normally the last quarter mile I tend to give whatever I got left.  But on this race, the iciest part was the finish.  Also, you had to make a sharp left turn to cross under the inflatable arches.  They had salted down the turn but it was still slick looking.  Fortunately, after making the turn you had a very short sprint to the finish line.


So I ran a 24:52.  I had hopes of 24:3x or 24:4x but I think with the weather and not really doing a more thorough warm-up held me back.  These days, anything under 25 minutes I am happy with.  The course was fast despite the footing with minimal elevation changes.

I thoroughly enjoyed an in-person race where I could work on picking off other racers (although it was humiliating to be passed by people in the first wave on their second loop).  I half expected the extra competition would spur me to greatness.

With it being 29 degrees, I still ran in shorts and a double shirt.  I also wore heavy duty ski gloves, which kept my hands warm (I hate cold hands).  I made the right choice.  For a while I was debating on wearing a jacket and I am glad I went with what I did.

Post race snacks included beverages (water / Gatorade), bananas and granola bars.  I grabbed a quick banana.  I liked the medal and they gave you a free coffee mug as well.  No t-shirt on this one (you could buy one at packet pickup).

This is race #1 in a 3 part series.  They have a 10K and 15K as well.  I am already booked on the days of their other races but I wouldn't hesitate on doing this one again.  It was safe, well-organized and while the course was repetitious, it was a pretty day for a run.