Race Recap: 2017 Firecracker 5k

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Last year, this race was my target run for my 5k PR.  This year, I ran it because it’s part of the Four Season’s Challenge I’m participating in with the Oklahoma Sport and Fitness race team.  And it would be a fun way to get some tempo work in for my 26.2 training.  I’ve been having a rough time on runs recently (thanks OK heat and humidity) and this was a welcome change to slogging through some miles on my own.

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Start line (photo: Fleet Feet Tulsa)

Based on this year’s race, you wouldn’t know that last year I really tried to work on my 5ks.  While I definitely improved my times over the course of two years of dedicated speedwork and practice, I never really nailed down the pacing.  And that is certainly apparent in this race!

I didn’t really know what to expect from this run as far as finish times go.  Marathon training and 5k training don’t work the same systems and so I’m out of 5k shape.  On the drive over to Fleet Feet, Chap was trying to tell me he was sure I could finally break that 22 minute mark.  And while yes, I would like to eventually nail that goal, marathon training is not the season to do it.  So I was just going to run hard and try to hit a seven something pace.

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Rainy start! (Photo: Fleet Feet Tulsa)

Race morning was completely different from last year’s sunny and hot start.  This year, as we were waiting at the starting line, it started pouring on us!  I don’t mind the rain at all for short races, and it actually felt really good because the air was so sticky without the rain.  It seemed like it took forever for them to get us started and I even started to get cold just standing there.  I was soaked before we got started.

Finally, we were off!  The whole first mile it kept raining on us, and eventually it stopped but the streets were still wet.  I had my watch on and my Strava app to help me pace but for some reason I never looked at my watch.  And while Strava will tell me how fast I ran the previous mile, the rain water kept my headphones from staying in my ears.  I decided to run by feel.

The race starts out pretty flat, heading west towards the BOK center.  We hit a little hill on Denver taking us north towards Brady area and then turn back east to a flat streak to Guthrie Green.  Another baby hill (by this time though, we’re at or past halfway and it feels huge) takes us up by Cain’s and then back down.  We ran back along the same Denver route and back to the store.  Those hills also felt gigantic in this last mile.  I walked a little, but tried to only allow myself 5 deep breaths to regroup and then started running again.

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Tough finish (Photo: Fleet Feet Tulsa)

I finished tough, being dragged along by the motivating words of fellow racers, “less than half a mile to go, come on.  One foot in front of the other.”   I always appreciate this encouragement even though sometimes I’m like, “walking is still one foot in front of the other.”  Sometimes it’s good to get a dose of my own medicine, and have someone else telling me that I can hang longer than I think.

Finally the finish line was in sight and I crossed, trying my best to hold down some puke (if you’re new here, get used to puke talk on race posts.)  I managed to keep it down but decided no more breakfasts on 5k days.

My finishing time was 23:42  , which managed to be a 4th in my age group placement (last race in that age group in Tulsa!).  It’s a little slower than last year’s but I am so pleased that I’m that close after distance training the past 16 weeks.

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Positive splits!

After studying my splits, I know I have an out-of-the-gate-too-fast issue to work on.  I ran by feel, and it didn’t feel like a 6:32 mile when everyone else around me is trotting along or passing me (of course they are, I start in the front of the pack).  Maybe I need to start a little farther back.  My paces dropped off significantly each mile, but that first mile was my fastest ever recorded on my apps so that’s a pretty encouraging stat :).

Overall, it’s a fun race and one of the more popular ones in Tulsa (in my opinion – seems like a lot more people at this one than some others I’ve done).  Fleet Feet always puts on a great after party, and has awesome support through volunteers.

2 of 4 races down for the challenge and I love how the medals are coming together!

Later that afternoon, I got to run 5 more miles to finish off that day’s assigned 8.  Michelle joined me, the humidity was gone and it was only in the 80s.  It was awesome.

What’s your philosophy on racing 5ks?  Run as hard as you can the whole time?  Or start a little slower so you can really push it at the end?

Race: Spring Fling for a Cause 5k

Many of you know that a small piece of my heart and life lives in Muskogee.  This opens up an entirely new willingness and radar for additional races.

Chap watched me struggle to break my long-standing 5k PR for nearly a year when he suggested this Spring Fling for a Cause 5k in Fort Gibson.  It’s flat, it’s an out an back (my favorite for short runs) and it’s during the time of year when temperatures are likely tolerable.  I put it on the calendar thinking it could be a backup race in case the St Patrick’s 5k wasn’t a PR.

This race rolled around and I so wasn’t into it.  I worked late the night before, had to drive out to Muskogee and got in around 11pm only to wake up to 16 mph winds and rain (thanks Michelle for teaching me to read the windometers).  And I lost my running partner.  A broken nose injury benched Chap so I was facing the out and back on my own.

Even as we sat in the car at the start line and I watched maybe 100 people scurry about, I didn’t want to go.  The rain had just picked up, it was in the low 50s and the winds were crazy.  But Chap said, “You won’t regret it.”

With 2 minutes to start I scurried to the start line, turned on my watch and Strava app and bounced around to stay warm.  Then we were off.  I had a goal to try for sub 7s the whole time which would get me my sub 22 target.   It was raining and windy but I couldn’t really tell which way the wind was blowing.  We were running down a paved, flat road that would eventually wind us around a corner before we turned around.  I had about ten people in front of me, mostly males and one female, before I just zoned out.  I tried to keep my pace around my track workout pace and as close to the 7 minute mark as I could.  For this I use my Garmin and keep the display on the elapsed time and pace screen.

I remember beginning to slowly pass the tail end of the pack in front of me.  The lead pack is normally far out of my reach but small town races are a different story.  I started ticking past them one at a time.  First the gal, then two fellas running together and then one guy on his own.  The first mile marker went off on my app and I checked my watch – mile 1 was under 7.

I was banking time as my dad would say.  I kept my pace as close as I could to that until the turn around.  That’s where I met the wind and realized that before when I didn’t know what direction it was coming from, it definitely wasn’t blowing against me.  But now, when I’m halfway in and pretty tired, I can feel it.  I fought through it the best I could to mile 2, also under 7 minutes.   A guy pushing a baby in a stroller motivated me to stay on pace.  I just kept chasing him, we caught the same pace for a little bit and then I pulled on past.

The last mile was the toughest.  I was feeling similar fatigue in my arms that I felt in the St. Patrick’s Day 5k.  (Which Chap later attributed to me moving my arms too much in my stride.  True statement, and good observation.)  I wanted to walk.  So much.  But I just kept refocusing my mind on my breath, on the strength I knew I had from weeks and months of consistent track and circuit work, and on the finish line which was just a flat road ahead (ok, and maybe on the donuts and fella at the finish).

When that third mile time went off on my app, I checked my watch and the distance to the finish line and pushed it.  I thought for sure I could beat the 22 minute mark.  I was running as fast as I thought I could to the finish and just as I’m about to cross the line, the guy with the stroller comes blazing past me.  Talk about a strong finish.

I was just relieved to be done and so happy to have another PR even though I was only 4 seconds off that 22.  They handed me a water bottle instead of a medal at the finish and my arms were so weak I threw it right at Chap’s broken nose (on accident!) so I didn’t have to hold it.  There’s more work to be done, and I am thrilled with the progress made this season!

We stuck around for the awards ceremony which gave me plenty of time to eat a few donuts ;).  Chap knew some people so he was chatty and I just tried to stay warm.  For the first time ever I placed as the first female in a race.  I still can’t really believe it.  And fourth overall.  Sure, it’s a smaller race but come on, me?  The girl who had to be bribed in to running over 10 years ago.  I’m not sure I’ll ever place first in that division or top 5 overall again so I tried to soak it in.  I’ve got some pretty cool hardware to show for it, and a lot of motivation and inspiration to set up the next training cycle (time to drag out the distance by 10-23 miles!)

If you don’t mind making the drive from Tulsa to Ft. Gibson the morning of a run, I’d highly recommend this race.  Flat course, reasonable registration fee, excellent cause (Special Olympics), well organized, small, great food after and great trophies!

It’s easy to get caught up in missed goals.  At the end of each race, PR or not, I try to reflect on the “fun” of the training, the will to race and the spirit of the sport.  I like how strong being fast makes me feel,  and the reward for the work put in.   It doesn’t come easy, and it certainly hasn’t come quickly but with consistency, I’m chipping off those seconds of my PRs.

 

Go Short, Go Long, Go Very Long

Publishing out of order for the sake of trying to get a new habit going!  Route 66 is coming, I promise!

As part of trying to get faster in general this year, I decided to focus on my most hated distance – the 5k.  I plan to check in on my progress every month by running one (either a local race or just the distance on my own) and tailoring my training to this particular distance.  I know I won’t be able to resist the pull of the half marathon but my training will not be geared towards a strong half marathon time.

I decided this almost immediately following the Route 66 race last November.  You’ll see why in a few days when that post pops up.  A large part too was that I needed shorter runs and training days to help me manage my time better, and to feel successful.

I started 5k training almost immediately after the half marathon.  Nothing like a disappointing performance to light a fire underneath your motivation, right?  So, it’s been about 7 or 8 weeks of focused training of one track, one tempo and one long run per week.  Plus some cross training and lots of yoga.  I’m very pleased with my first test of training!

Race Review

  • Price: Reasonable, purchased on sale during Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Course: Awesome.  West side of river trails.  If race grows too big, could be very crowded.
  • Organization: Not great.  We had that false start and awards seemed to take forever to get started in the cold.  Volunteers were awesome.
  • Post-Race: Awesome.  I wish I’d remembered to use my food and beverage tickets!
  • Would I run again? Yes.

I signed up for this race on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  Fleet Feet, the organizers, do a nice discount on one of those big sale days and I took full advantage signing up for this 5k and the Golden Driller half in April.  This particular race had four distances to choose from: 5k, 10k, 25k and 50k.  With my new goal in mind, I selected the 5k.

Packet pickup was a breeze.  I was in and out of the downtown location in less than 4 minutes.  I chose the earliest time on the Friday before the race to go.  It was a simple packet, as to be expected with such a small local race, and included our bib, shirt and four safety pins.

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Contents of the Packet

The morning of race day was pretty low key for me.  I got up, fed Miley, grabbed a banana and headed to Foolish Things for a cup of coffee before the race.  The later start time of 8:30 was awesome for these morning errands.

The start was at River West Festival Park, a recently renovated part of the trail system on the west side (obviously) of the river.  I showed up around 8:20, had no trouble parking and finished my coffee in the car.  The start line was just a quick warmup jog away.

Not much was around, a few tents and the vendors for after the run.  The start line was set up and we had a great view of downtown.  I’m imagine this park to be pretty stunning when all the wildlife isn’t in hibernation!  I’m way excited to get back on these trails in the spring.

I found my spot close to the front of the pack in the corral.  The entire 5k is run on the trail system on the west side.  We had a small glitch at the start where the race director did the countdown but we didn’t actually start when he said go.  This added some time to my app timer but wasn’t a huge upset since the chips didn’t activate yet. We got officially started about 5 minutes late and I got swept up in those front runners.

The 10k group was also running with us, but at our turn around at the pedestrian bridge on 21st street, they continued on.  This race was small and I could see the leaders almost the entire time.  I definitely had my sights set on April (I learned her name later), the lead female.  I felt my leg muscles starting to get the wave of fatigue before the half mile and knew I should back off.  So easy to get swept away in the energy.

The race flew by!  It’s been so long since I’ve run a 5k that it seemed really short!  It wasn’t very hilly and I enjoyed the out and back part of it.  Loved the energy of people running against me after the turn around and cheered as many on as I could in between breaths.

My pacing was decent throughout the race – I prefer negative splits but I feel like I gave it my all without tanking too early.  It’s always nice to feel strong through the entire distance, and also at the end like you might lose your banana and coffee.

I’ve never ever finished so well in a race.  It was a personal best but also, placed well in the field of runners.  Everyone at the finish was so polite and friendly and congratulatory. The first female came up and introduced herself to me, and we congratulated each other on great runs.  I was 90 seconds behind her.  I met a guy named Jim who hung around with me while we waited for age group awards.  He’s familiar with the local racing scene and told me April is one of the best in the state.  A couple other runners came up to talk too and it was nice meeting such friendly people – not sure if it was my breakout time or my flashy pants!

We stood around for what felt like forever waiting for these awards.  My fingers went numb and my brain was so cold I completely forgot about the free beverage and food tickets!  I missed out on some Old School Bagels, Marshalls Beer and a food truck.

I set my sights on 24 minutes today – that’s been the goal of training these past 7 weeks.  I’m surprised by my fast time today, but I’m also not.  I’ve been consistent with the training runs, eating well and consistent with strength training and yoga.  These are the results I should have.  Let’s see if success can fuel the flames as much as disappointment did in November!

 

Tulsa Run 15k

Last Halloween I ran a race that I will tell you about today!  Since moving to Tulsa in August of 2014, I’d heard rave reviews of a strange-to-me distance race – the Tulsa Run.  It’s a 15k or 9.3 mile run through downtown and close by neighborhoods of my current hometown.  It’s Tulsa’s longest running foot race and fits well into the training cycle for the more popular distances of half and full marathons in November.

I made sure this year (now, last year!) to fit it into the race schedule.  All fall I’d been focusing on a tough training regime to help me PR in the half marathon distance in late November.  The 15k distance would be an excellent indicator for how ready I was for the half distance just a few weeks later.

I don’t really get nervous for runs like these because it’s just a fun opportunity to have a bunch of people with me on my long run.  Normally I would have sported a costume but I was in this run to actually race it.  So, no tutus or capes that would add wind resistance BUT I did wear a bright orange top.

My game plan was to just run how I felt.  It wasn’t an intimidating distance since I was prepping for 4 additional miles.   I was a little concerned about the hills I’d been hearing about but I figured I was familiar enough with the streets of Tulsa to know where the big hills would be – Utica area and coming back into town from the river.

It’s been long enough that I don’t really remember the weather that morning.  I think it was chilly to start, especially as we transitioned out of a steamy summer.  But I also remember it was humid.  I use the Nike+ app to track my runs now – no more worrying with a watch (I do miss it, just not in the budget currently).

The run was amazing.  I ran strong and felt like I was moving at a decent pace.  I saw a few familiar faces from YMCA and boot camps around town and it was fun to say hello and cheer on some friends.  We started downtown, in a similar way to how the Route 66 race starts, so I tried to visualize that race too.

The first hill came leading up towards Cherry Street so I didn’t try to push the pace.  Just stay steady.  Especially that early in the run.  And then as each mile passed it was still – just stay steady.  Soon I was on the Peoria out and back and really loved watching the crowd pass as I looked for familiar faces.  Didn’t see many but lots of costumes kept the miles entertaining.  There was an entire troop of Star Wars characters, a Forrest Gump (of course) with a fish on a line! (another runner dressed as a fish).

I periodically checked my pace and was pleased to see that for not much apparent effort I was keeping a fast (for me) pace.  All those treadmill track days paying off!

The last part of the race on the West side of the river was tough.  Not sure if it was because it was the tail end of the race OR knowing that there was a big hilly effort to get back into town.  OR that some humidity had set in and by now it was after 10 am and fairly warm.  My Foolish Things family all came out to cheer me on as I ran by and that gave me a surprising burst of energy.  Enough to push hard to the finish line (also slightly up hill).  I finished strong and had my first ever puke at the finish line.  Thankfully not on anyone, and I’m not sure anyone actually saw me.  I feel like a real racer now ;).

Overall this race totally lived up to its hype.  I can’t wait to do it again and again as long as I live in Tulsa.  It is beautifully organized, a challenging course, well supported and the medal glows in the dark!  If you live in Tulsa, you should definitely add this to your calendar.  And if you don’t, you should consider a special trip, even though it’s not one of the “big” distances.

According to Nike+ app I ran 9.46 miles in 1:16:50 for an average of 8:07.  This set me up for a great half marathon effort in just a few weeks.  I only need to add 4 strong miles to the end of this and I think with the right weather I totally could.

A few weeks later I got a surprise package in the mail for an award.  I wasn’t fast enough to be in an age group for this race (although I hope for one in 2016) but I was fast enough in my weight category for a pretty little trophy.  I’m not sure how I feel about weight group prizes….not sure yet if I think it encourages or categorizes people in an unnecessary way.  What do you think?

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3rd place in my “Filly” weight group.