RACE REPORT: Spirit of White Bear Lake 5 Miler

>> Monday, April 08, 2024

After a winter of regular speed work and a few good runs lately, I figured it was time to test my running fitness. My wife and boys were gone this past week until Saturday evening (spring break for the boys but I still had class to teach), so I quick looked for a Saturday morning race just a few days before the weekend - this was NOT something I had been considering any earlier! And then I found the "Spirit of White Bear Lake" with a 5K and 5 mile. I wanted to race a bit farther, so I went with the 5 mile.

I was a little shocked to realize that I'd never done a 5 mile race! I HAVE done a lot of 8K races, which is 4.97 miles... most recently was last fall's "USATF MN 8K Cross Country Championship" out in the western suburbs. The rest of the 8Ks that I've run were the "O'Gara's Irish Run" (on Selby Ave) which took the place of the "Human Race" (parallel on Summit Ave) years before that:

- 29:41 in 2019
- 29:54 in 2018
- 31:46 in 2017 (coming off an injury and just taking it easy but scoring for my team)
- 29:20 in 2016
- 29:15 in 2012 (one of my best year's of running ever, and still my PR)

I'm 43 years old, my PR was 12 years ago, but I still thought that I had a chance of breaking that 29:15 at this 5 mile race! I didn't know if it was insane to even be thinking this! My only plan was to see if I could keep my half-mile splits around 2:55. That would give me a 29:10 finishing time. If I could keep them close to 2:55, I'd keep track throughout the race how many seconds I was under 3:00/half-mile pace to see if I could get that number to equal 45 or more (because 3:00/half-mile pace is 30:00 total for a 5 mile race MINUS 0:45 EQUALS 29:15 which is my PR).

I got to the race on the edge of White Bear Lake about 45 minutes before the race started:

We'd be turning right up and and heading into a decent breeze on the way out.

Traditional pre-race bathroom shot. Nice bathroom!

First time I got a look at the course: an out-and-back with an odd loop in the middle.

I had looked at results from previous years. The most recent one I could find (I think it was 2 years ago) had these as the top times:

I was hoping it would be like this...
maybe a few people to pull me, but I could be near the front.

I ran into Kirt G and we talked for a moment. As I was looking for where the start line would be, a man appeared with some chalk to answer my question:

My car is barely visible by this building. Maybe 200 feet from the starting line. Nice!

10 mins pre-race listening to Conan O'Brien while finishing a GU.

I hopped out of my car without mittens or a hat. It was in the mid-30s, and I figured I didn't need anything to keep me warm. We lined up, I worked my way to the right side of the starting line, and we were off!


A few guys shot off the line with me. This was a 5k and 5 mile, and none of us knew who was who. Before the first half-mile, first place was a block ahead, 2nd place was about a 1/2 block ahead, and I was running in 4th just off the shoulder of 3rd. I thought about trying to surge past him early on, but decided to "settle in" for few minutes before trying anything. I looked over my shoulder a bit later (the only time I looked back all race) and saw a pack of 6-8 about a half block behind me. That helped give me a little push.

My first half mile was decent at 2:57, and my 2nd was bit slower:

• MILE 1: 5:57 (2:57 + 3:00) "OK, a BIT slow... so get past this guy in 3rd and keep up the pace!"

I said "good morning" to the guy in 3rd as I passed him. I didn't know if he was going to be a 5Ker or 5 miler. I guessed the guy in 1st was a 5 miler, and that the guy in 2nd was a 5Ker, and I was right: 2nd place turned around at the "5K turn around" cone where us 5 milers kept going straight. "Uh oh..." I thought. "There are some curves up ahead and I'm at risk of losing sight of the lead biker and lead runner!" That concern made me pick up the pace, and it showed on my pace map:

5K runners turned around by split 3 (mile 1.5), and then my pace changed
from blue/green to yellow because I ran faster trying not to be left behind!

• MILE 2: 5:41 (2:54 + 2:46) "A 2:46! Nice! Overall, I'm 0:01 faster than my 29:10 goal PR pace!"

Now was the section through some neighborhood streets. I was keeping the leader about exactly 1 block in front of me - I really wasn't thinking I could catch him, but he was pulling me nicely! Coming up to these 3 turns marked by the red arrows, I noted that I was EXACTLY 1 block behind the leader each time he turned:

I noted that at the half-way point (at mile 2.5), I was EXACTLY at my 29:10 goal PR pace. I wasn't thinking this was "in the bag" and I was working hard, but I think I was still feeling more positive than negative.

• MILE 3: 5:49 (2:56 + 2:53) "Holding that 2:55/half mile or 5:50/mile pace! I'm doing it!"

We were still on those residential streets, and then we turned to run 1 block back to the path along the lake. That block was a bit uphill and into the wind, and it just ZAPPED me. But just after getting back on the path, my next half-mile split beeped, and it was 2:48! I was losing track of my added up splits, but I knew I was well under my PR pace now! It was looking good! And I was ready to book it past the 5K runners that we were now running with. It got a little tight at times, but never too bad. Here's a screenshot from a YouTube video showing the 6-8' wide path:

A this point, I was headed in the other direction with the lake on my left.

I was excited to see my next split to see how low it was going to be. THAT'S A GOOD SIGN AT MILE 4 OF A 5 MILE RACE!!

• MILE 4: 5:40 (2:48 + 2:52) "23:08 total! Here comes a 43-year-old PR!!"

That was the first time I glanced at my OVERALL time at a mile marker. I saw that I could run a 6:00 mile (which would have been my slowest mile of the race) and still PR!! I was going hard! There were a lot of 5Kers and other pedestrians to hop around from around mile 4.3 to the finish, but I was running happy! And I passed a 5Ker who said "Go 'Steve in a Speedo!'" Thanks for the shout-out Susan! And congrats on winning your AG in the 5K! :)

I was maybe SLOWLY gaining on the guy in 1st, but he was never really within range. I didn't care what these final splits were as I still felt like I was flying (AND HURTING... don't get me wrong!), and I wanted to see how much I could take off my PR. It was 29:15, and I was NOW wondering if I could get it down to 28:something!

I rounded the last 2 corners and the leader and I finished among a handful of 5K finishers.

• MILE 5: 5:32 (2:50 + 2:41) "Saaa-Weeet!!!!"


Steve Stenzel, 43, M, St. Paul
5:45/mile pace

2 out of 30 overall
1 out of 6 in the 40-49 age group
1st master

[Garmin: 28:40.8 for 4.99 miles, 5:44.16/mile pace]

I accidentally took a SPLIT instead of hitting STOP
when I crossed the line, so my Garmin was 0:01.7 long.

That Garmin pace chart shows me starting a bit fast and easing up, it shows the jump in speed around 10 mins to not get left behind, a drop in speed near the middle while rounding corners in the residential area, and then just working hard to hold on to some speed.


• Officially, it's a 0:30 PR! Well, 29:15 was my 8K PR, and 5 miles is technically even a bit longer (like 0.03 miles), so it's a default 5 mile PR (as it's my first), and it's maybe the equivalent of 0:40 faster than my best 8K finish from 12 years ago! (Out of 6 previous 8K races.)

• My regular speed work lately kept the last half of this race fast! My effort felt about the same throughout: I was working at mile 1.5 having run like 5:56 pace through that point. But then my splits were dropping as I went farther into the race, and it didn't feel like I was working that much harder.

• This might be the longest race I've done where I didn't use any of the water stops. I usually grab a sip in a 5K if there's an aid table half-way through. But the station at the 5K turn around (so at mile 1.5 and 3.5 for us 5 milers) didn't tempt me. I think because it was so nicely cool.

• I ended up 0:23 behind the winner. I know that's not super far in a 5 mile race, but I was never thinking I could catch him. He pulled me well, and I started closing the gap a little with about a mile left, but I was just happy for the "pull" and not really bummed that I couldn't win.

And the guy who I passed just after mile 1 ended up being over 2:00 behind me.

• This was the cheapest race I'd done in a while! It was $35 day-of or $35 plus a $6 processing fee online leading up to the race. So I showed up to the race with cash to save the 6 bucks. But at the race they said it'd be just $20 if I didn't want a t-shirt. Sold!!

After I finished, I thanked the leader for the pull (he complained that he wasn't faster), and I walked back to my car. Here's a selfie by the lake about 4 minutes after finishing once I grabbed my phone:

One with the shorts.

The finish line was busier when I finished (lots of 29 min 5Kers), but here's a shot later in the day.

I told this older 5-mile finisher "nice job" and he said "it doesn't pay well!"

Well, that was a great way to spend a Saturday morning! My boys would like this 5K, so I'll have to keep this one in mind for them in the future if they continue to like running.

There was a photographer at the finish, so I'll post those photos if they turn up online.

Post-race in my car with my age group medal.


Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments! Have a great day!


Follow steveinaspeedo on Twitter

Facebook Fan Page

All content and original images copyright 2006 - 2024 by Steve Stenzel, AKA "Steve in a Speedo." All Rights Reserved.
Want to use something seen here? Just ask - I don't bite.