Akron is where I’m from, so I was especially excited to be able to go “home” for this 2018 series (scored). The 8k was the first of three, followed by a half marathon in August and a full marathon in September.
Having six weeks off from racing, I was able to get some solid training in for this race and felt really prepared. Being an odd distance, I’d only ever raced it once before and it was on a tough cross-country course, so I figured a PR was “in the bag.” But really, I wanted to place well for the series scoring and match my pace from my fastest 5k – 5:55 per mile.
The weather was pretty terrible. An alert was sent out a few days earlier from the race director with an extreme heat advisory. Salt Lake had been pretty hot, even hotter than the weather in Akron and I had been training in the heat so I wasn’t worried, but the humidity would be another matter. I knew the competition would be tough, cranking out much faster times than I was currently ready for, but I planned on at least making her nervous and then nabbing second. Still, you never know who else is going to show up…
Legs felt great, shakeout run the day before felt good, I was confident in a new nutritional strategy I was testing out, and I was ready to feel the burn! I hung out with my dad (who was running the mile as his first race ever) before heading over to the starting area fueled and hydrated.
Eyeing the competition, I kept the nerves down and excitement up. We moved to the top of the starting line and were off. Immediately, I realized it was much harder to breathe than it should have been. I wasn’t starting off too fast, my legs felt like they could keep that pace, but I just couldn’t get any air in my lungs. After about 3/4 of a mile I slid into 5th female and kept my cool, thinking I had 4 miles to catch up to the pack of four leading ladies. However, after mile 2 I felt myself starting to slow dramatically. My legs still felt amazing, I couldn’t turn over fast enough to feel any sort of burn, it was just the air. The heat itself didn’t even bother me. I found myself alone, a few guys coming and going, but no female competitors around. The lead pack was now strung out as I got to see on an out and back, the one favored to win now in second. I pushed with what I could, but again I didn’t feel like I was running hard. It was frustrating. I stayed in 5th and finished well over my goal time, but at least shaved over a minute off my last 8k. After crossing the finish line I swear my legs screamed “Again, again!” My lungs though, were actually sore.
Going from 11% humidity to 85% made much more of a difference than I thought it would. You never really know and understand until you experience it (key in all of my training and racing). I love to travel and race, and weather/environment changes are just part of the game and out of your control. Looking over the top four females’ statistics, they faded in pace at the same rate I did. Take the humidity away, and I’m pretty sure I could have put up a good fight. The heat was a disadvantage for them, because it wasn’t normal, local weather. But I was fine with the heat and I had the elevation drop advantage (4200 ft. to 900 ft.). I also feel confident that my goal time of 29:24 was legitimate – my legs were there. I didn’t run the tangents that well, and I ended up being a tenth over. My average heart rate was 126 and cadence 180. Those numbers should and would have been higher if I could breathe.
My nutrition was a “new” theory I was testing and I think it worked out well, but I’m waiting to check on a few more things before I delve into that bucket.
Time – 31:37
15th of 1781 overall
5th of 1023 females
3rd of 114 in age group
Four days later, I woke up in considerably drier air and got myself out the door for a forty-five minute drive to the start line. I didn’t feel amazing when I woke up, but I figured I’d get it worked out come the 7 a.m. gun time. I got a little turned around trying to park and had to run a mile and a half to the start line – that was my warm up. I felt as ready as I could be and knew that the competition would be tough. I recognized a few, but this race had prize money so that always brings in some others. I purposely did NOT use the nutritional theory from the 8k to continue to gather data.
I tried to stay relaxed, but my shoulders remained tense. I felt like I settled into a reasonable burn within the first few minutes to be able to endure for 6 miles, but it wasn’t good that I felt it so early. The course was relatively flat with a few inclines, but nothing major. The leading ladies began to pull further away as I tried to keep a steady effort. Just before the halfway point, we ran into the 5k walkers (they started at a different place). There were 2,400 of them, and it seemed like we had to weave through every last one. We got a half a mile break from an out and back, but then rejoined them, having to weave around for half the race in total. I was less than thrilled about that, knowing that it definitely slowed my time, possibly robbing me of a PR, but everyone had to do it.
Finishing the race with a headache and feeling sluggish, I headed back to the car thinking things through. From start to finish, I wouldn’t have raced any differently. I didn’t feel properly fueled, which is helpful for me to note. Next week I have a 5k that I will try what I did for the 8k and compare. And THEN maybe I’ll be able tell you more. Besides fueling, it felt like an off day for me. I may have been a little dehydrated, too.
At the end of the day, the results don’t lie. The effort was hard, and that’s what I needed. My time was slow, but part of why I race so often is that I like to test things out. That means having a lot of “less than ideal” racing outcomes.
Time – 38:40
39th of 741 overall
8th of 346 female
1st of 50 in age group