Holy heart rate!

Last night I raced a smallish 5k as part of a Catholic church summer picnic. The forecast had been for the mid-90s and I had asked coach for advice earlier in the week. This wasn’t a key race, it was really just a more fun way to get in my speedwork for the week. So the plan was to work up to 85% max HR and then assess as the race went on as to how much more I could give.

Around lunchtime, the National Weather Service issued an advisory, stating that it would be very hot and humid with heat indices reaching 98 to 104 degrees. The advisory said, “limit time outside.” Whoops!

There was some discussion between me and coach about the pros and cons of running this race. His opinion was that it would be tough, but the recovery would still be minimal, and that it would hopefully serve as a confidence-builder when racing in less-than-ideal conditions next time.

Around 3 p.m. I had a chocolate chip Hammer Bar to make sure I had enough energy for the rest of the day.

Teaching in my race kit.

First, though, I had to teach Pilates strength. My husband was going to run the race and then decided against it, so he met me at the gym before heading out to run 400s at a nearby track then swim. I told the class I wasn’t going to do all the reps because of the race, but then I pretty much did everything anyway. I even taught in my race outfit, which made for an unusual look.

I left immediately after class and headed to the race, about 10 minutes away. My class was 5:30-6:15 and the race was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. I was pre-registered and the race director said I didn’t even need to wear a bib … so I didn’t. He also rattled off a list of girls who were running — he made it through four women I knew I could beat, then named one I was pretty sure I couldn’t. My primary race plan was to go by heart rate and race for place, not time. I was guessing I’d run around 20 minutes.

There were a ton of people I knew there — surprising for a random Thursday night 5k in the heat — so I chatted plenty and got in an easy 1.3 mile warm up. Shorter than normal but we were hoping to minimize it. Plus, I was pretty loose from Pilates.

Weather conditions at the start were about 98* with 18 mph winds and 28 mph gusts. My friend Matt said he would pace me if I was shooting for 20, so that was fine by me. I went out a little too fast — 6:17 — and my HR spiked up to the mid-170s right away. I tried to ease off but despite my HR being high, I felt pretty good. Another woman was hanging off my shoulder. We’ve raced each other many times over the years and she has a predictable race strategy. She is also a very noisy runner — feet and breathing. And kept barking at kids to get out of the way, and yelled at a car, and just way more drama than was necessary.

Matt and another guy, Mike, and I were running in a pack through about halfway. We hit the only water stop — tiny shot glass cups, very strange — and we started to string out. Mike pulled ahead the most, and then Matt pulled ahead of me but at a nice distance that gave me something to focus on. I began to pull away from Roberta, which helped save my sanity.

Once we hit the 2 mile marker, I knew I was going to be okay. I split 6:31 on the second mile, so slowed down but not a complete disaster. I felt loose and open, and still, despite being hot and having my HR in the 180s by this point, I felt okay. The pace felt slow but my HR was so high I didn’t want to push much more.

The last mile was about the same, 6:31. Matt was maybe 10-15 meters ahead of me and over the last half mile and increasingly as we got closer to the finish, he’d turn his head and give me a little encouragement. For the last .16 I averaged 5:33 pace, so there was still a little kick in there!

Trophy time.

There was also not a clearly-marked finish line — apparently it was at the end of the tent, but I assumed it was at the clock, so I ran a little extra. I stopped my watch at 20:12 for 3.16, so without my bonus I was probably right around 20. I finished second female overall as expected, losing by about a minute. (Taryn beat me by 2 minutes at the 10k this spring, so it makes sense to me.)

After a 2 mile cool-down, I had chocolate Hammer Nutrition Recoverite. (And then a beer.)

The oddball part of the course was that we started on a side road that feeds into the church parking lot, then you run into the parking lot, through a tent, then turn left and keep going through the lot. Otherwise it was a well-marked course, open but not much traffic. It was the kind of neighborhood loop I’d happily run if I lived there. (Saving it, because we’ve looked at houses in that neighborhood!)

Lessons learned:

  • 98* heat index + 18 mph winds/28 mph gusts would not be what I call “ideal conditions.”
  • Apparently I can run 3 miles with HR at 180, which begs the question “what the heck is my max, anyway?”
  • The next time the temps are in the 70s as I finish a marathon, I will remember this (coach was right).
  • Hips and stride felt open – like I was getting some extension both forward and back. Less running warmup BUT 45 minutes of Pilates first including some lunges, curtsey lunges, squats, etc.
  • Catholic church festival 5ks at night = beer tents.