If you’re accustomed to doing triathlons, half-Ironmans and Ironmans, a 5K may seem beneath you. But a 5K is a short, intense effort that offers a way to shake off the winter rust and test your fitness after a long winter of training.

John Rasmussen finished 6th in the Around the Bay 5K with a time of 15:29.

Related: Daniel Clarke: Running an early season 5K road race

Over the first weekend of February, a number of Triathlon Canada’s elite triathletes took part in the Runner’s Den Pancake 5K in Scottsdale, Arizona. “An early race effort (like a 5K) should be respected but not over-analyzed,” says Karsten Madsen, a top ten finisher at the 2018 Xterra World Championship. “It gives you quick letter grade on where your fitness is – it lets you see if your plan is working or if you need to make changes.”

Karsten Madsen running at the Runner’s Den Pancake 5K.

Related: Karsten Madsen finishes seventh at the 2018 Xterra World Championship

Doing an early season 5K is a great way to get your competitive juices flowing after a long winter of training. “I love to race. So, doing an early season 5k is the perfect opportunity to get back into the racing mindset,” says Matthew Sharpe, a member of Triathlon Canada and finished ninth at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Matthew Sharpe running at the Runner’s Den Pancake 5.

Related: Mislawchuk and Sharpe go top 5 and New Plymouth World Cup

Doing a 5K test helps to cross-check and determine heart rate training zones and training paces for the season. Because it is so short, a 5K road race is an “all-out effort”, so it’s useful to determine your “threshold” heart rate and pace. A 5K road race also serves as a very difficult speed workout.

Related: Paul Duncan: A detailed guide to crushing your 5K

Both Sharpe and Madsen raced on February 3rd at a local 5K in Scottsdale. Sharpe finished second to Tyler Mislawchuk (14:38) in a time of 14:48. Madsen finished fourth in a time of 15:26. As Team Canada prepares for the start of the 2019 season, each athlete has their own takeaways. “Our group was finishing a hard block of training, so what I took out of it was some context to how I can run off a bike with the accumulated fatigue in my legs,” says Madsen.

In an older video, Daniel Clarke highlights the importance of doing an early season race.

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