Sunday, June 12, 2016

4 Miles in 91 Degrees

Last night I ran the =PR= Twilight Festival 4-miler. This was my 4th time running this race, previous years were 2007, 2008, and 2015. Having run the race just last year, I remembered it pretty well. One of the benefits of keeping a blog is that when I repeat a race, I can look back on my report to remember the course.
Greg and me at the start line

Last year, it was 85 degrees, and I thought that was extraordinarily hot. This year, it was 91 degrees, maybe even a bit hotter at start. I always run in the mornings, so usually it doesn't get above 72. This year, we got a late start to summer, so I only had about two weeks to acclimate. And to top it off, this past week offered morning temperatures in the 50's, so there was no acclimating this week.

I ran the Mother's Day 4-miler about a month ago in 27:51, and I knew I was in much better shape for last night's race. It's amazing how a just month of speed work and interval training can really make a difference. At the Mother's Day race, I was just coming off of the Boston Marathon and I hadn't done any speed work. But, that race was much cooler-- in the upper 50's. It also measured nearly a perfect 4 miles according to my Garmin, whereas this Twilight race measured 4.08 last year and 4.07 this year. So, when comparing apples to apples (Garmin time to Garmin time) I like to take those things into consideration.

Given all of these factors, I decided I would go out at a pace of 7:00-7:05 and try to speed up later in the race if I could. My stretch goal was a PR (beating my 27:51) but my more reasonable goal, given the heat, was to set a course PR from last year's 30:08.

I told my coach that I was worried about passing out or getting heat exhaustion if I pushed too hard. He told me that the race was short enough that I shouldn't worry too much about it, and that I should go out hard, instead of the conservative 7:15 pace I had originally planned on.

Before the Race
Greg and I arrived to the race armed with cooling tools! I wore my cooling wristbands that I had
purchased at the Boston Marathon expo. We also had a cooler full of ice that contained my UCAN drink and some wet towels. I've learned that it's really important to stay as cool as possible before a warm race, so I dumped ice into my sports bra for the warm up and poured water all over my head. My coach advised that I purchase an ice vest to wear before hot races, but it did not arrive in time. I'll try it next time!

Before we started the warmup, I encountered a zebra U-haul! I had seen these zebra U-hauls in the past and it always makes me so happy when they show up. In fact, whenever I am driving and I spot a U-haul, I try and check to see if it's got a zebra on it. With a zebra U-haul at the start line, I took it as a sign that the race would go well.

I love zebras! What a great surprise!
One of the great things about this race was that a bunch of my friends were also running it. It was fun to warmup with them a bit and then hang out afterwards.

Miles 1-2
Last year, my first two miles were 7:30, 7:45. I knew that the second mile was all uphill and that it should feel ridiculously easy at the beginning because the heat would catch up to me pretty quickly. The race began and I situated myself directly behind my friend Lisa. We had chatted that we were going to go out on the easy side of things, so I kind of let her do the pacing. My effort level during mile 1 felt a bit like marathon pace effort, which was not what my coach advised, but the heat was intimidating.

After the first mile, things got noticeably difficult. The hill came and instead of feeling like marathon pace effort, it suddenly felt like 10K effort as we climbed that hill. Lisa and I were running side-by-side at this point and it was nice to have the company. She said that her mouth had no spit in it, and the same was true for me. It was sort of like a cotton-mouth feeling (despite all the water I had drunk that day). Greg later reported that he felt the same thing and we figured it was probably the air quality. After all, we were under an air quality alert.  I clocked the first two miles in 7:00 and 7:13.

Miles 3-4
At the start of mile 3, I began to pull ahead of Lisa and I remembered how last year I really hammered it home during this second half of the race. That said, my 7:00 first mile was not as conservative as last year's 7:30 mile, so I wasn't sure what kind of energy I would have. During this whole time, Greg was about 15-20 seconds ahead of me. He had pulled ahead at the very beginning and I decided not to follow. The sun dropped a bit lower in the sky at this point, which was a huge help. At least now the course was mostly shaded. Once I decided to start really pushing, it started to feel like true 4-mile race effort.

Liz and me at the finish- was hoping for a better shot of us!
I passed a lot of people during these last two miles and not a single person passed me. It felt great to be passing people and feeling strong! The 4th mile seemed to go on forever and ever. At that point, I still felt strong but everything hurt. I seriously needed to rely on every mental toughness skill I had in my arsenal. I kept telling myself that the finish line was not far and I needed to continue to push as hard as possible. I wanted to run my fastest possible race and by this point, it was 99% mental.  These miles clocked in at 7:07, 6:49.

The finish and beyond
After my Garmin buzzed for 4 miles there was still a bit of running to do. 26 seconds at a pace of 6:06, according to my Garmin! During the last mile, I had been closing the gap on my friend Liz, and I really gunned it at the end to finish at almost the exact same time as her. She's extremely fast so the fact that I finished with her means that I must be in excellent shape!

At the end of the race, I kept saying to Greg and to myself, "F*ck the way I feel!" I was so wasted. Everything hurt. I was so hot. Wow. That was definitely a really, really tough race. I'm glad I was able to stay strong!

We dominated the 35-39 age group!
My official time was 28:36, which earned me 2nd place in my age group. Greg and I cooled off and then I got ice cream from the ice cream truck! One of my favorite things about this race is the ice cream at the end. Lisa's friend Tiffany came in 1st in our age group and she came in 3rd, so it was cool that the three of us did a 1-2-3 sweep of the 35-39 age group.

I was really pleased that I ran this race 1 minute and 32 seconds faster than I did last year-- and this year was hotter! This is great news because it means I'm in good shape and the consistent track workouts are still working their magic!

After we got our awards the three of us and our husbands headed to a local brewery for beers and pretzels. My typical bedtime is around 8:30-9:00, so this meant staying up really late. But I had fun, and it was worth it. Part of the fun of racing is the social aspect and it was fun to get to know Tiffany. This morning I cranked out 9.6 miles at a very easy pace of 9:19 and my legs felt decent. I didn't sleep well due to my body being off schedule, so I will probably crash later this afternoon!

My key takeaways from this race are:

  • It's advantageous to stay as cool as possible immediately before the race
  • Heat is deceiving. It doesn't feel hard at first, but then it hits you! What felt like marathon pace at the beginning felt like 5K pace at the end.
  • Shaving 1:32 off of a 4-mile race time in just one year is significant, and points toward a successful fall
  • I'm going to continue to crank out track workouts and be really well prepared for my next two 5Ks in July


  1. Very solid race, Elizabeth, well done. Good analysis of the vagaries of running in such heat. 91 is nothing to sneeze at. Congrats getting on the AG podium!! And zebras to boot!!!!

    1. Thanks, Joe! Zebras were such an awesome bonus!

  2. Great job! You are one speedy lady, and sounds like you ran a smart race for the conditions!

  3. Great job on the race and congrats on your course record time, beating last year's and taking off over a minute. That's a really significant difference in a year and you've definitely become a stronger runner in general (plus the temp increase means it's even more significant of a difference). You ran a smart race and good splits, and it always rocks when a race has things like ice cream trucks at the end!

    I agree with you on blogging, I like being able to look back at my thoughts on a race from previous years, that's one of the best things. I also write down the temperatures at the races and that's a big help too!

    1. Yeah, I used to run a different race on this day, but the ice cream trucks and festivities at the end has pulled me to this one lately. I agree with you, it's important to record the temperatures to have context!

  4. Congrats on a great race! I always try to gauge my current races vs. prior races on the same course. Obviously the conditions can still change year to year, but it's a good guide and I like to see where my fitness is in relation to where it was in the previous year. You are definitely on the right track with running 1:32 faster than last year. Super impressive! Love the zebra van!

  5. Nice job Elizabeth!!! I would have been freaking out running in 90 degree weather. Oh, and that van is very cute.

    1. Thanks, and that's 91 degrees. The "1" made all the difference! LOL.

  6. As they say....tough conditions make tough people! Congrats on a well-run race and icing the sport bra is probably the best thing you can do in 90 plus temps!

    1. Thanks, Adrienne. Someone gave me the tip about ice in the sports bra before Boston, and I was able to get a bag of ice from a 10-year old volunteer along the course. I need to remember to do that for the remaining summer races.

  7. Wow, that is a tremendous PR for a 4 mile race. Congrats on the AG award too. It is always fun to make the podium, and especially with friends by your side. The heat has been crazy around here, so getting out early is critical if you want to enjoy your run.

    1. Thank you! Having so many friends at this race (even beyond the ones I mentioned) was one of the best parts about it!

  8. Awesome job! Nice takeaways. That's an awesome time, especially in that heat! I know what it's like and a hot day really makes a huge difference. Congratulations!

  9. Niiiice work! Racing in the heat is no joke. I've heard that once you start overheating it's literally game over in terms of cooling down, you just won't while you're still running so you have to *somehow* delay it for as long as possible. You seemed to managed it well!
    I love that your bedtime is 8.30-9pm. This is my bedtime too #grandmastatus ;-)

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