I ran the Run for the Schools “5K” in Falls Church, Va. [course is here]
I put 5K in quotes
because the course was mis-marked, and was actually 3.25 miles. I blew up pretty badly, but still ran
20:50, which is equivalent to a 19:55 5K – it’s hard to be upset when you can
deathmarch a race, and still be not far off of your 5K PR pace.
After a moderately annoying “5K as a tempo run” last week, I
had a different goal for this week. I
was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be racing my best (I’ve always raced very
poorly in September – I think there’s something blooming that just destroys
me), but I still wanted to run aggressive and hungry. I wasn’t focused on a particular time, I just wanted to push
myself hard, and if I broke, it wasn’t the end of the world. As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. :)
When I woke up this morning, it was pouring. I debated staying in bed for about 10
seconds, and then got up and dressed. Since
a morning dose of antihistamines had worked so poorly last week, I skipped them
this week in favor of a plain decongestant.
I got to the race at about 6:30 for the 8:00 am race, and
then commenced my warm-up jog. I felt a
bit weak and fuzzy during the warm-up jog, but still so very much better than I
had last week (when I had been falling asleep at the start line).
I usually like to jog a 5K course at least once before I
race it, but the course was not clearly marked, so instead I ended up wandering
the neighborhood. Most of my warm-up
was at easy pace, but I threw in four minutes at a hard pace (a bit harder than
5k pace). This always feels ridiculous
when I do it pre-race, but I seem to race my best when I’ve already done one or
more hard intervals before the race.
After I finished the hard run, I started to jog back to the
start area, but rapidly realized that I was lost. I tried to flag down a few cars to ask directions, but most of
them thought I was just a crazy but friendly woman and waved back. Finally one stopped and gave me directions,
and I made my way to bib pick-up (total distance of warm-up fiasco -- ~4
By this time, the rain had slowed to a drizzle, which I
happily noted as I swapped to my flats.
Walked back over to the line, did a few strides and said hi to some
friends, and then the race started.
Per my plan, I went out controlled, but hard. About a 10th of a mile in, a
woman in red surged past me, but I had a hunch that she wasn’t holding that
pace too long. Sure enough, she started
gasping shortly afterwards, and I was in the lead.
The course was not horribly hilly, but was fair, and had
enough hills that I could practice pushing up each one.
[To explain more about the hills – about a year ago, I got
some bad advice about running form – basically, that I should try to prevent my
arms from swinging in front of my body at all costs, and to avoid any “pumping”
of my arms at all times, including up hill.
I worked through this form change, and then got faster downhill, but
significantly slower going uphill.
Then I came to the realization that I have a lot of upper body strength,
and I only hurt myself by not using that resource when appropriate. So now I’m trying to correct once again, by attacking
the uphills and using my arms as I should, but then reverting to the more
relaxed arm motion at other times]
I had the lead through the first mile, running 6:18 and
feeling fluid. This was fun!. About this time, another woman wearing teal
passed me. I debated going with her,
but decided to just stay within striking distance, about 5 seconds back. Sure enough, as we ran the second mile, I
kept a strong effort and worked my way closer.
She then started to look a bit tired, so I took my cue and opened up to
pass her authoritatively.
The second mile was supposed to include a short distance on
Meridian street to a hairpin turn.
However, the course was mis-set, and we went WAY TOO far on Meridian. (I
was thinking all the way “what the heck” – I had looked at the course map the
night before, and remembered that it was a short distance to the
turn-around). Furthermore, there was no
cone to turn around – no marking etc, save for a cop standing in front of a
barrier. So each of us simply did what
the previous runner had done: ran to
within 5 feet of the cop, and then pivoted.
I held pace through the 2nd mile mark (laughing
internally at the “7:00+ split” that my watch claimed). I had the lead, and felt fairly
comfortable. And then some dizziness
hit. And then it got worse and a bout
of nausea hit. I began to wobble, and
the woman in teal passed me back. I
tried to go with her, but it wasn’t happening.
I had a similar experience in a race at this same time last September. In that race, I dropped out, certain that
something was wrong, and then was angry at myself for weeks after. This time, if I DNFd, it was going to be my
body’s decision, not my mind. And so I
pushed on pitifully, coming through the third mile in 6:47. I tried to kick for the last .11, but didn’t
have anything to call up – I careened through the last bit in about 44 seconds. I then stumbled back to my car, opened the
back gate, and sat with my head in my hands until the world stopped spinning.
Mile 1: 6:18
Mile 2: 7:02 (1.14 miles – 6:10 pace)
Mile 3: 6:47
Last .11 – 0:44 (6:40 pace)
Final placing was second woman overall, first in the 30-39
age group. First place got a check for
$100; first in age group got me a gift certificate for socks and a water
bottle. Oh well.
I’m actually pretty happy with this race (though annoyed at
being second). My goals were to a) run
aggressively and push myself; b) attack the hills rather than run them conservatively;
c) finish the damn race even if I blew up; d) kick strong to the end. I accomplished goals a-c, and did all I
could for d). As for the time and the
dizziness, my logs from past years indicate a long history of slow-times and
weird issues during races in September through mid-October. Since it doesn’t seem dangerous for me to be
racing in the early fall (as opposed to the summer), I’ll just keep racing for
the practice and the fitness stimulus (and the socks).
Conditions were great – 62 degrees, and a light drizzle.