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New Year, Cold Day 5K

In 2017, there existed a young (well, maybe middle-aged) woman with stars in her eyes, eager to approach the new year with dreams of breaking 20 minutes in the 5K. With hope in her heart and speed in her legs, she eagerly anticipated the first day of 2018 when she would say "goodbye 20:17"-- both the year, and her 5K PR.

She would pace it perfectly. The first mile (uphill) would clock in at precisely 6:37, and from there, she would cruise downhill for the rest of the race at a pace of 6:20. Completely feasible for someone who just ran a 6:44 pace for a 3-mile tempo, and didn't even push that hard to do it. And definitely possible for someone who just ran 5 miles on a track at an average pace of 6:54, feeling like she could have run harder. She was primed for 5K excellence! While it wouldn't be easy, this middle-aged young woman was determined to give the race absolutely everything she had, glide across the finish line in 19:59, and then bake herself a PR cake.

Me and the finisher's blanket!
But then the reality of 2018 sunk in. January 1st arrived, windy and bitterly cold, with near record-breaking low temperatures. Despite these brutally harsh conditions, the young woman refused to back down on her goal of saying goodbye to 20:17 and PRing her 5K. She arrived at the race an hour before the start to pick up her bib and warmup, with her loving husband at her side. Prince Charming actually retrieved bibs for the both of them while the young woman waited in the comfort of the heated car. Once their bibs were affixed to their shirts, it was time to exit the car and warm up.

But suddenly, the young woman looked down and read the name on her bib. This bib did not belong to her! The volunteers had handed Prince Charming the wrong bibs. So the loving husband went back out in the sub-freezing cold and wind to retrieve the correct bibs.

Once everything was in order, it was time to warm up. They ventured out into the 11-degree weather, the young woman wearing an extra jacket over her race attire. They warmed up on the course, which they had scouted out the day before, just to get the lay of the land. After all, when every second counts, it's critical to know where the tangents are and get a sense of the elevation profile. The young woman had been warned by her coach, with whom she had shared the elevation profile, that this wasn't necessarily a PR course. And perhaps she could find another 5K later in the winter that had a flatter profile. But the young woman was still determined to go for it on this New Year's Day, in the cold, wind, and hills.

The 11-degree temperature wasn't so bad when running in the sunlight with the wind at their backs. But the young woman and her husband had a rude awakening during the warm up to discover that the first half mile of the course was shaded, into a headwind, and up a sizable hill.

And finally. . . it was time to start the actual race. Telling herself that she could endure anything for 20 minutes, the young woman approached the start line with all the confidence in the world. Here is her race report:

Mile 1
It wasn't a surprise that the first mile was uphill, into a headwind, with a "feels like" 1 degree temperature in the shade. I intended to run up the hill at a strong effort, but without killing myself completely. I didn't look at my Garmin as I climbed the hill, which was only about 1/3 of a mile long. But it was relatively steep. By the time I reached the top of the hill, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me (literally) and I welcomed the downhill tailwind portion that ensued.

I glanced at the Garmin and up until that point, I had run a pace of 6:55. Not exactly what I wanted, but the mile wasn't over and so if I kept pushing, I could still make up enough time to bring that down. My Garmin beeped but I didn't hear it because the Forerunner 630 is much quieter than the 220 I am used to. And I didn't feel the pulse on my arm because the Garmin was over two layers of clothing. Afterwards, I learned that I ran the first mile in 6:52.

Speaking of wardrobe, here's what I wore, from bottom top top:

  • Mizuno Wave Sayonara shoes
  • Smart Wool socks
  • CW-X Insulator compression tights
  • Moving comfort underwear
  • Sports Bra
  • Compression arm sleeves
  • Mizuno mid-weight half zip top
  • Gloves
  • Mittens
  • "Little Hotties" hand warmers between the gloves and mittens
  • Ear warmers
  • Sunglasses
So essentially I only had one mid-weight layer on my core, which I kept most of the way un-zipped. When it's windy, I find that my arms get extraordinarily cold, so that was the reason for the arm sleeves. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't change anything about my outfit. I was obviously very cold running into the headwind in the shade, but for the tailwind sunlight portions, I was comfortable.

Mile 2:
I didn't look at my Garmin much during this race because I needed to pay close attention to icy spots and also running the tangents. But by mile 2 I felt recovered from the torture that was mile 1 and ready to run two very fast miles. And things were going well! I was cruising right along, enjoying the tailwind and the downhills and the sunshine. I put out a strong effort, and ended up running a 6:24 mile. I was pleased with this, and figured I could still PR if I ran another mile at that pace, although sub-20 was probably out.

Mile 3:
The goal here was to maintain my 6:24 pace. I felt like I could keep that effort level up for an entire mile. But the bad news was that the course went uphill again, and the last 0.4 mile was directly into a headwind. I felt like I was running at my absolute max. It felt like I was putting out a sub 6:20 pace. But after awhile I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that I had slowed down significantly. It was crazy that just one week ago I ran a 3-mile tempo at a pace of 6:44 and I wasn't pushing all that hard. And now, a 6:44 pace was the absolute hardest I could run. I logged a 6:41 for that final mile.

The finish
I still had little ways to go before the finish and at this point I knew that my goals were not happening. I still pushed hard to to the finish, but I didn't have my typical spirited kick. I gave up a
Post race: Trying to get my hands un-numb
little bit during that last part but I'm okay with that. My pace for the last 0.18 was 6:57. Uphill. Headwind. Real Feel of like 1 degree.

When I had mapped out the course using "map my run" it gave me a distance of 3.15. So I wasn't surprised that the course was long. Afterwards, Greg and my other friends who had ran the course reported that their Garmins read abnormally long for a 5K. The course was not actually USTAF certified, and it was the "backwards" version of the standard course run in that area, so the cones could have prevented runners from hitting the tangents. But in any event, I don't really care about the course being long because I wasn't going to PR anyway. It just means I got to extend the workout!

Final Thoughts and Takeaways:
I'll admit it was probably too ambitious of me to think that I could PR in these weather conditions and on this course. 12ish degrees with 10-15 mph winds is not a recipe for a first-time sub-20. But I wanted to at least give myself the opportunity because I truly believe my fitness is there. I've run some really strong workouts over the past few week with paces that indicate a sub-20 is within my reach. I just need a good certified course and favorable weather.

The positive:
  • This was a good VO2 Max workout for the upcoming Houston Half marathon
  • It was fun to see my running friends including Cheryl, Cristina, and Rochelle
  • I did push really hard, and I know that I couldn't have run any faster, except for maybe the last 1/4 mile
  • I won first place in my age group and was the 4th overall female finisher
  • Greg ran a 20:18, which is a super cool way to start 2018
  • I tried to be smart with my approach by scouting out the course the day before and having a pacing strategy
The not-so positive:
  • I lost my mental toughness with about 1/4 mile to go, running a 6:57 pace to the finish line
  • I ran much slower than I expected to-- this is one of my slowest 5Ks in the past year
  • My official race time was 21:13 (6:50 pace) even though my Garmin pace was 6:40.
  • I tapered for this race which meant I lost the opportunity to do a long run prior to the Houston half in two weeks
  • The weather is going to be even colder than this for the next 5 days, which means I will have to either train on a treadmill (not fun) or be ridiculously uncomfortable while running (also not fun) 
  • No photos for the blog or Instagram- photos don't happen when it's a "real feel" of 1 degree.
At least the temperature for this race was in the double-digits. We're looking at single-digit temperatures in the mornings for the upcoming week, and if I run outside, I'll have to be very careful about icy patches, with only my headlamp as a light source. So, that's all kind of depressing. I love running and it brings joy to my life. It doesn't exactly bring joy to my life when it's like this.

And so the young woman, feeling mildly defeated by the day's events, proceeded on to the rest of 2018 with-- still with stars in her eyes, and hoping this will be the year of the sub-20 5K. After all, Prince Charming ran a 20:18 on the first day of 2018, so this year was bound to be magical.

This post first appeared on Racing Stripes-- A Running, please read the originial post: here

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New Year, Cold Day 5K


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