Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Sugarloaf Marathon: Wet and Wild!

Oh wow. That was a crazy experience.

Start line
I ran the Sugarloaf Marathon this morning in Maine with Greg and our friend Chad. We had registered for this race back in October, at which point I was targeting it as my spring goal marathon. But then, my plans changed (because I thought Sugarloaf might be too warm), and I decided to optimize my training for Shamrock instead, with Sugarloaf being "just for fun." But about three weeks out from Sugarloaf, I decided I wanted to actually race it, so my coach made some tweaks to my training.

Since my training wasn't optimized for Sugarloaf, I thought a PR would be a stretch, but not impossible due to the net downhill nature of the course. Also, my 3:15 PR is really solid, and I think I need to be very specifically trained in order to beat that. I hadn't done much hill training either, so I was at a bit of a disadvantage. All of this being taken into account, I figured a sub-3:20 would be a great accomplishment, and if not that, then simply adding another BQ to my name would be fulfilling.

I wasn't giving myself an "out" or setting the bar low, but rather being realistic about what I thought I might run. I was still planning to race it at 100% effort. If I've learned anything from running over the past 10 years, it's that a race doesn't need to be a PR to be a success.

Sugarloaf Marathon Elevation

Before the race: Friday
I'll try to keep this section short, even though I could probably write a short novel on it. Chad, Greg, and I flew from DCA into Bangor, Maine on Friday. And that's when all the craziness started. It took 20 minutes for the Uber driver to arrive, and when he did, he managed to turn a 36-minute ETA into nearly an hour. At airport security, they were training a TSA agent on bag scanning, so our line was moving five times slower than the other lines. Every bag was inspected for what seemed like an eternity. But, finally, we reached out gate with enough time to grab food and water.

Because Bangor is an international airport, I assumed it would be large. Nope! It was tiny. We reserved an Enterprise rental car and every other rental car company had a kiosk in the airport except ours. We waited about 15 minutes for our shuttle to arrive to drive us to the rental car place.

Once we had the car, we decided to explore downtown Bangor, which was actually a very small town. I wouldn't classify it as a city, although I guess it technically is. It was a delightful little place and we got sandwiches at a small deli. Then, we went to the supermarket, assuming it would be the last one we'd see for a while, and stocked up on bagels, pretzels, water, bananas, and sliced turkey meat. I knew the pasta dinner we paid for didn't have a "chicken + pasta" option (and I don't eat beef or pork), so the turkey was going to be the protein for my dinner.

Then, we made the two-hour drive to Sugarloaf Mountain Resort, where we had reserved a condo. The resort was located at around mile 10 of the race, which meant we drove the last 16 miles of the course backward to get there. The hills didn't look too steep-- just really long. We drove past the resort so that we could get a sense of the monster hill at miles 8-10. And that was definitely a huge hill.

Once we got settled in the condo, we researched a place to have dinner nearby called Tufulio's. Most of the resort restaurants and shops were closed because it's no longer skiing season. Tufulio's was so good and reasonably priced, that we half-heartedly joked about eating there the on Saturday night too, instead of the pasta dinner we paid for.

Before the race: Saturday
On Saturday morning, Greg and I did a shakeout run of about two miles. I felt "blah" during it, and then felt super tired for the next few hours. We ate breakfast at a delicious place called The Kingfield Woodsman, which is where most of the carb loading happened. I had a massive banana pancake with warm Maine syrup. Plus a few slices of freshly baked cinnamon bread. Afterwards, I found myself in
Shakeout run at the Sugarloaf resort
a carb coma of sorts and fell asleep in the car, followed by a nap back at the condo. All of this sluggishness did not bode well for the race, but I put it out of my head.

We spent the day playing Yahtzee. To play a full 6-game card of Yahtzee with three people takes several hours, so it was a good way to pass the time. Chad had an "all or nothing" approach to the game, which is similar to his style of marathon running. Throughout the day, the race forecast kept changing. It was supposed to rain, but when it would start and how much was a mystery. One minute we'd be excited because the rain was going to hold off. And then, the next time we checked, the rain was forecast to begin at the start of the race and be quite heavy. I kept debating over which of my 4 pairs of gloves to wear, and which of my 3 pairs of arm warmers!

Finally, it was time to get our race packets. The packet pickup was only open from 3:00-7:00pm on Saturday. A very short 4-hour window. I had never heard of a race having such a small window for bib pickup, but this race also offered race morning pickup. We waited in line outside in the cold for about 25-30 minutes. As I expected, there was no "expo" or any running items for purchase. Just the bib and the t-shirt.

When packing for this race, I intentionally over-packed for every single scenario. I thought about bringing a bag for gear check but decided against it because races always give you a back that can be used for gear check, right? Wrong. The bag they gave us with our bib was tiny and would not fit more than a t-shirt or two. I asked them what bag we were supposed to use and they said "any bag you want." Not having a bag, Greg and I decided to use a trash bag from the condo. Chad used the race bag, but only brought a few small items.

Normally I don't even use gear check service at races. But for a point-to-point race with cold rain that requires a shuttle back to the condo, I knew I would want to get out of the wet clothes and into warm dry ones immediately. I had a hoodie, gloves, a poncho, and pants to check. The trash bag fit it all, plus Greg's stuff.

Onto the pasta dinner. The pasta dinner was $27/person, so I expected it to be pretty good. I knew that I wouldn't be having a protein with my meal, and I was fine with that (because I had gotten the turkey). Once again, we waited in a long line and finally got our dinner. The plain marinara sauce for my pasta was very spicy, which meant I couldn't tolerate it. So, I ended up having a bagel with almond butter back at the condo. If I do this race again (doubtful) I will eat at Tufulio's and not opt for the pasta dinner. We played our final round of Yahtzee and then went to sleep.

Before the race: Sunday
I slept pretty well, and my 4:30 alarm actually woke me up. I almost never need an alarm to wake me up on race morning! I had set the alarm for 4:30 because the shuttle buses to the start line were scheduled for 5:45. I quickly ate my bagel and peanut butter (same breakfast as last night's dinner!), got dressed and packed the gear bag. I wore a tank, shorts, gloves, a hat, and disposable arm warmers ($2 knee high socks with the toes cut out). Greg and I donned Ponchos over our clothes and headed out.

The trash bag that we were using for gear check had a huge hole in it, so I had to get another trash bag from the hotel lobby. I am probably abnormally irked by the lack of a good gear check bag, and that's because I thought to pack my own but intentionally did not!

Waiting in line for the busses
We arrived at the shuttle bus pickup location (a very short distance from our condo) at 5:45. Once again, there was a huge line of people and no busses. We waited, and waited, and waited. Thankfully there was a bathroom inside the building we were waiting in front of. Busses kept arriving to transport runners to the 15K, which was closer and started later, but marathon busses were nowhere in sight. With a 7:00am start, we were all getting antsy.

Finally, at 6:30, several busses arrived. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Standing in line for 45 minutes in the cold isn't ideal right before a marathon, but I stood in Boston's athlete's village for longer and survived. In the rain, nonetheless. On the bus, I drank my Generation UCAN.

At 6:51, our shuttle bus arrived at the start area, which was a camp ground. Greg hurried to check our bag while I used a porta potty- with just 3 minutes to spare! They ended up starting the race 10 minutes late due to the shuttle bus debacle. This race has been running for over 30 years, so I didn't understand why lines were so long and how the shuttles got messed up.

I don't like to be so negative about a race on my blog, but I was really annoyed with all of these issues. I knew I needed to go into the race with a positive mindset, so I let go of the negative emotions at the start line and started to get excited. It was in the low 40's with very light drizzle. The heavier rain was forecast to start about halfway in. They had an actual shotgun at the start line, and at 7:10, it went off.

Miles 1-7
I had studied the course profile so I knew exactly what to expect. These first 7 miles would offer gently rolling hills. My plan was to be in the 7:35-7:40 range. I figured, if the second half is really that fast with all the downhill, I could run 7:10-7:15 and PR that way. But I definitely didn't want to go out at my PR pace and risk trashing my legs. This 7:35-7:40 pace was comfortable for me and it felt like an easy run for the first 7 miles.

I knew that Chad was going to start out at BQ pace for him (7:15) with his all-or-nothing racing strategy. Greg was planning to start out slightly slower than me. Chad bolted out and was out of site immediately, while Greg and I stuck around each other for almost a mile until I got ahead.

I tossed off my throwaway arm warmers at mile 3 because the temperature was ideal at that point and it wasn't raining. A few miles later, I removed my gloves and tucked them in my sports bra. Throughout these early miles, the road was closed to traffic and the crowd was thick for such a small race.

I was running with a group of about 4 women. I think they were running together because they stayed together as a group for a long time. Usually I am surrounded by men in races so it was nice to have a pack of women. I decided I would remember their outfits and keep track of them during the race to fuel my competitive mindset and keep me on my toes.

Mile 1: 7:40
Mile 2: 7:37
Mile 3: 7:38
Mile 4: 7:38
Mile 5: 7:38
Mile 6: 7:32
Mile 7: 7:31

Miles 8-10
Up the big hill! My left foot went numb. I have no idea why, but this happened to me in a 10-miler last fall and it eventually went away so I decided to ignore it. There was really nothing to be done. It was annoying, but I lived with it for the full mile until the numbness gradually went away.

I noticed that the road was no longer closed off to traffic. We were running in the right hand lane, and traffic was going in the left hand lane, but going in the same direction as us. Most of the vehicles seemed to be associated with the race. I didn't love running right next to cars, vans, and trucks, but I knew I needed to get used to it. It also started raining more heavily now, which didn't help matters.

This hill was very long and very steep. It just kept going and going. You can see it in the elevation profile above. I purposely did not try to run quickly up the hill. I told myself to just relax and climb it at a comfortable pace so that my legs would be ready to attack the downhills.

Lots of people passed me. Including that group of women. I told myself I would pass them on the downhills. I tried to ignore all the people passing me and just focus on my own plan. As I said earlier, I hadn't been training on hills for this race, but I am naturally a strong downhill runner. I was expecting Greg to pass me. He's stronger on hills than I am and my average race pace had slowed to 7:48.

Mile 8: 7:45
Mile 9: 8:45
Mile 10: 8:05

Miles 11-16
I was so relieved once we got to the top of the big huge hill! Finally it was time for the fast downhill race start. At the top of the hill, I took my Generation UCAN gel so that I could focus all my effort on powering down the hill. I might have been more aggressive on dry pavement, but I was a little cautious going down the first steep hill. My coach told me not to put the brakes on, but to roll down the hill. That would preserve my quads. I did not fly down the hill as fast as I had expected (I was thinking 7:10 or faster) but it was still fast, and quite a relief from the uphill.

Another issue with the pavement was that it was uneven all over the place. Many spots were heavily slanted/angled, and the pavement in general was torn up. If we had been able to run straight down the middle of the road, it would have been better. But now, BOTH lanes were open to traffic! So we were relegated to the shoulder. At times, I would come off of the shoulder and run in the middle of the road, but then a car would drive up behind me, forcing me to move back over. This was rough on my lower calf area.

I felt strong running down these hills but it wouldn't be fast enough for a PR. At mile 15, I realized that it felt harder than it should, so I figured I would probably be slowing down at some point. At mile 15, if I am having a great race, the hurt should be minimal and I should feel like that pace is definitely sustainable for many more miles to come. But I could already feel my legs complaining and I knew that the only reason my pace was so fast was because I was going downhill.

Mile 11: 7:41
Mile 12: 7:24
Mile 13: 7:36
Mile 14: 7:33
Mile 15: 7:28
Mile 16: 7:32

Miles 17-21
As is typical in a marathon, these miles featured the transition from feeling good to hurting a lot and wanting the race to be over. The rain was coming down harder now and the cars were more frequent.
The noise was jarring. I was trying to enjoy the beautiful scenic course, but all the large vehicles around me made that challenging. I tried to ignore the traffic, but you really can't do that when it's forcing you onto the shoulder with the crazy broken up pavement. I knew I was working really hard to stabilize myself on the slippery, bumpy pavement, and that's not something you want to have to deal with in a marathon.

I knew that mile 20 would be difficult because it was the first non-downhill mile. There were a few notable up-hills and I missed the leisurely downhill jaunt. Running uphill at this point was extremely difficult. After the race, Greg mentioned that he didn't have any issue with running up hill at the end of the race, but that the downhills were challenging. I still wanted to be going downhill because my uphill pace made me feel like a snail. I had my Honey Stinger chews during mile 20 and they seemed to keep me going through the rest of the race.

I kept expecting Greg to catch up with me because I was slowing down significantly, but he didn't. I also thought there was a chance I might see Chad, because he admittedly goes out too fast. But our order stayed the same. Nobody passed anybody.

Mile 17: 7:18
Mile 18: 7:52
Mile 19: 7:53
Mile 20: 8:33
Mile 21: 8:16

Miles 22-Finish
I needed something to motivate me. I was struggling and the urge to walk was strong. I started to calculate what I needed to do to get a BQ. I already have my 3:15 BQ for 2020, but to me, any BQ time is a huge accomplishment. As a 40-year-old, I need 3:40 to qualify for Boston. So when I looked at my watch and it read 3:05, I told myself that I had 25 minutes to finish. Of course, that math is totally wrong, but I stuck with it for the rest of the race. When I was at 3:15, I told myself I only had 15 minutes left to BQ, when in reality I had 25. My math skills were completely gone.

BUT. . . this served me well because it forced me to stay in the game for the last four miles. These miles were painful and felt like an eternity. I kept reminding myself it was all mental. I knew my body could get to the finish line without stopping, so I had to just will myself to do it. "All you have to do is keep going, and no matter what, don't stop!"

At this point, the average race pace on my Garmin was 7:51. But I knew that a 3:40 pace was 8:23. And yet, I thought I was on the verge of not BQing. I thought to myself "It's crazy that someone with a pace of 7:51 this late in the race has to keep running in the 8's just to finish at a pace of 8:23". But it never dawned on me that my math was all wrong. All the while, I was still on the lookout for Chad ahead of me and Greg coming up from behind. Lots of people were passing me, but I tried not to let that bother me. I was doing great!

Slippery Finish
With 1 mile to go, I realized- HEY! I have 10 extra minutes!!! And I could go sub-3:30! That whole time I was projecting my finish time to be around 3:38-3:39. But suddenly I realized I was on track to break 3:30, which was an amazing thought. I was doing so much better than I had realized! With that in mind, I looked at the runner next to me and said "let's do this together". So we both encouraged each other to run the last mile in fast. As I approached the finish line, it was looking like I would be on the border of 3:28 and 3:29 so I gunned it really hard to ensure a 3:28 finish time. I was elated that the clock read 3:28:xx as I crossed.

Mile 22: 8:32
Mile 23: 8:49
Mile 24: 8:37
Mile 25: 8:51
Mile 26: 8:45
Last 0.31: 7:31 pace according to Garmin.

After the Race
Shortly after crossing, I found Chad, who had finished in 3:23. I was offered Gatorade and surprisingly I wanted it and was able to drink it. Normally my stomach is way too upset after a marathon or half marathon to take in any fluids. But I welcomed this Gatorade- odd! Thankfully, we didn't have to wait too long for Greg, who finished in 3:34.

Chad and Greg went to get our checked bags while I waited under a tent. Pretty soon, the medical people approached me and said I needed a blanket and to go into a warm van. They said I didn't look good and I had to get warm immediately. I didn't think I was any worse off than anyone else, but I guess when you have hypothermia, you don't think clearly. And I was acting like I was drunk. I was also screaming in pain. Literally screaming, because everything hurt.

Chad and Greg held up a heat sheet for me to be able to remove my wet tank top and sports bra. I then put on my hoodie and a pair of dry gloves with hot hands. The medical guy wrapped a warm blanket around me and helped me into a warm van, where 3 other runners were being warmed. I felt guilty leaving Greg and Chad out in the rain. . . was I really worse off than them? I guess so. I stayed in the van for about 15-20 minutes, and Greg brought me hot soup from the food tent.

Even though I have a lot of negative things to say about this race's organization, the medical people were really good and the warm van was a lifesaver.

Finally, I was warm enough to leave the van. Greg handed me a fresh poncho from our checked trash bag and it was time to find the shuttle busses back. That was not easy. We had to walk through muddy wet grass and uneven surfaces (not easy post-marathon) and the busses were not readily visible. I was rapidly getting cold again and the effects of that warming van were wearing off quickly. We found a sign that said "Sugarloaf Marathon Shuttle Bus Stop" and waited there for a bit, until we realized that the shuttle buses were even further away. Sigh. I was cold and in pain and overall so miserable.

Once we boarded a bus, it didn't take long for it to fill up and we were off. The ride back to the resort was about 25 minutes, and when we got to our condo, the shower felt like heaven.

When I finally got around to looking at my phone, I saw a race text message that had my official finish time of 3:28:51, and said that I placed 4th in my age group. I'm kind of bummed that I didn't get a top 3 age group placement, but I guess it was a competitive field. And I did sort of bonk a little. I later looked up the race results and found that the 3rd place female in my age group was 3:28:43. She beat me by 8 seconds! Bummer.

Final thoughts and takeaways
I'm not going to analyze this one too much. I think I raced really well all things considered: the crappy weather, the lack of marathon-specific training, the lack of hill training, the uneven pavement and having to run on the shoulder of the road.

My coach summed it up well: It seems like you can BQ on any day of the week now! It does look like it got harder over the last 6 miles but that's just down to the non marathon specific nature of the training you did. That's always going to be the tough part of the race without that. I'm so proud of you for getting yourself to a position where this kind of effort is something you just do and have no doubts about.

Even though I was hoping for a faster time as I entered the race, my 3:28 felt like a dream when I thought I would be running 3:38 due to marathon brain. It's all about perspective. Considering it took me seven years to qualify for Boston, and now I can qualify with 11 minutes cushion without a proper training cycle. . . I'll take it!

Do I recommend this race? It depends. I liked the course, but I didn't like running alongside all that traffic and on the bumpy wet pavement. Avoid the pasta dinner (eat at Tufulio's), bring your own gear check bag, and find a way to the start line that doesn't involve a race shuttle. And know that if you need medical attention at the finish- they have staff for that. Be sure to train on hills.

Although a painful and at times torturous experience (after the race was much more painful than during the race), I'm glad I did this marathon. It was a great way to cap off the spring racing season before taking some down time.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Life changes

I got a new job.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will remember that I DNF'ed (did not finish) the Shamrock Marathon due to "life stress" occurring in the week leading up to the race. That life stress was actually GOOD stress, but it definitely demanded quite a bit of mental energy. I was exploring two opportunities at the same time (one early stage, one late stage), and there were a lot of unknowns. On top of all that, I was still performing at my current job. So when race day came, my body wasn't up for the task. This is why I wasn't too upset about it. I had other things on my mind.

I wanted to write a blog post to memorialize my experience at my current (now former) job. Just like writing a race report gives me closure on a race, I feel the need to express my thoughts and feelings about the job I just left.

What I did
I was the "Vice President of Demand Generation" at a large enterprise software company. My job was to run marketing programs that would generate brand awareness and leads for the sales team. I was responsible for digital advertising, email marketing, events, social media, content strategy and more. I was there for nearly three years and I managed a team that varied in size over the years from 10-25 people.

I was an executive, but I was not responsible for the entire marketing function. Communications and product marketing, for example, were run by other executives. My boss, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), was responsible for the entire marketing organization, reporting into the CEO. This CMO position was the role I eventually wanted to have, although at a smaller company. My career plan was stay at my current (now former) company for 3-4 years, and then become the CMO of a smaller technology company. And that's what ultimately happened.

On Halloween, I delighted the CEO with this costume
Some key accomplishments were launching a multi-million dollar digital advertising campaign across the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Financial Times, and the New York Times, in addition to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I also built the internal process flow for how the inbound leads would be scored, routed, and contacted. I created the company's first marketing dashboard and reporting framework. I managed an advanced implementation of a marketing automation platform with sophisticated lead nurture streams. If you're not in marketing, you might not know what all this stuff is. It was important, but to me, my most important accomplishment was helping my team advance their careers.

Being someone's boss is not a role I take lightly. That person's career is in my hands as well as their day-to-day contentment. They do need to take personal responsibility for this, but as everyone knows, if you don't like or respect your boss, then your work life becomes stressful and unpleasant. As a leader, I strive to provide enough guidance for my team to succeed, while empowering them to truly own their work. I'm also there to remove roadblocks, help them be as efficient as possible, and make critical business decisions (i.e. accept the risk). If someone is not performing, then my role is to set clear expectations, understand why they aren't being met, and work with the employee to turn things around.

I leaned on these women so much!
I've been managing people for about 15 years now, and no matter what my role or title has been, leadership has always been a top priority. If my team is successful, I am successful. And there was nothing more fulfilling at my previous job than helping my employees be successful.

Making a difference in someone's life is far more important to me than any job title. In part, it's how I define career success. If my team is failing, then I am failing. As a marketer, I am there to drive business growth. As a human, I am there to make a difference in the lives of other people.

This week, as I was saying goodbye to everyone, a number of people told me that I really made a difference. People told me that they appreciated my attitude, or that I helped them, and there is nothing I'd rather hear. I was well liked and well respected, and I take pride in that because I liked and respected all of them!

The relationships I built made it very difficult to leave my company. In fact, I've never felt so emotional about leaving a job. And I've left quite a few! Not only was did I have an amazing team, but my colleagues were equally as awesome to work with.

They threw the best holiday parties
I've worked in environments where my relationships have not been as positive and I think the key difference is authenticity. I am a genuine person and it's difficult for me to put on my "game face" and not be my weird, quirky self. My colleagues were all similar. Within the marketing department, people weren't trying to undermine each other or point fingers. We all worked really well together and it was a FUN place to work. The commute was treacherous at times but it was worth it because I enjoyed being in the office. Whenever it was birthday, I would find my office decorated from top to bottom with zebras and stripes. Being surrounded by supportive, friendly, like-minded people is what made my company so special, and so hard to leave.

My colleagues came to my 40th birthday party. They were supportive when I was sick with mono last summer and had to take a month off. No matter what, I knew I could always count on them. And that's hard to give up. Of course we will all stay friends; the relationships don't end because I am leaving. But it's sad because I won't be seeing them every day.

Why I left
As I said above, my career plan was to stay 3-4 years and then become the CMO of a smaller technology company. Even though I hadn't been at my company for quite 3 years, the business environment was changing. I felt like I had learned all I could learn there and gained all of the experience I needed to get to the next level.

Recruiters regularly reach out to me, but a few months ago, I decided it was time to start exploring these opportunities. I knew exactly what I was looking for in my next role:
  • Role: Head of marketing, ideally with the CMO title
  • Size: Small to medium-sized (200-500 employees) with at least $15M in revenue
  • People: Authentic, friendly, intelligent, down-to-earth
  • Maturity: Marketing already in place, but a lot of potential for growth and optimization
  • Location: No further away than my current job
I interviewed for two roles, one of which checked all of these boxes, and the other checked most of them. Part of my "life stress" a few months ago was figuring out which (if either) of these opportunities would be the right move for me. I ended up accepting the offer which checked all boxes, and I start next Wednesday, May 22nd. 

It would have been easy to stay at my job, which had become really comfortable. I had a good work-life balance and it wasn't too stressful. But above all else, I want to be challenged and I want my work to make an impact. I was making an impact on the people, but it wasn't always clear if I was making an impact on the business because it was so big. I strive to do both and I believe I will be able to do both in my new job. I also want to use my full range of marketing skills, not only demand generation. I worried that if I stayed too long in a demand-generation only role, my communications and branding skills would get rusty.

To be able to walk away from my beloved colleagues shows just how phenomenal of a career opportunity this move is for me. Chief Marketing Officer is a big step. Not only will I run marketing, but I will also have a seat at the executive leadership table. I know that I will be able to use my skills and experience to their fullest extent and form strong relationships with the people there.

This weekend I will run the Sugarloaf Marathon in Maine, and then return to my new job!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Race Done Right: Semper Fi 5K

As the title of this post indicates, I had a good morning at my 4th consecutive Semper Fi 5K. Unfortunately, this race will not be put on in future years, so it was also my last. Here's some history:

2016: 21:05 (Heavy rain, 55 degrees)
2017: 20:17 (Cloudy, 60 degrees)
2018: 20:40 (Very humid, 68 degrees)

I didn't have a lot of confidence going into this race. Even though I have been running well on cool, non-humid days, the humidity has been killing me on other days. I ran 19 miles last Saturday in very
humid conditions, and it resulted in me feeling completely drained for the next three days. I had to take off work on Monday because I felt so tired.

I did not run at all on Monday, ran a very easy 4 miles on Tuesday, and was feeling better again by Wednesday for 8 miles. But after that, it was time to taper down for the 5K. Suffice it to say, I went into this race very well rested and recovered. I got plenty of sleep this week and did not run very much.

Yesterday morning, I was still unsure of how I would approach the race. I was seriously paranoid of getting sick again by over-doing it in the humidity. But, the forecast was calling for 75% humidity, which isn't that bad. My coach suggested that I race it full out and see what I could do. So I told myself, okay, go ahead and race it!

Before the Race
I woke up at around 5:00, had my usual bagel and peanut butter and headed out the door with Greg at 7:00. Greg did not run this race because he's resting up for a marathon next weekend. (I'm running the same marathon, but wanted to do the 5K anyway. More on that later!)

Our plan was to meet up with Cheryl at 7:45 at the start line, but fortuitously she ended up driving directly behind us on the highway! She followed us to the parking lot, where we prepared for the race. The parking lot is almost a mile away from the start line, so we jogged there for our warm up, and I drank my Generation UCAN along the way. At the start line, we met up with some other friends and then continued the warm up. All in all, I warmed up for 2.5 miles. Then, I did some drills: high knees and B skips. As I was doing the drills, I told myself that while I was running, I needed to focus on quick turnover and pushing forward.

At the start line, I started to size up the competition. In 2017 and 2018, I was third place female. This year, it looked like it would be hard to keep that title. It seemed like a lot of fast women were lined up near the front. In particular, a woman named Kimi, who I met a few months ago, who I knew was running 5Ks really fast right now. I didn't have a goal time in mind, but I wanted to push myself hard, and I figured I would be happy with anything in the low 6:30's for a pace. It ended up being 64 degrees with higher than forecast humidity, so I thought a PR (sub-19:58) would be unlikely. Plus, the sun was coming out and warming things up. That wasn't supposed to happen!

Mile 1: 6:31
The race started and I started to recite a mantra immediately: Relax and push forward. I hadn't
Mile 1: Photo by Greg Clor
planned on using this mantra, but during my warm-up drills, the idea of pushing forward really struck a chord with me. So I recited it over, and over, and over again. Kimi was about 5 seconds ahead of me, and I wasn't surprised. She had recently set a few 5K PRs so she was a fast one!

I learned from the Pike's Peek 10K last month that I definitely DO want to monitor the Garmin. In fact, when I do my training runs, I sometimes speed up during the last 0.1 of each mile, just to get that mile split down to "look" better on paper and give me confidence. I saw my friend Allison cheering for me, and that really pepped me up.

At 0.9 into the race, I told myself to push a little harder to get that first mile split down. Doing this allowed me to catch up with Kimi, so that at mile marker 1, we were right next to each other. My Garmin beeped 6:31 which I was thrilled with, because up until that point, my average pace had been around 6:35. My strategy worked.

Mile 2: 6:37
I passed Kimi and continued to tell myself, relax and push forward. It was hard, but I felt strong and I felt like I still had a lot to give. I told myself to just get to the turnaround running strong and then the way back would be mentally easier.
Mile 2, photo by Allison Rainey

At the turnaround, I was able to see that two women were ahead of me. The first one was way ahead of me. There would be no catching her. The second one was about 10 seconds ahead of me, wearing a long-sleeved shirt. I don't know how people can race in long sleeves when it's 64 degrees out. I figured I might be able to catch her, but I wasn't going to make a move quite yet. She was still a good bit ahead of me, and I'd have to speed up a lot.

This mile was fun because a few of my co-workers were running the race, and they all cheered me on from the other side of the course as they were running out. I also saw Allison again shortly before mile marker 2.

Once again, at 1.9 miles, I told myself to push a bit harder to get the split time down, and it worked: 6:37. Previously, I had been around 6:40. Mile 2 is always the slowest mile of this race, so I wasn't worried that it was slower than the first mile. Particularly since I still felt good.

Mile 3: 6:30
This last mile is when it started to get really, really hard! I kept repeating the mantra: relax and push forward. Every time a negative thought would creep into my head, I replaced it with the mantra. Racing is much more fun when you have a mantra instead of visualizing yourself stopping! Of course
The last 0.1
the urge to stop is strong in every race because I am always pushing hard and hurting.

With about half a mile to go, I realized I was closing the gap on the woman with the long-sleeves. I didn't want to surge too soon, so I told myself to simply stay strong because I was closing the gap at my current pace. With 0.3 to go, I was still uncertain if I was going to be able to pass her. With 0.2 to go, I made my move. I sprinted as hard as I possibly could. I told myself I could slow down later if I had to but as I passed, I wanted to do it so quickly that she would not try to come with me. And it worked. I passed her right before mile marker 3 and she didn't attempt to follow.

The Finish
According to my Garmin, I ran 0.13 miles at a pace of 5:25 as I made my way to the finish. My official time was 20:21, and second place female.

I was soooo happy to have finished second! And my time was faster than expected too! I saw Kimi come through and then I met up with Greg to watch Cheryl and Kristin come through. I also met up with a few co-workers, as I was officially part of my company's team. Then we cooled down for just over a mile before the awards ceremony.

Final Thoughts and Stats
If you read my Pike's Peek report, I listed a few things that I learned that I wanted to improve upon for next time. And thankfully, I took those learnings to heart and ended up running a race I was happy with today:
  • My mantra really worked, as it kept me focused and positive
  • I was happy with my strategy for passing that woman with just 0.1 mile left to go
  • I was able to break the race down into "chunks" making it mentally easier
  • I felt good afterwards - not beat up and broken down
  • This race is tied for my 3rd fastest 5K ever (and it was warm!)
  • I placed 2nd out of 449 women
Using the McMillan calculator, this 20:21 is almost the equivalent of the 42:20 10K I ran at Pike's Peek. But, Pike's Peek was 7 degrees cooler and the course was net downhill. And I didn't feel like I ever truly dialed into race mode at the 10K. Today, I was "on" and I had the fire! 

Up Next
I'm running the Sugarloaf Marathon next weekend! I originally registered for it last October as my goal race for the spring, but then I pivoted to Shamrock. So it's not my goal race, but I am going to race it and see what I can do. Right now, the forecast shows the race being 57 degrees and sunny by the end (which is why it wasn't my goal race) but hopefully it gets cooler between now and next Sunday.

Finishing with a smile!