Race Recap(s): The 5K Triad

Sometime last month, I decided it was time to get real serious about my running again.  I had run a 5K in early May that was less than satisfactory in the time department, so I knew it was time to take my training more seriously to regain the speed (“speed”) and fitness I had lost from over a year ago.

I motivate myself by racing. Now, I will (likely) never win a medal in a road race, but something about pinning on a bib and taking in the excitement of a race is enough to get a performance boost out of me in most circumstances. With adequate time to train, I tend to do better in race situations than I do in any other type of run. I credit the adrenaline and my competitive side (my 5K PR was in a Thanksgiving race in which I wanted to beat my sister, for what it’s worth). 

So, I emptied the race flyers from my previous race packet and decided to sign up for as many races as I could in the foreseeable future. It turned out that the two local runs that made the most sense happened to occur within four days of each other.

I signed up for my town’s annual Sunburst 5K, which is one of just four races (marathon, half, 10K, 5K) held on the first Saturday in June. With just two weeks between my decision to sign up and the race, I opted for the 5K to keep the distance manageable. That same day, I also registered for Fleet Feet’s Big Run for Global Running Day, which would be on the following Wednesday.

Already I was feeling a little foolish for registering for two races back-to-back. Sure, I was confident in my ability to run 3 miles, but being a bit out of shape added an interesting wrinkle. So of course I decided to make it a trio when I made another last-minute decision and ran in a charity 5K at a work convention in Orlando (the CoSIDA/NACDA 5K Run/Walk, yes I am a professional nerd) within the week following my second race. 

Because I’m smart like that.

Given my recent lack of any running whatsoever, I was a little trepidatious about what seemed like a massive undertaking. After all, my 5K time on May 6 was 33:20, which is a good three minutes off my PR. But if it would jump-start me back into a commitment to running, I was willing to give it a shot.

And guess what? It did.

Sunburst 5K | June 3, 2017 | Chip Time: 32:22.08

This race turned out to be a lot warmer than what I bargained for, but the sheer size of the turnout was enough to get me excited to run it. 

The Sunburst races start in order from longest race to shortest, so the marathon and half marathon take off first, at 6 a.m. Then it’s the 10K, followed by the 5K at 9 a.m. As a local, though, this sequencing made getting to the start line for the last race a little difficult because I needed to navigate around the marathon route to get there. Luckily I anticipated this and gave myself almost an hour to arrive, find parking, and use the restroom.

This is easily the biggest race I’ve been a part of (which is really not saying much), so it was nice to have a ton of people around throughout the length of the course. A lot of times I’ll find myself running alone for the last one or two miles, so to have plenty of people of all abilities around was especially motivating.

My downfall in this race was a massive hill at mile 2.3. Combined with the heat, this was a killer hurdle, and I ended up walking up most of the hill. From there I was really just trying to hold on.

Traditionally this race ends on the 50-yard line of Notre Dame Stadium, but with construction around the stadium it’s been moved elsewhere on campus for the past two or three years. As an ND employee, the campus isn’t exactly novel to me, but it would have been pretty cool to run down the tunnel to finish that race. Maybe next year?

The best part about this race, though, was the popsicles available at the finish corral. I have never seen that at a race before and I gave it an A+.

Because it was a point-to-point race, I wrapped up the morning by walking the 3+ miles back to the car. It was beautiful out, so I had no problem getting in the extra steps. I briefly considered running back, but the heat and my legs precluded that.

The Big Run | June 7, 2017 | Chip Time: 31:35.0

Now we’re making progress. By this time I had decided on running the Chicago Half Marathon (I literally registered 10 minutes before driving to the start of this race), so this was officially my second training run for the half. This was an afternoon race to celebrate Global Running Day, and it was a nice little local turnout. The race wound along the Riverwalk in town, which is becoming a new favorite running spot after running the Cinco de Miles 5K along a similar route in May. 

The weather was perfect, and I was happy not to battle the heat this day. There were also no major hills to battle, so that helped as well. I stopped to walk just once and managed to out-kick a couple of fellow racers I was keeping my eye on throughout the race. 

This race also ended with a popsicle and I snagged some free Gu’s from a table near the finish. I plan on testing these out once I get deeper into my half marathon training. 

CoSIDA/NACDA 5K | June 13, 2017 | Chip Time: 30:52.55

I have the least amount of faith in the length of this course, but given the sweltering humidity of Orlando, Florida, in June, I’ll take the time. I actually came up with 31:04 on MapMyRun, so I’ll gladly take this chip result, which is just 30 seconds off my PR.

This race began at 6:30 a.m., which was a bit of a struggle (I didn’t sleep a lot during this convention last week), and the early hour does little to combat the humidity. However, I ran this same race — on the on-site golf course at the Marriott World Center where the convention took place — two years ago and know it wasn’t nearly as unbearable this year as it was in 2015. Still, I was drenched by the end of it and really just glad I didn’t run into any alligators (highly unlikely).

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I’m now into my third week of half marathon training and happy to settle into a regular training schedule. These three races were fun to have on the schedule as a great kick in the butt, but now it’s time to shift gears and focus on adding distance each week. I don’t currently have another race lined up, but may squeeze in a 10K sometime this summer as a supplement to my plan. 

I will always love the 5K. It’s where I started and likely where I will always come back to. It’s a stern mistress, though. I don’t pretend to be fast, but that sub-30 race is calling my name and I really want to get there soon. It’s the one race where I can conceivably set a time goal and not feel foolish. I have a feeling if I take this half training seriously, which I have so far, I can get there by September. It’s OK to have more than one goal.

Have you ever run back-to-back races? How far apart were they?

What’s your goal race? Do you go for time or distance?

Do you go by chip or watch time?
I’m just saying, the chip time is the official time so….