Friday, August 18, 2023

5K at the Beach

Greg and I are in the Outer Banks of North Carolina this week on vacation. We often come here in the summer and I have been coming here since childhood. They have a race series that's held every week so naturally I take part! 

Most recently I ran this race in 2021. (We were in Africa last summer). One of my friends was coincidentally staying less than a mile from us so I persuaded her to sign up and run it with me. Greg also ran it in 2021. 

This year my friend is not at the beach and Greg is STILL suffering from his groin injury. So I was on my own. 

I figured this would be a good "cutback" week for Marine Corps Marathon training. In my previous post, I showed how I have been steadily building for multiple weeks, so it was time for a cutback. I ran my long run on Friday last week because we left for the beach early on Saturday morning. Saturday was my rest day. 

On Sunday, I ran on a track here at the beach for my final "tune-up" workout. It was crazy warm and humid (80 degrees!) but I managed to hit all of my paces anyway. This gave me confidence that I was in good shape for the race. It was three sets of 3 x 400m, getting progressively faster with each set but extending the recovery jogs in between reps. 

Monday through Wednesday were all easy days with low mileage. Even though it's significantly warmer and more humid here than it is at home, I don't mind it because I enjoy the change of scenery. And the ocean air feels much fresher than the suffocating DC swampy air.

I wasn't consciously nervous for the race yesterday morning but my stomach indicated otherwise. I must have gone to the bathroom nearly 10 times before the race. I had a handful of almond butter pretzels at around 6:15 and then a Maurten caffeinated gel 15 minutes before the start of the race. I had been hydrating all week, drinking over 70 ounces each day with added electrolytes. 

Before the Race
As we drove to the race it was pouring rain. I did not bring a running hat with me because I didn't consider the possibility that it would rain. But thankfully the rain stopped shortly after we arrived. I picked up my bib at 7:15 for an 8:00 start time. The person who parked next to us recognized me from Instagram so we chatted for a bit.

It was 78 degrees with a dew point of 74. Not as hot as last year because it had just rained and the sky was overcast. There were a few windy parts along the course but nothing unmanageable. 

I warmed up for 1.7 miles. My legs and body felt good but I felt slightly nauseous. It felt a lot like pre-race jitters but I honestly was not nervous about such a low-key beach race. I guess my mind was anticipating the pain cave I was about to enter!

Goals and Strategy
My only goal was to beat my 2021 time. I am in about the same spot I was in my training back then so I figured that was a realistic goal. I wouldn't have my friend Meredith to push me at the end, but I told myself I would try to channel that energy anyway. My 2021 time was 21:12 with splits of 6:57, 7:03, 6:47. This morning, I decided I would try and run it at a pace of 6:50 for the first two miles and try to hang on at the end as best as possible.

Mile 1: 6:51
I thought I started out fast off the line but yet about half the runners blew by me. There were 58 runners total but it was a competitive field. Still, I knew I would be passing many of them because it was unlikely that so many people could maintain a sub 6:40 pace. I glanced down at my Garmin and saw I was running a 6:45 (target was 6:50) so I held back even more and told myself to be patient. 

I was running directly behind a woman for most of the first mile but then passed her as we approached the 1 mile mark. I was pretty sure there were only two more women ahead of me, but they were WAY ahead so I knew I wouldn't catch them. 

Mile 2: 7:00
This was my slowest mile in 2021 and I knew there would be a few small hills. Plus, mile 2 is always really difficult mentally in a 5K. I passed a few guys during this mile but I didn't feel all that strong. The humidity was zapping my energy even though I had only been running for 10 minutes. I ran this mile 10 seconds slower than my 6:50 target but I knew I could speed up at the end and make that time back.

Mile 3: 6:54
I really didn't think I would be able to hold on. It was hard to motivate myself to push because I was on vacation and this was a beach race! I had to convince myself that I actually cared and that I seriously wanted to beat my time from two years ago. I passed a guy toward the end of the mile which really perked me up. I remembered back to literally racing my friend Meredith and tried to draw motivation from that.

Last 0.7: Unknown
I stopped my Garmin as I crossed the finish line but then realized a little later that it didn't actually stop. So I have no idea how fast my final kick was. But it was pretty fast. I saw the clock ticking closer and closer to the dreaded 21:12 and I did everything in my power to get under it.

After the Race
I ended up coming in 3rd place out of the women and 8th overall. There were a bunch of speedy women not far behind me either. Lots of women ran under 22:00 minutes, which is impressive given there were only 58 total participants. My official time was 21:09, which is 3 seconds faster than my time from two years ago! 

And if there was any doubt, this race is also a Strava segment and Strava agreed that I had, in fact, set a PR on that segment. I know it's super small, but when you work so hard for every second, the seconds matter!

Of course my inner skeptic is telling me that it was slightly cooler this year with more cloud cover. So I should be faster just based on race conditions. But in actuality it was still humid as f*ck. 

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I am happy with my performance but I'm not analyzing this one too much. I didn't have a ton of motivation since I am in "beach mode" and I didn't feel all that great at the start line. If I really want to test my fitness I will have to wait until the dew point is much lower. 

It feels great to have placed third and to have run faster than I did in 2021. This was a good, hard tempo that will add to my marathon training bank. I had fun racing and meeting new people and Greg was amazing with his camera work. 

My next race is a 5K in September and I may be more excited about this next 5K than any 5K I have ever run in my lifetime. Why?! You will just have to wait and see, but are welcome to guess in the comments.


  1. Argh I don't have a clue what the September 5k could be. I'm waiting with baited breath to find out.

    Congrats on your "you vs you" PR! I haven't been to the Outer Banks since 2013. I stayed close to the Hatteras Lighthouse and just about died on the runs that I attempted. The humidity was like nothing else.

  2. Well Done, Elizabeth! Good to see you're running strong, even in humidity. AV

  3. Seems to me like your body can handle the heat and humidity better than it used too which is awesome. Great job in beating your previous time two years ago as well