Saturday, June 10, 2017

Lawyers Revenge!

In June 2005, I ran my first "big" race: the Lawyers Have Heart 10K in Washington, DC. It was only the weekend before that I had discovered road racing when I participated in a two-mile race at my college reunion. One of my classmates told me about the Lawyers race, so I signed up.

Since then, I had run the race every year through 2012. That's eight consecutive years! But then in 2013, Greg and I went to the beach that week so the streak ended. And I realized I had no desire to start it back up again because the race is always so brutally hot. In fact, when   I ran it in 2011 it was so hot that they turned the race into a 5K for safety reasons. And in subsequent years, they began to offer a 5K option.
Lawyers Have Heart 5K

My friend Chad is a lawyer and he was assembling a team for his firm. He asked Greg and me if we would run the 10K on his team. Greg agreed, but I declined. I really want to focus on 5Ks right now, and I've always struggled running this particular 10K in the heat. So I decided to run the 5K, even though it wouldn't count for Chad's team.

In the past, I have rarely been happy with my performance at this race. I've usually always fallen short of my goal, and felt miserable doing it. In fact, one of the few times I was happy with my performance was when the race was a 5K in 2011, and I ran a 22:43. So even though I probably won't try to get "revenge" on the 10K, I figured that running a fast 5K would give me almost as much satisfaction.

Earlier in the week, I had run a workout of 4 x 800m, 3 x 200m. My coach told me to run the 800's hard because there were only four of them. And I ended up setting three new personal records, one right after the other: 3:03, 3:02, 3:01. This was a huge confidence booster for the 5K. My previous fastest 800 was 3:06, which I had only done once.

A few weeks ago, I got a pair of the Nike Zoom Elite. I had been looking for a replacement for the Mizuno Wave Saynora for quite awhile, and I had yet to find one that I liked. I loved the Sayonara 1 and 2, but when they came out with the 3, it was a completely different shoe. Much heavier and bulkier. The 4 was better than the 3, but still not nearly as good as the 1 and 2 had been.

I've gradually transitioned into the Zoom Elite for speed work over the past few weeks and I really like them. I'm not sure if I would say I like them better than the Sayonara 2-- I think I like them the same. But they are very different shoes. The Sayonara doesn't have a lot of cushion so my feet are in close contact with the ground. I like being able to feel the ground beneath my feet and pushing off of it. The Zoom Elite has a lot of bounce. So while I don't get the sensation of close contact with the ground, I feel like I am gliding along the track or road. In terms of weight, they are almost identical with the Zoom Elite being just a wee bit lighter according to my kitchen scale. I decided I would race in the Nike's this morning, as I had run several really strong workouts in them. I only have one pair left of the Sayonara, so I need to get used to racing in the Nike's at some point.

Before the Race
Greg and I woke up at around 4:30am in order to leave the house at 5:20. We wanted to arrive no later than 6:00 so that we'd have time to park, get our bibs, use the porta potties, and warm up. We ate a small breakfast at home (half an English muffin and peanut butter) and then we each had a serving of UCAN pre-race.

The logistics went smoothly for the most part. The only annoying thing was having to go back to the car to feed the meter 30 minutes before the race, which dug into our warm up time. We warmed up for about 15 minutes and then took our place at the start line. I was raring to go when the announcer said that the race would be delayed by 10 minutes. Ugh. This totally messed up the timing of my warmup and I didn't want to get out of the corral to try and run more, as it seemed like the race could start at any moment. This happened to me during my last 5K and the result was a first mile that felt harder than it should have for the pace I was running.

The 5K and 10K races started together, but split apart shortly before the 5K finish line (which was also the 10K finish line-- they just had to run an additional out and back). The 5K course was the same as it had been in 2011, but since that was six years ago, I didn't remember where exactly the hills were. I also couldn't find an elevation profile or Strava data anywhere. I wish I had known going into it that the first two miles were a net uphill and the last mile was really fast. I was a little discouraged seeing my paces for the first two miles and had I known that the last mile was going to be all downhill, I would have been more confident.

It was 68 degrees and sunny, but thankfully the humidity was low. I've run this race in much warmer conditions, so this wasn't too bad.

Mile 1: 6:40
The race starts underneath a bridge, so the Garmin is totally unreliable. I decided I would run by feel, putting out a hard effort, but not killing myself on the hill to get on top of the bridge. We made our way up the hill, and did a U-turn. From there, it was smooth sailing until the turnaround at the
Mile 1
halfway point. I was expected to see my friend Allison at the mile 1 mark, which I did. Thanks for cheering me on, Allison! She had suggested to me earlier that I manually split my watch due the inaccuracies of being under a bridge, and I was going to take her advice, but then my Garmin auto-lapped at just the right moment, so I didn't have to do that. Although I would have liked for my first mile to have been closer to 6:30, I didn't let it faze me. I'm pretty good at staying emotion-neutral while racing and focusing solely on putting out a hard effort. Greg had been directly behind me for the entire first mile, which meant that he was going out too fast or that I was going out too slow. I tried not to think about it too much.

Mile 2: 6:31
I settled into the race and focused on getting to the turnaround. I knew that once I turned around things would be mentally a lot easier. I also focused on running the tangents of the curves and trying to stay in the shaded side of the course. Sometimes these two things were at odds with each other. I could still hear Greg behind me, and I was really hoping that he was going out too fast and that I wasn't abnormally slow. I remember running this race years ago and seeing all the fast women at the turnaround. Wondering what it was like to be them. I imagined that I was one of those women right after I turned around, and that I needed to "look strong" and that thought helped me to continue to push.

Mile 3: 6:24
Mile 3, photo by Cheryl Young

I was in the home stretch but the finish line still seemed so far away. I could hear the announcer congratulating the first finishers underneath me, as I was still running above the bridge. It really seemed like I would never make it there. For some reason, I was sure that it would be a left turn to go back under the bridge, so I was prepared to turn left. But then the signs appeared which pointed the 5K runners to the right, so I had to alter my path. I was caught off guard but once I was on the right track, I really started to pick up the pace. During the final turnaround I saw that there was a women not too far behind me, which motivated me to push really hard during the final segment so that she couldn't pass me. With the finish line in sight, I imagined myself being pulled toward it and gave it all that I had.

The last 0.13: ??
This portion was under a bridge, so I don't trust my Garmin pace at all. All I know is that I ran it really hard. I could see from the clock that I would be very close to my PR (although not under) and I wanted to be within striking distance. Thankfully, nobody passed me during that last stretch.

After the Race
I stopped my watch a few seconds after crossing the finish line in 20:24, so I figured my official time would be a few seconds faster. But it wasn't. This could be another case of them using my gun time, but I will need to see the finish line photos to confirm. So as of now I am going with 20:24. Since it's not a PR for me I don't care as much, but it will be interesting to see if my clock time from the photo matches my finish time.

I started chatting with the woman who I had seen at the turnaround. She's also trying to break 20 minutes in the 5K, so we had a lot to talk about. We cooled down together and then I went back to the finish line to watch for Chad and Greg. I saw Chad first and then Greg about 20 seconds later in 41:39.

We quickly made our way to the awards area, as they were announcing the 5K awards at 7:45 (well, maybe now 7:55 with the 10-minute late start). It turns out that only the top 3 male and female finishers got an award, as well as the top first place master in each gender. I was the 5th female finisher, and if there had been age group awards, I would have won mine.

In any event, I placed 5th out of 933 women, which I was very happy with. Especially considering that historically I have never come close to this placement at this race. In 2011, I was the 111th female out of 1633. Granted, this was when everyone ran the 5K due to the heat (instead of there being two races) but that's still quite an improvement. This is where the revenge/redemption feeling comes in. I never used to place so well in this race.

In terms of my current fitness level, it's 7 seconds slower than my PR from three weeks ago, but considering that this course had more hills, heat, sun, etc, I am pleased. I think that sub-20:00 will come in the fall, but I will continue to use the summer races to practice running at a hard effort. I actually only have one more 5K this summer, and that course is hillier than today's course. Today's course was actually pretty easy, it just wasn't the cool pancake that I ran three weeks ago!  I might do one in late August, but that is TBD.

Next up is a four-mile race, which is known for being in the high 80's to low 90's. Heat acclimation, here I come!


  1. Congrats on the 5K and the excellent time that isn't too far off your PR, plus a negative split! I don't think a 5K 7 seconds slower is a significant difference because so much can affect a 5K since it is so short and even if the course is a few meters longer or something, well that's easily 7-10 seconds. It sucks that this race did not do age group awards. In a race with 900+ women and who knows how many men, that makes no sense unless it was say, a very inexpensive race. I've run a few that only did overalls but those were very small races and otherwise, the organizers probably would have had age group awards left over because not every group had people.

    1. You make some great points. I've found that races that primarily exist to raise money for charity don't pay as much attention to awarding the fast runners as they do the fundraisers. Which is fine, but a little disheartening when you don't get recognition. But yes, this race was large, I think over 6,000 people if you add the 5K and 10K participants.

    2. Most of our local races here are also fundraisers but still do OA and age group awards (medals are fairly cheap). I'm not sure people would DO the local road races here if they did not give awards. I guess this race is doing something right to attract 6,000+ runners without them, but it stinks not to give you guys any sort of recognition.

    3. Totally agree! I hadn't looked on the website beforehand to see what the awards were, so I was pretty surprised when they only recognized the top three men and women. Not like that would have deterred me, but still!

  2. 7 secs ain't much with the "heat adjustment" - good run! Might see you at the 4-miler hot-fest...

    1. Thanks! Yeah, hope to see you in Ashburn at the end of the month!

  3. As always, a HUGE congratulations to you!!

  4. Another great race for you! This is your year!

  5. Great race! Congratulations! I do the LHH 10K almost every year, and it's my least favorite race - the course and weather can be brutal, but I am a lawyer and like to support the American Heart Association. The 7:10 am start was annoying, but the joint start seemed to work out OK - hopefully you didn't feel too crowded by the 10K-ers.

    1. I only felt crowded at the beginning but it wasn't too bad at all. I actually felt badly for the 10K runners having to dodge 5K walkers as they approached the finish!

  6. You did amazingly well in this one...PR is always the sacred cow to seek! I like those mile splits you denote...1st the slowest at 6:40...then progressively faster. This is absolutely how you want to run the 5,000 meter race!

    I will acknowledge the late and not timely start of race can through you off of your well laid plans to warm-up timed to start of race. But let's face it...these are not races where the world elites running and the starts are on precision basis...but you are fairly elite runner on these local don't let those factors become excuses...just revel in the fact you ran 5km so close to your PR in the warmer conditions!

    The race is what it is...under what conditions it is...and whatever logistics race officials and their course marshalling staff put into it to give those high-end runners best chances to run their fastest. You probably deserve a "PR-cake" on this one...or if I was your Coach...would encourage one...because races not always about the ultimate FT...but how you ran it and how well you coped with the extraneous factors and conditions. And this done really well adjusting!

    As usual...will still take issue or comment on your end finish...or running the distance from 3-mi the finish line (what we call as course measuers...the "metric-finish"). Technically that distance should come out slightly less than 0.11 miles, but rounded up it is 0.11-mi, so no question marks referring to 0.13-mi. Whatever time it took you to run from manual lap at 3-mi mark to across the finish your interval run time/pace...based on minutes/mile. Someday...hope I can nurture a shift in how you interpret this...cause in end-run...doesn't are running some really awesome performances! Cheers!

    1. I know you are in favor of manual splits, but when I am running at full effort, having one more thing to "do" isn't really appealing. I'd rather have inaccurate Garmin data than have to worry about fiddling with my watch while running. I'm not claiming to have run extra distance, particularly because this course was under a bridge, but simply reporting the data as I have access to.

  7. And Yes...not "work"...just a well run 5 km race as any coach would be both pleased and proud of!

  8. 5th out of 933 women is AMAZING. Well done. You are on fire. I'm jealous but also not that jealous because it would require me to do a lot more speedwork to get this fast again and that's something I hate. I prefer longer slower running ;-)