Monday, February 15, 2016

Run Your Heart Out 5K

I plan my race schedule for each season far in advance. As I train for the Boston Marathon in April, my coach and I agreed on two tune-up races: the GW Birthday 10K on February 14 and the Shamrock half marathon in mid-March. I may also squeeze in a Crystal City 5K, but I'm not sure about that yet.

I've seen another jump in fitness lately and I was excited about the possibility of crushing it in a 10K. I think my 10K PR is soft, and I was planning on going for a 30-40 second PR in the 10K yesterday. BUT. . . the race was cancelled. The race director's email said that it was too cold and unsafe to run, but I disagreed and so did other area race directors. Two other 5Ks took place as scheduled, and as well as a local marathon. Unfortunately, there were no other 10K races to choose from so I settled doing one of the 5Ks-- the "Run Your Heart Out" 5K in Fairfax Corner.

The weather itself was really not that bad-- 14 degrees, sunny, with 8-10 MPH winds. I've done quite a few training runs in really cold weather and I've raced in worse. Far worse, in fact. Last winter, I ran a 15K in a torrential downpour, and at only 39 degrees, I was feeling pretty close to  hypothermia by the end. Yesterday's weather was a walk in the park compared to that 15K, and compared to most races in the summer when I overheat!
Race start, I'm in the pink. Photo courtesy of =PR= Races

Overheating was actually a concern of mine. I overheat very, very easily, particularly if it's sunny. For me to perform well in sunny weather, the temperature needs to be below 45. I qualified for Boston on a 25-degree day with plenty of sun, and I felt great in just a lightweight top. I decided I would wear a very thin short-sleeve shirt as a base layer, and then wear a medium-weight half-zip top over that. I also wore heavy tights-- Saucony "Siberius" tights that are rated for temperatures far below freezing.

Based on my knowledge of the course, my plan was to run a race with splits that looked like this: 6:28, 6:54, 6:54. I wasn't trying to PR, given that this course is much hillier than the one I PRed on, but I thought that a 6:45 average pace was within my reach.

Before the race
Greg decided to sit this race out and do a long run later in the day once it warmed up. He drove me to the race and waited in a coffee shop while I warmed up. I knew that starting the race warm would be really important to avoid muscle cramping, so I ran the full course, and then went into the coffee shop to ditch my jacket. I then went back outside and jogged around the parking lot until one minute before the race start.

Mile 1: 6:39
I've run this course before so there were no surprises. I planned on the first mile being my fastest because it's mainly downhill, and I had actually planned on it being in the 6:28-6:30 arena. But it's difficult for me to start running fast right out of the gate (even if I've already warmed up) so a 6:39 was the best I could do. Whenever I run intervals, my first rep is always significantly slower than the rest of them, which I am okay with, but when racing short distances like the 5K, I need to learn how to turn on the gas ASAP.

Mile 2: 6:47
I actually started to feel warm during this mile as I ran directly into the sun, so I unzipped my top
Heading for the finish line.
down as far as it would go, and I un-tucked my base-layer shirt. I spent this mile focused on keeping the effort level strong, and I even passed a few runners.

Mile 3: 7:05
This last mile was brutal. I was mentally prepared for it, but it was a huge hill directly into the headwind and I had to push so hard just to maintain my 7:05 pace. I think my effort level here was significantly higher than it was during the first mile, but the hill and the wind were working against me.

Last 0.17: (6:36 pace)
Usually I have a stronger final kick in the 5K, but this one included 2 turns and I was so beat from that last mile that I didn't have a lot left in me to give. As I approached the finish line, I was disappointed to see that the clock read 21:40. I knew I hadn't run as fast as I had planned, but I thought for sure I'd at least be in the low 21's. And then I realized that my Garmin measured 3.17 miles, which equates to a 21:41 at my average pace of 6:50.

After the race
Instead of having an awards ceremony, they gave the awards away inside of the running store immediately after the race. This meant that we didn't have to wait around in the cold. I ended up in 4th place for the women's race, winning 1st place in my age group. Having just watched the Olympic Trials the day before, Greg told me I was the Kara Goucher of the race. Which isn't too shabby!

After I got my award, Greg and I made our way back to the car where I changed into a heavier running top and swapped out my racing shoes for a more cushioned pair of Nike Lunarglides. Greg drove the car home and I ran home! My coach wanted me to run an additional 90-120 minutes after the race, but given that I had warmed up for about 4 miles beforehand, I thought that 80-90 was more realistic.

My run home felt really great, and it didn't even feel like I had just raced a 5K. With only 3 miles left to go, I ran into Greg who had driven home, changed into running clothes, and started his long run. (I had told him what my route would be so that we could meet up.)

My total mileage for the day was 16.1, which includes a 5K at a pace of 6:50, and a first place age group award! Not too shabby for a day that some race directors consider "unsafe" weather. I would have liked to run that race about 30 seconds faster "officially," although I was only off my pacing strategy by 5 seconds per mile.

I'm looking forward to some nicer weather toward the end of this week!

Photo courtesy of Greg Clor.


  1. I think you did an awesome job and should be super proud of this race! Time aside, you ran a race you weren't planning on running after dealing with stressful weather issues... and it was part of a long run. I've actually never done that with a 5K although I have worked half marathons in as long runs (I usually do a 5K as a tempo if I'm planning to do it as a workout). You won your age group and that's huge too! Good luck with the rest of training!

  2. I stumbled upon your blog after receiving heart breaking news.
    I also stock piled my elixirs and alternated my runs with the sayonaras. However, I am out of Elixirs so I head to my local running store to buy the Sayonara when they tell me that the shoe will be discontinued !!!!

    Now what? Any suggestions?

    1. It doesn't surprise me. When they went from the Sayonara 2 to the 3, they upped the weight significantly making it no longer a good racing shoe. And they came out with the Catalyst which was supposed to be an Elixir replacement, but that shoe also weighs a lot more than the Elixir. Meanwhile, they are making shoes like the Inspire lighter, so instead of having a nice variety of weights, they are consolidating to a medium weight. :-( I still have two pairs of Elixirs and 2 pairs of Sayonaras, but I have been looking at the lighter weight New Balances- those could be an option. Another problem is that so many shoes have gone to a lower heel-to-toe ratio, which doesn't work for me.