Running in the heat is tough. Racing in the heat is even tougher.
After racing so well in the EBACC 5k in July I set high expectations for myself for my next race, the Quarterback Club 5k. There was an option to race a 10k and I considered it knowing it’d be good for my half marathon training, but I really wanted to see how much faster I could push it in a 5k. I really wanted to break 24 minutes. Secretly I hoped to beat my dad since I only ever beat him in the first 5k we raced together. I made a plan to go out hard and keep him in sight for as long as I could.
The heat and humidity Monday morning made it feel more like July than September. The afternoon temps were expected to broach 90s with a heat index closer to 100. I would guess it was nearing 80 degrees or more at race time. It made me a bit more nervous about racing, but I didn’t let it change my goals. I still planned to go out hard and hold on as long as possible figuring it was only a 5k and if I burned out at least I wouldn’t have far to finish.
The 5k started behind People’s Bank Stadium in York. I believe the 10k started in front of it. A volunteer counted us down until a cannon firing from inside the stadium officially started the race for both distances. I took off much harder at the start than I did at EBACC. My dad was in sight, but I was already pushing it and didn’t want to burn myself out too fast by trying to keep pace with him.
The 5k runners rounded a corner and the 10k runners were coming down the road to join in with us for part of the course. A well known local older runner, Les, caught up to me and passed me but wasn’t running too much harder than I was. Although my dad was still in my sight, I made it a goal to keep Les in my view as well.
The street had a lot of shaded spots thanks to city buildings which was of great benefit. My Garmin clocked my first mile at a 7:19, much faster than I expected. At this point the street started a gentle climb uphill. I had only ever ran the 5k course once in the past and for some reason recalled the hill being much worse than it actually was. I would’ve liked to have pushed the hill harder, but given the heat I kept to my same pace.
At the top of the hill the course turned right to loop around Penn Park. Somewhere along this portion I lost sight of my dad. Todd and another known local runner, John, were running the 10k and approached me from behind. Todd said I was looking good and I told him of my goal to keep Les in sight which he encouraged. Along the back portion of the park I eased up on my pace as the effects of my speedy first mile were taking hold. A water stop was placed conveniently, just before the descent back down the hill began. Normally I don’t take water on a 5k, but with temperatures increasing I took advantage of it. The second mile mark was just past the water stop and my Garmin beeped an 8:01 mile.
The downhill grade felt like a wonderful recovery for my legs. There were many runners walking up the opposite side of the street. Seeing this made me glad that I regularly run routes with tough hills in them. Unfortunately there was no one around me to “race with” so my pace stayed roughly the same. There was a small group a bit behind me and a larger group at least a quarter mile in front of me. I assume Les was part of that bigger group as I did lose sight of him. I passed one guy in the whole downhill stretch.
The part of the course I found most challenging was running over the railroad tracks. I felt like I altered my pace and form in having to watch my footing to not trip. That part was also in broad sunlight which made me exert even more effort. With a little over a half mile to go I was certainly ready to be finished the race and grateful I chose the 5k over the 10k. I saw many 10k runners on the other side of the road, I can only assume their course had an out and back portion to it.
I rounded a corner and a race volunteer was pointing for 5k runners to turn another corner to head back towards the stadium while the 10k runners had to continue up the street. I was glad when I finally saw the stadium and another volunteer directed me into the entrance of the outfield. I crested a small bump then opened up my stride for the descent into the ball field. I swore the music volume increased when I entered the stadium. I heard my dad cheer for me from across the field. It was difficult to gain traction on what felt like packed sand coming around the 3rd base area towards home plate.
I saw the clock approaching 24 minutes and was determined to break it. I crossed the finish line as it showed 23:56 though officially the results said I ran 23:58.
I’d like to say I was surprised I ran that fast given the weather of the day, but I’m not. I felt tough and all the runs I’ve completed this summer in near equally rough temperatures had prepared me well. Deep down I knew I could break 24 minutes no matter what, and I didn’t let the heat convince me otherwise. I was a tad bummed that I couldn’t beat my dad or even keep him in sight longer, but he is a tough cookie. His time was 22:16.
I finished 2nd in my age group and my dad finished 3rd. We received trophies which is always nicer than receiving medals, somehow it just makes it feel like more of an achievement to me.
I have one more race scheduled before the half marathon – the White Rose 5 miler on Sept. 15th. This will be a good challenge for me as it’s probably close to 10 years since I raced a 5 miler (I love the distance but it’s so hard to find races). It will require a bit more strategy than the “Go out hard and hold on” one I utilized on Monday. I’m excited though to see what time I can race it in, and I’m hoping that after tomorrow there will be no more heat waves for the rest of the year to affect my training!