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?

How not to race a 10K: Lessons learned from the Wayfarer’s 10K in Annapolis

I ran the Wayfarer’s 10K race in Annapolis this morning, and it was a tactical disaster from start to finish.

No exaggeration. My race today was the textbook example of how NOT to race a 10K — or, well, most race distances. Like, it could appear in a manual for new runners as a warning for what can happen when you blow off conventional racing wisdom and go out balls to the wall at a pace that is completely inappropriate for the conditions.

I’ve said it many times before, but I think my biggest weakness as a runner is that I am awful at pacing myself. I get so excited at the start of races and it’s really hard for me to hold back. I think I’ve gotten the hang of marathon pacing, but other distances? It’s still a crap shoot, especially if the weather sucks or the course is difficult or I am sore from a tough workout.

Someday, I will learn. In the meantime, I hope you all take something away from my experience!

A half marathon that became a 10K

So I had actually signed up for the Wayfarer’s Half, which would have been my 16th half marathon. I was really looking forward to it, and was very disappointed when I got an email from the race organizers Friday saying the half had been canceled due to thunderstorms in the forecast. (It never stormed, though. 😦 ) They said all the half marathoners were downgraded to the 10K and could choose to defer to next year if they wished … or we could run the 10K and get half off our registration fee for next year’s race. I decided to run the 10K — no idea if I will sign up for next year or not. (Sometimes I barely know what I am doing next week!)

The race kicked off promptly at 7 am, and it was already over 70 degrees and very humid. Humidity is typical for Maryland in the summer months — it gets downright swampy here — but we had such a long and cold spring that I, for one, am not acclimated to hot weather running yet. Yet that didn’t stop me from running the first mile at a 7:25 pace. When the air feels like soup, that is much too fast for me.

It was all downhill from there. Well, not literally. I wish! I might have been able to sustain that pace then! Haha.

I ran the second mile in 7:41, then the third in 7:59 — a big slowdown between miles one and three, but still (barely!) under 8 minutes/mile. I ran the first half of the race in 24:03, pretty decent for a humid 5K. But then the wheels fell off, and I hit the wall. Who knew that was possible in a 10K? But all I kept thinking about was how sticky I was, and how much I just wanted to quit after the 5K point.

I ran mile four in 8:18, mile five in 8:31 and mile six in 8:37 (at least those splits were pretty close!) I banged out the final 0.2 in 2:42 and it felt like the longest 0.2 miles ever.

It was the most epic crash. I mean, look at these ugly positive splits:

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My average pace-per-mile in the second half of the race was 1 minute, 1 second slower than my pace-per-mile in the first half!

And my average pace of 8:15/mile was a whole three seconds slower than my average pace for the Rehoboth Marathon back in December. For a 10K.

Before I learned the half was canceled, I had dreams of going sub-1:40 for the first time in that distance. HA! I doubt I would have managed sub-1:50 today.

All in all, it was still a lovely race. We got some really great swag, including a Vooray backpack, which I will enjoy taking on camping and hiking trips.

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In lieu of a finisher’s medals, we also got cute carabiner keychains.

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We also got Jailbreak beer, and our choice of wood-fired pizza or doughnuts, after the race.

Lessons learned

So, if you are planning to race a 10K any time soon, remember this:

  1. If the weather is not ideal, adjust your expectations and your pace. I mean, running in the heat and humidity is hard for most runners. Take some pressure off yourself and know that you may not PR or even run a fast race (whatever that means to you.) That’s OK. Not every race is going to be a good one. Finish strong, not feeling like you have to barf.
  2. Respect the distance! Yes, a 10K is not a marathon or a half marathon or a 10 miler … doesn’t mean you don’t need to pace yourself. It’s still 6.2 miles and yes, you can still crash if you go out too fast.
  3. Remember to always run your own race. This is also hard for me. I lined up at the very front of the pack today and it probably encouraged me to start out faster just because I was surrounded by a bunch of gazelles. Don’t compare yourself to others, and focus on running YOUR best race.

I am running another 10K in two weeks — the Ellicott City 10K, a Rip It Events race. I am going to try to learn from my mistakes and run a smarter race then.

Are you interested in running the Ellicott City 5K or 10K? As many of you may know, downtown Ellicott City was hit by devastating floods for the second time in less than two years. Rip It is donating 50 percent of the money from race registrations received between now and race day to the Ellicott City Partnership Flood Relief Fund. This is a great way to come out and support local businesses that are struggling to get back on their feet yet again. Let me know if you are interested in running, and I will hook you up with a 10 percent discount! (Disclaimer: As a Rip It ambassador, I run this race and other Rip It races for free.)