Scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the tl;dr version.
I’ve been racing every weekend this summer. In the past month, I’ve done the Capitol Hill Classic 10K, Alexandria Running Festival Half Marathon, Belmont Bay Belmont Stakes 5K, and Lawyers Have Heart 10K. This week, I ran two medium distance runs – one 12 and the other 13 miles – but mostly kept my effort short and easy due to the heat and humidity.
- 5K PR: 20:43 (6:39 pace) at the April 12, 2013 Crystal City 5K Friday.
- Most Recent 5K: 22:10 (7:07 pace) at the 2017 Belmont Bay Belmont Stakes 5K.
Achievable: Sub-23:00 (7:23 pace). It was going to be a hotter day and I ran a 13 miler two days before, but I thought I could get close to my time from a couple of weeks ago.
Stretch: Sub-22:30 (7:13 pace). Maybe I could get close to what I ran two weeks ago.
Strategy: My u
sual approach to the 5K – go out hard and try to hold on.
The course was gravel trail running through the park on Roosevelt Island. Due to a downed tree, the course was re-routed on this day. Instead of the normal route along the outside of the island as depicted below, we did a couple of loops closer to the monument in the interior.
These races are very low-key. There wasn’t any crowd support or formal water stops but there were water fountains on the course.
I felt terrible when I woke up. It was an exhausting week – work stress coupled with energy sapping training runs in the heat and humidity left me desperate for sleep. I had some coffee and water, but I didn’t eat anything before the race. For some reason, I couldn’t log on to the ParkRun website to download my bar-code through my laptop and had to do it through my smartphone. By the time I printed it out, it was 8:15am and the race started at 9am! I rushed out the door but then realized, I forgot my visor. I ran back for that and started to worry abut making it to the race on time.
Like last week, my plan was to park in Rosslyn. Then, I’d jog up to Fletcher’s Cove for the race. My goal was to run 8 miles for the day. As I was driving, I started doing math. I’ve run the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath from Georgetown numerous times and I thought it was about 2 miles. It would be at least a half mile jog to Georgetown. And, I didn’t know how long registration might take.
By the time I parked, I convinced myself I didn’t have enough time to make the Fletcher’s Cove run. But, I remembered there was also a ParkRun at Roosevelt Island. I switched plans and jogged there instead.
Although I’ve probably run past Roosevelt Island hundreds of times, I’ve never crossed the bridge! In fact, I’ve only been there once and that was at least 10 years ago. I arrived at the starting area and talked with the timer about the course and how the timing worked. As it turns out, the bar-code isn’t used to register but instead it’s used to claim your finish time. I jogged a little more and visited the monument.
At 9am, the organizers made some announcements. A woman asked how many of us were doing our first ParkRun and I raised my hand. She also asked how many of us were from other countries or other places in the United States and a lot of people raised there hands. After a few other remarks, they sent us off!
Early Mile – Mile 1
I quickly made my way towards the front of the group. Even though I didn’t feel great, my legs seemed to have a lot of spring in them. I moved to the right of the trail since the race wasn’t closed off to visitors.
There were two women ahead of me at the start. I passed one of the women after the half mile mark. A young, male runner with terrible form sprinted past me. I passed him back a short time later, but he surged and went by me.
The course went past the memorial to President Roosevelt and then slightly downhill before the 1 mile mark. The turn-around was a sharp turn around a safety cone. On the way back uphill, I kept looking at my Garmin as it counted up to the first mile. I clicked off 7:54 pace and thought, “Wow, that’s slow.”
Middle Mile, Mile 2
Soon after the first mile, the course looped around the monument. On the other side, I passed the young runner. He tried to stay with me but this time, I sped up. A few moments later, I heard foot-falls and thought it was him again but it was a runner in a yellow shirt passing me. I sped up hoping he was behind me for good.
I saw the front runners and knew this segment of the course was another loop. This turn-around wasn’t as abrupt, though.
Just like 2 weeks ago, I felt terrible at the mid-point. I felt defeated. My Garmin was showing an overall pace well above 8:00 pace. I passed a back-of-the-pack runner and she told me, “Chin up” and for a moment, I raised my head and got my stride back.
Later Mile 3 to 3.1
Just past the 2 mile mark, the course turned back again. The terrain was slightly uphill and I slowed down significantly. I saw the woman behind me. She was about as far back from me as I was from the woman in first.
The course took another loop around the monument. I managed to run slightly faster knowing the race was almost over. I saw the back-of-the-packer and she said something encouraging again. I thought, “She is the best!”
As I trudged on, I starting feeling very sick to my stomach. I told myself, “You can’t throw up.” It became my secondary goal:
- Finish the race.
- Don’t throw up.
There was a slight incline with less than a half mile to go. I got passed by another guy in a yellow shirt but I didn’t care. After cresting the hill, I felt a little better. I did a subtle shoulder check and didn’t see anyone else behind me. Finally, the finish line!
The timer gave me a tag and I waited in line so it could be matched with my bar-code. When I caught my breath, I crossed the bridge back to the mainland. I drank some water from the new water fountain. I gave some of the other runners head nods. I wanted 8 miles on the day, so I started my easy run after a few minutes. I decided to make this a day of firsts and ran across the Potomac River on the Roosevelt Bridge – something else I’d never done.
I ran 24:37 (7:54-8:10 pace). [Log Details]. My Garmin measured 3 miles. Normally, I wouldn’t put much credence in that, but since the course was re-routed, I’m thinking it may have been short. I was the 13th finisher out of 55 (top 13%), 2nd woman, and 1st in my age group.
It was another pacing disaster but I’m going to blame this one on the weather and Thursday’s medium run. I just wilted and ran out of gas.
Beyond the race itself, I thought it would be interesting to do a ParkRun as time trials to track my progress since they’re every week, at the same time, on the same course.
I ran 24:37 (7:54-8:10 pace). I heard about a weekly ParkRun at Fletcher’s Cove a while ago. I thought this would be a good weekend to see what they’re about. I didn’t give myself enough time to make it to Fletcher’s Cove by 9am, so I ran the event at Roosevelt Island instead. The race was very small and low-key – there were only 55 finishers. I didn’t pace the race well but this time, I think I suffered from the conditions – about 75 degrees and 94% humidity at the start. Still, I placed 2nd for women. I would do another ParkRun. Next time, I’ll get up earlier.