Saturday, March 11, 2017

Race report: Rock 'n' Roll DC 5K, March 11, 2017

I ran the Rock 'n' Roll DC 5K in 19:52 today, which was good enough for the female win, so that was nice.

(wow, that 'n' just looks weird)

Running this race was sort of a late decision.  But in other ways not...  To explain in more detail, I hadn't planned on running this race until I received an email confirming my registration.  For a race I had completely forgotten I had signed up for a year ago.

So, I emailed my coach, and confirmed that he was OK with me racing it as a substitute for my scheduled Friday 5K tempo.  Running this race meant that I'd be racing three weeks in a row - 5K, 5K, and then half, but he thought (and I agree) that the recovery from a 5K is quick enough that I could get away with it.

So, I was in.  IF I could work out logistics.  The 5K race starts and finishes at RFK Stadium in DC (also the finish line for the half and full marathons - the second half of the 5K course is the last mile and a half of the marathon course).  RFK Stadium is very nicely on the DC Metro system, and I've just metroed to and from in years past.  However, due to "Safetrack" Metro no longer opens early on race morning, eliminating that transportation option.

Rock 'n' Roll had opened up a few of the parking lots at RFK for runners.  If you prepaid $30 in advance.  Which was a ridiculous amount to pay for a 5K I didn't really care about anyway.  Especially to park in a lot with a high likelihood of a) traffic backup getting into the lot and b) my windows getting smashed once I was in the lot.  (as friends of mine have learned in the past - that high parking fee doesn't cover any sort of security).

After looking at road closures and the race course, I decided to drive into Capitol Hill (using 395 to Massachusetts Avenue, which would route me underneath the closed roads) and then park somewhere in the residential area of the Hill before jogging the mile to the start as part of my warm-up.

This worked beautifully - I left home at 6:40 and found parking around 7:05.  Then jogged to the start for the 8 am race, using my running backpack to carry my stuff to check for post-race.  An additional perk were the portapotties strewn all over the area for the other races.

Longsleeve attire.  Yes, the team logo
needs to be rescreened on this one.
Photo by Cheryl Hendry Young.
I got to the start area with plenty of time to check my bag and finish my warm-up.  The temperatures were actually mid-20s, so slightly warmer than last weekend, but the wind was brisk from the west.  Since I had felt way too cold in last week's 5K, I decided to go with a longsleeve shirt this week.
Drills, strides, lined up, and we were off.

I had gone out too fast in my race last week, and wanted to improve that this week.  So I held back for the first half mile, watching a pack pull ahead of me, including two other women.  The race starts with a very nice downhill - steep enough that you can run fast, but not so steep that you are braking.  I let that hill bring me up to speed, and then after a few minutes I started to build, catching one woman fairly easily.  The other took a bit more work to chase down, but I passed her, plus a few guys, just before the first mile marker (which was facing the wrong way).

I was still running fairly easily here, which was part of my plan - come through the first mile very controlled, then build in mile 2 before pushing mile 3.  After the first mile marker, we rose out of an underpass and continued to climb (moderately, but annoyingly) to the turnaround point.

It was a relief to hit the turnaround point, and go back downhill.  At that point, I noted that I had put at least 8 seconds on the second place woman in the last half mile.  Not as much of a lead as I wanted, but my hunch was that she had gone out too fast and would fade more.

Until I realized just how much help the hitherto tailwind had been.  It was a tailwind no more, and it was annoying.  The good news was that I had plenty of energy in the tank.  The bad news was that I had no one near me to work with.  Whatever, nothing to do but to dig in.

To be honest, I didn't work anywhere near as hard here as I would have if I had someone close to chase, or if I had been second place woman.  All of that is obviously psychological - part of it was subconscious, while part of it was a conscious decision to keep something in reserve in case I needed to kick later.  (which is another way of saying that I knew I was winning and that made me lazy).

The second half of the race sucked - I was basically running solo into a substantial headwind which would persevere for the rest of the race.  And the downhill assist after the turnaround went away too fast, to be replaced by a gentle climb (and the second mile marker, also backwards), before we rounded the turn at the Stadium and doubled back to climb the final hill (no marker for the third mile) to the finish line.  But then the finish line was blissfully there, and I got to break the tape, which is always fun.

Splits were:

Mile 1: 6:13
Mile 2: 6:31
Mile 3 plus last bit: 7:08 (6:26 pace)

The splits look very uneven, but I think that's in part a reflection of the course, with the downhill start, and the strong tailwind for the first half that became a headwind in the second.  I also suspect that the turnaround point may have been misplaced, making the course slightly long.  My Garmin reads long for the second mile, which is not probative in itself, since Garmins are not perfect (and my signal did get screwed a bit by the underpass).  But the very slow split is also odd and doesn't match how the race felt, and the entire course felt a bit long.  Plus, misplaced turnaround cones would be consistent with the screwed up or missing mile markers.

But not like it mattered anyway.  I ran the race to get another 5K under my belt and to practice going out a bit more patiently.  Which I did as measured by effort, though the splits don't show it.  And it was fun to break the tape.


Other points:

  • Temperature was 27, DP of 5.  15 MPH steady wind from the west supposedly.  I think the half-marathoners had that as a tailwind for nearly all of the second half of their race, which had to be nice (of course, they also had to fight it for the first half, plus run up my least favorite hill in DC).  The marathoners had to fight it for the last miles of their race, which had to suck for them.
  • The second and third place women ended up running well over 21 minutes.  So apparently I really had nothing to worry about in terms of preserving the win - in the second half of the course, my lead went from 8 seconds to over 90.  
  • Parking on Capitol Hill worked great for getting home post-race also.  Just cruise over to the exit ramp for 395, and then drive back under all the road closures to exit the city.
  • I debated which shoes to wear for this race - my flats (Takumi Sen) or my longer race shoes (Adios).  I decided to go with the Adios again.  My goal half-marathon is next weekend, and I decided I'd feel REALLY dumb if I tweaked something racing a frigid and slow 5K that I didn't really care about in flats.
  • As I noted above, I also wore a longsleeve this week, to test how I liked it versus a singlet for short races in the 20s.  The longsleeve was the better choice.  I felt comfortable, and not too hot until the third mile of the race.  I have few different longsleeves with the team logo, and I wore the one that was most form-fitting, to minimize wind.  Yes, I think about these things. Feel free to judge.
    My heart rate reading for the 5K.
    Note the big jump in HR that correlates with
    when I started to feel like I was overheating.
  • Normally, I'd be a bit worried about a 5K this slow as a tune-up for my half.  But I've run this race before (albeit on a slightly different course) and was slow then also.  I think it's just not a fast course.


  1. Wow- I love the spontaneity here! And a win to boot! Great job out there, and I'm glad you wore long sleeves this time. Nice research on the parking situation as well.