Saturday, June 2, 2018

Race Report: Race4Respect 5K, June 2, 2018.

I ran the Race4Respect 5K this morning (yes, it's spelled like that) in 19:17, which was good enough for the female win.

I haven't raced since the Boston Marathon - doing a second marathon meant that I needed to recover and then jump back into training, with no down weeks for racing.  However, I know myself, and I get rusty if I go too long without racing.   For that reason, I needed to fit in another race before Grandma's Marathon. 

This weekend was the only weekend that worked for a tune-up/rustbuster/whateveryouwanttocallit, since next weekend would be too close to Grandmas.  Fortunately I had my choice of races this weekend.  Five different park-runs on Saturday plus a 5K, a 10K, or a half marathon; or a selection of 5Ks and a 6K (!) on Sunday.

Anything longer than 6K was too long, so that narrowed it down some.  I then decided to go with a Saturday 5K for almost entirely social reasons: racing on Saturday morning meant I had flexibility the rest of the weekend.  (heck, I'm honest, at least).

Of course, Saturday was also supposed to be the worse of the two days for racing, weather-wise.  DC's been hit with summer like heat and humidity.  And to be fair, I can't complain too much - it is June, and I choose to live here)  The forecast was both a bug and a feature.  Grandma's could very well be hot and humid, so no sense avoiding that weather now.

And that was how I ended up registering for the Race4Respect.  It started and ended at Freedom Plaza, meaning a fast and flat course.  It also started at 9 am, which was great from the "I don't have to wake up too early" angle, though lousy from a heat avoidance perspective.  (The careful reader will note a theme here).


So I slept in, with no alarm set, then rolled out of bed, stretched and ate breakfast, and headed down to Freedom Plaza, where I registered and then started to warm-up. 

I went with my normal 5K warm-up: three miles, with one minute at harder than 5K pace inserted towards the end.  Essentially, I run hard while glancing at my heart rate until my heart rate is at least in the 170s and then ease off.  When I do this, I feel like it primes the engine in a way that strides do not - my heart rate never rises very much during strides. 

Since it was pretty warm and humid (Weather Underground says temperature of 78, dew point of 72), I made sure to finish my warm-up early enough that I could also cool off a bit before the start and drink some more water.  Because of the heat, I wasn't terribly worried about stiffening up.  And I wanted to be sure not to be any warmer at the start than necessary - I'd heat up soon enough during the race.

Since this was a pre-marathon tune-up, I test drove what I will most likely be wearing at Grandmas.  Shorts and sportsbra, arm-COOLERS (not arm-warmers - these are made of different fabric, and actually do seem to work), Oakley sunglasses, and my Vaporflies, which I haven't worn since Boston. 

Honestly, I looked hilarious among a sea of people wearing the race charity t-shirt.  I probably should have pinned gels and carried a water bottle to complete the image.  Or maybe an "I AM UBER-SERIOUS RUNNER" tattoo?


The race was a bit late in getting started - at 8:55 there were only about 10 of us at the start line for the 9:00 race while the rest of the race politely applauded a presentation at the Plaza.  Eventually, the masses wandered over to the start, where we were gifted an excellent rendition of the National Anthem at around 9:08 am

Followed immediately by the start.

Most race starts have a rhythm.  First it's the pop music, which almost always peaks with either U2's Where the Streets Have No Name, Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, or Survivor's Eye of the Tiger.  (Philly local variant: the Rocky song)

Then it's the National Anthem, rendered at widely varying levels of competence.  Then a few motivational words, followed by "ready"  (pause)  "set" (pause) and "go."  The last word often accompanied by a horn, fake (or real) gun, etc.

Not this time.  Just a single word of READYSETGO shouted as the last notes of the National Anthem faded into the drenched air.  No motivational words, and no PAUSES.  And also no gun/horn. 

Leaving me flustered and scrambling to start my Garmin and get rolling as the masses flowed around me and I tripped over young kids.  And of course, I was wearing my Vaporflies, which are a very fast shoe but not a very agile shoe.

But I survived and didn't wipe out or take out any kids in the process (that I know of, anyway). 


Because of the awful heat and humidity, my plan had been to take the race out very slowly, at what felt like a tempo effort, and then pick it up halfway through mile 2.  When I got within 800m of the finish, I'd hammer.   I like to run negative splits anyway, but when it's hot and humid, I think it's best to start at a tempo-ish effort, try to cruise most of the race, and then hammer at the end.  It's a safer way to race that reduces the risk of heat illness, since you're not redlining it for that long.

When I had lined up at the start, a fast local woman had lined up next to me.  We've raced often enough that I know her preferred racing style - she likes to go out at her goal pace or even slightly faster, and then hang on. So usually when we race, she's in front of me for the first part.  And then I either catch her or I don't.

So imagine my surprise when I took the female lead almost instantly.  I did a quick self-check to make sure I felt comfortable and controlled and tempoish (I did).  Huh.  Perhaps she didn't intend to race after all.

A bit after the first mile, the race had a 180 turn, which gave me a chance to see where she was.  Poop.  Only about 5 seconds behind me.  Not how I had envisioned the race going, but I stuck with my plan.  Was she trying to beat me at my own game?

The next mile was a bit of a cruise and a bit of running scared.  I was expecting a second hair pin turn where I could check on her again, but it never came. 

[To explain, there are many certified courses that start/finish in Freedom Plaza  Two of the most popular are very similar, except that one has two hairpin turns while the other only has one and makes up the extra distance by bowing out another turn.  They had posted the first course on the race website, but went with the second.  No complaint here, since I despise hairpin turns.]

The lack of a second 180 was great from a Vaporfly perspective, since I struggle to turn in these things.  But it didn't let me check on where my competition was.  Oh well, stick with the plan.  You're a good kicker, even if you don't have your flats on.

And then, as we went past a second water stop right around mile 2, a volunteer called out to me "she's right behind you."  And I panicked and took off. 

That made for a rough final mile, as I had gone just a bit too early.  We did bend out the final turn, which was great from the perspective of running an accurate 5K and not a short course.  But it also extended the pain.  I would not have minded a short course today.

 In the end, I did hang on and even closed well, and it turned out that my competition faded a bit in the last mile.  At the finish line, it wasn't close.  But it was painful.

But good as well.  I needed to get reacquainted with race discomfort before Grandma's.  And I did that here.  So a very productive morning.


Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:23
Mile 2: 6:14
Mile 3: 6:07 (this mile marker was a bit long)
last bit: 33 seconds for a bit less than .11 miles)

I think the last mile marker was off, but the course was overall accurate.

For my win I got a nice gift certificate to a local running store and a big bell that works well for scaring the cats.


Other notes:

  • Usually when I race at Freedom Plaza, I park somewhere north of it.  This time I parked south, on Constitution Avenue.  And was shocked by how much closer and more convenient it was to the race start.  Wow.  Mind blown. 

  • As discussed above, I wore the Vaporflies here today, and ran 19:17.  Almost exactly a year ago, I set my 5K PR of 18:51 on this course, wearing the Takumi Sen.  So, much faster last year

    Now granted, there are other factors coming into play here.  I was targeting shorter distance PRs at this time last year while right now I'm focused on a marathon.  And it was hot and much much much more humid today than it was last year.  But it's still an interesting comparison.  The Vaporfly is a wonderful wonderful shoe.  But it's not a magical fount of PRs.  It's just a very fast shoe that works better at longer distances.  Especially if you don't need to turn (or dodge little kids).  For shorter distances, if I really care about my time, I'll stick with the Takumi Sen, or possibly the Sub-2.

  • Less than 2 weeks until Grandma's!  Feeling good, and this race was a nice confidence boost, especially given the weather. 


  1. Congratulations on the win! I'd love to see a picture of what these arm coolers look like- do they cover the entire arm? I loved your description of the typical race start. . . spot on. Hope you crush it at Grandma's!

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