Thursday, July 4, 2024

I beat the heat - again!

This morning I ran my 11th Firecracker 5K. I started running this race in 2010 when it first launched, and have run it most years since, with a few exceptions for injury and illness. I even ran the virtual race in 2020! The first time I ran this race back in 2010 my time was 23:21. Since then, I have gotten significantly faster.

If I'm in good shape, my goal is usually to set a course PR. My distance PR is 19:41, and it's not realistic to beat that in the summer heat. Turkey Trots are for distance PRs. Firecrackers are for course PRs. 

This year, the time to beat was 20:57 from 2022. Before today's race, I went back and read my race report so I would know what mile splits I needed to beat. 6:40, 6:28, 6:44. It seemed perfectly doable to beat these splits given my recent track workouts. But I run my workouts at around 6:00am in the summer, before it gets too hot. This race started at 8:00am.

Before the Race
I felt really confident going into this race. I slept really well the night before the race and didn't wake up in the middle of the night like I have been doing recently. The last time I ran a 5K, I ran it on several nights in a row of horrible sleep, so at least I had that going for me today. 

I ate a handful of almond butter pretzels two hours before the race and then got dressed. We left the house at 6:45 for a start time of 8:00.

We arrived at 7:05 and my first order of business was to find a bathroom. I had already picked up my bib a few days before, so I didn't have to worry about that. I always try and get my bib before race day if possible because it's one less thing I have to worry about on race morning. I can simply get there and start warming up right away. 

I saw my friend Laura at 7:30, which was right when I wanted to start my warmup. We ran about a mile and half together and then I took my Maurten caffeinated gel 15 minutes before race start. I drank a few sips of water and splashed water all over my back and chest. I ran a few fast strides and then headed for the start line. At the start, I chatted with a few other runners, some of whom I knew from Instagram. 

Race Weather
It was 77 degrees at race start with a dew point of 67 degrees. About 50% cloud cover. I debated not wearing sunglasses but ultimately I decided I wanted them. Even though the relative humidity wasn't nearly as high as it could have been, it still felt quite humid. I would give this a 2 out of 10 on my personal weather scale. 77 is a really high race temperature, but the 67 dew point saves it from being a 1. I was certainly at a disadvantage from the 71 degrees and even lower dew point from the 2022 race. As a tease, it was about 15 degrees LOWER than normal on Monday and Tuesday mornings. 

Mile 1: 6:27
My plan was to run this mile around 6:35, but with 5K races, I usually run purely based on effort so the goal pace is more of just an informational benchmark. It felt like the right amount of effort. Hard - but sustainable for 20 minutes. When my watch beeped and I saw my time, I hoped I hadn't gone out too fast, but my body was telling me it was the right effort. During this mile, I repeated one of my favorite mantras in my head: "Relax and push forward".

Mile 2: 6:23
This is a net downhill mile and it's always super fast. I could have pushed harder here, but I didn't want to go all out knowing that the third mile would be uphill. I wanted to save something for the last mile. Mile 2 is the calm before the storm. It's fast, doesn't hurt THAT bad and has a lot of shade. When I saw that my split was 6:23, I knew that as long as I didn't fall apart, I would get my course PR of sub 20:57. 

Mile 3: 6:40
This mile was so HOT! There wasn't as much shade as there was during the second mile and the uphill is killer. It's not all that steep but it starts at 2.5 and is one steady climb with no reprieve. It always feels super long and never-ending. I really powered through this with all the mental stamina I had in me. I reminded myself that it was less than 7 minutes and I could do anything for that amount of time. 

Last 0.16: 5:58 pace
I was really running out of gas here, and of course this section is a continuation of that hill. I was really surprised when I saw my pace afterwards. I would have guessed much slower based on how I felt. 

My official time was 20:28, which is a course PR by 29 seconds. 

After the race
It took me a looooong time to feel normal again. It felt like my heart rate was not coming down and I was still hurting for like 3 whole minutes after I was done. I ran that race HARD. The temptation was to sit down but I know it's better to keep walking around rather than to stop completely. 

I reunited with Greg, who had been cheering for me at around mile 1.2 and the finish. After I recovered, I had the opportunity to chat with some runners who recognized me from Instagram and that was really awesome. Two of them even told me that they registered for this race because of me! It feels awesome to motivate people to get out and run. 

I placed 1st in my age group and I was the 20th female finisher out of 652. There were 10 women who ran under 19:00. Very fast field today!

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I really love this 4th of July tradition. 1500 people came out to run this race and everything was so festive. I got to see so many of my friends and talk about my favorite topic- running! I really love being part of the running community.

Surprisingly, I ran this race faster than both of my 5Ks in May: the Greenway 5K  (20:40) and the Lawyers Have Heart 5K (20:37). Both of those races have flatter courses the weather was much cooler. I have been consistently doing speed work and long runs of 10-12 miles so apparently it paid off. I ran 176 miles in June, which is a strong training month for me. 

Just like in Boston, I was able to "beat the heat" and run my fastest Firecracker ever! If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am heat sensitive and the heat has always impacted me more than most other runners. This is the first summer where I do not feel like I am at a disadvantage against other runners. Sure, it's still hard to run in warm weather, but it doesn't suck the life out of me like it has every previous summer.  

In the spring of 2023, I mentioned getting diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and it's taken a full year for my doctor to get my thyroid levels in the normal range. I finally tested normal in March of this year. Typically with hypothyroidism you are cold (not hot!) and I was worried that treating my thyroid would make me even warmer. But it did just the opposite. Because my thyroid wasn't working properly, and hadn't been for many years, it wasn't able to regulate my temperature.

Last summer, my easy pace was around 9:00-9:15. This summer, my easy pace is 8:20-8:35 and it honestly feels easy. What a difference it makes when your body can regulate temperature! I used to feel completely drained when the dew point rose above 68. And now, I tolerate it pretty well!

Up Next:
I'll be keeping the training on the lighter side in July and then officially starting my marathon build up in early August. I am planning to run Indianapolis Monumental. 

Thanks to Greg for being so supportive!


  1. Wow that's amazing to have the thyroid piece figured out. Congrats on the course PR!

    I'm excited that you're running Indy. I spent a long weekend there this spring and loved the city. That's going to be a gorgeous course.

  2. You are Amazing!!!! I haven't run a 5k for a long time and I want to register to run one, I ran few at the begging of my journey 😊 and I'm so excited because I qualify for the Chicago Marathon 🤗 You motivated me and I got some maurten gels also to try and so far they are really good 😃👌🏽 I use Ucan as well... it's been years looking for a good supplements and gels and finally I'm very happy with this 2, thanks for everything and you Rock!!!! ❤️

  3. You are just going from strength to strength! Well done on the PR. Really glad you got your thyroid sorted out, too. AV

  4. Wow. What running shoes do you like right now? Thanks