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Christmas Caper 5K Race Report

It seems fitting that the first and last races I did this year were 5Ks, an event I have very little recent experience with and a pretty strong dislike for. Spoiler: The 2011 Christmas Caper falls under the “oops, I PR’d” category but doesn’t quite hold the same sense of accomplishment as a race that is, I don’t know, TWO SECONDS FASTER.

Katie and I decided a few weeks back to register for the Potomac Valley Track Club’s last event of the year to be held down at Hains Point. I was itching to race the shit out of a 5K — I felt like my recent race results indicated that my PR, set in February of this year following a very long hiatus from the distance, was begging to be broken — and Katie was eager to PR her 10K as a solid way to close out the 2011 season. PVTC’s races are like $10 — there’s no swag, but I’d rather that than $30+ for a t-shirt I probably won’t wear — and you go out and just run, which is really the whole point of all this anyway.

So — this seemed like a really good idea a few weeks ago after a particularly good tempo run, but as the race neared, I became a little less enthusiastic about making this my epic 5K blowout. Thanksgiving and a trip to Florida interrupted my training, I’ve spent a whole lot more time in the pool than on the road, and my knees are still stiff and covered in purple bruises. I didn’t do any real thoughtful training or taper or nutrition or rest or anything leading up to the weekend, and I stayed up a little (ok, a lot) later on Friday night than I probably should have. It was just a 5K, right? Nothing compared to the five or 12-hour races I’m used to doing. So nothing to it. Whoops.

Not to mention that 6:30 is too early for an alarm on an off-season Saturday.

I ran the 2.5 miles down to Hains as my warmup — almost the distance of the race, I know — which was great because I was sweating and ready to go by the time I met up with Katie and Thom, though maybe a little less so after sitting around for 20-ish minutes while it got colder and the wind picked up. I grabbed my bib and danced around in an attempt to stay warm while waiting for the race to start.

Sidenote: This race totally took me back to high school cross country. With super-low entry fees, it’s a no-frills event. No chip timing, a guy saying “go” over the megaphone, chalk start/finish lines and turnarounds, etc. Just a bunch of people out to run for the sake of running — and gems such as this:

Casual, you know.

Anyway, I lined up toward the front of the pack of 200 or so people there for the 5K event. Because the event wasn’t chip-timed, I knew it’d be important not to get stuck in the back (and that I was really counting on my Garmin for the official time based on when I actually crossed the start and finish). After a quick intro from the race director about the course, we were off.

The brilliant thing about Hains is that it’s flat. The not-so-brilliant thing is that it’s windy as all hell. The 5K was an out-and-back of about 2/3 of the loop — wind at your back on the first part and a terrible headwind on the second. Ouch.

I have basically no idea what to do in a race this short other than go balls to the wall from start to finish. Thom suggested I try to land myself in the (nonexistent) medical tent, and that’s exactly what I set out to do. That means I went out way WAY fast. Like, half a mile in was my “oh shit” moment. I was actually leading for the women until a bit after this point, which was exciting. Then my first mile split at 6:09, and I was having a hard time deciding whether this was brilliant or a disaster. Turns out it was more the latter. My lungs were burning from the cold, and my stomach was freaking out over the effort level. Then mile 2 split at 6:27 and mile 3 at 6:34. Oof.

This is exactly how NOT to execute a 5K.

I had in my head that a sub-20:00 was totally possible. That milestone has haunted me since forever, and I was never fast enough to quite get there in high school. A mile or so in, I thought I totally had a 19:30 in me. Then my pace slowed and I thought that surely a 19:59 was there. Then, as I was sprinting that last straightaway, I could see the clock counting up starting around 19:30. 19:40. 19:50. And I JUST. COULDN’T. GET. THERE.

I crossed the line at 20:01.

I mean, really.

This is a huge PR for me. In a 5K, 35 seconds is a lot of time to drop. I was the second woman overall. And that’s fantastic and I’m proud of it. But to miss that huuuuuuge milestone by so little is really frustrating. I know I had 2-3 more seconds in me. I was hoping not to have to do a 5K in 2012 — it’s one of my most-hated distances — but I don’t think I can go a whole year with that one second taunting me. I’d rather expend my energy on training for and racing longer distances that I actually like, but maybe I can throw one into my marathon cycle and finally check it off the list.

In any case, I definitely worked hard, at least according to Garmin (which, as we all know, is always right). Hello, average HR of 195. I didn’t even think that was possible, but it sure as hell felt like I was working that hard.


Anyway, after I finished I joined Thom to wait for Katie to come back around and go out again for her second lap (the 10K did the 5K course twice, duh). As soon as I stopped running I was freezing, so I collected gloves that Katie threw away and a headband that another friend dropped and an extra pair of sweatpants that Thom was carrying. It was a good look. When Katie finished, we did a quick cooldown, claimed my prize — a snowman cookie jar! — and jumped in the warm car. The rest of my day included another short run to and from Stroga for a TRX class (more on that later) putting me at almost 9.5 miles for the day, three batches of fresh-baked holiday cookies, and movie night with friends. All in all, a solid Saturday.

I’ll be back for you, 20:00.

*PVTC’s official results say 20:04. I joke about Garmin always being right, but in this case I’m actually using the Garmin time because we didn’t have chips.



19 thoughts on “Christmas Caper 5K Race Report

  1. Missing sub 20 sounds like it sucks…but your prize sounds awesome.

    Posted by Victoria (District Chocoholic) | December 19, 2011, 7:51 AM
  2. Maybe a little less headwind at the end of the run would have helped. Nothing like being tired AND running into the wind. Might as well kick you in the face for good measure. Stupid Mother Nature.

    195 AVG HR?!??! Bonkers!??!

    Sub-20 is going down next time!

    Did you pace that dude in the last picture? It looks like you are making a move.

    Posted by Kevin | December 19, 2011, 8:33 AM
  3. Nice race! Congrats on your PR. Although I really don’t love running on Hain’s Point…it’s always good for a PR.

    Posted by Jessica K (@irun26at8) | December 19, 2011, 10:19 AM
  4. 2nd overall – nice! I bet the standing around for 20 minutes didn’t help either. I think 5Ks are best when you go right from the warm-up to the start line. You definitely have the sub-20 in you – probably by a lot!

    Posted by amy | December 19, 2011, 11:07 AM
  5. What an AWESOME time!!! You will definitely kill that 20:00 time; I agree that 5ks are just pure evil. As proven by your AVERAGE HR of 195!!!!!!! Holy CRAP!! Nice work!

    Posted by Meaghan | December 19, 2011, 11:15 AM
  6. You DEFINITELY have sub-20 in you! Still, congrats on the PR – great job! You will absolutely smash that goal in 2012

    Posted by Melissa | December 19, 2011, 11:37 AM
  7. you are so fast! 🙂 ps i miss you already and colorado says you need to come visit.

    Posted by Lauren | December 19, 2011, 2:46 PM
  8. It sounds like we have similar 5k race strategies, but really, who doesn’t? I’m sure you have that sub-20 in you, just sign up for the next PVTC race at Hains and get it out of the way so it’s not hanging over your head during 2012.

    Posted by Allison | December 19, 2011, 3:09 PM
  9. Argh! So close and yet so far! I think with a bit of a slower start, you’ve got it!

    Posted by Cris | December 19, 2011, 4:50 PM
  10. I agree with everyone, you completely have that 19 in you. Maybe New Years Eve? There’s two area 5ks… I actually asked George to write this week or next week’s newsletter about the art of racing a 5k. It seems like it’s so mental, and you have to go out fast, but how fast????? 🙂

    Posted by Dash | December 19, 2011, 5:00 PM
  11. Congrats on the PR! And I have to agree with everyone else, you totally have it in you to go sub 20:00!

    Posted by Emily (@TriRunner302) | December 19, 2011, 5:33 PM
  12. This is my second race in a row without a chip time, I’m never doing it again. GARMIN IS ALWAYS RIGHT GODDAMMIT.

    Posted by katie | December 19, 2011, 6:19 PM
  13. But what did your garmin say at exactly 3.1? Because that is clearly the REAL official time 🙂 Congrats on the huge PR! .01 is exceptionally annoying, but you’ll get it next time!

    Posted by Beth | December 19, 2011, 6:29 PM
  14. In this case, Garmin is totally right (because we can make the rules when cardboard signs are involved), and holy geeze, 20:01? Whoa.

    You’ll see that 19:xx soon enough, but that is definitely a solid Saturday. Interested to hear about the TRX class… 🙂

    Posted by Heather C | December 20, 2011, 9:24 AM
  15. You were so close and will def. get it next time! Don’t forget that 2nd overall is still AMAZING!

    Posted by Page | December 21, 2011, 12:29 PM


  1. Pingback: Get It, Soldier — TRX and Kettlebells « Speed Laces, Amazing Races - December 20, 2011

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