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|
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|
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|
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!
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!