A 5K double header: One in the morning, one in the afternoon

Have I mentioned how much I hate 5Ks?

OK, I don’t hate them. I mean, if I’m counting right, I’ve done nine in 2019 alone, and we have three months left in the year! So, obviously, they can’t be too terrible!

Except almost every time I run one, I think, “Well, that sucked!” and “I could have done better.” They just hurt so bad and I struggle with pacing myself correctly. Earlier this year, I attempted to train to run a fast 5K (anything under 22 minutes for me), and then targeted a race that ended up being a total disaster. “5Ks just aren’t my thing,” I told myself afterwards. “It’s fine.”

And yet — I keep signing up for them. Like this past Sunday when I ran a 5K at 9 am and then another 5K at 2 pm.

I mean, why not? I do like to challenge myself. (I actually have run two races in one day before, but the second one was a fun run.)

The first 5K was the Together in TEAL — Ending Ovarian Cancer — 5K Run/3K Walk to benefit the Central Maryland chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. My employer was one of the sponsors, and we had a team at work, so my co-worker and friend Ariana and I decided to run it.

The second was the 9/11 Heroes Run benefiting the Travis Manion Foundation, named in honor of a Naval Academy graduate who was killed in Iraq in 2007. I had written about the Heroes Run when I was at ABC2 in Baltimore, and my first ever story for RunWashington was a profile of a woman who works with the Foundation to honor fallen soldiers. So I was very familiar with the organization and all that it stands for.

The two runs obviously totaled 6.2 miles, far less than I would typically run on a Sunday, but of course the effort was much faster. Oh, and it was really hot out, even though it was the day before the official start of fall. I’m so ready for cooler running weather.

I got to the NOCC run at 8 am, since I planned to take pictures to share on social media for work. Before the race started, several ovarian cancer survivors spoke, as well as those who had lost their loved ones to ovarian cancer. It was very emotional and I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience who got teary.

The race started promptly at 9 and to be honest, I did not care for the course, which was entirely in the Annapolis Mall parking lot. It was just really boring, and of course, there was no shade (except for around mile 1.5, when we turned into the Nordstrom parking garage and did a small loop.) It was mostly flat, but running around a mall for 3.1 miles isn’t exactly the most scenic or exciting route!

I did a HORRIBLE job of pacing this one. HORRIBLE. I took off way too fast and hit the first mile in 6:15. 6:15!!! WTF! That’s only four seconds slower than I ran the Market Street Mile, and it’s at least 45 seconds too fast for the first mile of a 5K.

I never stopped to walk, but my splits were UGLY. My second mile was a 7:07 and my third mile was a 7:34. And that’s why I suck at 5Ks! I have such a hard time holding back and I all too often expend all my energy in the first mile.

I pretty much felt like crap halfway through and just kept telling myself it would be over soon. (But I also asked myself, “Why are you doing another one of these this afternoon? What is wrong with you?”) There weren’t many spectators and there was nothing to really look at except for the parking lot, so like I said, it was boring. The course was also not that well marked, and if I had been in the lead, I probably would have made a wrong turn and messed up my race. At around mile 2.6, we approached the finish line and I thought, “Man, this course is really short!”

I started to make a right turn toward the finish line and a volunteer steered me away and in the direction of one last half-mile loop before turning around and actually running through the finish. My final time was 22:13, which was good for first in my age group and second overall female. The age group situation was different — I was in the 31-40 year old group, whereas usually I fall in the 30-39 group or the 35-39 group. Whatever. An age group win is an age group win!

Even though I didn’t love the course, I would recommend the race because it is for a good cause. Learn more about the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and the annual race, here.

9/11 Heroes Run

I had a few hours of downtime until I had to head to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the Heroes Run. As I mentioned earlier, it got hot — temperatures neared 90 degrees by early afternoon. Awesome. I didn’t have high expectations, time-wise, for this race, given the heat and the fact that I had already raced that day. My biggest hope was to run more even splits!

Because Lt. Manion was a Naval Academy grad, it seemed like at least half of the race participants were midshipmen. In fact, there was one whole age group for 19-year-olds, one for 20-year-olds and one for 21-year-olds! My age group for this race was unusual, too– 36-44. Never seen that before!

The start of the race was VERY crowded, which was probably a good thing for me because it kept me from going out too fast. The race began at the stadium and went through the Admiral Heights neighborhood before returning to the stadium. I ran the first mile in 7:14 and felt good about it. The neighborhood was a little hilly, but nothing too crazy — it was comparable to the rolling hills in my neighborhood in Edgewater. I was able to pass a lot of other runners after the first mile, when the field thinned out. Even with the hills, running in Admiral Heights was way better than running in the mall parking lot — there was at least a little shade and lots of the residents came out to watch the race and cheer us on! I ran the second mile in 7:23.

After we left the neighborhood, we headed back toward the stadium and ran a loop around it before heading toward the finish line. Veteran A10 runners are very familiar with the infamous uphill finish — this race had the same finish. My third mile was a 7:22, so I can definitely say that I accomplished my goal of running more even splits than in the NOCC 5K (not like that would have been hard, LOL!)

My watch read 22:25, and I was pretty excited that I ran this 5K only 13 seconds slower. I thought I had a good chance of winning another age group award, as I didn’t see any women near me on the course who looked to be around my age. Ariana came out to spectate this race and she stayed with me through the awards ceremony, but they didn’t call my name. Oh well, I thought.

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Conquering the 911 Heroes Run, benefiting the Travis Manion Foundation!

But! The day after the race, I looked up the results online (mostly because I wanted to see what my official time was — I usually stop my watch a second or two after I cross the finish line) and realized I wasn’t listed in the results at all. I also looked at the award winners in the female 36-44 year old age group and saw that the winner was listed as running a 22:47.

I emailed the race director, and apparently I wasn’t the only one who experienced this. The race timing company had a major issue with its equipment and a lot of other results were missing. The race organizers are still looking into getting the results sorted out as much as they can, so maybe I won something, maybe not! It’s not really that important — it’s not like this was a BQ marathon or anything. The important thing is that I had fun and helped raise money for a good cause.

Next up for me is the Baltimore Half Marathon on Oct. 19! I don’t really have a time goal — I’m mainly using it as a training run for the Philly Half Marathon in November, when I’ll try to break 1:40. I figure I’ll stay with the 1:45 group in Baltimore and see how I feel. The Baltimore Running Festival is one of my favorite fall running events in Maryland, and I always look forward to it.

Summer running, had me a blast: A month of hot and humid racing

First of all, sorry not sorry for that title. I love Grease and even though I have not sat down to watch it in years, I used to pop it into the VCR on at least a weekly basis when I was in high school (and yes, I am giving away my age there! Ha!)

Anyway, summer running. You hot, humid beast. It’s funny because for most of my life, I preferred summer to winter. And I still do, when it comes to going to the beach or taking day trips or drinking margaritas. But when it comes to running? Give me 30 degrees over 80 degrees any day of the week!

Of course, I still run in the summer, as brutal as this time of year is in the Chesapeake Bay region. And I still race in the summer. This month, I ran three races — two 5Ks and a 5-miler!

The first 5K, the Red White and Blue Mountain 5K, was a literal hot mess. It was my slowest 5K in at least five years, thanks to the hilly terrain and humid weather. (You can read the full recap here.) Afterwards, I thought, “Well, that really sucked. It can’t get much worse!”

Wrong!

The following week, I traveled to Rehoboth Beach for my family’s annual summer vacation. My brother-in-law Justin and I signed up for the Seashore 5 Miler, which we had also run last year. In the 2018 race, I finished in 40:08 and won my age group, but was annoyed that I had just missed breaking 40 minutes. I went out too fast and wilted on the back half of the race, so I told myself I wouldn’t make that mistake again. (Psssh. Sure!)

The race started at Gordon’s Pond Bike Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park at 7:30 am, and thank the Lord it didn’t start a second later because it was hotter than Hades that day. (I think the temperatures climbed into the 90s by the afternoon.) Everyone was sweating just standing at the start line. After the race started, Justin and I stayed together for a bit and then I moved ahead. When my watch beeped at mile 1 and I saw that I had run it in 7:02, I thought, “Well, that seems a little fast.” But it didn’t feel all that fast to me….. At least not yet. It felt comfortably hard. I ran mile 2 in 7:29 and still felt good and like I could sustain a pace in the mid-7s for the rest of the race.

Except then the sun came out in full force and there was little to no shade. (The course, which is an out and back, is really flat, though!) I felt my pace starting to slow around the mid-way point and I think I ran mile 3 somewhere around the 8-minute range. I honestly can’t remember what my mile splits were after that, but I know I ran a big positive split again. However, I knew once I passed the mile 4 marker that I was going to squeeze under 40 minutes, which made me happy. Once I could see the finish line, I made myself sprint until I crossed it. And then I almost puked. But I broke 40! My official time was 39:18, I was the fourth overall female and I won my age group again.

There were a lot of other people complaining about the heat, too, so I know I wasn’t the only one affected by it. What do you expect for a race at the beach on July 14, though? Props to the race organizers, the Seashore Striders, for bringing a water mister to the finish line as well as more than enough cold bottles of water! I look forward to doing this race next year, too. The only real downside is that the bugs in the park were terrible and I got bitten badly on my right arm by some unknown critter. Two weeks later, the bites are still visible and just now starting to fully heal.

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The Ellicott City 5K

After I returned home from the beach, I had the Ellicott City 5K with Rip It Events the next day. This is another challenging course due to the hills. I had run the 10K last year and finished third overall female, but didn’t really feel the need to repeat that experience again, so I signed up for the 5K.

As it turned out, we were in the middle of a pretty bad heat wave that began when I was on vacation (it cooled down a bit the day after the 5 miler, then heated up again) and continued on into the weekend for the whole mid-Atlantic region. Some area races even got canceled, and our race directors decided the nix the kids’ fun run that was planned for the same time. But the 5K and 10K went off without a hitch at 8:30 am. The weather was already in the 80s and it was quite muggy, but the good thing is the course, which is in Benjamin Banneker Historical Park, is shady. So we weren’t running directly underneath the sun until the tail end (yay!)

Having run the longer race last year, I knew what to expect. I knew that most of the first half of the 5K would be downhill, and the second half would be uphill. (And then 10K runners repeat that course a second time!) So even though going out too fast in 5Ks is pretty much always my downfall, I knew I would need to bank some time during the first mile and a half. And I did! I felt like I was flying during the first mile, clocking a 6:48 pace. Most of the second mile is downhill, but then you turn around and have to climb up and up and up as you slog toward the finish.

As I headed up the hill, runners who were headed down kept calling out to me that I was the first female, which was very exciting! But in general, this part of the race sucks (and again, I was very happy I was doing the 5K and wouldn’t have to do that hill twice!) I told myself to suck it up and keep going and it would be over with soon. The last half mile of the course is probably the biggest kick in the ass because there is zero shade and you are STILL going uphill. As I approached the finish line, I felt someone coming up behind me and I was like “OH HELL NO” and I started to sprint. Turns out it was a dude, he still beat me by like two seconds and I tripped and fell just after I crossed the finish line. SO GRACEFUL. Oh, and my split for that last mile was 8:43. 8:43! Nearly TWO MINUTES slower than my first mile! Maybe it was just poor execution on my part, but I think it would be damn near impossible to negative split that race.

When I checked my results, I saw that I was second overall female. Hmmm, I thought. Weird. I guess there was someone ahead of me and I didn’t realize it! I was announced as second overall female at the awards ceremony, but I’m pretty sure that was a mistake because the official results have me listed in first place. Oh well. It’s not like I’m doing this for a paycheck or anything!

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What’s next?

My next race is my favorite of the year, the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, on Aug. 25. Then I’m going to start training for the Philly Half on Nov. 23. It will be my 20th half marathon and the first one I am following an actual training plan for, because I am determined to break 1:40 in the half this year! If I don’t do it in that race, the Rehoboth Seashore Half is in December, so I’ll have another chance. And before I know it, it’ll be time to start training for the Coastal Delaware Running Festival marathon in April! What’s a winter without marathon training?

Which do you prefer — summer training or winter training?

When it’s not such a good day for a run: The Red, White and Blue Mountain 5K

The race director for the Red White and Blue Mountain 5K minced no words as we all lined up at the start.

This is one of our toughest 5Ks, he said. It might even be the hardest one we have. If this is your first 5K, well, hopefully this doesn’t scare you away.

This race, held over Fourth of July weekend at the Blue Mountain Vineyards in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania, was hardly my first 5K– I’m guessing I’ve run upwards of two dozen 5Ks at this point in my life, maybe more. And I was still a little intimidated by his warning, especially since I had hoped to run somewhere in the 21-minute range. I’d spent the last two months working more on my speed, going to the track every Wednesday night to grind out 200- and 400-meter repeats. 5Ks are tough for me, and I’d like to be able to pump out 21:xx 5K times more consistently.

This was not the race for such a lofty goal. Far from it.

And I came nowhere close to that goal. In fact, I ran my slowest 5K time — 25:26 — in at LEAST five years, maybe longer!

Shockingly, I was still fast enough to win my age group. I also finished fourth female and missed out on an overall award (which was a bottle of wine!) by nine seconds.

I still got a complimentary glass of wine afterwards, so I’d call that a win regardless of how I placed or what my time was!

The race was organized by a company called Good Day For A Run, which puts on a lot of races at wineries and breweries, as well as numerous holiday-themed races. My good friend Staci, who lives about 45 minutes away from the vineyard, found out about the race several months ago and asked if I wanted to come up and run it with her. I love races, I love wine and I love hanging out with Staci, so of course I was sold.

What made this 5K so hard? It was in a vineyard, that sounds really cool!

Sure, running through a vineyard does sound like fun — in theory! In reality, the terrain is uneven and it’s hilly as all hell. I did not look up the course ahead of time (I rarely do that with races anyway) so I didn’t realize quite how hilly it was going to be. I haven’t done one bit of hill training since Boston, and while I’m sure my track work helped a little, doing some dedicated hill work would have been much more beneficial!

There were very few flat stretches in this race, and most of the course involved weaving in and out of the rows of grapevines. So you’d run down one row, then make a very sharp turn, then run up the next row — and so on and so forth. I’ve never done a race with so many switchbacks, which basically force you to slow down or else you’ll slip and fall turning the corners. It was also tough to make up time on the downhills, because the ground was uneven and I was a little afraid of falling.

But the uphills were brutal. Brutal! Running uphill is always a challenge, but the heat and the humidity added an extra layer of difficulty. The race started at 9 am, and it was in the low 80s with high humidity. There was also zero shade and every uphill on the course was directly into the blazing sun. I said to Staci afterwards that it would have been better had the race started at 7 — of course, then we would have had to get up super early, so that would have sucked.

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Dying on the inside

I knew after about a half of a mile that this was going to be a rough race. I rarely stop and walk in 5Ks, but toward the end, I was stopping for a few seconds at a time, then running again. Fun fact, my average race pace was 8:12/mile. That was the same pace I ran in the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon, when I qualified for Boston. And I ran the last mile in this 5K at an 8:42/mile pace. My average pace in the Boston Marathon was 8:41/mile. Speed is all relative, of course, but it’s pretty clear that this race really chewed me up and spit me out.

One great thing about it — it finished on a downhill! However, it was a steep enough downhill that sprinting down it didn’t seem like the best idea. I was so happy to cross that finish line and grab a bottle of water from a volunteer (I was not ready to think about wine quite then, haha!) then I stood at the finish line and waited for Staci and got a video of her crossing the finish. She also thought the race was an ass kicker and we talked about doing it again …. If the weather was around 60 degrees!

In the future, if I am going to choose a “goal” 5K, I need to look at the course first and also consider the weather! It’s not like I’m incapable of running well on hills or in the heat, but I think the combination of the two really did me in.

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Very glad to be done!

What’s next for me?

Well, this weekend I’m running the Seashore 5 Mile Run in Rehoboth with my brother-in-law Justin. I ran this race last year and know it’s pancake flat (as are all races at the beach!) so I’m hoping my track workouts pay off. I finished in 40:08 last year and won my age group, but was annoyed that I wasn’t under 40 minutes. I’d like to be around 38ish minutes this year, but if it’s hot as Hades, who knows what I can pull off.

Then on July 21, I’m running the Ellicott City 5K with Rip It Events. This race is another hilly one– the second half of it is basically all uphill. I ran the 10K version of the race last year and finished third overall, so we’ll see what I can do in the 5K. I’ll be happy with any time in the 23-24 minute range, but maybe I’ll surprise myself!

There is still time to sign up for the Ellicott City 5K/10K
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