Sunday, May 12, 2013

This Is What Strong Feels Like

This morning I ran my 2nd Angel Kisses 5K in Chantilly, VA. My favorite thing about this race is that it's just over 2 miles from my house-- 2.3 miles to be exact. The perfect distance for a warm up and cool down. No worrying about parking, traffic, getting there an hour early, etc. Just a nice jog to the start line from my house and a nice jog back afterwards.

Greg and I had been doing our long run a few years ago and noticed the race taking place, so we decided to run it last year for the first time. And now, we're hooked!

I knew that I wasn't in the best shape physically going into this race. I had only done about 3 speed workouts in the past two months, and that's if you include the Cherry Blossom 10-miler as a workout! Everything else was easy running and low mileage as I felt like my body was asking for a break. The plan is to keep things light and easy for the rest of May and then start packing on the miles in June.

I did want to be prepared for this race, though, so I had done some hill sprints on one of the course's larger hills. On Tuesday of this week and Tuesday of last week, I had run to the race course and done some sprints up the hill. I told myself that I would NOT be running the hill as quickly as these sprints during the race, and the point of these sprints was to make the hill seem more manageable during the race.

Before the Race
Things  have calmed down for me a bit since the blow-up at the Nike Women's Half marathon and I've been sleeping well lately. Going into the race I felt rested, energized, well-hydrated, and relaxed.

We left our house at about 7:20 for the 8:00 start. Greg has been battling a foot injury-- which we think is a strained ligament. He hasn't run in four weeks, and was hoping that today he'd feel good enough to do the 5K. But unfortunately, the jog to the race aggravated his foot, and now it hurts more than it did previously. Instead, he played the role of cheerleader/photographer.

When we got to the race, I was pleasantly surprised to find Linda and Kathy there, who I pool run with regularly. Both of them would be running with their kids in celebration of Mother's day. One of my teammates, Liz, was also there, so it was nice to be surrounded by a group of runners I was friends with.

My strategy was to take the first hill (which measured 0.3 mile when I was doing the sprints) easy. To not get pulled out by all the little kids. And then gun it on the downhill afterwards. I was not going to look at the Garmin until after the race was over-- just like last year.

My time from last year was 22:24, which was good for first place in my age group (30-39). Given that today was windy and I wasn't in as good of shape as I was last year, I thought that my chances of beating it were slim. But I wanted to come close! After seeing Liz, I knew that she would end up taking the 30-39 win, so my hope was to come in second.

Mile 1: 7:06
I really tried to hold back on this hill, but I probably didn't hold back as much as I should have. Lots of little kids shot out at a fast pace and probably took me with them. I focused on my form and remembering that
The end of Mile 1
this should feel easier then all the sprints I did. The entire first mile is a loop, so I also focused on staying as close to the inside as possible. After getting to the top of the hill, it was time for the long downhill. I knew Greg would be there with his camera, and it was nice to have him cheering for me as I passed.

Mile 2: 7:20
More hills, which I expected. During this mile, I was really gaining on this one woman, who I remembered from last year. I remember that last year, she was significantly ahead of me, so I was excited to be catching up with her. When we reached mile marker three, we were neck-and-neck. The mile hurt a lot, as is typical in a 5K. I developed a new mantra on the spot "this is what strong feels like". I was working so hard and everything just hurt to be exerting that kind of effort, but I refused to back off and kept thinking "this is what strong feels like." Pushing through the pain- demanding that my body give everything that it possibly can for just over 20 minutes.

Mile 3: 7:26
That woman got ahead of me again and I had her in my sights for the rest of the race, but I couldn't catch her. She looked extremely fit. Very toned, very strong and I actually was surprised that I was even in her league. I knew she wasn't in my age group, so I wasn't extremely motivated to beat her-- I just wanted to keep her close. This is where the wind really got me, and all the other runners I talked to afterwards. There was a long straightaway directly into a headwind, and of course, up a hill. It was like a losing battle going up the hill and fighting the wind. I remember how hard that last hill was last year without the wind. This was grueling, but I pushed forward. This is what strong feels like!!! If this mile didn't have a nice downhill finish, I probably would have averaged way slower. According to my Garmin data, I was running about an 8:15 up that hill into the wind, but then once the downhill came, I was in the 6:20's.

Last 0.1: This is what strong looks like!
Last 0.14: (6:14 pace)
Once the finish line was in sight, I focused on it and ran as fast as I could to it. I saw the clock as I was coming through and was slightly disappointed. I realized that I didn't beat last year's time even though I had given it my all. I didn't let it bother me, though. I knew I gave 100% and that the wind was truly a force to reckon with.

I finished in a time of 22:46. This was 22 seconds slower than last year, but still good for second place in my age group.

After the Race
Liz and I ran about a mile cool down and then we met back up with Greg and our other friends. The food at this race is really good-- fresh muffins and bagels and cookies! Greg had downloaded this special app for his phone that allowed him to take like 20 photos per second, so he showed me what he had taken.

I was pretty sure I came in second in my age group, and that was confirmed once the awards started. My friend Linda won her age group too! I ended up with a $15 gift certificate to a local running store. Greg and I  started walking back to our house when he told me he didn't think he'd be able to run at all. I ran home, got the car, and then picked him up. :-( I feel so badly for him.

Key Takeaways

  • I gave 100% effort during this race, which is always the best you can hope for
  • It was nice not looking at my Garmin during the race, and it turns out that my pacing was similar to last year (6:58, 7:17, 7:18). 
  • I think the wind probably took about 10-15 seconds off of my time
  • I was very happy with my AG award
  • This course is pretty hilly- definitely not a course a PR on.
  • I really loved that Kathy, Liz and Linda were all there. It was great to have that camaraderie and it was really nice to cool down with Liz.
  • I will plan on making this race an annual tradition- the best part is getting to run to and from the start line!
As I said above, I am still in "break" mode for the next two weeks and then I will start ramping up again. I'll probably run some more 5Ks in the next month or so, but I am not sure which ones.

Elizabeth's dominate the 30-39 bracket!


  1. Congrats on the check! I'm really sorry about Greg, though :(

  2. Wow, awesome pace - especially for taking a break! I couldn't agree more about your first bullet - "I gave 100% effort during this race, which is always the best you can hope for". Amen to that :)

  3. Great race, Elizabeth! :) Congrats on the AG award.

    Also, I'm stealing "this is what strong feels like" for next weekend. ;)

  4. Congrats on your AG place~!! So awesome!

  5. Way to go on a great race with a place in your AG. Wind can be brutal sometimes; I wore at hat yesterday on my long run and the wind took it off at least 3 times!

  6. Love, love the mantra!!

    Nothing like a tough 5k to set things in a positive direction. Thanks for the nice note on my post, btw!

  7. Great job on doing your best. I remember a particular 5K where I didn't win, place, or show but when I hit the finish line I knew I had given everything I had. I didn't win but I knew what strong felt like.

  8. Congrats on the AG award! I love races close to home too. The logistics are what freak me out the most so when I can get there easily and just run I love it. Hope Greg heals quickly.

  9. You are so damn cute :-) Your form is beautiful. Well done :-)