Monday, July 4, 2011

Firecracker 5K: An Over-Analyzed Race Report

This morning, my husband and I ran the Firecracker 5K in Reston, VA. It was about 76 degrees and very humid, but thankfully there was plenty of cloud cover. I was extremely grateful for the cloud cover, and this race further confirms that the sun is my real enemy. Last weekend I bonked during a sunny race, even though both the humidity and temperature were lower. Yes, that was a 10K, but I felt about 10 times worse at that race, not twice as worse.

I realize this was only a 5K, but I decided to take hydration very seriously. I've been reading a lot about NuuN and other electrolyte tablets, but it turns out that they all have Sorbitol in them, a sugar alcohol which I am allergic to. So instead, I pre-hydrated with Pedialyte. No fake sugars. If it's safe for babies, then it should be safe for me. Another hydration issue that I have is drinking too much on race morning. In the past, I have always drunk plenty of water the day before the race and maybe just a few cups on race morning. This is because I have a tendency to "leak" while putting out a hard effort, even if I use the porta potty right before the race. (Sorry if this is TMI!)

There were two obstacles that I thought might prevent me from running this race, or force me to DNF: my stomach and my calf. I'll start with the stomach. Without getting too graphic, let's just say that starting yesterday evening, I had frequent trips to the bathroom. And those continued into this morning. It was probably something I ate that didn't agree with me, but my stomach was not feeling good at all. On the way to the race, we drove though a neighborhood where all the street names were "Dairy" this and "Dairy" that, and it just made me feel nauseous. I used the porta-potty twice pre-race and hoped for the best. And thankfully, my stomach was fine during the race.

Now onto my calf. On Saturday, I noticed that whenever I stood up and started walking, my calf was really tight. I stretched it and massaged it, but it simply wouldn't loosen. Yesterday it was even worse. Those first few steps would be painful, but the more I walked around the better it felt. I stretched it and used a warm towel to try and get it to loosen. I think what helped the most, though, was the CEP compression sleeves I bought last winter. I wore the right one around the house all day yesterday and I slept in it. When I woke up, the calf didn't hurt as much, but it was still noticeably tight.

I warmed up wearing the CEP compression sleeves and my calf felt decent. And luckily during the race I couldn't feel it being an issue at all. Dodged bullet number 2.

Greg and I warmed up for one mile, stretched a lot and then lined up at the start line. It looked like there were a lot of really fast runners there. The entire =PR= racing team and then just a bunch of people who looked super speedy. Last year I placed third in my age group but it looked like that would not be happening again. Greg and I situated ourselves about 15 feet back from the start line, but of course there was still plenty of weaving in the first mile to pass these folks.

I read my blog post from last year's race and remembered that the second mile was mainly downhill, and that the last half mile of the race was all uphill and felt torturous. My plan was to run the first mile at my goal pace, speed up for the second mile because of the downhill and then see what I could do in the final mile. On Friday, I spoke with my friend Dash about my strategy, and she suggested that I "enjoy" mile 2 instead of going all out so that I had more left for mile 3. I took her advice.

The Race
The race started, and there were a ton of people to weave through. I really hate weaving during the first mile of a 5K because it makes your distance longer and wastes energy, but I had no choice. As I said, I really think I lined myself up close enough to the front so that this shouldn't have been an issue. But of course, it was. I settled into what felt like 5K effort and logged a 7:12 for the first mile.

Now for the fun part. I wanted to "enjoy" this mile while staying strong and still pushing. I was still passing a bunch of runners during this mile and no one was passing me. I ended up averaging a 7:03 pace. I originally thought I should aim for a 6:50 during that mile, but I thought the effort level was appropriate so I didn't worry.

Now for the tough part. Mile 3. As I went into this mile, I remembered how hard it was last year and I was prepared for the worst. And of course, my "leaking" problem began. I drank too much pre-race and apparently my porta potty trips didn't matter. This was embarrassing, but there was nothing I could do about it so I just kept running the race. As I approached the final hill, I remember my husband saying last year that he actually sped up for the hill, and I thought I had enough in me to do the same. I didn't speed up, but I pushed a lot harder and ended up with a 7:20 average pace, which I was very happy with, especially compared to last year. Another thing that made me happy was that I passed quite a few people on that final hill, including the one girl who I had my eye on from the beginning as wanting to beat.

I glanced down at my Garmin and thought I could come in under 22:40 and so I really gunned it at the end, passing three more women in the final stretch.  I Averaged a 6:23 pace as I sprinted toward the finish. I was super excited when I looked at my Garmin and realized I ran a 22:39. But then bummed when I looked at the official results, and it was 22:41. Just a two-second difference, but I worked so hard for that sub 22:40!

I placed 5 out of 89 women in my Age Group
I placed 35 out of 447 women overall. (I said it was a highly competitive race!)

The top 10 women all finished in under 20 minutes. And even more amazing, the top 30 women all finished in under 22 minutes. What a field of strong runners! 

Going into the race, my goal was to beat my Lawyer's Have Heart time from 4 weeks ago (thus setting a new "hot weather" PR), but my B goal was to go sub 23:00. Both goals were accomplished.

Mile  Firecracker 2011  Firecracker 2010  Lawyers 2011 
 1     7:12  7:30 7:20
 2  7:03  7:06 7:27
 3     7:20  7:43 7:22
 Last Bit    6:23 for 0.16 mile   7:23 for 0.14 mile 5:59 for 0.1 mile
Time 22:41 23:21 22:43

I'm excited because I'm in much better shape than I was last year at this time, and I am fairly certain that if today's race was cooler I would have set an overall distance PR. According to my Garmin, I ran 3.16 miles at an average 7:10 pace, which is my PR pace. I blame the weaving. :-) I'm happy that I beat my Lawyer's Have Heart time. Officially, it's faster by only 2 seconds, but this was a hillier course and my Garmin showed me as running more distance so I consider it a more significant difference. Yes, I over analyze my times quite a bit.

Aside from the incontinence in mile 3, this race went really well. No digestive issues or calf problems, and I didn't feel like I was going to pass out afterwards. Now it's time for some 4th of July fun!


  1. heh - as one overanalyzer to another, I commiserate. I do think there's value to evaluating past performances (especially when you run races repeatedly, so you know what worked for you, in terms of warm-up, clothing, etc).

    For example, I know I did a much shorter warm-up than normal for my race this morning, and it worked out fine. So I note that in my report, so then I remember that next time when I get tempted to do more.

    [ps - if digestive issues threaten again, Immodium can be a lifesaver. Since I went gluten free, I've been able to skip off of it and just use Pepto. But there was a while when Immodium was a very good friend. You do have to be careful to hydrate, as it is slightly dehydrating]

  2. The awesome thing about this race he shat it seems you have gotten warm weather racing under control! No more BONKS! Whooohoooo! Hopefully these strategies can follow you into some longer races, too! Congrats on your improvement from last year!

  3. Do you like and/or have you tried coconut water? That's a great electrolyte and potassium source and it's all natural. Personally, I like ONE and Naked brands over VitaCoco.

    As for leaking, you need to add another form of cross training: kegels! They are a must to prevent that, but also essential for other, more important aspects of being a woman (orgasms and childbirth!). Easy to do, you can do them any time, and they require no special equipment (well, there are advanced kegels...). Trust me, it will help! Strengthen that pelvic floor!

  4. Congrats on your race, wow when you compare it to last year, you really can see the difference! I thought my Gu Brew didn't have sorbitol but it does. :( (nuun upsets my stomach too and I thought maybe that was why).

    I'm glad your stomach and calf didn't give you an issue. As for the incontinence, doubtful anyone had noticed. I'm glad you enjoyed mile 2 and even gladder, it worked in your favor. You took that hill 40 seconds faster than last year! Woot!

  5. Cris- Yup, for hot races, shorter warmups seem to work better for me too. I read your blog and totally relate to the "long" course thing.

    LA- thanks! I just want this hot waether stuff to end!

    Jenn- I havent tried coconut water becuz it doesnt sound good to me. But maybe it is. And I know, i need to be better about those exercises.

    Dash- yay for fast hills! Thanx again for the advice and the call today.

  6. I'm glad you were able to improve so much over last year (and beat your Lawyers' time)! I didn't race on Monday, but had a tough time on my run so I'm sure that in slightly nicer weather you definitely would have gone sub 22:40.