13 days post marathon and I jumped into a 5K this morning. This is pretty much unheard of for me. It usually takes me about two weeks to feel "normal" again, and the soonest I have ever raced post-marathon is 3 weeks later.
I wasn't very sore from the marathon. It felt like I had done a hard long run, but definitely not a marathon. The race was on a Sunday and by Wednesday, I felt no lingering soreness while walking around the house. Things continued to feel good on Thursday so I decided to test out a run on Friday. I felt abnormally good. Usually my first post-marathon run is full of little "reminder aches" that I ran a marathon. No such feeling
|Birthday photo, 11/11/2020|
on Friday. And the next day, Saturday, I ran for 40 minutes at a pace of 8:36, which is on the speedier side of easy!
While my legs had made a miraculous recovery in record time, my digestive system was another story. As soon as I started running on Friday, I felt the same chest tightness I had felt during the marathon. And there was the urge to burp. My primary care doctor had referred me to a GI specialist, but that appointment wouldn't be for two more weeks. After the run, my stomach made weird noises and I burped very frequently for the rest of the day.
I continued to ramp back up: 40 minutes Saturday, 50 minutes Sunday, 60 minutes on Monday-- all with very fresh-feeling legs. With each run, the chest pressure lessened, which was encouraging. However the burping continued during running and all day every day. My best theory is that I do have an ulcer. The marathon aggravated it. It bled a little, and turned my vomit black. And now the continued irritation is causing the burping. I was a little concerned about racing a 5K while this GI issue was going on, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try.
Race Cancellation Navigation
Every year starting in 2006, I have run a Turkey Trot. It's one of my favorite running traditions if not my most favorite tradition. This year, all the local trots went virtual. Here in Northern VA, we typically have about 6-7 to choose from. But none of them would be held. I did some research and found one in Fredericksburg about three weeks ago. That would be a one-hour drive on Thanksgiving morning, but it was worth it to keep up with tradition.
However, the governor of VA announced new restrictions on Friday the 13th which resulted in the Fredericksburg race being canceled the next day. What to do? I realized I would have to either run a virtual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving (not desirable) or run a race the following weekend. So I did more research and found a 5K on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. But before registering, I emailed the race director and asked him if it was at risk for cancelation. He said he needed to check with the venue (The W&OD trail), so I did not register without having a final confirmation.
Lo and behold! That race ended up going virtual due to the new restrictions put in place by our governor. I didn't have any more options unless I wanted to drive over 3 hours or run a trail race (not my thing). However, there was a small 5K happening in Washington DC today, Saturday the 21st. I had known about this race for a while, but I didn't even consider it due to the proximity to my marathon, and the fact that Greg was planning on running a semi-virtual marathon today (Richmond).
On Thursday, Greg decided against the marathon for various reasons, and my legs were feeling 100%, so I registered for this Cranberry Crawl 5K. There used to be so many races to choose from that the challenge was picking the best option. Now, there are so few races that it's a struggle just to find anything!
Before the Race
Instead of eating a full English muffin with peanut butter for breakfast, I had half an English muffin with a very small amount of peanut butter. I did not want to upset my stomach. This probably amounted to
around 100 calories, which isn't very much, but I also planned on taking a Maurten gel 30 minutes prior to the race.
I considered wearing my adidas Adios Pro-- the same shoes I wore during the marathon. I found them to be really fast and springy and I think they would have helped in a 5K. But I ended up not wearing them and going with the adidas Adios (regular edition, not the Pro), which is a standard racing flat with no carbon plate. Why? I really wanted to see what I could do un-aided by a shoe. I think that if I had PR'ed while wearing them, I would have wondered if I would have PR'ed without them. I don't have these same thoughts regarding the marathon distance, because a marathon is more about endurance than speed. I may be totally illogical here, but that's my thinking. Plus, once I believe I have reached my peak 5K fitness and can no longer PR. . . then out come the faster shoes!
|Pre-race with a mask|
It was a smooth ride into DC. We hadn't been into the city since May, before the political unrest. It was nice to see it again and things were calm at 7:00 in the morning. We parked easily and got my bib. I warmed up for about 15 minutes, which included some strides. This was a low key race with no chip timing. It was a 5K and a 10K, and I think the total number of runners for both races was around 50. The 5K started at 7:50 and the 10K started at 8:00.
It was 49 degrees, partly cloudy, and no wind. Pretty much ideal, so I give it a 10/10 on the weather scale. Usually it needs to be colder for me to give it a perfect 10, but since it was only a 5K and there was literally no wind and it wasn't very sunny, it gets a 10. The course was flat, so it would be a perfect day to set a PR. And that's what I really wanted.
Could I run a PR just 13 days after a marathon with a potential ulcer, or some other un-diagnosed digestive issue? Normally I would have thought not, but since my legs had felt so peppy over the past few days and since the weather was perfect, I figured it was an excellent opportunity. 19:58 was the time to beat and my strategy was to do it by being 100% positive 100% of the time and always, always keeping that effort level up. I think that a 5K is really all about the effort you put in and how much pain you can tolerate. And even if the fitness wasn't there, I would be mentally stronger than ever.
I didn't bolt out as fast as I normally do in a 5K. I had a decent warm up, but I still thought it best to ease into my pace. According to my Garmin pace chart, I ran the first half of this mile slower than the second half, which is consistent with my effort. Once I got going, I made sure to crank up the effort. I kept repeating the same mantras over and over again: Let your fitness shine. Use your fitness. Relax and push forward. Challenge yourself. You are strong. Keep that effort up.
Mile 2: 6:35
I knew that with a first mile of 6:29, I could definitely PR. That pepped me up. I continued to push just as hard, but my watch pace was slipping slightly. I was not discouraged by this. I continued on with my mantras. There were two women ahead of me. One of them was so far ahead I couldn't even see her. The other one was about 20 seconds in front of me. I figured I probably wouldn't catch her, but it might be possible if I surged at the end and she was fading. I slowed down slightly during this mile, but I refused to let that impact my mindset.
Mile 3: 6:30
The race was so hard at the point. I kept telling myself to focus on my form, to keep the effort up, that I could do anything for 7 minutes. I felt strong and I do believe I was giving it my all, but unfortunately I couldn't get that pace back into the 6:20s. The good news is that I felt good, I was pushing hard, and it felt exactly as it was supposed to feel. I think that not having done any 5K-specific work in about a month just meant my top speed wasn't in place.
Last 0.13: 5:49 pace
I had a really strong final kick, which of course always makes me wonder if I could have run faster! I looked at the clock as I ran through the finish line and it read 20:20. This also matched my Garmin time.
Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways:
For a race that I decided to do somewhat spontaneously, I think this went well. Of course I would have loved to get that PR and be eating the cake tonight. The course and the weather presented an ideal opportunity. But I am not in my best 5K shape ever coming off of a marathon taper and recovery. The fact that I could run within 22 seconds of my PR less than two weeks post marathon isn't too shabby. So I'm pleased. Most importantly, I really wanted to be mentally strong today and I was. I constantly repeated my mantras over and over and I didn't get discouraged or let the effort slip.
If I had it to do over again I probably would have warmed up for longer and gone out a little bit harder. I think that if I had run a really hard first mile, I could have hung in there for the next two without too much of a fade. But I think ultimately it would have only made a difference of a few seconds. I also think the faster shoes would have helped, but I am glad I didn't wear them. Now I have a true baseline for my 5K fitness.
I'm still rather sour about not having a Turkey Trot, especially since the indoor bars and restaurants are open. Clearly I found a race and I fulfilled my own personal desires, but the principle of canceling small races that have gone to great lengths to develop new socially distant protocols is maddening. These are not super-spreader events. That's been proven time and again. If someone doesn't feel safe racing, they can choose to not participate.
I don't want to end this blog on a negative note. I'm a positive person and I don't waste mental energy focusing on things that I can't control. But I'm not going to ignore it either and pretend it doesn't bother me. It bothers me, but I'm primarily focused on finding races that continue to be held and training for them. Training and racing is a lifestyle for me and I will maintain it as long as I am able and have the desire.