Monday, May 25, 2015

Getting Zippy: Fair Oaks Ambulance Chase 5K

Continuing my series of 5K races this summer, I ran the Fair Oaks Ambulance Chase 5K on Saturday. I ran this race back in 2009 and I remember it being extremely hot and hilly, winning my age group but not getting any kind of award.

I decided to do this one again because it seemed like it would be better organized with =PR= managing it and the weather was forecast to be seasonably cool. 

My friend Chad also ran it, as the race goes right by his house. Greg is still on crutches (although he's not wearing the boot anymore) so he came to cheer us on. I'm really looking forward to being able to run with my husband again!

Before the Race
At the race, we found Chad and I did a 15-minute warm-up with him. I noticed that the mile 3 marker
Chad and I at the start line
was definitely farther than 0.1 mile away from the finish line. I could tell just by eyeballing it. To me it looked like there was at least 0.2 mile between the final marker and the finish line. But, I didn't worry about it-- it was more of an observation than anything else.

We lined up at the start line and there was an actual ambulance there that had "Chase Me" written on the back of it.

Based on a recent training run of 3 x (1600m, 3:00 recovery, 400m, 1:00 recovery), I estimated my 5K pace to be about 7:00. That the 1600m intervals were supposed to be run at 5K pace and the 400m intervals at mile pace. My splits for the 1600m intervals were 7:03, 7:01, 7:01. Even though this workout was flat and the 5K was hilly, I figured I would be pushing much harder in a race and could still probably be around 7:00.

Using that workout and my previous 5K time of 22:39 as a benchmark (which was on a very similar course, but with hotter weather) I was targeting a time of 21:55-22:20. 

Mile 1: 6:50
The course started with some uphill, but then there was a very long downhill for the the second half of the first mile and I flew down it. It was the same downhill that I ran during the Angel Kisses 5K two weeks ago, so I knew I could take it quickly and not ruin the rest of my race.

Mile 2: 7:08
Even though it was only 56 degrees, the course was not shaded and the sun was pretty high in the sky. I could feel myself heating up a little, but it was nothing like the Angel Kisses 5K from two weeks ago where it was so humid I felt like I couldn't even breathe. To make up for the downhill in mile 1, this mile was primarily uphill. According to my Garmin, this mile had a net elevation gain of 57 feet, which in my mind makes it the strongest mile of the race. I don't remember too much of this mile other than just pushing really hard on the uphills. I ran faster them than expected.

Mile 3: 6:57 
I recently had a conversation with my sports psychologist about the final mile being the one that
counts. You run the first two hard so you set yourself for that final mile, which is the true test of mental toughness. I just powered through this one, reminding myself of how strong I was.

Last 0.17: 1:04 (6:19 pace)
I passed mile marker 3 and that final bit of the course was definitely longer than 0.1. And when you are pushing that hard, every bit makes a difference. I think I got a lot of my energy from knowing that
I could go sub-22:00 if I pushed really hard.

After I crossed the line I looked at my Garmin, and it read 21:59! I was super excited! But part of me knew there was a chance that the official time would be 22:00. This happened to me once at a Crystal Run 5K Friday (I got a 22:00 and was hoping for sub-22:00). I know that it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, but it just feels like a much bigger accomplishment to run a 21:59 than a 22:00.

It turns out I was the third overall female, and I won a Dunkin Donuts mug with a $10 gift card for Dunkin Donuts. Fun!

Race Comparison
It's nearly impossible to do an apples to apples comparison with different course profiles, weather, distances, etc. So here is one way to look at my progress over the past six weeks:

Race, Date
Garmin Dist.
 Garmin Pace
 Official Time 
 BEST Kids, 4/18
 62, sunny, low humidity
 Angel Kisses, 5/10 
 69, overcast, very humid
 Fair Oaks, 5/23
 56, sunny, low humidity 

I've been doing some really challenging workouts that make me feel as if I am pushing past limits and going beyond what's comfortable. I think my progress over the past six weeks shows that my work is paying off, and I plan to continue down this path throughout June and July. I've never run a sub-22:00 5K in anything warmer than 40 degrees, so it would be a huge accomplishment to be able to run this fast for my July 4th race, when it's bound to be hot!

Other Notes
I've been wearing the (relatively) new Mizuno Wave Sayonara for my past few races. This shoe supposedly replaces the Mizuno Wave Elixir (one of my all-time favorites), but it's not a stability shoe, doesn't have as much cushion, and it's lighter. To me, it's not really comparable to the Elixir, but I am running comfortably in them and I'm enjoying their light weight. I'll need to save my last few pairs of Elixirs for half marathons, because I can see my feet hurting if I wore the Sayonaras for a longer race.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

5K Extravaganza: Angel Kisses 5K

 Now that I'm done with my marathon and the weather is heating up, I'm focusing on racing shorter distances until the fall. The heat is a real challenge for me, and I've nearly passed out on several occasions after hot races.

April: Marathon recovery (easy running)
May: Lower mileage, high intensity speed work
June: More challenging speed work
July: Speed work, and begin to add mileage

Greg and I have a long European vacation in August, so that will represent a break in the hard
training, and once I return, I'll get serious about training for my two fall half marathons.

I ran the BEST Kids 5K three weekends ago, and I have a series of 5Ks coming up over the next two months.

Before the Race
I actually wasn't in a racing mood this morning. I didn't feel the typical excitement and adrenaline. I kind of just felt "blah." But once I got to the race site in Fairfax Corner, I started to get more excited. The whole race atmosphere with people in bibs, the big start/finish line, etc-- it all kind of put me into race mode.

I warmed up for nearly two miles and thought about my approach to this race. I think I've run this course before, but it had been a long time. At least 4 or 5 years ago.This race used to be only two miles from my house, but for some reason they moved it this year so I could no longer run there as my warm up.

I could tell from my warm up that the course would be hilly, and I knew that going into it. I just didn't know when the hills were and what portion of the course I was warming up on, as the route makes a large circle around the shopping plaza.

It was 68 degrees, overcast and 99% humidity. I am not yet acclimated to heat or humidity, and I don't think I've had a single training run over 60 degrees yet. They've all been in the 50's at their warmest. At the 5K three weeks prior, I ran a 22:31, and that was a pancake-flat course, low humidity, and about 5 degrees cooler. Although that race was sunny. I figured with added hills, humidity and a few extra degrees, I would probably tack on about 25-30 seconds to my time.

My main goals were to practice pacing the 5K distance (it's tough to master it) and to continue to push hard throughout. I also wanted to see what the past two weeks of more high intensity training had gotten me.

Mile 1: 6:54
The first mile was a long downhill. I was cautious about taking it too quickly because I didn't want to run out of gas too early. If this had been the last mile, I certainly would have gunned harder. When my watch beeped 6:54, I wasn't surprised, but a little worried about what was to come. I knew there would have to be an equivalent uphill somewhere,

Mile 2: 7:10
Photo by Greg Clor
This mile seemed to be a mix of up and downhill. The race started to get really hard at the beginning of mile 2, and I thought to myself "wow- I still have two miles to be feeling like this". I didn't feel good. The humidity was really taking it out of me. I know that 5Ks are supposed to hurt, but with this one I felt zapped. In the BEST Kids 5K three weeks prior, it was hard, but I felt strong and relatively "good" for the entirety. I was quite surprised to see a 7:10 on my watch because I was really struggling and that mile had a lot of hilliness.

Mile 3: 7:28
At this point, I was just hanging onto the effort level. I was struggling so much, and this mile was mostly uphill. At certain points, I felt like I was going at a snail's pace. I was soaking wet from the sweat/humidity combo and life wasn't fun.

Last 0.16: (6:57 pace)
Usually I can bring my 5Ks and 10Ks home at a pace of 6:10-6:30. Not today. It was a flat finish, but I was completely spent. I guess this means I left it all out there, which means I met my goal! \

As I passed through the finish line, I was immediately handed a carnation. I probably would have preferred to have waited at least 10 seconds post-finish to be holding something, but I appreciate the sentiment. (And I think they were giving them to all the adult females who could have been moms.) I found Greg, who came to cheer me on and take photos, and was very happy to be done running. He's still on crutches due to his broken ankle, and won't be running again until June.

Photo courtesy of =PRR= Races
I cooled down for a mile and then waited for the awards ceremony. As it turns out, I won 1st place in my age group with a time of 22:39. I got a $20 gift certificate to Potomac River Running. Yay!

I actually surprised myself with how well I did in this race relative to the one three weeks ago that was flat, cooler and less humid. Officially, I was only 8 seconds slower (not my predicted 25-30 seconds). And according to my Garmin, today's race was actually faster, because this course measured longer.

BEST Kids: 7:14 pace for 3.12 miles
Angel Kisses: 7:11 pace for 3.16 miles

So in reality, I can tell that in just three week's time, I've made a good deal of progress. Speed is gained and lost quickly, so I am optimistic I can beat this time at my next 5K in just two weeks.

Also, I spent 2 of the past 3 weeks traveling for work, which always makes training harder. I was in London the week of April 20, where I ran in Hyde Park. I was in San Diego this past week, where I ran along the bay. It's a lot of time zones and air planes and stuff, but I still managed to train through it all.

Photo by Greg Clor

Photo by Greg Clor

Photo courtesy of  =PRR= Races