Sunday, September 30, 2018

Boston Qualifying Times Are Now 5 Minutes Faster

On Thursday of this week the Boston Athletic Association (B. A. A.) announced that they have changed the qualifying standards for the 2020 race. Each age/gender group must now run 5 minutes faster to qualify. They made this change due to the increasing demand for the race, with 2019 qualifiers have to run 4 minutes and 52 seconds faster than their qualifying standard to gain entry.

I'm not surprised by this change, and since the "buffer" has been increasing each year for the last three years, it is doubtful that anyone running less than five minutes faster than their standard would be accepted anyway. With these new standards, the B. A. A. won't need to turn down as many applicants. They turned down about 7,200 qualifiers for 2019. If I were in that group, I think I would be pretty disappointed. My prediction is that for the 2020 race, runners will still need to run faster than their qualifying standard, but maybe only by a minute or so.

My personal experience
I didn't register for the 2019 race, despite having qualified by over 18 minutes. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I plan to run Boston every two years so that I have the opportunity to experience other spring races. When I first started trying to BQ at the age of 29, I needed to run 3:40. When I turned 35, instead of getting an extra five minutes, the qualifying times were lowered so my target remained 3:40. Now that I am turning 40, they times have again been lowered, and so my BQ target remains 3:40. Thankfully, I have gotten faster with age, so I don't need the extra 5-10 minutes.

Age groups in the race results vs. age groups in qualifying
I ran in the 18-39 division; there is no 34-39 division
One thing I find odd is this: in the official Boston Marathon results, and on my finisher's certificate, the youngest division is 18-39. It is not 18-34. So if 35-39 year-olds are competing against the 18-34 year olds, why does that group get an extra five minutes on their qualifying time? For the 2020 race, 18-34 year old women will need to run 3:30 or faster, and 35-39 year-old women will need to run 3:35 or faster. So on one hand, the B. A. A. is saying that 35-39 year olds should compete in the same age group as the younger ones, but on the other hand, they are saying that they can gain entry into the race by running 5 minutes slower. I think that they should either eliminate the extra 5 minutes that the 35-39 age group receives, or create an age group category for 35-39 year olds in the race results.

BUT, if the B. A. A.'s rationale is that they want to "throw a bone" to the 35-39 age group or increase participation in that demographic, I guess that's a different story. A common misconception that runners have is that the B. A. A. bases their standards on fairness. I'm sure they consider that, but there are many other factors at play beside them trying to create "fair" standards. For example, older runners tend to have more disposable income and likely spend more money in Boston on race weekend. I'm not saying that the B. A. A. is catering to these runners, because the data shows that an approximately even number of people qualify in each age group. However, it would be within their right to do so.

Is it fair?
Take a look at the 18-34 men's standards vs. the 18-34 women's standards. For the 2020 race, the men's time decreased from 3:05 (185 minutes) to 3:00 (180 minutes). The youngest men’s group now need to run 2.7% faster than they did in 2019 because 5 minutes is 2.7% of 185 minutes. The women's time decreased from 3:35 (215 minutes) to 3:30 (210 minuets). So the women only need to run 2.3% faster in 2020. A 5 minute decrease is 2.3% of 215 minutes. This is not exactly fair and equal, but as I said above, fairness is not the B. A. A.'s only consideration.

Why are so many people BQing now?
Marathons have become more popular over the years and people are running them faster than ever. World records are still being set. I think this is due to a number of factors:
  • More easy-to-access online training resources
  • The increasing prevalence of downhill courses (like the Revel series)
  • Improved technology (Nike Vaporfly 4%)
  • Social media - people sharing their training online and inspiring others
  • Social media - people being motivated to tout their accomplishments online 
  • The marathoning population has more experience
There was a sharp increase in the popularity of the marathon around 2010. All the people who started running marathons around that time have now been running them for 8 years, which is what some say is when you peak at the marathon distance. Think of those people as the "baby boomers" of running and now many of the baby boomers are fast enough to BQ.

Training to BQ
If Boston didn't exist, would people be running as fast? Let's talk about time goals for a minute. Should you train by effort, to the best of your capacity, and then run the fastest time you can? Or should you target a specific time (potentially driven by the BQ standard) when it might not line up
with your fitness level? I'm of the opinion that runners should choose a goal time based on their abilities, and that goal would probably be more clear about 4-6 weeks out. And then you'd have a long-term goal of qualifying for Boston or hitting some other milestone.

Part of the reason it took me 7 years to qualify was because I always thought the very next marathon had to be the BQ race. I didn't allow myself to gradually chip away at my time, so I stalled out in the 3:50's for years. I fared much better when I decided to train to my fullest capacity and let the time be what it would. I learned to have patience. My marathon time came down from 3:48 to 3:43 to 3:40 to 3:35. And then down to 3:21! Instead of chasing the unicorn, I let the unicorn come to me. I think long-term "big goals" are great, but that with each cycle, we need to be in tune with our current fitness level and capacity to train.

I think many runners disagree with me here. They set their goal times based on the BQ standard-- "I'm training to run a 3:29 because I want to BQ". And I get that. My point is that you can encounter a slippery slope if you train for an externally-set milestone rather than what your fitness indicates.

My next BQ
As I said above, I hope to run Boston in 2020. I need to run slightly faster than 3:40 to do so. Considering I do many of my easy runs at a pace that would yield a 3:40, I am fairly confident about my ability to BQ. However- nothing is guaranteed and if the weather throws me a curve ball or if I am having an off day, I could bonk and not attain the 3:40.

I'm running the Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 8. As of now, I am targeting a time of 3:15. If all goes as planned, I think that time is well within my reach. If it doesn't happen then, I am running another full marathon in May. 

This week I ran 59 miles, and looking at my schedule, I will be running 60-70 miles a week throughout October. (Except for next week, because I am tapering for the Army Ten Miler). The "real" marathon training will begin on October 28th, just 6 weeks out from the marathon. I anticipate running very high mileage during those six weeks combined with 3-4 high-intensity workouts per week.

April 2020 seems like a long way off, so I'll definitely be enjoying my journey there.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Run! Geek! Run! 5K Race Report

After having run three races as training runs this summer, I was itching to race something full-out. Since getting sick for six weeks last June (combined with my history of summer illness) my new rule is to not fully exert myself in warm and humid weather. But today it was finally cool enough to race!

This race has been on my schedule since July. I knew I would want a "comeback" 5K once the weather got cooler, basically just to practice racing again, so this was it. This race used to be an 8K in
Washington DC. Now it's a 5K in Alexandria, VA. I ran the 8K back in 2011 and really enjoyed it, so I figured I would check out the 5K.

On Monday of this week, the weather for the race was looking iffy. The forecast called for 70 degrees with 95% humidity. I briefly contemplated bailing out, but decided I wouldn't make any decisions until the forecast solidified. As the week progressed, the temperatures dropped, and rain crept its way in.

In terms of goals, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. On the one hand, I hadn't been doing any 5K-specific workouts. I had two hill sprint sessions under my belt and a few short fartlek sessions (timed road intervals). But that was it. My hard workouts had been primarily focused on building lactate threshold, running between marathon pace and half marathon pace. None of these workouts were good race predictors, particularly at the 5K distance. My best-case-scenario goal was to be very close to my PR (20:17), but realistically I expected somewhere around 20:30. I definitely wanted to be sub 20:45, and probably would have been disappointed if I didn't hit that goal.

Before the Race
Race morning arrived, and I had everything set out as usual. I ate my typical english muffin with peanut butter, and mixed my UCAN with water to take 30 minutes before race start. Greg decided not to run this race, so he went as my cheerleader and photographer. When we were about 10 minutes
Warming up
into the drive, I realized I had left my UCAN on the kitchen counter. I had had it in my hand, but had briefly set it down and didn't pick it back up again. I was really frustrated with myself for this because I literally had the bottle in my hand right before we were about to leave. Oh well, I had run plenty of 5K races without UCAN before, and at least I had eaten my breakfast.

It was raining pretty heavily when we arrived. I didn't bring a top layer to warm up in and I was soaked waiting to get my bib. I pinned it on inside the car and soon it was time to warm up. Once I started running, I literally warmed up. It was about 62 degrees with a slight breeze. The rain let up slightly during my warm up and I hoped it would remain light throughout the race and not be coming down in buckets. I've raced two 5Ks in pouring rain and it definitely added an extra layer of challenge. I've also raced half marathons and full marathons in pouring rain, and I think it posed less of a challenge at those distances, because you're not going so fast that you worry about slipping on something.

I warmed up for 2.5 miles, which included some strides and drills. I then met up with my friend Cheryl, who was running, and Allison, who was spectating. We headed to the start line and started scoping out the field. Cheryl and I were the only two women up front, but we were soon joined by a woman in a Boston Marathon shirt.

Mile 1: 6:34
The race started and things felt pretty good. The course is mainly flat, with the first mile being a slight decline of 14 feet, according to Strava. I didn't have my normal "pep" off of the starting mat, so I
Mile 1
figured I would ease into my pace and just focus on staying relaxed. The woman in the Boston shirt shot out ahead and was probably about 10 seconds ahead of me. I didn't realize it at the time, but looking at the photos, I learned that I was running alongside another woman. About half a mile in, I realized that the Boston-shirted woman was running about my same pace, and wasn't widening the gap any further. When my Garmin beeped a 6:34 mile, I didn't really have any emotional reaction. Initially I had planned to go out at a pace of 6:28-6:30, but things felt hard enough.

Mile 2: 6:39
It was during this mile that I realized that I didn't have a lot of pep. I had a positive mindset and I was telling myself to push and reminding myself that I could run faster, but my body was locked in at the pace it was going, and I couldn't convince it to move any quicker. This course is an out-and-back and I slowed almost to a walk at the hairpin turn, due to the pavement being wet. Thankfully, the rain was pretty light, and not the downpour I had feared. I remained in second place throughout the mile and believed that my position was locked in.

Mile 3: 6:36
Heading toward the finish
Shortly after the second mile marker, the Boston-shirted girl ahead of me stopped running. She pulled off to the side for some reason. I continued on at my steady pace, still not able to convince myself to push any harder, and she resumed running about five seconds later. The gap between us was now a lot smaller-- probably 4-5 seconds. Still, I doubted I could catch her because I felt like I couldn't go any faster. I really wanted to catch her, but I didn't think it possible. But about half a mile later (about 2.5 miles into the race) she stopped again. I hated to be opportunistic since she was obviously hurting, but I figured since I was going to pass her, I might as well do it so quickly that if she were to start up again, she wouldn't believe that she could catch me. I somehow found another gear and pushed harder and ran faster as I passed her. She said something encouraging to me and I grunted back, as that's all the energy I had for communication.

I held a steady pace until about a quarter mile from the finish line. At that point, a spectator yelled that another woman was right behind me. Shoot! That meant I had to push harder, I simply had to! I wasn't going to lose the win in the last quarter mile. So, I somehow found it in me to rally more energy, which had previously been lacking, and I sprinted my way to a win in 20:34. I later learned that the second place female finished 8 seconds after me, and was not the woman in the Boston shirt who had stopped. According to my Garmin, I ran the last 0.13 at a pace of 5:52.

After the Race
I watched Cheryl finish about 30 seconds after me and then re-united with Greg and Allison. I then approached the Boston-shirted woman and asked her if she was okay. She said that she had just run the Berlin Marathon the previous weekend and was fighting an illness. She ended up placing third, which is a huge accomplishment considering she had to stop!

I then cooled down for two miles with Cheryl. We proceeded to collect our awards and then headed
Podium finish
for brunch. I won a bobble-head trophy and a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways
I really wish I hadn't left my UCAN fuel at home. I lacked "pep" in this race, despite a significant taper and I think that's the culprit. However, I don't know for sure, and my result could have been the exact same if I had taken the UCAN.

I think that unless I am training specifically for a 5K, then I don't have the ability to shift into a really high gear- both mentally and physically. If this had been a four-mile race, I think my average pace would have been exactly the same. I felt like I could have continued on at that pace for quite some time, but I just couldn't bring myself to go much faster. I often feel this way in 5Ks when I am not training specifically for them. According to the McMillan calculator, this race predicts a 1:11:23 10-miler, but I'm pretty confident in my ability to run sub-1:10:00 in two weeks.

I don't have any training runs or races that indicate a sub-1:10:00 is possible, but my gut tells me I am in better shape now than when I ran my 1:10 PR in the spring of 2017. The 10-miler is also my sweet spot and the distance that I think I race the best.

It was a really nice pick-me-up to get a win and to break tape. Particularly after having taken so much time off this summer. But I'm still hungry. I'm hungry for 60+ mile weeks and PRs and the cool weather that makes those possible. I feel like I've been on the verge of being back in full swing for a while now, and I'm anxious to actually BE back in full swing.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

My Week in Shoes

As I've mentioned previously, I am running the Rehoboth Beach marathon on December 8th. This means that I am not officially marathon training yet, rather I'm preparing to train for this marathon.  This means that I am building the strength and endurance to be able to handle 70+ mile weeks, with 3-4 quality workouts each week. That type of load is not sustainable for more than 6-8 weeks, so I
spend the weeks prior to that preparing my body for what's ahead.

I wore all of these shoes this week.
In this blog, I will recap my past week of training with a fun twist: I'll talk about the shoe I wore each day. Nike has discontinued the Lunarglide, my go-to long run and marathon shoe for the past 5 years, so I have had to make some adjustments. Additionally, I suspect that I no longer need stability shoes.

The Nikes are "light stability" and some of the shoes I wear for speed work are neutral, and I do just fine. I've looked at photos of myself running in neutral shoes and I see no pronation, so I am going to see if I truly need stability or not. There's nothing wrong with a stability shoe, but if I don't need the extra support, it makes the universe of wearable shoes much wider.

My main requirements for a shoe are:
  • Narrow fit without having to buy a narrow width (Mizuno and Nike are great for this)
  • Heel-to-toe ratio of at least 10mm due to my history with Achilles Tendonitis
  • Not heavy or bulky
I typically buy the previous year's shoe model because they are almost always on sale somewhere and it saves me a lot of money over time. The only time I buy the current model is if it's a newly released model, like the Nike Odyssey React or the Boston 7 with the beautiful design. I cannot wear any shoe made by Hoka, Altra or Saucony because all of their shoes have an 8mm drop or lower.

Monday: 10 miles (including speed) in the adidas Adizero Boston 7
The prescribed workout was 70-85 minutes with 50 minutes at steady state pace in the middle. My coach told me to shoot for 7:10-7:15 for the steady state portion, which is supposed to be faster than marathon pace, but slower than half marathon pace. Thankfully, this was the only cool morning we had all week, and it fell on the day I needed it most. I was questioning if I could hit the target pace in warm temps, but I was confident about my abilities in the cooler (63 degree) weather, even though it was humid and muggy. The 50 minutes at steady state averaged 7:11 for 7 miles with splits of: 7:22, 7:12, 7:10, 7:08, 7:07, 7:12, 7:03.  In total, the run was 10 miles long, average 7:40 pace.

I wore the adidas adizero Boston 7. The only reason I purchased this shoe is because it's so beautifully Boston. It's blue and yellow with a unicorn on the heel, and even the insides have the names of all the towns you run through. I bought three pairs of these shoes because I loved how "Boston" they were, and I figured when I was done running in them I would use them as walking shoes. Aside from the looks of the shoe, it performs well. It's designed to be a lightweight trainer for faster workouts than can stand up to longer distances. It worked well for me on Monday, but during the final cool-down mile, I noticed that my feet were starting to ache. Therefore, I probably would pick a different shoe with more cushion for a half marathon or full marathon race.

Note: the adidas has a stability version of the Boston, called the Tempo. I think I prefer the Tempo because it has a little more spring. I've worn them in two half marathons and my feet have felt great. I was disappointed, however, when they came out with the Tempo 9, which is noticeably heavier and bulkier than the Tempo 8. I haven't run in the 9 yet, but when trying it on, I didn't love it. Thankfully, I have two brand-new pairs of the 8 that I stocked up on. Here is another picture of the Boston 7 from the back:

Tuesday: 9 miles easy-ish in the Nike Odyssey React
During marathon training, my coach gives me a medium-long run on Tuesdays. Later in the cycle, he wants me to run this at a quicker pace (around 7:30-7:45). So he's starting to ramp up the distance already. I was prescribed 75 minutes easy, and I ran them easy-ish at an average pace of 8:20 for 9 miles total. I felt good and I figured I should start preparing for these Tuesday runs to get faster. Even though it was back up to 70 degrees and muggy, I felt energized.

9 miles in the Nike Odyssey React
The Nike Odyssey React is the supposed replacement for the Nike Lunarglide. I think they are entirely different shoes. The Odyssey React is much lighter and according to my kitchen scale, is the lightest shoe I own. Even lighter than the shoes I race 5Ks in (adidas Adizero Adios). I absolutely LOVE the ride of the Nike Odyssey React and how they feel. They are bouncy and soft and fun. I actually look forward to putting them on my feet. However, I'm not sure they are the workhorse of the long run. Even though my feet had enough cushion for 9 miles, I'm not sure how they'd feel at the end of a 20-miler. The Nike Lunarglide had more "stuff" between my foot and the ground. 

But. . . I am considering using them as my marathon race shoe since they are light and cushioned. My plan is to continue to use them on the Tuesday medium-long run, and then on some longer marathon-pace runs. If all goes well, then they will be my marathon race shoe. If not, then it's the Nike Lunarglide for Rehoboth and back to the drawing board for future marathons.

Wednesday: 6.8 miles in the Mizuno Wave Inspire 13
This was an easy day: 60 minutes at an average pace of 8:48. I kept it easy, given the two harder runs on Monday and Tuesday.

I've been wearing the Mizuno Wave Inspire for about 7 years. I've always liked the firm feel, but they have always hurt my feet after about 7 miles, so I have never worn them for long runs. Lately, they have been hurting my forefoot even more. My feet start to hurt about 45 minutes into the run pretty badly, and then continue to ache for the rest of the day. Not good. This has been going on for about three weeks, so I think I need to stop wearing the Inspire. Maybe I have a defective pair, but given the fact that they have never felt great on my feet past 7 miles and I don't think I need stability, I'm ready to part ways with them. They also keep changing the shoe each year. I think version 11 was my favorite because it was flexible and light, but the other versions haven't really impressed me.

I plan to replace the Inspire with the adidas Solar Glide. This is a neutral shoe with lots of cushion that I think could be a good candidate for both easy runs and long runs. It's a little heavier and wider than I would ideally like, but I'm going to give it a chance.

Thursday: 7 miles (including hills) in the Mizuno Wave Elixir
Hill workouts work wonders. I don't particularly enjoy them, but they have multiple benefits. First, they make your legs stronger and more able to handle a heavy training load. I don't do any strength training on my legs, so hills are particularly important. Running them hard for a short duration is also a great VO2 max workout. This workout was 10 x 1-minute hills with the jog back down recovery. My hill was about 30 feet over a distance of 0.15 mile. I performed this exact same workout last week and it didn't go that well. I was only prescribed 8 reps last week, and I was dead by the last one, having to go significantly slower. This week, my paces on average were 20 seconds per mile faster (6:30 vs. 6:50) and I was able to do 10 of them without feeling completely wiped out. On both occasions, the weather was hot and humid, although this week was 72 degrees and last week was 74. Both of which are unseasonably warm for an early September morning.

The Mizuno Wave Elixir is a lightweight stability shoe that was discontinued about 4 years ago. I was so in love with this shoe that I bought 8 pairs when I heard the news. I'm on my very last pair now. I still like them quite a bit, but I prefer the adidas Adizero Tempo 8.

Friday: 7.8 miles in the Nike Lunarglide 8
My coach bumped up my Friday run from 60 minutes to 70 minutes, and my legs were super tired from the hills the day before. I kept it super easy at 8:53 average. And of course, it was a steamy, muggy 72 degrees.

As I said above, the Mizuno Inspire begins to hurt my feet after 7 miles so I wore the Nike Lunarglide for this run. Now that the Lunarglide has been discontinued, I would ideally reserve this shoe for long runs only, and not "waste" the mileage on a shorter easy run. But it was my only option because the adidas Solar Glide shoes had not yet arrived, and I didn't want to wear a speed work shoe.

14.3 miles in the Nike Lunarglide
Saturday: 14.3 miles in the Nike Lunarglide 8
This week's long run was 2 hours. As usual, I started out really easy and gradually progressed to a moderate effort by the end. I ran the first hour at an average pace of 8:39, and the second hour at an average pace of 8:09. My overall average pace was 8:22. This run felt okay. Tolerable. Manageable, but not great. I wasn't hurting or counting down the minutes for the run to be over, but I also didn't feel peppy or energized. But, as my coach said, that's to be expected in this kind of weather. And, when I looked in my training log, I noticed that I had run over 58 miles in the previous 7 days, which is a big jump. Hopefully this is the last long run I will do in the 70's this season. At least it was overcast, and 8:22 was my long run pace in cool temperatures less than a year ago, so I've made progress.

I normally don't wear the same pair of shoes on back-to-back days, but as I said above, I didn't have much choice other than the Lunarglide for Friday. The shoe, which is nearing the end of its life, held up great. A light shoe that has plenty of cushion for the long haul and is super easy to run in. No extra bulk, and it fits like a glove. I will miss this shoe. The Nike Lunarglide replacement, the Odyssey React, also seems to be a great shoe, but I would put it in a different category. I don't think it has enough "stuff" to be my long run shoe.

Sunday: 4.4 miles in the Mizuno Wave Inspire 13
Easy recovery run at an average 8:56 pace. It was a chilling 67 degrees!

I wore the Inspire again, even though I dreaded it hurting my feet. After three miles, the ball of my right foot was aching and I later discovered a major callous forming there, which is good. My new adidas Solar Glide shoes should hopefully arrive early next week so that I won't need to wear the painful Mizunos again.

Final Shoe Thoughts
I'm excited to be transitioning to a neutral shoe, and I hope the adidas Solar Glide is everything I expect it to be. I'll review it once I've had it for a few weeks. I should have stopped wearing the Mizuno Wave Inspire a few years ago, but because I've been injury-free, I was hesitant to make a change. I'm sad to see the Lunarglide go, but happy to add the Odyssey React. I didn't wear the adidas Adios or the adidas Tempo this week, but those are nicely fitting lightweight shoes for speedwork and racing.

Final Training Thoughts
My total mileage this week was 59.5, which is quite the jump from the previous two weeks. I had been hovering in the low 50's. Everything has felt good, and I've been energized overall. I've been sleeping well and hydrating well, so that has definitely helped. I'm only three weeks out from the Army Ten Miler, and it's crazy that I really don't know what kind of shape I'm in-- on the off chance the race will actually be cool! I think sub-1:10:00 is not that aggressive of a goal, considering I have already run 1:09:45 in a half marathon. But it would be a nice official PR and milestone. If all the stars aligned, I think I would run somewhere around 1:09:00.

Training graph, August and September

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Great American Labor Day Tempo Run

Typically, Mondays are my tempo days. I've spent the past several Mondays running at "steady state" which is slightly slower than tempo pace as a way to ease myself back into it. So when there happened to be a local 5K on a Monday, I knew I wanted to use it as my tempo run.

I'm no stranger to this course. It's notorious for its punishing final hill, lack of shade, and always measuring slightly longer on the Garmin than a true 5K distance (3.17 every time!). But because I run this course so often, I don't compare it to other 5K courses, but only to itself. Just six weeks ago, I ran this course as an easy run, dubbed as "The Birthday Bash." And when I was coming back from mono in 2016, I ran it as "The Veteran's Day 5K." The Birthday Bash weather was what you might expect in early September-- mid 60's and low humidity. And, ironically, today's weather was what you might expect for mid-July: mid 70's, humid, and sunny.

When I asked my coach if I could run this race as a workout, he told me I could race it full out if I wanted. I told him it would depend on the forecast, because I have sworn off racing in the heat due to my immune system issues. And so when I learned it was going to be 75 degrees, sunny and humid, I definitely knew that doing it as a tempo run was the best decision.

I didn't taper for this run like I typically would for a 5K. I ran 11.4 miles on Saturday in the crazy heat, followed by 3.4 miles yesterday, also in the heat. Last week was a 53.5-mile week, which I was really happy with.

Before the Race
Greg's new camera in action during mile 1
Greg and I arrived at the race about an hour before it started. He recently purchased a new camera and he was going to use this race as practice for photographing me at the more important races-- like the Army Ten Miler and the Rehoboth Beach Marathon. His main intent with the camera, however, is to photograph our vacation in northern Europe next summer. He'll have a full year to experiment and I know he'll be an expert photographer by that point.

I retrieved my bib, pinned it on and began my warm up. It was HOT. There was no cloud cover and I was burning up just doing an easy warm up. I decided to run a little bit shorter than I typically would (1.7 miles) to preserve energy and try to stay cool. After warming up, I returned to my car where we had a cooler of ice. I put several cubes in my sports bra, held some against my wrists, and wiped my face with an ice cold towel. I also ran into my friend Hannah, who was volunteering.

My goal was to run based on effort, and ideally hit sub 22:00. During a steady state run two weeks ago, I had run 3.5 miles at a pace of 7:08, which equates to a 22:08. Surely I could run 3.1 miles at a pace of 7:00. However, that steady state run was in 60-degree, low-humidity conditions on a flattish route.

Mile 1: 6:56
The start of this race is a long and somewhat steep downhill. I never know how hard to take it. I obviously want to use it to my advantage but I don't want to blow up and not have anything for the hills at the end. I decided just to go by feel and run it at what felt like 10-mile race pace. I wasn't fast out of the gate and many runners passed me within the first quarter mile. But I gradually sped up and was able to pass many of these runners throughout mile one.

Mile 2: 7:03
Mile 2.5- going up the hill
The first half of this mile was directly into the sunlight. I had a good pair of sunglasses, but I longed for a visor to keep the sun off of my face. It was also uphill! So it was uphill, hot, and into direct sunlight. I was so relieved when we finally turned a corner and didn't have to face the sun anymore. After the turn, I was able to pass two women. My goal was to stay ahead of them and not let them pass me. I didn't see any other women within passing distance, which meant nobody else to chase down and pick off. I was happy to be on track for my sub 22:00, but I knew that the hardest mile was yet to come.

Mile 3: 7:18
The inevitable final hill showed up and my focus was simply getting up it at a consistent effort level. I didn't look at my watch because I knew I had slowed down. Did I mention how friggin' HOT it was? I knew that I was physically capable of giving more, but I wasn't motivated to make myself work harder, given I was already running at tempo effort. Trust me, it wasn't hard to convince myself to hold back! Finally I reached the top of the hill and I knew I was in good shape for a strong finish.

Last bit (0.17 according to Garmin): 6:26 pace
So yes, I had some gas in the tank. This was good! This meant I had worked hard but was still able to sprint it in. I really enjoyed this last bit because I wasn't dying like I typically am during a 5K, but I was still working really hard. This meant I could soak it all in and appreciate the experience of running to the finish.

Heading for the finish
My official time was 22:25, which was good for the age group win and 5th overall female. It wasn't the sub-22:00 that I hoped for, but it was definitely a strong effort and I know I reaped the benefits of the workout. Plus, I am racing-racing a 5K in three weeks so that will be a true test of the current state of my fitness. Let's just hope it finally cools down.

After the Race
I got my water, met up with Greg and took three vitamins. I've never done this after a race but now that I know that running in the heat is bad for my immune system, I'm going to take every possible precaution to stay healthy post race. I then cooled down for 1.3 miles. I would have liked to have logged more mileage today, but it was 78 degrees by the time I cooled down, and I decided to play it safe and be short a bit.

We stuck around for the awards ceremony, where I won a $20 gift certificate to the running store that put on the race (Potomac River Running). We then headed over to a small crepe cafe where we met up with Hannah. I had a smoked salmon cream cheese crepe, followed by a banana maple cinnamon one. They were such a treat!

Final Thoughts
We need more Monday holidays with races. It was so nice to have the day off work to run my tempo in a race setting. I have similar love for the Turkey Trot, although that's always an all-out race for me.

Today was great practice in pushing hard, but keeping things controlled. I had a blast and I didn't over-tax my body. It also made me hungry for an actual race-- when I've done the hard work of training and I'm able to really push to my limits. Unfortunately it's going to be unseasonably warm and humid all week long (72-73 degrees each morning). I just need to slog through it and hope for some small hint of fall to show up. At this point, 65 would feel like a dream!