Whether you're training for a fall marathon or for an upcoming 5K, there are many benefits to jumping in some summer races. Stepping on the starting line brings up some nerves, along with the opportunity to practice race logistics before your primary goal race. The hot weather may less than optimal, which forces you to deal with tough conditions and learn how to adapt. I like to include a couple of 5K's in my summer training for those reasons, in addition to testing my fitness. My coach (MK Fleming) may have questioned my decision to race twice during my extended base training block, but she let me go ahead with it and planned in a lighter training week to accommodate.
This week just stepping outside is enough for me to break a sweat. The heat index has been pushing 100 degrees even in Minnesota, so my favorite 5K of the summer was a hot one last night. I have run the Twin Cities Orthopedics Minneapolis Torchlight 5k Run many times over the last 10 years, and although it's always warm, last night was particularly steamy.
Although I manage the Run Training programs at Life Time, I don't work directly on the events. Regardless, it was a huge relief to our team that the weather didn't push into cancellation territory, and we were able to take part in a hot race with a fun party after. Our Run team hosts a tent in the finish area, so my evening would be a mix of running & working. I ran in the Team Circuit wave which is filled with locally competitive runners, and while I'd typically be nervous before the start of a 5K, I was too busy working to think about it!
My pre-race 'warm-up' involved searching for & transporting a missing Life Time Run tent, and an early warm-up jog from the finish back to the starting line to keep an eye on any possible PR developments. Then I took a few minutes to rally the Life Time Runners for a group photo.
It's always fun to chat with our Run members at events, and I think we were all a bit nervous about the heat. By the time we finished the picture, it was time to head to the starting line. I was already sweating, but was relieved that it wasn't "quite" as hot as I expected, and we had a little breeze.
Facing back into the corrals for the National Anthem. I was thankful for those clouds and the breeze!
It's hard to believe that it has been almost three years since I last raced a 5K. I did minimal racing in the spring of 2014 (one 5-mile race and the Boston Marathon) before the chaos of life took over and I had a long break from training before having Baby#3 last fall. I'm still in post-baby base training mode, so Coach MK Fleming has only included a sprinkling of speed in my training along with some fartleks and 2x2 intervals. I haven't done much 5K paced work or any tempo runs yet, so I didn't know what to expect from my legs. Fortunately I have 25+ years of running history to fall back on, so once we got started I just let my legs fall into a relaxed & 'fast' pace.
I'm nowhere near my PR 5K fitness, but I was relatively 'comfortable' coming through the first mile around 6:15. I knew that might be a bit fast for me under the conditions, so I backed off a little early in the 2nd mile. Mile 2 clocked in at 6:24. I was still happy with that, but was feeling the impact of the heat. As we came down by the river I was losing steam to the steamy night. My goal was just to finish under 20:00 and not totally 'fall apart' so I was happy to cross the line in 19:57 (19:50 chip time). I'm still rebuilding my base and it's early for me to race a 5K, but I like the fitness tests and told MK "I'll take it."
I missed the USATF team circuit's sweat drop after our team photo, so I had to run with my phone & sunglasses that were too sweaty to stay on. I'd prefer to race with nothing more on my arms than my watch and heart rate strap (which didn't record my HR anyway - shoot!)
I could tell I was a bit 'rusty' at racing, as I forgot to turn off the auto-lap & auto-pause on my watch before the start. I'd much rather check true splits at the mile markers than have my watch tell me what it thinks is a mile. I also struggled at the water stops. I typically skip the crowded early part of the water stop and pick up a cup closer to the end. But when I got to the first stop, I totally fumbled the cup I went for, and was too late to catch another without turning around. At the 2nd water stop I got a cup, but squeezed it too hard and lost half to the ground. I took a quick sip and dumped the rest down my back. I'm not accustomed to having water stops in 5K's, but with this heat they were essential! I'll have to focus more in the details of racing before my next 5K.
After the race I felt a bit light headed, and after stopping by the Run tent to check in, I knew I had to keep moving. Did you know that when a runner collapses after a hot race, it is often caused by a blood pressure change when the runner stops? Suddenly the blood pools in their legs because it's not being driven back up by the muscle contractions that happen during the run. Of course there are more serious medical matters to watch for, but sometimes a collapse can be avoided just by continuing to walk after the finish instead of standing in place.
I'm looking forward to a few recovery runs this weekend, and getting ready for my next 5K at Gildan Esprit de She - Maple Grove on August 4th. I'll be spending some time at the Life Time Run tent there as well, and hope to see some of my blog readers there. Please stop by to say 'Hi' if you're joining us for the fun 'Happy Hour' race!
Stay safe and hydrate!