Although I ran a 19:57 5K at Orangetheory recently, I’ve been eager for a while to find a sea level 5K at which I can actually PR (treadmill training doesn’t count). I looked at various Florida race calendars to see if there would be any races on weeknights, when I would already be in town for work, and while I wasn’t lucky enough to find a 5K race, I discovered that Boca Raton would be doing a one mile race to kick off their annual holiday parade. Fun!
Going into the mile race, my goal was to go sub-5:30. I figured that I had run 5:26 in the Superior Mile this summer, and I am definitely fitter now than I was then. That mile was downhill, but it was also at altitude, and a lot of compulsive calculating on my part helped me figure out that the two almost exactly canceled each other out. According to my calculations, I could theoretically run a 5:26 on a flat course if you took away the altitude. But now I wanted to prove that in real life!
My only concern was that while I think I’ve gotten stronger/faster since July, I’ve cut back on sprinting for short distances and have focused on maintaining fast paces for 3-5 miles. Ever since I started having weird calf issues a few months ago at Orangetheory, I’ve stopped cranking the treadmill any faster than 11.0mph (5:27/mile), and have started instead adding incline to make sprints harder. But if I hadn’t run faster than 5:27 in a while, would I really be able to run a race in 5:26? I was hoping for race day adrenaline, but I really wasn’t sure.
The day before the race, I only got 6 hours of sleep due to an annoying bout of insomnia, but I still went to Orangetheory as per usual. They were in the middle of a “Twelve Days of Christmas” stint where there is a challenge each day to correspond with the day of the month, and Tuesday the 5th was the day for five minute efforts. Perfect – that would gear me up well for a 5.5 minute all-out at the race! (Okay, fine, I know you can’t really train the day before the race… but at least it would mentally prepare me.)
The pushes were all slower than what I hoped to run for my one mile race pace, but I was still really proud to hold new-to-me base/push paces for each of them, especially since we did four of them and I’d only have to do one on race day. I’m now up to 8.8mph for my base pace (6:49/mile) and 9.8mph for my push pace (6:07/mile). How awesome is that 6:49/mile now feels like an easy recovery pace to me?! I know I say this all the time, but I am really proud of how much faster I’ve gotten since starting Orangetheory, when my base was 6.5mph (9:14/mile) and push was 7.5mph (8:00/mile).
Tuesday night, the night before the race, I went to my usual dinner spot in Palm Beach. On this project, I can do whatever I want for dinner (we don’t do a lot of client / group meals), but I still end up at Leftovers Cafe at least one night a week… and often even two or even three nights. The food is delicious, and I am a creature of habit! Tuesday night, though, I slightly broke from tradition and went with a pasta bowl rather than my usual seafood bowl or salad topped with scallops. (And my server and the restaurant manager both noticed and told me how surprised they were, haha.) It was delicious!
After being short on sleep Monday night, I was happy that Tuesday night I was able to get to bed early. And since I wasn’t working out the morning of the race, I got to sleep all the way until 7am – which felt glorious! 10 hours of sleep that night had me feeling incredible, and I hoped that would bode well for the race that evening.
I don’t think I’ve ever done an evening race (or at least I can’t remember one?), so I wasn’t sure how the different time of day would affect my running. I tried to eat reasonably simply all day – oatmeal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch – and drink a bunch of water as well. I also prepped my team so I could leave early for the drive down to Boca through rush hour traffic. The rush hour traffic ended up not being too bad: it took me about an hour to get from Palm Beach down to Boca, which I had expected. But while I had expected it to be bad on the highway and then ease up once I got off, it was actually the exact opposite.
About three miles from the start of the race, traffic reached a complete standstill. My GPS kept increasing the amount of time it would take me for to get to the start (first 10 minutes to go 3 miles, then 12 minutes to go 2.8 miles, then 15 minutes to go 2.5 miles, etc). With the start of the race getting closer and closer, I was getting more and more nervous – especially since I still had to pick up my packet. And, since I knew I wanted to run an all-out pace for the whole race, I wanted to have time to warm up too! Finally, I pulled a U-turn and headed to park on a side street, where I could jog the 2 miles to the start as my warm up.
My jog to the start took me past the finish line, and then I was able to run down the shut down road on the exact race course. It was nearly a straight shot – a slight curve to it, but no turns whatsoever. There were already crowds of spectators lining the curbs, since the race was basically the kickoff to the town’s holiday parade that would come down the street immediately after. (The finish cutoff time was 13 minutes so the parade could start 15 minutes after the race start.) It was really fun to run down the street with so many families already lining the course, and I was excited for how fun the race would be with everyone cheering!
The packet pickup was pretty easy to find – a table manned by volunteers right next to the starting line. After getting my bib, I ducked into a nearby cigar bar to use the bathroom, since there weren’t porta potties available. They were super nice about letting me use their restroom, and on my way to the starting line, I let the volunteers know that so they could direct others there if needed.
The start was totally packed, with tons of kids pressing up against the tape. A volunteer kept walking back and forth announcing that kids should only be in the front if they’re capable of running a five minute mile, but no one seemed to be budging. Mile races are always tricky for this reason, it seems! I wedged my way in a few people back, and then asked around to try to figure out who was running what pace. My motive in doing so was twofold: to find someone I could follow, and also to maybe dissuade some of the 10 minute milers from starting so close to the front 😉
There was a crew of high school (maybe?? I feel old because I can’t tell the ages of anyone younger than 25…) boys in front of me, who were all talking about running mid-4s. I definitely knew I wanted to stay well behind them! Then there were a few people near me who were hoping to go sub-6:30… so I wanted to stay ahead of them. It didn’t sound like anyone in my vicinity was shooting for 5:30ish, so I was on my own for pacing. However, asking around did give me the chance to meet a few people, which was fun.
I wrote yesterday about how I do best when I’m fully warmed up. In this case, I was definitely that! Even though it had been about 15 minutes since my jog to the start, the temps were so hot, especially in the packed starting corral, that I was sweating as I stood there waiting. It was while waiting and sweating that I started getting an inkling that perhaps this race wouldn’t go quite as planned…
There was a long countdown from the announcer all the way from 60 seconds to go, which helped make sure I was ready to go the second the gun went off. And good thing, too – another runner had pointed out that although the race was chip timed, there were no chip mats at the start; only at the end. Maybe this was why everyone was pressed so close to the front? Not good.
And when the gun went off, really not good. All the kids started screaming (not yelling, but actual ear-piercing screams), and everyone was pushing like crazy – I had my arms out in front of me to try to keep from falling over as I was pushed from behind, from the side, and every which way. Throughout the pushing, I was also trying to look at the ground for the little reflective lane markers that were sticking up from the road, to make sure I wouldn’t trip on them. What a mess! Fortunately, I managed to remain upright, and within a minute or so, I found my stride as the crowd thinned a little bit.
But what stride was that? I wasn’t quite sure. Although I was wearing my Garmin (I had forgotten to charge it until just before I got to the race, but I figured it should be able to last for one mile), this being a night race meant that I couldn’t really see the screen. I tried to check it whenever we went under a street light, but it was still really difficult to see – all I could make out was that I was running some sort of pace in the 6 minute range. Not at all what I wanted!
I kept telling myself that in less than two songs, I’d be done with this race – and that I needed to push it hard. But I was also hot and tired right from the get-go, and I just didn’t feel like pushing it hard. I think this was made even more challenging by the fact that I couldn’t see my Garmin. When I’ve done the Superior Mile the last two years, I’ve used my watch as a countdown, breaking the race up into quarter mile increments and reminding myself how few minutes there are left. Here, it just felt like one big slog through the heat, and I just wasn’t motivated to push myself hard 🙁
But sure enough, about two songs later, I could see the finish line arch in front of me, and I tried to pick it up a little bit for the last 50 meters to shave off an extra second or so. I hit my Garmin to stop my watch as I crossed the line, and then walked to a lighted area where I could actually see the time on it: 6:07. Yikes! About 40 seconds off from where I had hoped 🙁
I felt so absolutely gross after the race. Not exhausted, like I had felt after the Superior Mile. (This wasn’t in my race report for that, but I was so tired the rest of the day after running that hard, and I was surprised how much a mile could take out of me.) This time, I was out of breath for a few minutes after finishing, and then I was sticky and sweaty… but I wasn’t actually tired. Whomp whomp – that’s not how I should feel after a mile! But I did feel gross enough that I just wanted to get back to my air conditioned car ASAP, and not stick around to watch the parade, which was my original plan. Screw culture – I just wanted to cool down!
On my drive back to the hotel, I was kicking myself a little bit… but I was less disappointed than I would have expected if you had told me ahead of time what I’d run. I checked the actual weather after the race, and it was 84°F and 79% humidity! Those are not at all ideal conditions for a race, especially when I’m not even remotely acclimated to that kind of heat and humidity. I’m glad it didn’t really get me down to have not run as well as I wanted. A good lesson for next time in setting reasonable expectations!
Unfortunately, leaving right after the race turned out to be the wrong move. Later that night, after I got back to my hotel, I went online to check the results… and found out that even though I hadn’t run nearly as fast as I would have liked, I had actually won first place in my age group! (And my age group had more than one person…. I checked!) I was really bummed I hadn’t stuck around to get my award, as it was a lot less exciting to pick it up from the running store a few days later. But, still cool that I got it 🙂 One of these days I’ll learn that I’m actually fast enough to get awards and I should never leave before awards. Plus, that’s good etiquette anyway to cheer on whoever did win.
Next up? My town’s 5K this Sunday. No hopes for a fast time, but we’ll be running through a snowstorm, so that will certainly be festive. And then, 2018 I can’t wait to go hard in some new races!
Distance: 1 mile
Overall place: 80/610
Gender place: 19/323
Age group place: 1/45