Last weekend I decided to run the Heroes to Hero 5k. The race goes to a great cause, and I’ve always wanted to run. Usually, it’s the same weekend as the Runners World Festival but this year, it worked out I was able to do both.
After a busy couple of days at work, I found myself exhausted. I woke up Saturday morning extremely unmotivated. It was spitting rain, and I was tired. My husband was getting over whatever was going around so equally as unmotivated. Together we were two excited to race peas in a pod.
We got to the race around 7:30 am. The race started at 9 am, however, it was a point to point and the last bus left at 8:30. I’ve never done a point to point bused 5k, so I wasn’t sure even how to warm up. Ultimately, I ran 3 miles boarded the bus and got to the start. I can’t say it was my favorite warm-up process, but I made it to the start successfully. Usually, I like to warm up much closer to the beginning and not sit around for another half an hour.
After getting to the start, I talked to several people including our store owner and another staff member. By the time I knew it, we were off.
During the first mile, my body felt stiff from waiting. I didn’t feel bad, but I definitely did not feel good either. The ground was slick, and I just wanted to focus on feeling relaxed. I went to the race to run as fast as I could for the day. I wasn’t sure what that was, but I wanted to give it my full effort for the day. I crossed the first mile in 6:05 which I was pleasantly surprised with. Definitely one of my faster miles recently.
During the second mile, I continued to focus on progressing through the mile. I could see the first place woman ahead, but I didn’t think I would be able to pass her. Around the halfway point, my husband glided by me. While he wasn’t “all out” racing, he was running harder than usual. I hit the second mile in 6:04 and was even more pleased. I couldn’t believe it.
During the third mile, I felt as if I was finally warming up. I never felt bad. However, I felt relaxed. Typically in 5ks, I feel like I’m holding on for dear life during the last mile, however, on Saturday I didn’t feel like that. I wasn’t tired, but I also couldn’t move my legs any faster.
I ran a 6:01 last mile and finished in 18:41 and as second woman overall. I was pleasantly surprised with my time. My huge goal was to progress in the 5k, and I did just that. I was 19 seconds faster than my previous fastest 5k a few weeks ago.
It’s no secret that I love racing 5ks. While I love racing in general, 5ks are the easiest to distance to race hard, recover, and race again next week.
Recently I was asked about tips and strategies of how to race and PR. I can show you what has worked well for me in the past. Keep in mind I’m not a coach or an elite!
During a 5k, you have two options:
Option 1: You blink, and the race is over
Option 2: You take the race out too fast, and it feels like five back to back marathons.
If you’ve run more than one 5k, you’ve probably experienced both situations.
So first why race such a short tactical and precise race?
It’s clear the marathon bug has bit a lot of people. The word “only” becomes associated with half marathons.
“New Runner” has become associated with those training for 5ks. To be honest, despite being short, 5ks are one of the hardest races distances to run well. There is little room for error. Thinking out loud, most any athlete can benefit from adding a few 5ks into their training plan.
Reason 1: The need for speed: 5ks make you feel fast. Longer distances make you feel strong while shorter distances make you feel fast.
5ks are quick and dirty. 5ks are all of a distance “race pain” in a short amount of time.
Reason 2: Easier to Recover From: If you have a terrible race, try again next week: I’ve had a terrible 5ks only to be followed by an awesome 5k the following week.
A few years ago, I raced one of the most mentally challenging and grueling 5ks I’ve ever run. It was slow (for me), my legs were fatigued, and I felt awful. I had high expectations and fell hard. I was devastated.
What did I do? I rested and recovered. The following weekend, I ran an entire 90 seconds faster. Reason 3: Benchmarks: You can mark your progress. Two years ago in my quest to gain speed back, I raced no less than 30 5ks in a year. I was able to track my progress and see small results lead to bigger results.
For some people, myself included, seeing progress is motivating. I like to feel like my hard work is paying off!
Reason 4: 5ks are Fun! It’s one of the few distances you can see a range of people finish. It could be someone’s first 5k or someone going for a PR. Either way, you see a broad range of people from every fitness level!
Tips for Racing 5ks:
These are tips that have helped me throughout the years. I haven’t counted, but I’ve probably run about 100 5ks. They still remain my favorite distance.
Get a good warmup: While I don’t always warm up for longer distances such as a half marathon, I find I need to warm up at least 2-3 miles with a few striders before a 5k. You want that blood pumping.
Pacing: I’ve learned that you have to give a 5k everything you have and then keep giving it more. If you take out a 5k too slow, you can often regret it in the last mile. My goal is always to make it through the middle mile. I remind myself after mile 2, the race is almost over.
Run the Tangents: Okay yeah so .1 doesn’t matter, but realistically it does! A tenth of a mile run in tangents can mean an extra 30-40 seconds. In such a short race, that is even bigger of a deal.
The 5k Hurts: Of course it is easier to finish running a 5k versus a marathon, but it is not easier to race a 5k. The 5k is all of the pain of a half or full marathon in a short amount of time. Look around while you’re running and you will see plenty of other runners, riding the pain train.
The 5k is a rewarding and fun distance. Sure, it’s the shortest to complete but that doesn’t make it the easiest!
I thrive on the excitement of races. While every race is not a PR, I have found I thrive on racing frequently. I also enjoy it. I like meeting new people, pushing myself to the finish line and getting a good workout in. Thinking out loud, I decided to compile a few tips and tricks that help me in any of my races.
How to Race Well:
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT:
I believe that to run a goal race well; you should have a few practice races.
It is good to practice your nutrition, gels, CLOTHING, and pace goals beforehand. Of course, you can do this in a training run, but nothing beats the real deal. I know it took me 30+ 5ks to execute and PR at the Flower Show last year. I highly doubt it takes most people that long.
Remember you’ve been preparing for the race. You’ve put in the work, and all that is left is the actual race.
Good nerves are not a bad thing but don’t let them get the best of you. A while back, I was interviewed on Lindsey Hein’s podcast, I’ll have another. She asked if I got nervous during races and the answer was not really. I race so much that while I do have a few nerves and butterflies, it’s never overwhelming because I’ve been in that situation before!
(Race) Confidence is key!
REMEMBER YOUR TRAINING:
Between racing and training, the majority of time is spent training. Don’t forget about how you’ve prepared for the race. Focus on the good aspects of training. Let’s be honest, a bad run sticks in our head longer than a good one. Try not to forget about the good training runs too! Those are what build your confidence!
Before a major race, I like to scroll through my training log and look at the runs I crushed and felt confident!
I feel a lot better going into a race knowing I crushed goal workouts.
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN:
After the weather in 2016, I learned to toughen up in bad weather. Before 2016, I had never really raced in bad weather. The first five years, I had always lucked out, but very few races ever go smoothly. It’s important to realize there will always be uncontrollables at a race and how you handle them will define your race! This is a lesson I’ve learned with running and life. You cannot control everything.
Uncontrollables can be many things:
the race start is late
the weather is awful
or the course is changed
You can’t control every variable of a race, but you can control how you react. Every racer deals with the same uncontrollables. Remember, every racer is dealing with the same issues and we are all making the best of it!
ENJOY THE RACE:
Every race has both high points and low points. Embrace the good points as much as you complain about the low points. Even in 5ks, you can have amazing moments and moments you want to forget.
REMEMBER THE END PROCESS AND MEETING YOUR GOALS IS WORTH IT.
The week before last I had a bad race at the Philadelphia Half Marathon. While yes, the course was challenging my personal bad race wasn’t because of that. Honestly, it wasn’t my day and these things happen. While it stinks, I race so frequently to let one bad race ruin my day.
After thinking out loud and moving forward, I had a great Turkey Trot last week. Like anything, you must take the good with the bad.
So what can you do after a bad race?
Like the movie, Frozen, let it go…
Find the Positives:
When I finished the Philadelphia half marathon, the first thing I thought was: Wow I felt awful, but I’m injury free. The entire race was miserable, my mental spot was not great but I finished healthy. After cooling down, I headed to my car and went to work. I still had a great day and the 87+ minutes of unenjoyment were only a small fraction of my day.
The entire race was miserable, my mental attitude was not great but I finished the race healthy. After cooling down, I headed to my car and went to work. I still had a great day and the 87+ minutes of morning unenjoyment was only a small fraction of my day.
It’s important to look at the positives of your race. Did you finish healthy and injury free? Was it faster than last year? Could you smile afterwards and have a good day?
Next, Reflect and Figure out Why:
Immediately after Philadelphia, I chalked it up to being “a bad race”. Even if my training log, I said I didn’t have a reason of why the race went poorly. Now that I’ve sat back and reflected, I know there are plenty of reasons Philadelphia was not a great race for me. I hadn’t eaten well, slept well and my body was adjusting to new workouts. Not to mention the course itself was a tough course. None are excuses but they all contribute to why my race didn’t go well. Reflecting back and having a few answers is better than, “it just didn’t”.
It gives you ways and reasons to improve. You can make adjustments to your training, nutrition or sleep patterns.
Most Importantly: Recover and Set New Goals:
After running a bad race, it’s important to take time to recover. Even though the race didn’t go well, don’t go crazy. Take time to recover and relax. Set your sights on a new race or goal.
Maybe a marathon burnt you out…
Or maybe you want to run longer races…
Find something to get excited and refocused about!
For me personally, while there were plenty of half marathons sooner, I decided to wait a few weeks and still focus on Dallas half. Instead of needing redemption, it’s important to wait and get full recovery.
I am beginning to think you should avoid racing with me if you want to run in good race conditions. You can’t control the weather, and these are just the situations I’m handed. Do I wish the weather was better? Of course!
Since March wasn’t the end of my bad weather streak, I decided to revisit the topic and think about more methods. To be honest, racing in bad weather is best covered by being prepared with the right clothing and layers.
Before the race: Have throw away clothing or trash bags. The goal is to keep yourself as dry as possible before the race. Trash bags are great because they keep you dry and are inexpensive!
Trash bag your shoes and your entire self. This year, at Broad Street, several people passed me at the end still wearing their trash bags.
Wear form fitting clothing and avoid cotton.The more tightly fitting the clothing, the less it’s going to chafe, rub and become a wet soggy mess.
Thin socks: This is a must. The goal is to keep your feet as dry as possible. Thicker socks can retain more water like a sponge. There are a lot of thin socks, but my favorite is the low cut CEP compression because they hug your feet and provide support as well as compression.
In all of the races I’ve done this year, I haven’t gotten any blisters because I wore thin noncotton socks.
Hats: Before this spring I never ran in hats. They never stayed on my head. This year I’ve found hats keep the rain off my face. I like my logo Headsweats hat from work.
While I don’t race with a phone, I know many racers do. Put your phone in a Ziploc bag to make sure it doesn’t get water damage. About a month ago, I got caught in a downpour, and my phone was toast (luckily I had insurance).
The problem with races along the shore can be the wind. Races along the coast are typically flat, but you never know if you’ll face a headwind!
Run with a Pack: Running with a pack of people isn’t always possible, but it makes running a lot easier both mentally and physically. You can remind yourself; you aren’t facing the wind alone. During Shamrock this year, I got caught in a 2 mile stretch of headwind alone. It was miserable.
Turn your head to the side to breathe. If you’re running through a headwind, turning your head to the side to breath makes it a lot easier. I didn’t know that until this year!
Running into a headwind will cost you both time and energy. It’s not a reflection of your fitness level and don’t worry too much (easier said than done).
Invest in a good piece of wind resistant clothing. The wind can be piercing and chill you to the bone. Many companies make a light windbreaker that will keep you warm.
While the cooler months are coming, heat is definitely something to deal still with. The fact that it is 70 degrees is one clue!
If you want to follow in Rupp’s footsteps than try putting ice in your hat. For the rest of us staying hydrated is usually critical.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration: Even if you don’t feel like you’re thirsty, it’s important to hydrate before, during and after a race. When I know the temperatures are hotter than I’m used too, I take Gatorade and water at every water stop in distances above 10k.
Less is More: I’m not saying run naked at a family friendly 5k, but dress for the conditions. If it’s hotter than you are used to, wear a tank top or shorts. Body glide and antichaffing cream will become your best friends, (If we ever race together, believe me, I have a tube in my car you can borrow).
Sunglasses: Generally heat brings out the sun too. Find a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes.
I’m not getting paid to promote any of these pieces of clothing/items, but they are items I’ve had success with:
I like the low cut socks because I can use compression sleeves as well. My shoe size and calf size are different, so the high socks won’t fit my feet and calves. The socks themselves are thin, and if they do get wet, they won’t weigh you down.
I’ve raced in these in all conditions and never chafed. They are long enough that my thighs don’t rub together but short enough that I don’t overheat. Plus they have pockets. They also don’t become see-through in the rain.
This is the hat I own, and you can get it logo’ed to whatever you like or need. Should I get FueledbyLOLZ team hats (just kidding)?
Sunglasses: The Tailwind from Nike stay on my face. I have a round shaped head so finding sunglasses can be tough.
As I said last time, The best piece of advice for any racing is to stay positive. At the end of the day, you can’t control the weather. You have to make the best of the situation, and if you’re able to think positively, you’ll be able to stay positive throughout the race.
I wasn’t positive during Shamrock half marathon, and I truly believe that is what caused me not to race well. I maintained positive for the rest of the races and dressed appropriately. Now I shrug off weather and just think: “other racers are dealing with the same conditions.”