A year ago, I ran my first ever 5k on July 4th. At that point, I'd only ever run for time, not distance. Three miles was a new length for me, so my only goal was to finish without walking.
I remember that I ran in a Champion tank, my old Asics and a pair of cotton capris. I know. The horror. Cotton! What was going to wick away my sweat?! I remember looking around at the runners and realizing that people didn't wear cotton and feeling slightly embarrassed and thinking that I needed to go shopping after the 5k. I was so unsure about whether I'd stick with this running thing that I wanted to actually run a 5k before I put money into it. I met my goal and finished in 31:33 without walking a single step. With it being my first race, I remember being surprised at the kick I was able to give when the finish line was in sight. I thought I had nothing left, yet I was able to dig in and sprint across the finish line. It was the first of many times I'd feel that and I loved it.
Yesterday, I ran the same course. What a difference a year makes. I wore an Adidas tank, lululemon shorts (which are amazing and worth every penny), Brooks and my Garmin watch (which decided to lose the satellite halfway through). I was ready. I trained for this. Not the type of training that just gets you across the finish line, but the type of training that gets you across the finish line harder, faster. For the last ten weeks, I've been following the own it training plan in the Train Like a Mother book. I've been doing speed work and tempo runs and all manner of things that make me feel like I'm dying, but they actually work. I've felt my legs get speedier and my lungs push through the burn. And then. The weather. Of course, the one element you can't control. I remember last year's 5k. It was sunny, but it was in the 70s with a breeze. It was perfect. Of course, I got hot while I was running, but it wasn't unbearable. Yesterday, however, was unbearable. Yesterday was the kind of race where they warn you about the heat at the start. By 8AM, it was mid-80s with 85% humidity. As Sarah put it, it was a lovely day for running through a swamp. I knew I wouldn't be able to push like I wanted and I knew I might very well see my official PR go out the window, so I faced that if it happened, I would find a cool weather 5k and push hard then. Still, I was disappointed.
The race started and I was sweating standing still. I went out pretty hard in the first mile and did that in 8:59. I felt hot but strong. I don't normally do water stops in 5ks, but I felt like I needed it. Not to drink, but to dump on my head. Unfortunately, the kids manning the water stop were not too swift, so I had to stop and wait. The guy with them was yelling at them to get with it and get back out there, so I wasn't grumpy about it, but in a 5k, even a few seconds can count. Still, I was happy to have the cup of water that ended up on my head. With the water stop and a hill at the halfway point, mile 2 took me about 9:30. My Garmin decided to quit, but there was a guy at the mile 2 split yelling out times and I hit mile two at 18:56. I was feeling hot and heavy but still pretty good at this point, to be honest. And then mile 2.5 came and I was DONE. They don't close down the streets for the 5k, but they do stop traffic for the runners. Traffic was stopped for about a half mile stretch and the heat and exhaust from the idling cars created a really bad situation. It was like hitting a wall. I wasn't the only runner struggling. Just about every runner around me stopped at this point and started doing intervals. Between the smell of the fumes and the intense heat, it was brutal. Then I noticed that I had goosebumps on my arms and my forehead was no longer sweating, which is never a good sign so I reeled myself way in. I still ran bits and pieces of the last half mile, but I'll be honest in that I'm certain I walked more than I ran. I just couldn't do it. I kept thinking, I'm a half-marathoner. How am I not finishing this strong? The simple answer is: I couldn't. The heat created by the cars with the heat already in the atmosphere got scary. My body was sending out some scary signals and I was terrified of what would happen if I pushed it. And I simply couldn't push it. I started running when I knew the finish line was around the corner. As the finish line was in sight, I saw that the clock said 29:30 and I knew that I would finish with a sub-30 result, but just barely... and for the first time in my running career, I could not find that final push. I tried, believe me, but my body coasted across as the clock said 29:45. The final sprint is my favorite part. Even in the half marathon, I pushed myself across the finish line at a 7:30 pace--after 13 miles, but I couldn't do it after running 3 miles yesterday.
Still, I achieved my goal, in horrible conditions. I shaved almost two minutes off of last year's time! I know that a sub-30 is attainable and I know that in better conditions, I can probably get an even better PR. All in all, I'm happy with it.
Even better, Luke ran in the kids' race afterward yesterday. He had a blast! He ran with a smile on his face the entire time (something I am sure I did not do). They split the kids so that he was with 5 and up, meaning he was in the younger group. He ended up being on of the littlest in his racing group, but he still beat five kids. Watching him run and love it was way more fun than my PR!