Why did I go all the way out to Bethany Beach to run a 5K in August?
Well (and the following is all relevant)....my retired horse "Basil" lives several hours away from me, near Ocean City, Maryland (official residence: Berlin, Maryland). I needed to visit Basil, as I hadn't seen him since last summer. I completely trust the woman with whom I board him - she does a great job of caring for him and giving him love. But still, it's the responsible thing to visit him at least once a year.
[NB for those who may think it's awful I don't visit him more - this is NOT like not visiting a family member or neglecting a cat or dog. Basil really has no emotional attachment to me. I'm sure he'd love it if I showed up every day and gave him carrots - but that would be more about the carrots than me].
Berlin is about a 3.5 hour drive one way from my home in Arlington, Virginia if there's no traffic. And in the summer, there's ALWAYS traffic. And since the Chesapeake Bay lies between the DC area and Ocean City/Berlin, and since there's only one bridge over the Chesapeake Bay, getting out to the coastal area on a weekend is usually a miserable stop-and-go-for-miles experience.
The trick, of course, is to drive at off peak hours. Going to the beach, those off peak hours are before 6 am or after 5pm on Saturday (or after 10 pm on Friday); coming back you want to try to leave the beach before 10 am on Sunday.
So...the easiest way to visit Basil is either a) wait for a rainy weekend when nobody wants to go to the beach and traffic is better and do it as a day trip; or b) drive out there on Saturday evening after 5pm, stay overnight, visit Basil on Sunday, and then try to beat the beach traffic home.
With regard to option b), there were several weekends that had 5K races in the Delaware/Maryland beach area. So...if I was going to stay overnight, why not combine the trip with a race. After checking out the options, I selected the weekend of August 3/4 and the "Athletes Against Alzheimers" 5K as the best option. The 5K had a 7:15 am start, so I could hopefully run it, visit Basil and still leave early enough to beat the Sunday traffic home.
And that's how I ended up leaving my house in Virginia early Saturday evening to drive out to a hotel about an hour from the beach - close enough that the drive wouldn't be too bad in the morning; far enough away that the room was reasonably priced. I checked in a bit before 8 pm on Saturday night and went straight to bed in prep for a 4 am wake-up.
I pulled into Bethany Beach around 6:10 am on Sunday - this was perfect, as it gave me just enough time to find a good parking space, pick up my bib, hit the ladies room, and warm-up (doing the same warm-up I've been using recently - 3:00, then 4x30 seconds, then 4x10 seconds).
While warming up, I also checked the course out. It was mostly a very fast course. The first 2.5 miles were basically one big loop (no sharp turns). Then, with 800 m to go, the course would double back on itself. Then a right turn onto a narrow wooden walkway and a left turn onto the boardwalk for the final 200m to the finish.
[this being the beach, the whole race was flat as a pancake.]
I noted that both the wooden walkway and the boardwalk were smooth, damp, and sandy, and thus a bit slick. So that might slow things down a bit at the end. But other than that, this would be fast.
Well...except for the weather - which was about what one would expect for a August morning at Bethany Beach - hot and humid. When you register for an August 5K, that's what you get.
We lined up, and then at 7:14:40 we were off (slightly early, as the race was a 7:15 am start).
Quite a few men and two women surged ahead. I let them go while easing into pace. As humid as it was, going out aggressively today would be a very bad choice. Within the first quarter mile several faded away, including both women, and I started building my rhythm and reeling in men. A few other runners settled in behind me.
As I ran down the road, I was a bit disappointed to hear "go ladies" as I ran past spectators. I listened to the breathing behind me and yup, one of them was likely female. A few moments later she pulled up on my shoulder.
I debated whether to ease up and get her to take the lead. However, her breathing seemed a bit harder than mine, so I decided to keep my pace and try to gradually build it, hoping to wear her down.
She sat on me though, and I couldn't quite seem to drop her, even as I pressed the edge of my own comfort zone. We ran that way through the turnaround and towards the final turns onto the wooden walkway and then the boardwalk. I had planned to start kicking as we turned to the walkway - the walkway was very narrow, and so my thought was that whomever had the lead on the walkway was essentially the winner of the race.
She had the same plan, though, and executed much better than I did. She dropped a surge at the same time I did, but about twice as fast, and almost instantly was five steps ahead as we hit the walkway. I kicked as hard as I could, but I wasn't any match, and she crossed the finish two seconds ahead of me. She had both outrun me and outsmarted me. D'oh!
As we came to the finish, I could see the timer counting down 18:4x, which gave me another reason to kick hard - perhaps I could squeeze a small PR out of this race. But, as soon as I crossed the line and stopped my watch, I read the time of 19:05 (which frankly was much more believable, given the weather). I think the finish line clock was based on a 7:15 am start, while we started 20 seconds earlier - hence the differential.
Splits ended up being:
Mile 1: 6:11
Mile 2: 6:07
I'm surprised the last 1.11 wasn't faster, since I was kicking so hard, but I'm guessing my kick was balanced out by the turning and navigating of the wooden walkway.
The consolation was that I was first master female (second female overall), and the prizes were essentially the same for both the winner and the masters winner - a medal and some beach souvenirs.
After the awards, I drove to Berlin, where I visited our retired horses Basil and Breezy (Basil is mine, Breezy belongs to my sister). Then I left the beach around 9:50 am, which enabled me to miss just about all of the Sunday return traffic over the bridge. Win.
|Looking pretty good for pushing 30.|
- Weather ended up being temperature of 75 and dew point of 73 - so yeah, pretty thick air. Like I said, it's August.
- I wore the Nike Vaporfly Next% for this race; my first race in that shoe. I think I like the shoe - it feels a bit more conventional and less Vaporfly-ish than the original VF 4%, which means a bit more stable and nimble. It also lets you get up on your forefoot in a way that the original VF doesn't.
- I also wore my arm-coolers - again, these are like arm-warmers, but a different fabric that is cooling. I know I look a bit odd in them, but they really do seem to help.
- I looked up the woman who outkicked me later (don't judge - you would too.) She just finished her first year of collegiate running, and her 5K and mile PRs are both faster than mine, and she's also run a 65 second 400m. I was feeling pretty sheepish for not starting my kick earlier, but I think now she had me beat regardless.
- Regardless of the fact I was outkicked, I'm really happy with how I paced this - I think I hit the right balance between going out slightly conservative but not giving up unnecessary time. If I can pace a 5K like that in better weather on a fast course, I should be able to snag that 5K PR I keep thinking is right there. Of course, the way my schedule is looking, I doubt I'll be able to fit in another 5K this year.