I hadn’t raced an evening 5K in five years, so I was really stoked to find a Thursday night race in town this week. I worked straight through last weekend so I could be ahead of work by the time Thursday rolled around (my best writing hours are between 12 and 9 in the afternoon/evening). That way, I could make racing my main priority. I was excited to see what my body could do at night (when I’m alive to the world) versus early in the morning (on precious few hours of sleep). I’d been holding on to a shred of hope that I might secretly be a sub-20 minute 5Ker during my peak performance hours.
Long story short: I’m not. (Which is ultimately a good thing, since evening races are few and far between.)
I spent most of Thursday cranky and nervous. I didn’t go for my usual afternoon run in order to save my legs for the race. I drank too much coffee and ate too much cheese. By the time I got to the starting line, I was somehow both jittery and lethargic.
Thursday’s weather conditions were pristine. At gun time (7PM), the temperature was in the high 70s with 4mph winds and just 44% humidity. Since this 5K was hosted by my grandmother’s gym, my grandparents and great aunt and uncle came out to spectate the race. I really wanted to run well since it’s not every day I’m equipped with my own personal cheerleading team.
The race took forever to start, which wasn’t good for my nerves. 335 people came out to run, so it was a pretty decent sized event. When the horn finally went off, I could hear my grandfather screaming, “Go Liz! Strong race!” He really gets into these things.
Three teenage boys darted ahead of everyone else Napoleon Dynamite style, then died a tenth of a mile into the race.
Literally, this is exactly what happened:
I believe their cause of death was due to zero training and a giant hill. The hill nearly killed everyone, including Team 5K. I usually like to run the first few minutes of a 5K at a sub-6 minute pace, but the immediate vertical climb on this course slowed me down right out of the gate. I don’t think I ever fully recovered. Hollie, then Angela, then Chris passed me and formed a three person pack about 20 feet ahead. I hung back and watched the girls slowly pull away from Chris. Then I honed in. I hit my first mile in 6:23.
I really suffered through my second and third miles. All that malt milkshake coffee I drank throughout the day caught up with me just minutes into the race. I was dehydrated to the point that my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I never, ever grab water at a 5K race. I can make it through most ten milers without any hydration as well. But, by mile two, my body was screaming out for water, so I grabbed a cup from a volunteer. I think she was sort of frightened, because I basically came at her like this:
I hit my second mile in 7:02 and that’s when I knew the race was a dud.
I passed Chris at about 2.3 miles. He looked like he’d lost all will to live. We climbed back up the same crappy hill from the start. I hit my third mile in 7:20, which was… discouraging, to say the least. The last .1 mile of the race was the most enjoyable part, because we got to run under a giant American flag. It was a really nice touch.
Here is some finish line footage!
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I got hit with some of the worst heartburn of my life. I felt a little better once Team 5K commenced its group cool down jog. I also managed to choke back a bit of Philly soft pretzel.
I finished 3rd woman and 7th overall. Angela and Hollie took 1st and 2nd woman and Chris finished 5th man.
Angela won an awesome trophy and the rest of us snagged gold medals. We posed for a group shot beneath the giant flag before the fire department took it down.
This wasn’t my best race, by far. It was a tough course and competing at night isn’t as ideal as it sounds.
Bottom line: running is not a linear progression. You simply cannot have a break-through race each and every week. Most runners will notice a cyclical pattern in their race performance. I believe this is especially true for female runners. If you’re going to race frequently, you should ultimately race for fun with a great group of friends. That way, you’ll always have a good time, even on your “off” days.
Questions for the Internets:
Do you prefer to race in the morning or the evening?
Do you grab water during a 5K?
What is your favorite pre-race meal?