Thursday, May 23, 2024

Another 5K, With Some Mishaps

I ran the Lawyer's Have Heart 5K over the weekend in Washington DC. Even though I have run Lawyer's Have heart many times in the past, this experience was entirely different.

Historically, this race had been a 10K, occurred in the middle of June, and was located in Georgetown. This race was my first 10K back in 2005 and my first large road race ever! I proceeded to run it every year from 2005 to 2012, and then stopped in 2013 because I was on vacation. Around that time, I decided to stop running summertime 10Ks because I would suffer from heat exhaustion and kill my immune system. 5K became my summertime distance limit. In 2017 they introduced the 5K distance in addition to the 10K, so I started doing that. 

Last year, the race moved from Georgetown to Hains Point and the date switched from June to May. I didn't participate last year, so I didn't know what to expect. Even though the Georgetown course was challenging, it was a tradition for me, so I was a little sad about the move. 

Before the Race
I decided to go with my adidas Adios Pro shoes for this race. I have determined that they are more responsive than the ASICS that I wore in Boston and the Greenway 5K two weeks ago. The ASICS shoes are fun and bouncy, but also a bit squishy. For really fast running, I like to feel more connected with the ground. I think the plush cushion is great for longer distances, but I've decided to stick with adidas for shorter ones. Even though they are unisex and not specifically women's running shoes, they have a streamlined, locked-in fit. 

Greg and I tried to park in our normal spot for Hains Point races, but the road was blocked off so we parked at the Kennedy center, as the website had suggested. In the parking garage, I saw my friend Chad, whose law firm always participates in this race. Chad and I ran to the start, which was just over a mile away and Greg walked. 

It was raining steadily, but it wasn't the torrential downpour that my weather app had called for. At 61 degrees and humid, I was thankful for the rain. On my personal race weather scale, this race gets a 6 out of 10. Not great weather, but also not horrible. If the rain had been heavier, I would have downgraded it to a 5 or 4. If there had been no rain at all but still humid, also a downgrade. Any time the temp is above 55, I would rather have rain than not. 

During my warmup with Chad, I told him about my lack of sleep over the past two nights. I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep each night because my mind was quite activated. Even with poor sleep I can usually race well, so I didn't let that get in my head. But the thing that was keeping me up was occupying so much of my mind, that I wasn't really focused on the race at all. I wasn't sure if I was mentally ready to run really hard when my focus was elsewhere. 

I had an A, B, and C goal. "A" goal was to run under 20 minutes. "B" goal was to beat my Easter Classic time of 20:14 from seven weeks prior, and my "C" goal was to beat my 5K from two weeks ago (20:40). 

We arrived at the race start and I retrieved my bib and pinned it on. Then I looked around for Greg and found him. He said he was going to walk up to the bridge where he would be taking a video of me about a quarter mile in. I decided to run a bit past there and turn around to continue my warm up.

When I saw him at the bridge I stopped and said "let's do a video of me warming up here." His response "It's 7:41. Don't you start in 4 minutes?" OH SHIT!!!

The race started at 7:45, and I knew that, but for some reason I had it in my head that it started at 8:00. I hadn't yet had my gel, and the start line was not visible. How could I have messed this up so badly!?

Well, strides are normally part of my warm up, so I did a long stride at a sub 7:00 pace to bolt back to the start line. It was about a quarter of a mile away. At least if they could see me running towards it maybe the would wait a few seconds for me to get behind the line. The minute I got there I gulped down my Maurten caffeinated gel. It wouldn't do me much good. It takes about 15 minutes for the caffeine to kick in. Oh well. This probably goes back to what I said above - I was focused on something else so I didn't remember that the start time was 7:45, and not 8:00.

I lined up towards the front and didn't even have an opportunity to see who else was there, who the competition might be. I was still trying to catch my breath from my sprint to the start.

I think I stood there for maybe 60 seconds tops and then the race started.

Mile 1
Now that the race had started and I knew I wasn't going to miss it, I could relax. So I went out at a more
conservative pace. I needed to calm down and switch gears from "get to the start" to "run a fast 5K". It wasn't long before I saw Greg and yelled out to him "That was very close!" I still wasn't aware of how many women were ahead of me, and I usually try to have an idea of that when I run a local race.

The course wasn't the traditional Hains Point course. And I had only discovered this a few days prior when my physical therapist pointed it out to me (he was running the 10K). This meant that it wouldn't be pancake flat and there would be more turns. I welcomed this, though, because I have run on Hains Point a lot lately and thought a change of scenery would be good.

I ran with Chad for a little bit and then pulled ahead about half a mile in. Because I started a little slower than originally planned, I was now passing runners, which was challenging with the course being narrow. We were all running in the bike lane. We probably didn't have to be crammed in there, but I didn't want to be the only person not in the bike lane. This mile clocked in at 6:33. This put me on track for my C goal and I would need to speed up if I wanted my B goal of sub 20:14.

Mile 2
Lots of uneven pavement here and potholes which meant puddles. I didn't want to focus too much on dodging puddles, but I also didn't want my feet to be soaked. Ultimately there was no avoiding it. My feet got soaked which meant that heavy feet feeling. I was racing really close to one guy for this whole mile. Every time he started to get ahead I would make sure he wouldn't. This mile also had a steeper hill than I was expecting as we got onto the Memorial Bridge. It took the wind out of me so this mile clocked in at 6:38. UGH - not what I wanted, but it was the best I could do. I saw Greg again (he took a shortcut to another spectating point) and he yelled out that I was the 3rd place female.

Mile 3
I was really hoping the magical 5K gods would smile down on me and give me this amazing burst of energy to close the race in a sub 6:20 pace, but that was not happening. There was a hairpin turn and I felt like that stole any momentum I had. My main motivation at this point was to retain my spot at the third female. I didn't want any women passing me. This mile clocked in at 6:33, my fastest mile of the race, but not as fast as I would have liked.

The finish and beyond
According to my Garmin, I ran the final 0.15 mile at a pace of 5:51, so I had a good burst of energy. When I ran the Greenway 5K two weeks ago, I had no final kick whatsoever; my legs had been totally dead. 

My official time was 20:37, which means I got my "C" goal of beating my Greenway time by 3 seconds. Phew. 

I found Greg who told me that I was actually the 4th female finisher-- he had miscounted. On the plus side, that meant I didn't need to stay for the awards and hang out in the rain. We found Chad and we traded race stories, and then he went back to cheer on his law firm colleagues. 

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
There are two ways to look at this race: the positive way and the negative way. Of course I will ultimately view it the positive way, but it's good to articulate some negative thoughts that are only natural when you miss you A and B goals.

Negative way: It was only 7 weeks ago that I ran a 20:14 5K on a hilly course and it didn't feel all that hard. I've done plenty of fast workouts in between, and taking one week off post marathon shouldn't cause me to loose THAT much fitness. I should have at least been able to go under that time. This course was faster than the Greenway from two weeks ago so I should have been able to beat that time by more than 3 seconds. 

Positive way: I started the race recovering from a quarter mile sprint to the start and the anxiety of not getting there in time. I didn't take my gel in time for the caffeine to kick in. It was pouring rain and there were puddles everywhere + uneven pavement. I averaged 5 hours of sleep for the two nights before the race and my focus was elsewhere. These are not conditions for an amazing performance. And even though the Greenway course had more elevation gain, there were no turns, uneven pavement, or puddles to dodge. The March race got a 10/10 on the weather scale, so it's not a fair comparison.

Out of 443 women, I finished in 4th place, which I am pleased with.  The last time I ran this race (2022) I was the 9th female finisher out of 582, so that's a nice improvement too.

It was great to get out there in the rain, to see my friend Chad, and to work hard!


  1. Congrats! I love how you were able to sprint to the start, regroup, and focus on the task at hand!

  2. Yay for the 4th place finish! Especially with wet feet! That puddle in your picture is no joke.