Saturday, April 25, 2015

Breaking Tape

Last Saturday, I won my first-ever 5K. Prior to this race, the only race I’d ever officially won was a 2-mile race at my college reunion in 2005.  And that was actually the first race I ever ran, period. (It was quite the foray into racing!)

One of my best friends, Allison, asked me to run this race with her shortly before my March 29 marathon. I was excited about it and I told her I would, provided that my recovery went smoothly.

Three weeks after the marathon, I felt mostly recovered and ready to go. I asked my coach how I should approach the race and he told me that since I was feeling good, I could run it hard and see where my speed was.

Before the race
This race was more of a social opportunity than anything else. I hadn’t seen Allison in a while and we planned to go out for brunch after the race. It’s become customary for us to meet for lunch or coffee or something shortly after one of us runs a marathon so we can hear all the details from the other one. Added bonus: our mutual friend Liz was also running the race.

I met Allison at her place in Arlington and she drove us to the race at Hains point. We met up with Liz, warmed up for just over three miles and we were ready to go. Allison’s plan was to run it as a tempo, as this race occurred in the middle of a very heavy training week. Liz was going to run it as an easy run, as part of a longer run she was doing that day. Since my coach told me I should run it hard, I figured I might as well use it as an opportunity to practice a 5K pacing strategy. I had nothing to lose, since this wasn’t a target race, so I figured I would risk going out too fast and then bonking.

It was sunny (although parts of the course were shaded) and about 63 degrees. I’m not acclimated to warmth yet, and I find that I typically race slower than my peers when the weather heats up. I wore a sports bra and poured cold water over my head before starting.

Race start

Mile 1: 7:12
Allison and I lined up at the front and noticed that there weren’t many runners up there with us. Most people were sticking to the back. I had never lined up right at the front of a race before, but since nobody else was, I figured why not.  The race started and I took off pretty quickly. 

I felt rusty because I hadn’t done any speed work since the marathon. I took a full week of complete rest post-marathon, and week number two was extremely light. The third week had one stride workout, but was otherwise all slow, easy running. 

I pulled ahead of the pack and I knew that there were no women ahead of me. I wasn’t sure how close behind me Allison was, but I assumed she was very close.

Mile 2: 7:22
As I got into the second mile, I thought that my Garmin was lying to me. I felt like I was running a sub-7:00 pace but my Garmin was reading in the 7:20’s. Throughout my marathon training cycle, in the cold, my tempo pace was 7:15. But now I was running in the 7:20s and it was my 5K pace! I felt strong and energized, but the pace on the watch just didn’t correlate with my perception of effort. Toward the end of this mile, I passed two guys. It felt great!

Mile 3: 7:09
Things started to suck here, and I was ready for the race to be over. The only thing motivating me was the possibility of being the first female finisher. It was pretty exhilarating. I basically repeated to myself over and over again to keep up the effort. I didn’t care about the pace, I just wanted to push hard and run my best.

Approaching the finish line. That black tape on my knee is "sunscreen."

Last 0.1 to The finish (6:30 pace)
I was so excited to see finish line tape! I only had a few seconds to figure out how to put my arms and how to make a good finisher’s photo, but that suddenly became my main focus when I saw the tape. I ran through it and turned around to watch Allison finish. I was 99% sure that she was right behind me and that there were no runners in between us.

She finished strong and executed according to plan, as did Liz.

The only photo they got of me was from behind!

After the race
The three of us cooled down for a mile and then returned back for the awards ceremony.

Post-race cool down. Beautiful day!

We received medals and a photo opp with Miss Teen District of Columbia. It was a beautiful day for easy running and an awards ceremony!

Awards ceremony. 1-2 finish!

Once we received our medals we walked back to the car and went out to brunch. It was awesome to catch up to talk about her upcoming marathon and my recently finished marathon.

Now that I know where my speed is, I'm hoping to improve on it over the summer. I have three 5K races planned between now and July, and my training will specifically target that distance.


  1. Congratulations on your win! (P.S. what was your final time?). I bet it's really fun to break the tape- I've won a few really small races but none have ever had an actual finish line tape for me to run through and I bet that's exciting. I wish more did that around here :). Plus it's fun you got to share the experience with everyone and got such great finish photos!

    What are you doing to target 5Ks? I'm just doing 5Ks this summer so I think I'm going to adjust my training a bit in the next few weeks too.

    1. Thanks! Doh- I forgot to include the finish time. 22:31. One of my slower 5Ks actually, but it was warm and I hadn't done speedwork in awhile! In terms of targeting 5Ks, I am running lower overall mileage and adding high intensity short workouts. 100's, 200's, etc. I did some of this in my marathon training, but now I will be doing more of it.

  2. Fantastic!!! I've won my age group before and I was on cloud 9....can't imagine breaking the freakin' tape :) Congratulations!

    1. Yeah, it feels different than an AG win for sure. Particularly during the race when you know that there are no women ahead of you!

  3. That's awesome! Congratulations! It will be cool to see what you can do when you train for the 5k! Good luck!

  4. That's awesome! Congratulations! It will be cool to see what you can do when you train for the 5k! Good luck!

  5. That's fantastic! Congratulations and may there be more 'w's to come!

  6. I find there's always some speed to be found after a marathon training cycle. Nicely done and congrats on the AG placement!