A big and unexpected PR at the Barlowe Bolt 5K

Yesterday, I ran my first LIVE race in seven months, the Barlowe Bolt 5K in Millersville. And I had a PR that I truly never saw coming, running a 20:29 (6:36 pace!) I was also the first female finisher. To say I was thrilled is an understatement.

I had set my previous PR, a 20:49, almost exactly four years earlier on Oct. 2, 2016, as part of a relay team at the Waterman’s sprint triathlon on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. That was the only time I’d ever managed to sneak in under 21 minutes, and it wasn’t even at a stand-alone 5K. I figured it was a fluke and that I’d never beat it. I often struggle in 5Ks and have a hard time breaking 22 minutes consistently.

But then 2020 happened. All of the races after early March were canceled and many were replaced by virtual races. I kept on running and training, with hopes of running a fall marathon (as of today, that hope is still alive!) This past summer was the hottest, most humid and most disgusting summer I can recall in recent years. But I kept grinding and I think it all paid off on a crisp fall morning when the temperature was only in the mid-40s.

This annual race, which raises money to build a natural play space at Barlowe Field in Millersville, Maryland, always happens in March. The organizers postponed it until October this year, and I am so glad they were able to have a live event! Everyone was required to wear masks when not running and asked to keep social distance. The race size was also limited to 50 people. I think they handled the COVID restrictions well, and I felt safe.

Team 5 Peaks!

A bunch of my friends from 5 Peaks came out to race, and several won age group awards! We were all just so pumped for a real, in-person race. I’m grateful for all the virtual opportunities we had in this bizarro year, but nothing beats an in-person race.

The morning of the race actually got off to a terrible start. After not sleeping so great anyway, I awoke at 4:30 and my cat immediately started whining to go outside. She’s an indoor cat, but we let her outside often because she knows not to leave our yard. Well, that morning she decided to wander into our neighbor’s yard (I think she may have climbed into a small tree) and I couldn’t find her. She wouldn’t come when I called her, and it was dark. I frantically woke my husband up and finally, she came running in our direction. But I really thought I would be missing the race to look for my lost cat. Maybe all that early morning adrenaline helped me?!

The race started right on time at 7 am, and I started off running with a group of young kids (high school age) and an older gentleman in a Howard County Racing Team singlet. He ended up pulling ahead of me at the end of the first mile, and I was never able to catch up. He ended up winning the race, finishing 10 seconds ahead of me. We chatted for a little bit after the race, and I learned he is 63 years old. Talk about goals!

At the end of the first mile, my watch beeped and told me I ran a 6:20. Yikes. This is usually the time in a 5K where I realize I went out wayyyy too fast and then I’m ready to die. But this never really happened for me in the race. I felt really good. I did slow down in miles 2 and 3 (to 6:53 and 6:57, respectively), but kept my pace under 7 minutes! The Barlowe Bolt course isn’t pancake flat, either— it’s a lot of rolling hills. But none of them are particularly long or steep, and my neighborhood has similar terrain. So I had an advantage, since I run around my neighborhood so much. I’ve also run this race twice before, and I knew what to expect.

At about the halfway mark, I saw my friend Matt, who had provided all of the finisher medals and trophies for the winners. I also passed him again just before the final right turn to the finish, and he yelled out, “You’re going to be under 20:30!” I hadn’t really been looking at my watch for most of the race, instead just concentrating on running as fast as I could, so while I knew I was having a strong race …. I didn’t think I was going to PR. But when I looked at the clock and saw the time began with a 20, I started sprinting as fast as I could. When I crossed the line, I yelled out, “Holy shit, I PRed!” right in front of a bunch of kids, so that was nice. My apologies to their parents.

In addition to a nice little trophy, I won a $50 gift card to Giant — always appreciated! But I think I’m most excited about the fact that I PR’d my first official race as a 40-year-old, and in a distance I always say I love to hate!

How did I manage to do it? I think there are a couple of reasons why I ran so well. I’ve always heard the joke that humidity is the poor runner’s altitude training. Well, I think there is something to that. Again, this summer was absolutely brutal and running felt so. damn. hard. Lately, it’s felt a lot easier … and I know my body loves the fall weather.

But more importantly, I think, I’ve also just been running more. As far as marathon runners go, I’ve always been a relatively low mileage runner, often peaking with mileage in the high 30s. I did bump up my weekly mileage back in 2017, the last time I trained for a Boston qualifier … but I’m running even more now. Two weeks ago I ran 53 miles. This week, a cutback week, I ran 41 miles. This coming week will be around 53 again. I’ve been adding a Wednesday medium-long run (8-10 miles) into my schedule, and running before kickboxing class twice a week. So for the last few weeks, I’ve been running six days a week. Again, nothing for a lot of marathoners. But still more than I usually run. I’ve been feeling great and my body has responded well to the increased mileage, so I’m going to keep rolling with it and hope that my rescheduled marathon is able to occur in 27 days!

Other races on my calendar

I completed a few more virtual races over the last few weeks. At the end of August, I did the virtual Quantico Duathlon, which was a 5K run, a 20.4K bike ride and a 5K run. It took me around an hour and 48 minutes, and I ran the first 5K in 21:37 (which I was excited about, and about what I was expecting for the Barlowe Bolt!) Ran the second 5K in 23:32, which I thought was pretty decent after one 5K and a 12.67 mile bike ride. It was lot of fun. I would still like to race more duathlons in the future, when I am not busy marathon training.

Then, in September, I raced the virtual Market Street Mile and ran a 6:11 — exactly what I ran last year, when the race happened in person. I ran it on my lunch break — yay for working from home for the foreseeable future — and was hoping to squeak under six minutes, since I somehow ran a 5:56 mile earlier this year. This run burned like hell and I have no idea how I could have run it 15 seconds faster. But I’m happy with that effort. According to the online results, I was the second female overall. The first place female was a 46-year-old who ran a 5:46! Fast!!

In two weeks, I am also running the virtual Baltimore Running Festival half marathon. I am probably not going to race it, since it’s two weeks out from my marathon. That said, I did race a half marathon two weeks before my BQ race in 2017. (And raced a 10K the day after that. This was a stupid decision — don’t do it.) That half marathon went badly, but then I crushed my marathon. So, who knows?

I also registered for Rip It Events’ Day of the Dead 5K, back when I thought I was running a marathon on Sept. 13, not Halloween. I am supposed to run that between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. I certainly am not going to race a 5K right before a goal marathon …. nor do I want to race one after having just run 26.2 miles! I may just run it as an easy shakeout run the day before the marathon.

Speaking of Rip It Events, we have the Greenbrier Trail 5 & 10 Miler coming up on Oct. 25. I’m not a great trail runner and definitely would not want to risk running a trail race the week before a marathon — but it sounds fun and the race organizers have done everything they can to make it a safe event in this era of COVID-19! If you are interested, use SAUNTRY2020 for 10 percent off.

A near-PR in the Barlowe 5K Bolt +week 8 of Boston Marathon training complete!

“Almost only counts in horseshoes” may be an old and tired cliche, but I couldn’t be more excited about my almost-PR in last weekend’s Barlowe 5K Bolt, when I ran a 21:35 and won my age group!

Even though I’ve run a bunch of 5Ks in the last year and a half, I believe this was the first time I went under 22 minutes since I was training hard to BQ in the fall of 2017 (I ran a 21:55 in the 5K at the Baltimore Running Festival that year for a 2nd place AG award.) Yes, technically I did run a 21:08 in the Reindeer Run in December, but that course was short, so I don’t count it. Fall 2017 was also the last time I was doing serious speedwork, so I think there has to be a connection there. Hope it bodes well for my time in Boston!

My 5K PR is a fluke 20:49 that I ran when I relayed in the 2016 Waterman’s Sprint Triathlon, and I really don’t know if I will ever beat that. For all I know, the whole thing is a figment of my imagination, because I’ve tried to find proof of those results online and I can’t. *shrug* But that’s what I remember running that day. And so, to the best of my knowledge, last Saturday’s run was my second-fastest 5K time!

The annual race, held in Millersville, Maryland, raises money for a natural playground in the area. I ran with a huge group of friends from 5 Peaks, and because it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day, I got decked out my holiday best:

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It was the Lucky Hat that did it.

It was cold the morning of the race, but nowhere near as bad as last year. But it was VERY windy, to the point where I wasn’t sure my ridiculous hat was going to stay on my head! I got to the race, which started at 7 am, by about 6:15 to pick up my packet and do a quick warm up. I never warm up before 5Ks, but I had five miles on my training plan for the day, so I figured I would do a 1-mile warm up and a 1-mile cool down.  (Maybe the warm up helped, who knows!)

At the start of the 5K I told myself, “Don’t go out balls to the wall in the first mile. Pace yourself!” But…. I wasn’t successful. The first mile is largely flat, with maybe a small, small incline or two, and my watch beeped 6:47 at me when I finished it. Well, shit, I thought. At that point, I was keeping up pretty well with Tammi’s husband, Drew. I told myself I would try to run with him or very close to him for as much of the race as I could.

Somewhere during the second mile, which is more up and down, I passed him. I *definitely* slowed down in mile 2, to a 7:15, but that was better than the Valentine’s 5K when my second mile was in the 7:30s following a sub-7 first mile. And I was feeling pretty good and like I could still finish strong.

I ended up staying ahead of Drew until the very end when, no joke, he passed me on the exact same little hill that Tammi passed me on last year. I would have laughed out loud if I hadn’t been extremely gassed at that point. I ran another 7:15 mile and he ended up finishing three seconds ahead of me! Tammi didn’t do the 5K this year because she ran the 1 mile fun run with their son, who won that race! Fast family!

I won a car care package with a free car wash to a local place and a goodie bag of other prizes, including a nice water bottle and some gift cards to Ledo Pizza.

Honestly, I am MOST excited that my average race pace was 6:58. I’ve only ever seen my race pace begin with a 6 one other time — that freak 5K I mentioned above — so that was huge for me!

If you’re looking for a local and low-key race that raises money for a good cause, I highly recommend the Bolt!

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5 Peaks life! 

An update on Boston training 

The day after the 5K, I ran the first of two 20-milers on my training plan. The weather was great — it got into the 50s with no wind — and I headed to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis to run. An entire loop around the park is five miles, so I planned to do that four times. That may seem a little boring, but I love Quiet Waters and find running there so peaceful.

The run went fine except for the fact that I tripped and fell a mile and a half into it. There are a lot of hills in the park — which makes it a good place to do a long run if you are training for a hilly marathon like Boston. Well, I was running down one of the steeper inclines and I tripped over a root and fell. I wasn’t seriously hurt, fortunately. My knee got scraped up and I snagged one of my favorite pairs of Under Armour leggings, which really made me mad. (On the bright side, I almost wore a brand new pair of leggings and decided at the last minute not to, so at least there is that.)

And life being the way it is, of course I had an audience for my spill. A man was walking with his son and I fell as I ran past them. If an Allison trips and falls in the park and no one witnesses her complete lack of gracefulness, did it really happen?! Ironically, I was just talking with my friends at brunch after the 5K about the time I fell off a treadmill at my old gym (someone left the machine on, I stepped on it to run and flew ass-backwards off of it … you can visualize the rest) and how it had been a while since I’d fallen. Totally jinxed myself there!

But it could have been worse. I got my 20 miles in, though it wasn’t as fast as I would have liked. I was trying for three hours, and it took me three hours and 10 minutes. I was trying to be very conscious of where I was running after my fall, so that slowed me down a little. It happens.

The next day, I came down with a mild cold that has messed up this week’s training a little bit. Ran my easy 5 on Monday after work, but felt like crap on Tuesday and skipped kickboxing. I felt MUCH better yesterday, but the plan called for 7 hill repeats and I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk a relapse by pushing through that workout, so I just ran another easy 5.

I’ll do the hill workout tomorrow. I mean, who doesn’t love spending Friday night running up and down the Naval Academy Bridge? 😉

 

Barlowe 5K Bolt: A 2nd place finish and a whole lotta swag!

Damn you, margaritas!

That’s what I was thinking as I was running the Barlowe Bolt, an annual 5K that raises money to build a natural playground in Anne Arundel County, on Saturday morning. OK, so I drank just one margarita on Friday night — but it was a big enough that it really was like drinking two margs. It was good. Freaking delicious, actually. But I didn’t even come close to a PR Saturday and lost the race to my friend Tammi by seven seconds — so I’m going to blame it on the alcohol, in the immortal words of T-Pain. 😉

Jokes aside, I had a blast at this 5K, which I ran with a whole crew of friends from 5 Peaks Martial Arts Academy. The race took place in Millersville, Maryland, a small town between Annapolis and Baltimore. The course wove through some residential neighborhoods, and featured plenty of rolling hills. My only real complaint about the course is that it wasn’t marked all that well. There were arrows written on the street in chalk, but at one point, I almost made a wrong turn and went off course. There also weren’t a ton of volunteers out there to direct the runners, but it is a small race, so that’s to be expected.

Allison

Having lots of fun! (Kree Killian photo)

I’ve long said that I don’t feel I am a strong 5K runner. I really struggle to pace myself and go out way too fast, which is exactly what happened during this race. It was pretty cold, around 30 degrees, so I was anxious to get moving. And my miles splits show that. I ran the first mile in 6:54, second mile in 7:27, third mile in 7:22 and the last 0.1 in 42 seconds. I was actually in the lead, with Tammi close behind, until she passed me around the 2.9-mile mark. She finished in 22:15, with me crossing the finish line in 22:22. She actually felt bad about it! She definitely had no reason to feel anything but proud of herself — she ran an awesome race and left enough gas in the tank to finish strong — exactly how you should run a 5K!

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Tammi and I! (Kree Killian photo)

Tammi was the first female finisher, and fifth finisher overall, and I was second female finisher and sixth overall. I also won my age group. 5 Peaks Master Matt (who had been sick and yet still managed to finish under 22 minutes) was the fourth overall finisher and got first in his age group, as well. So it was a real good day for the 5 Peaks crew!

I was really surprised and excited by the quality of the swag and prizes for this race, too. When they called my name to pick up my award, my friends all laughed at me because I took SO long to choose a prize. They had a lot to pick from! I ended up taking home a $25 gift card to Carrabbas Italian Grill, plus a certificate and a medal. I also got a bunch of coupons for freebies at restaurants — one for a free cheese pizza from Ledo Pizza, another for a free dessert or small order of fries at McDonald’s, and another for a free appetizer at Texas Roadhouse. So much for runners being healthy. Haha!

All runners also received $10 gift cards to Road ID, which makes ID bracelets with your personal information on them for runners and other athletes to wear during activities. I already have a Road ID, but I will definitely be using my gift card to get some new badges!

After the race, a bunch of us then went to kickboxing. And then I was ready for lunch by 10:30 a.m. It was an excellent way to spend a Saturday morning!

And maybe someday I’ll beat my 5K PR of 20:49 … which is a year and a half old at this point!