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Race Report: Hilltop U.S.A. 5K

I do love a low-key race.

lol come on man it wasn't THAT bad. this might be the worst picture of me from a race...ever?

Race: Hilltop U.S.A. 5K

Date: July 2, 2022

Distance: 5K

Location: Columbus, OH


Time: 19:08


  • A: Do I have to have a goal every time?


  1. 6:06

  2. 6:09

  3. 6:15

  4. 0:36


Training has been pretty basic. Run almost every day (I take maybe one day off a month), plus extremely bread and butter workouts. Long cruise intervals (4x10 minutes, 10-15-15 minutes) and intervals on the track at my current CV to 10K pace (stuff like 8x800 w/ 200 jog recovery. Mostly just working on the engine, although I've done a few faster workouts at something like 3K to 5K pace. I sprinkle stuff like 4x200 flat out and 4x0:30 hill sprints in there following workouts just to keep the ol neuromuscular system firing. Long runs up to two hours or so. I've been lifting. Pretty basic stuff.

I didn't give it a taper really, just situated this race in a regularly scheduled cutback week and used it as my second workout. I did long cruise intervals around marathon pace four days before, which is probably not what I'd prescribe for an A race. When I structure these B to C race weeks I'll just do an extended cool down and call it my long run.

CERC ready to run


The Hilltop U.S.A. 5K is put on by the Columbus WESTside Running Club. I'm a big CWRC fan and I knew it would be a good time. I've never run this before but I've had my eye on it — I'm all about C*RC solidarity. I had my normal pre-race breakfast: granola and oat milk, plus coffee. I do still have some CERC responsibilities, so even though I couldn't be at our group run I detoured to put a couple of water stops out before we headed out to the Hilltop. This is what we were listening to when we rolled in. Great song.

We had a great CERC squad come out for the race, and everyone got together for a picture at packet pickup. I also checked in with my athletes who were running: Cahner, Megan, and Eric. It was pretty pretty warm (72 degrees, 83% humidity, sunny) and the course was exposed, so the idea was to run conservatively to start.

Megan, Cahner and I headed out to warm up. I've gotten into a bad habit with my last couple races of arriving a little too late. Between that and the team pictures and general socializing, the end result is that I don't get quite the warmup I might like. Today that meant about 25 minutes total including some light strides. I would like more like 30-35. It seems relatively minor and it might just be a mental thing but I feel like it makes a difference. Especially for a 5K I want to be rocking and rolling when I get to the line.

The Race:

The course was pretty much a straight out and back on the Camp Chase trail. Thankfully there's a little loop at the end so it's not just a cone to turn around and you can actually carry some speed the whole way. This is not a huge race and I really didn't want to be right on the front at the line, but it seemed liked no one else did either. I just hung back a little and let a few other people inch forward. I kind of had a race plan: there was another runner, Caitlin, who is definitely faster than me. I figured I'd just try to keep her in my crosshairs and see what happened. And not go out too fast.

First mile, whatever. Some people I was pretty confident about bringing back were out in front of me, but no rush. Came through in 6:06, which was probably a little too quick given the climatic conditions and my current fitness. So far this is essentially a straight shot. Mile two included the turnaround — the only downside of the loop is that I couldn't use people coming back toward me to see how far behind I was. Ran right through the water stop, it can't help me now.

Because of the loop I didn't get to see any of my athletes on the come back portion, so I just had to assume they were all doing great. The back half is net downhill, except for one little rise that I was...vocally see. Caitlin was running away from me and I had spent a little too much in the first mile to take advantage of the (frankly imperceptible) descent. Mile two clicked over in 6:09.

A brief digression to say that this course was incredibly accurately measured and the mile markers appeared to be dead on. I manually lap during races and they nailed it. Anyway. Not much of note mile three, just hanging on for dear life. I probably gave away a few seconds in the last 800 meters or so. It's not so much that I slowed down as that I realized I wasn't catching anyone and no one was catching me, so I just ever so slightly lifted my foot off the gas. It's a mental failing and a danger of smaller races for me. Mile three 6:15. Picked it up when I saw the finish line for the sake of appearances, but my usual goal is to have nothing left to kick with. If I run a perfect race I hold the pace right to the line and collapse (that's never happened but I can dream).

Team Geer bringing home the hardware


Trotted back out to cheer Megan, Cahner, Eric, and miscellaneous CERC members across the line. Did some light commiseration, accidentally patted a few extremely sweaty people on the back, and chugged a water. All of my runners were doing extended cool downs of varying lengths, so we went back to the cars, grabbed handheld water bottles and gels, and went for a jog. Just ran back and forth chatting; Caitlin joined us for a few minutes which was nice.

One very happy inconvenience: we had to stop mid extended cool down for awards. I got 3rd overall male (5th overall), Megan 3rd overall female (11th overall), Cahner 1st in her age group (16th overall), and Eric 2nd in his age group (8th overall). The race wasn't huge, which is evidenced by the fact that I was in the top ten, but you can only run against the people who show up and placing is placing. A handful of other CERC members also got age group placings. It was fun to roll in as the visiting team, so to speak, and make some noise. Also obviously I'm pumped when anyone I coach runs well. All three of them work extremely hard. If they're happy, I'm happy.

Headed back out for even more extended cool down, looped back to drop some people off and then headed BACK out for a little more solo. Worth it to avoid having to do a Sunday long run, which is another way I sometimes deal with this situation. Cahner and I normally get breakfast/brunch after races, but instead we got a dozen donuts from Buckeye Donuts on campus on our way home and made plans to go to Hounddogs for pizza later.

Third overall (male) but second dipped out before awards

What's Next?

Keep training and starting working toward some half specific workouts. I'm also going to do some more aggressive 5K targeted stuff in anticipation of a mini peak at America's greatest race: the Baltimore Festival 5K.

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