Choosing a race plan can be difficult at times, especially when a race is not one that you are trying to peak for. Should you run it as a hard sprint, leaving nothing on the track or course from start to finish? Should you formulate a strategy about when to run hard and when to conserve your strength? Is this race something that you are just going to train through and treat as a workout with other people to chase?
Back Cove 5k » July 2006
Blaine Moore finishing the Back Cove 5k in July 2006
Photo by Erik Boucher

The Race

Tonight is the second to last Back Cove 5k in the 19 week (18 race) series. This is a case study about how I went about choosing the race plan that I am going to use this evening.

The weekly winners of the race get a little recognition in the results on various websites and in the newspaper, but there is no physical prize. The series winners get 4 pairs of Mizuno running shoes and are the man and woman who have run the fastest of any 6 of the 18 races. Currently, I am in the lead for the shoes.

Most of the season, I just ran the race as a tempo run or as some sort of interval workout. The past few weeks, with the better weather, I have been actually racing them in order to bring my overall time down a bit. My last two races were both sub-17 minutes on what is notoriously a slow course. The obvious plan of action for this evening would be to further pad my lead to ensure that I win the shoes. There is a small complication with that plan, however.

Other Races

On Sunday, I am running the Pisgah 50k Mountain Trail Race in New Hampshire. It is the first time that I have raced farther than a marathon, or over 10 kilometers on trails. It is the first time that I have run over 15 miles on trails. It is also the farthest single run that I have done by a couple of miles, although I have run further in a single day between two runs. My results from the 50k are more important to me than the results from tonight’s 5k.

Running a 50k on Sunday, I highly doubt that I will be very fast next Wednesday no matter how hard I run. My original game plan was to run some sort of intervals this evening, such as mile repeats. This would allow me to get a little speed work in, but would still leave me fresh and recovered for this weekend. Running intervals, however, would not improve my chances of winning the series.


The first question that I need to answer before deciding how fast that I need to run is, “Who can catch me, and how likely are they to do so?” There are two real candidates to catch me, Scott Gorneau and Chris Gatchell.

Scott is currently in 2nd place, 1 minute and 43 seconds behind me. His last two races have been in the low 17 minute range, and he has improved on his time every week that he has ran. Faster races will decrease his overall time by quite a bit as his slower times from early in the season drop off. If he runs 17:00 tonight, then his time will improve by 1 minute and 16 seconds, leaving him only 27 seconds behind me. Another 17:00 effort next week would drop a further 37 seconds from his time, giving him a 10 second lead. If he averages anything faster than a 17:05 over the next two weeks then he will beat me.

Chris is not currently ranked, because he has only raced 4 times this season. He needs to run tonight and next week in order to get onto the board. However, his average time is only 1 second behind mine, and he has also been running in the low 17 minute range for the past few races that he ran. He needs to run a combined time of 34:18 between the two races in order to win, which is averages to 17:09 for the two races. If he managed to run 17:00 both weeks, then he would beat me by 19 seconds.

If I do not race tonight but instead run intervals like I had originally planned, then Chris will probably win the shoes. There is hope, though. My slowest time that would be dropped off right now is 17:45, which means that I can improve my time by running anything faster than that. A 17:25 will improve my time by 20 seconds, which would mean that both of them would have to average a faster than 17:00 minute effort both weeks in order to win. This would be challenging, but it is certainly possible. A 17 minute effort on my part will give me an additional 45 second lead that both Chris and Scott would be hard pressed to overcome, I think. If I repeated my efforts from the past couple of weeks and ran in the high-16 minute range, then I think it would be very unlikely that either one would beat me.

Race Plans

So, how to decide what sort of workout to run? I do want to win the series, but not at the expense of the 50k trail race that is coming up in a few days. What I plan on running tonight is a tempo run, rather than a race or intervals. The trick, though, is finding the right pace and hopefully prevent it from becoming a race.

My race plan tonight is going to be very simple. I am not going to lead.

Back Cove 5k » June 2007
Blaine Moore finishing the Back Cove 5k in June 2007
Photo by Erik Boucher
Two weeks ago, I followed Scott and Josh Dyer for about half of the race and then took over. Last week, there was a good lead pack that rotated the leader over the first half or two thirds of the race, but I again took over.

Tonight, I will follow Scott and Chris and let them set the pace. Josh Dyer may show up, and he may push the pace a little more than I’d care for, but I can let him go if Chris and Scott don’t follow.

If Chris or Scott run in the 17:00 to 17:20 range, then I will keep up as well as I can and should at least run a 17:25 if not a little quicker. The slower that they run this week, the less that I need to worry about next week. If one or both of them are running sub-17:00 then I will have to pick up the pace a little more, but there will be no reason to even try if they are a slightly more pedestrian pace.

I may crash and burn, I may have trouble keeping up, and I may feel the itch to take over and run harder than I should. Letting them set the pace, though, should serve well enough to bring me through where I need to be to win.

The Pisgah 50k will then be a good race this weekend, and I will be able to run and enjoy the last Back Cove 5k without worrying about how fast I need to recover and race again.


That has been my thought processes over the past week. I am scrapping the schedule that I had set up a couple of months ago when I decided to run in New Hampshire, but I do not think that I will have to deviate too far from where I originally wanted to be. My workouts will be primarily cross training after tonight until Saturday, when I will get a short run in.

Was this case study helpful? Do you have any suggestions on what I might consider doing differently, or do you think that this is a good course of action? Did I waste too much time thinking about something that in the grand scheme of things really is not that important?

Either way, the results will be on the Back Cove website this evening.