You guys. I am over the moon! I hadn’t run a 5K PR in over 3 years … hadn’t (past tense) … until TODAY!
I plan to give you all of the painstaking details of this race. From what I did the days and the week leading up to the race, to what I did before the race, to what I wore, etc. It’s all getting documented 1) because I just want to remember it and 2) because I want to be able to replicate it in future races!
Let’s start with the basic details:
Who? Me! Ha.
What? Hurricane Run 5K.
Where? Dauphin Island, AL.
When? September 8, 2018 at 8:10 a.m.
How? With lots of hard work (years of hard work, actually).
I added this race to my calendar a month or so ago. At the time, I wasn’t even sure if I would run it or not. I figured that it might be a good opportunity to get in a shorter race before the marathon training cycle ramps up too much. My coach was totally on board and even mentioned that I might be able to PR at this race. Hmm … very interesting indeed. Seeing as how I hadn’t run a 5K PR in over 3 years, I wasn’t so sure. I mean, I was totally willing to test this theory, but I wasn’t sold on the outcome.
Let’s back up a bit and talk about what I did the week leading up to the race. I’ll be posting my regular training log either tomorrow or Monday, but for now, here’s a super condensed version:
Monday – 60 minutes easy
Tuesday – 2 mile WU, 5 X 1000 @ threshold pace, 5 X 200 @ repetition pace, 2 mile CD
Wednesday – 70 minutes easy
Thursday – 60 minutes easy
Friday – 45 minutes easy + 45 minutes of Pilates
Two weeks prior (training log is here) was also fairly low-key with just one workout. Basically, I was well rested going into this race. While that isn’t always feasible when you are in the middle of a longer training cycle, it certainly helps you to have a better chance to run your best on race day. I’ve never been one to over-run my workouts or my easy runs. I like to save the magic for race day! You know?
I made sure to focus on getting lots of good nutrients and plenty of fluids in on Friday. I made a smoothie after my run Friday morning with UCAN protein powder and frozen berries. It was delicious! I drank lots of water with Nuun (really I do this every day). I worked all day Friday, so I was not on my feet much at all (thank you desk job). I knew that I wanted some good carbs for dinner Friday evening, so we went to Moe’s (really we do this a lot too). I got the Ear Muffs bowl, which had lots of rice, beans, vegetables, guacamole and tofu. Oh! I also had a pint of Halo Top with a few spoonfuls of peanut butter. I guess I’ll have to eat that before every race now! Darn.
Saturday morning I woke up just after 5 a.m. We had about an hour drive to get to the race and we left the house just before 6 a.m. Daniel pulled the whole bit where he bribes me to get ready on time by telling me that we can stop at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way (but only if we leave the house by (insert whatever time here)). Apparently that is all the incentive I need to get ready in a timely fashion! Coffee in tow, we made our way across the bay and towards Dauphin Island.
We got to the race around 7 a.m., which gave me plenty of time to get registered, go to the bathroom, etc. I planned to do a 20 minute warm up, but we ended up running the entire course beforehand. When we got there, I noticed that the finish was set up in a different spot than when I had run this race before. At that point, I was little bit nervous that the course was going to be different and I wasn’t going to know where to go. I’d rather be certain where I am going and if there are any tricky turns, etc. before the race so that I am not relying on a foggy, mid-race brain to make a decision about where to go. I’m glad that we did this too, because I was pretty much all alone out there!
After the warm up, I switched into my new Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% shoes. I’ve had lots of questions about these shoes. In short, I love them! This was only the second time I have worn them though. I ran the 5 X 200 portion of my workout Tuesday in them and that was it until this race. According to Nike, the shoes “feature Nike ZoomX foam (which is ultra-lightweight, soft and capable of providing up to 85-percent energy return) and an embedded full-length curved carbon fiber plate (that increases stiffness to provide a sensation of propulsion). Together, this delivers an average of 4-percent improvement in running economy when compared to Nike’s previous fastest racing flat.” I’ve not run in any of Nike’s previous racing flats in order to compare, but you can definitely feel the propulsion when you run in these shoes. It basically feels like you have springs under your feet.
After the warm up, I also made the executive decision to ditch my singlet and run without a shirt. This is actually the first time I have ever run outside without a shirt on. I know this may seem like a silly and insignificant detail, but it was honestly a big step for me. My hesitation about running without a shirt has been two-fold and has resulted from things in my past (things like being a victim of sexual assault and having an eating disorder (and just having really poor body image in general)). I made a decision to put those things aside. My body isn’t perfect and no one cares. It gets me where I need to go (sometimes quickly :)) and it has treated me well over the years even though I haven’t always treated it well. The clothes that I wear (or don’t wear) on my body do not make me safe (or less safe) when I run. It’s time to move passed all that (both in my life in general and in this blog post specifically).
The bottom line is that it was over eighty degrees. The dew point was seventy-five. I was miserable in my very lightweight singlet. I decided that I didn’t want anything weighing me down (literally or figuratively). It was time to run free! As far as other clothing items go, I wore my Lululemon Train Times 6″ shorts, a plain Nike sports bra (I think it’s the Pro Classic Swoosh compression sports bra) and my Injinji toe socks. These are my favorite shorts, bra and socks by far. The shorts are perfect if you prefer compression shorts and you don’t want them to move when you move. They also have a pocket in the back, which is a plus.
With about ten minutes until the start, I did a few strides. People have also asked about this and basically you just want to run a few short, quick intervals. I didn’t time them or even count them actually, but they are about 20 to 30 seconds each and you want to run at close to your 5K pace. The goal is to stir up the aerobic enzymes and prime the engine before heading to the start line. It helps your body to know that it’s about to get REAL.
I had an excellent pacing strategy going into the race (thanks to my wonderful coach)! I wrote the paces on my arm Friday afternoon. I find that the process of thinking about the paces and having it “tattooed” (albeit temporarily) on your body, makes me more accountable and more invested in the plan. Not sure if that makes sense, but it seems to work for me. The plan looked like this:
Mile 1: 6:00 – 6:05
Mile 2: 5:55 – 6:00
Mile 3: 5:50 – 5:55
If I ran at the upper end of the range for each mile, I would’ve been close to 18:40 and if I ran at the lower end of the range for each mile, I would’ve been close to 18:25. My previous PR was 18:23, so I really wanted to be at the lower end of the range. I had a good chat with my coach before the race and he really tried to reiterate the importance of not running the first mile too fast. As a reference, my splits for my last 5K were 5:57, 5:58 and 6:24 (insert facepalm). My “strategy,” if you can even call it that, at the last race was to start out close to 5:55 and see how long I could hold on. As it turned out, I held on for exactly two miles. That race was an excellent example of how not to race a 5K and I definitely took away some good lessons from that performance. I was all about starting conservatively and running smart this time around!
So where does that leave us? Oh, the race!
I basically led the race from the gun. The guy in the red shirt above was in front of me for about half a mile or so, but once I passed him, it was just me out there doing my thing. I guess in the back of my mind I knew that there was a possibility that this might happen, which is why I wanted to be sure that I knew the course. I figured that I might have someone to run with for a little bit longer than I did though. I had no one to blame if my pacing was terrible. I was setting my own pace!
I told myself to be smart and I tried to run at an effort that was hard, but not all out hard. I didn’t stalk my Garmin. I didn’t want to psych myself out by seeing a pace that was too fast or too slow than what I was expecting. The first mile was straight as an arrow. No turns. No nothing. I approached the clock and saw 5:51. A tad fast, but … whatever. It is what it is. I told myself that as long as I didn’t slow down, it was fine! I still had a chance to run a smart race. I just had to run a smart, fast race!
The second mile looped around a neighborhood. There were several gentle turns and there was also lots of shade! I was so happy to have a bit of a reprieve from the direct sunlight. I suddenly realized that I probably had less than 10 minutes to go. For whatever reason, I have never thought about this during a 5K before, but that thought really perked me up. I still felt good (thankfully) and the thought of only having to hold on for 10 minutes absolutely seemed doable. Nothing super noteworthy happened during this mile. I just put my head down and did the work. When I got to the clock at mile two, it read 11:38. This meant that I had run a 5:47 second mile. I didn’t look at my watch to check the split and I honestly didn’t even try to figure out what it was. I know it seems like a simple calculation, but doing math while running is far from simple. I knew that I hadn’t slowed down and that was really all I cared about at that point.
The third mile had a couple of turns and then went straight back along the same road that we had run out on during mile one. The course was pancake flat. Once you make the turn for home, you’ve got just over three-quarters of a mile to go. I was looking forward to that final turn. It signified that I was at least headed home and that I had less than five minutes to go! At this point, you were back out in the direct sunlight, but that didn’t really matter. Even though I was starting to feel fatigued, I knew that I wasn’t going to crash. I made my mind up that I was going to finish strong! Daniel was waiting for me at mile three.
When my watched beeped, I looked down and saw 5:53! Holy cow. I was doing it. I was actually doing it. All that was left was the final tenth of a mile and one final left-hand turn into the finishing chute. It wasn’t until I made the turn and saw the clock that I knew I was going to PR. I crossed the line in 18:12! I was ecstatic! And exhausted. If that isn’t one of the best feelings in the world, then I don’t know what is. All of those workouts, all of the hard work that goes into this sport that we all love so much, it’s all worth it.
Of course it is easy to realize and appreciate this after things all come together and you have a great race. This one was a long time coming for me though. I’ve been at a pretty consistent level of fitness for about three years now and I hadn’t had any major breakthroughs. I’m going to go ahead and call this one a breakthrough. Progress isn’t linear, but consistency pays off. Keep showing up and putting in the work. The results will come and even if they don’t, it’s still worth it.
Daniel and I ran the course again after the race as a cool down. I was still reeling with excitement. I kept saying, “I can’t believe that just happened.” I’m actually still riding the post-PR high right now even and I still can’t believe what happened. I’m even more excited about CIM now and I can’t wait to get back out there and work even harder (after a proper recovery, of course).
Whew. Well, I have successfully rambled on for far too long. Thanks for reading! Talk to you soon!