Sunday, June 12, 2016

Volition America 5k Race Recap!

Finally, the post you've been waiting for all week! My recap of the Volition America 5k...the race I've been talking about PRing for the last three months!

Sit back, kids, it's gonna be a long one!
*But there are pictures!!

I will be 100% completely honest with all of you about this race - I was terrified. I put it out there months ago that I wanted to PR my 5k distance at this race because it was right at the beginning of my training, but as the day approached and I realized I hadn't done any real speed training, I was pretty sure it wasn't going to happen...

...but we'll get to that. First, the other stuff:

Race Details and Organization
The Volition America race series benefits Folds of Honor, a non-for profit that provides assistance and scholarships to the spouses and children of those servicemen and women killed or disabled in the American armed forces.

It's a smaller local race, and I'm glad they had both 5k and half options. The whole race was very well organized, and race day packet pick up is available.

My company picked this race as the finale for our Couch to 5k program since we weren't originally going to fund the Corporate Challenge. And now that I've done both races I can tell you I'm glad we did this one instead. I'm really bummed out that I won't be able to do the half downtown on September 11th, and I fully intend to sign up for the series again next year. 

I highly, highly recommend this race...for the cause, the crowd, organization, and the awesome medals ;) A+ all around!

And finally, here's a quick round up of the course - the half marathon went all around the blue loop, with a few out-and-backs worked in (the blue loop is about 7.7 miles). The 5k (in red) started at the green arrow heading south, at about .1 miles we made a U-turn and looped back past the start to go north for an out-and-back of our own. My Garmin clocked the course slightly long, at 3.25 miles (I counted the full race distance as my 5k time).

Before I go any further...
I never had a chance to post this picture of my C25k ladies. They were so amazing to run and talk with each morning, and I really do miss them on my morning runs. Mary Beth (in green) was the only other one who could make it to the race...Susan (our only new runner when we started) was hosting her daughter's wedding that day! She had a great excuse to miss it :P
NaDonya, Susan, Mary Beth, and myself after our last run!
Now back to the race!

Preparing (or not...)
On top of the lack of speed training, here are the other reasons I didn't think I stood a chance of PRing:
  • The last time I tested my speed was April 21st, at which point I was running with an average pace of 10:15/mile. I had not done any kind of speed training since. To PR, I needed to maintain a 10:00/mile or better.
  • I struggled through an open water swim on Wednesday that really worked my legs (if you missed that post). I was still feeling that swim.
  • I still lifted on Thursday - I dropped the weight for my squats and deadlifts by 20lbs for my first set (dropped it more after that), and my legs were still super sore and fatigued afterwards
  • I had my first brick workout on Friday, 40 minutes of biking followed by 40 minutes of running. By some miracle I actually ran the whole run, but my pace was 11:56/mile.
The only thing I felt good about was that I've been consistently Heart Rate training since February. But part of HR Training is speedwork 1x (or so) a week, and I hadn't been doing that. For real - I had no idea how I would make it through the three (point one) miles on Saturday because of how sore my legs had been for days. I actually woke up at two am worrying about the race.

I did, however, have my standard thin crust pizza with sausage and onion (and a side salad) for dinner the night before. So maybe that helped?

Anyways...I foam rolled Friday morning and evening to get my legs ready, and then again when I woke up at 5am on Saturday. My legs were still tight, my quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors were still sore, and I was still very nervous.
All my rolly tools got some great use on Friday!
Race Morning
I woke up at 5:00, did my thing, and then at 5:45 I left Cam's house to head over to Busse Woods, where the race would be. It was only a 15 minute drive and I'd been there they day before for my brick workout, so I knew exactly which Grove I had to go to because I saw them setting up. I ended up parking about half a mile from the start, and I was glad I had my bike on the back of my car because it meant I was able to ride from my car to the packet pickup, grab my stuff, and then ride back to my car. I ran into a few Zurich people on the way (remember, this was a company sponsored race), so I knew who to look for when I got back.

After I re-mounted my bike on the car, changed my shoes (almost forgot to do that) and got my FlipBelt ready, I grabbed my breakfast - standard pre-race Clif Bar with natural peanut butter - and started eating as I walked. I still had 45 minutes until the 5k started, so a group of us chatted and Mary Beth (from my running group) and I took some selfies. I was so glad she was there because it was a nice little culmination of the program we coached:

How adorable are all of her freckles!?!
While we were standing there, Beth asked what kind of pace I was going to keep for the race. She said something about an easy pace and I laughed (very nervously) and said, "Well...I'm trying to PR. How does a 9:55 min/mile sound?"

She looked at me like I was crazy and then said, "I will keep that pace with you as long as I can!" (Because she's crazy awesome like that!).

We said the pledge and sang the national anthem (actually, we listened to a really cool recording of it), and then watched the half marathoners go off before we lined up for the 5k.

Beth and I made our way to the very front of the pack (because we could, not because we're super was selfish of me, but because I was trying to PR I didn't want to have to dodge around people at the start of the race, I decided they could dodge me! The front worked out for that :P We hung out for the three and a half minutes before they let us go, and then we were off!

The Race
I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty - because I didn't know what a 9:55 pace felt like (ya know, since I've never run one consistently), I started WAY too fast. It takes my Garmin a few seconds to catch up, but after almost two minutes I will still seeing my pace in the 8:xx's, and I knew I had to pull back.

I kept pulling back slightly until I saw a pace I knew I could keep for a while, and I settled into a 9:05 for the first mile. I planned to bank some time because I knew there would be hills during miles two and three. The first and last miles of the course proved to be the 'easiest' (I still felt like dying on the last mile). I won't lie, my legs were sore and ached, and were burning in no time. I've already told you - they'd been overworked for days at this point, and they were tired.

So you know what I thought of? I thought of the Hustle Up the Hancock. I thought to myself, 'This is like the Hustle. It will be hard. You know how hard this is. This is your 120 floors instead of 94. Just keep your legs moving for thirty minutes and when you're done and you stop you'll feel like you're on top of the world again.'

I was right. It was just like the Hustle. I knew from the start that my heart rate would soar the entire time, that my body would hurt and burn for at least half a mile, but that it was not indefinite. The race was 3.1 miles, and I could finish it.

I ticked the first mile off at 9:04. Good. Plenty of time banked. I had a good 55 second buffer for those hills.

The next mile was much harder. There's a bridge that goes over Higgins Road, and I realized I'd be running over it before 1.5 miles, and then back over it before the last mile. That was going to be tough. It's a gradual but steep ascent from ground level on the left, and then a quicker and steeper ascent on the right, and not friendly on a bike or by foot:
The course ran from left to right over this bridge, turned around about half a mile later, then took us back over from right to left.
I came down from the bridge right before I hit 1.5 miles, and my lungs felt like they were spasming. I had a stitch growing in my side, and the impact from coming down the hill made it so bad that I was forced to stop and walk to catch my breath.

I gave myself fifteen seconds to calm my lungs and heart rate a little, and then I picked the pace up again. I had a feeling I would need to repeat this after I passed back over the bridge, so I pushed myself to the turn around, and then back to the bridge, knocking the second mile out in 9:35 as I went.

Just after hitting mile two I was back climbing the bridge and I pushed up, passing a number of people as I went. I feel like I never pass anyone when I run, so this gave me a little mental boost.

However, right as I crested the bridge I felt winded by the stitch again, so I slowed to a walk. This time I only gave myself ten seconds before I picked up again - I didn't want to lose the momentum of the downhill, I wanted to keep banking time, and I knew I was on the last mile.

At this point, I was also pretty sure the course would run long. Right at the end of the bridge there was a sign indicating the last "Mission Mile", and my Garmin said I was already at 2.25 miles. Great. I just hoped my legs had the extra .15 in them:

That's obviously not me :P
I also knew at this point that this one mile was going to be a push and a struggle. I knew the last mile was going to tell me what I was made of, and that I would want to quit and walk the entire thing.

I have a couple "official" photos to share from this race, and two of them were taken at the same point on the out and back. I can't believe I'm going to post such an awful photo of myself...but I am. The photo on the left is from about a half mile into the race, and I'm running pretty strong at my 9:05 pace. The second picture would have been taken about half a mile from the finish...and I was feeling it. All I wanted to do was stop and walk. Enjoy:
I mean...I'm pretty sure it looks like I'm dying in that photo on the right. Right?

I decided to take one more walk break around 2.75. I knew I was nearing the end, but I was so fatigued and knew I had enough time to recuperate slightly with a short walk. I gave myself another 10 seconds, that kicked my pace up for the last half mile (because the course ran long).

As I went, my Garmin ticked off my third mile at 9:30, giving me a negative split from mile 2 (and those hills).

The remainder of the course was flat as a pancake, and I knew it. Busse Woods is my stomping ground...I knew that last half mile, and I knew it was the part of the trail I like most. I just had to keep chugging along and I'd be done in no time. There were two people in front of me and I kept pace with them, trying not to think about how much I wanted to stop and lay down.

Just before the finish there were three volunteers (I'm not sure what branch, active or veteran, etc) in their fatigues waving us over the road to the finish. I barely managed to thank them as I went past - all of my energy was propelling my legs forward towards the timing mat.

And finally I crossed:
Another glamour shot for you :P
I know...I look so relieved to be done.

I stopped my Garmin and looked down:

Not only did I beat my previous PR (31:42)...I completely CRUSHED IT.

Even though I immediately grabbed water and went to sit in the grass, I was so ecstatic. I had signed up for the PR challenge months ago with the intention of using heart rate training to get there, but never "had the time" for speed work. And yet somehow all of the slow running and cross training and lifting got me there.

Even with sore legs and having "failed" at that open water swim days before, I had enough confidence to still attempt this PR, and not give in and let it be an easy run instead.

Running is also a mental game you play with yourself, and I was able to push myself to accept thirty minutes of struggle to accomplish something I really wanted.
How cool is that medal too??
I earned this medal. All 30 minutes and 16 seconds made it so worth it to me to be able to text my friends and family (and post to my various Facebook groups) saying, "I did what I didn't think I could."

I need to start doing more "Official" photos at these things!!
I was in for another surprise as well: It didn't even occur to me until hours later that, because the course ran long, my actual 5k split was lower than 30:16. So I finally looked at the records on my Garmin and it showed that my split was actually...


I ran a sub-30 5k. Like...actually finished 3.1 miles in less than thirty minutes. I mean, I blew past 30 minutes and was barely over 29 minutes! That totally shocks me, because not only was it not on my radar, but I didn't think it was possible (without targeted training) before I did it.

So my next goal?

An official sub-29 5k time.

But that can definitely wait until after the marathon.



  1. Congratulations - just think how you would have done if you'd been rested!

    1. One day I'll find out!! Haha, I have no intentions of trying to PR again after those kinds of workouts. From now on, I shall be well-rested for every attempt at a PR :P