Summer Racing Season Week 5: Race Report from the Sunset Classic 5 Miler

This week was another busy racing week.

I had a cross country race on Tuesday followed by the Sunset Classic 5 Mile on Thursday. Scroll down to Thursday for a mini race report from the 5 mile race.

After last week’s heat wave, I had hoped for some better weather this week. And we did get some reprieve. But the nice days were interspersed with hot ones.

The result was a disappointing couple of races. But it was also a reminder – summer races are for places, not for PRs.

The Plan for the Week

As usual, the plan for the week was to hit 70 miles. With two races on the schedule, I wouldn’t be doing any workouts.

However, I did plan to approach the cross country race as something of a tempo workout in the hopes that I could save a little effort for Thursday night’s five miler.

Here’s the daily breakdown:

  • Sunday: 16 easy miles
  • Monday: 8 easy trail miles
  • Tuesday: 6 easy trail miles in the morning and a 5k XC race in the evening (12 miles total)
  • Wednesday: 6 easy trail miles
  • Thursday: 4 easy trail miles in the morning and a 5 mile race in the evening (11 miles total)
  • Friday: 4 easy trail miles in the morning and 5 easy treadmill miles in the evening
  • Saturday: 8 easy trail miles

And here’s how things worked out.

Sunday: Moving the Long Run Indoors

I wrapped up last week with a ten mile run in the heat and the sun on Saturday. Halfway through, I vowed not to make the same mistake the next day.

So I slept in a little bit on Sunday. When I woke up, it was already around 80 degrees. Instead of braving the last day of the heat wave, I grabbed a bottle of water and my laptop and went downstairs to hop on the treadmill.

My plan called for 16 miles. My treadmill isn’t well calibrated, so I gauge speed based on effort and distance based on time. I typically cover 16 miles in 2:10 to 2:15, so I just planned on running for 2:15.

I recently finished watching Clone Wars, and I’ve been wanting to go back and watch Star Wars: Episodes 2 and 3. So this seemed like a great opportunity. I picked out Star Wars: Episode 2 on Disney+ and got to running.

I started off at a slow, comfortable pace to warm up. I increased the pace over the next 30 minutes until I had settled into a steady pace. My heart rate at that point as a little over 130 – at the bottom end of the easy range.

Over the next hour and a half, it would slowly creep up. One thing I’ve learned about long treadmill runs is that cardiac drift can be worse than it is outside. It’s probably a result of the high humidity and lack of wind. By the time I was done – despite not increasing the pace – my heart rate was up around 150.

The movie wrapped up just as I hit the 2:15 mark. Perfect timing.

Although I much prefer to run long runs outside, I was glad not to be out in the 80 degree heat. It also made recovery a lot easier, and I didn’t feel super drained the rest of the day.

Monday’s Easy Trail Run

Monday morning, I hit the trails for an easy 8 miles.

After the previous week’s heat wave – and a lack of any serious rain – I noticed that the trails were looking especially dry. There are several parts of my regular route that are usually damp and muddy, but they were all bone dry today.

There’s one puddle in a giant tire track that usually hangs around longer than the rest of the water. Even that had dried out.

Just another example of how the trail is constantly changing.

Otherwise, it was an uneventful run.

Tuesday’s Warm Up and XC Race

Monday night, the weather seemed to break. It cooled off, and a storm was brewing. But instead of pouring rain, it ended up just being heavy wind.

When I woke up Tuesday to run, there was evidence of the wind all around. The trails were littered with green leaves, ripped out of the trees.

I ran an easy six miles in the morning, and by the end I felt great. But just as I was leaving the trail, I planted my right foot and something felt off.

It didn’t hurt – but it felt weird. I shrugged it off, feeling like I just landed wrong and tweaked something.

Later, as I left a lunch meeting, my knee felt a little weird while I walked towards the car. It felt better after I drove home, and I kept off my feet the rest of the afternoon.

When it came time to leave for the race, I wasn’t 100% sure if I should run. But I decided to drive down, warm up, and see how my knee felt.

After the hour drive down, things were a bit stiff. But I jogged an easy mile, and it felt better. I picked up my race bib, jogged another two miles, and decided I’d made the right choice. The knee felt fine, although it was a lot hotter than I had anticipated. I was sweating pretty heavily after an easy three mile warm-up.

My plan for the race was to take it easy in the first mile and speed up throughout the race. At first, things went according to plan. I fell in towards the middle of the pack, and I kept my breathing nice and easy.

As we passed the first mile marker, I increased the effort a little. In my mind, we were starting to run at a good clip. I picked up a few paces and passed a few people. We looped passed the start, and I passed up the opportunity to take a cup of water. I later regretted that.

By the time we hit the two mile mark, my mouth was extremely dry. I looked at my watch, and the pace was barely 7:00. I pushed it a little bit in the third mile, passing a couple of people, but I couldn’t really speed up.

My official time was 21:50. Slower than I’d run two weeks before – and my effort at the end was intense. The heat really got to me. I realized at this point that it was ~90F when we started the race.

But after I drank a bottle of water and a beer, I cooled down and felt ok. I ate pizza and hot dogs, chatted with some friends, waited for the awards ceremony, and headed for home.

Wednesday Morning Recovery Run

Tuesday’s race had been a lot harder than I had anticipated. Although my pace was slow, my effort had been pretty high due to the heat. So my focus the next day was on taking it easy and hoping that I’d feel ok for Thursday’s race.

I hit the trails early Wednesday morning and put in 6 easy miles. It was slow, and I felt stiff. I felt a little better towards the end, but my overall pace was about 10:00/mi. Very slow.

On the plus side, my right knee felt fine. Although it held up through the XC race, in the back of my mind I was a little worried that it might manifest into a minor injury of sorts. Luckily, everything felt ok.

Thursday: Race Day!

Thursday morning, I got up and jogged a couple miles on the trails. I just wanted to loosen up a bit before work.

Four miles is nothing, and I was on my way back before I knew it. I glanced at my watch in the final mile, and my pace was ~9:00/mi. Seems like I was recovered and feeling good.

The race wasn’t until 7:30. I had a big breakfast and an early lunch (leftover meatloaf, rice, and carrots), and I left for the race around 6:00. By the time we got parked and walked to the registration area, it was just before 7:00.

I grabbed my bib, hopped in the group photo for the team, and went out for a quick two mile warm-up with a couple teammates. By 7:25, we were at the start. I did some leg swings and a couple strides, and I lined up.

The course starts out with a gentle incline. After a mile, it turns sharply uphill. From there, it’s rolling hills for a bit, followed by a steep decline. After some more gentle rolling hills, the final mile is a gradual decline – the reverse of the start.

At the gun, we took off. My plan was to go out around 6:30, survive the first hill, and try to speed up. I looked at my watch, and I was a little fast. I backed off and settled in to a pace around 6:30/mi. I must have lost a little bit going up the incline, since I split the first mile at 6:35. A little slow, but not bad.

Then, we turned left and went up the hill. It was longer and steeper than I remember. I took it easy and ignored the pace. I got passed by a runner from another local team (SOMA Fox), and I let him go. We passed a water stop, I took a big gulp, and we finally reached the summit.

We turned left, and the course leveled out. I sped up a little bit and settled into the pace. The SOMA Fox was just up ahead, and I was slowly pulling closer. By the end of the second mile, I wasn’t too far behind. I was shocked, though, to see that my split for the mile was 7:00. That hill really slowed me down and sapped my energy.

At this point, we turned left and proceeded back down a steep hill. I opened up my stride and sped down. I passed the SOMA Fox runner and another guy, and when I got to the bottom I determined to settle in to a faster pace. It paid off – the third mile split was 6:38. Kind of back on track, but not really.

The next mile was tough, though. I kept slogging forward, starting to feel worn down. There was a guy in a crimson shirt just ahead, and I paced off him. I didn’t seem to be able to make up any ground, though. Split: 6:56.

The only good news at this point was that we were headed downhill towards the start. A mile to go.

I sped up a little bit. I was slowly getting closer to the crimson shirt. Instead of looking at my watch, I just focused on pulling closer to the people in front of me.

I also heard some big feet clomping behind me. For a half mile, they were there – just behind me. Eventually, I felt someone come up on my left shoulder. I looked over, and it was one of my teammates.

I tried to keep up with him as he passed me, but that only lasted a couple strides. He pulled ahead by a little bit and slowly pulled away.

We passed the start, turned left, and turned right. My pace had picked up to ~6:15/mi – so back on track. But too little, too late.

From here, there was a left turn into the stadium, and another 250m to go to the finish. I found my second wind, and I pressed the pace a little bit. We hit the track, and I opened up my stride.

I was catching up to both the crimson shirt and the teammate who had passed me. As we rounded the last turn, I was so close … and all of a sudden I felt a wave of nausea start to rise.

I knew if I pushed the pace any further, I’d end up puking. And I just didn’t feel like doing that. It wasn’t that important.

I pulled up slightly, and watched the two people ahead of me push on to the end. Two other runners – including another teammate and the SOMA Fox runner I’d passed earlier – passed me just before the finish. I was just happy to finish, grab some water, and let things settle down.

Finish time: 33:50.

Disappointing. I was hoping for 31:00 or 32:00. Didn’t even come close.

I’ll chalk it up to the heat and to that first hill being much steeper than I remembered. It was still ~80F when the race started. But I’m also wondering if the XC race on Tuesday was a bad idea – and if I wore myself out a little bit.

Oh well. Too late now.

The post-race beer, pizza, and wings was still worth it.

Friday: A Recovery Day

I woke Friday, and I just wanted to take it easy.

I had originally planned on doing 7 miles Friday morning and 10 on Saturday. I decided to shift that around a bit – splitting Friday into doubles and shortening Saturday.

I’m glad I did.

I did four easy miles on the trails Friday morning. It started out dreadfully slow. But other than being a little stiff, I felt fine. No pain in my knee or any real soreness. In the final mile, my pace was in the low 9:00’s.

In the evening, I hopped on the treadmill for an easy five miles.

I felt much better at this point. I hit my normal pace, and my breathing and heart rate were under control the entire time.

Saturday: An Easy Trail Run to Round Out the Week

Saturday, I woke up and hit the trails for an easy eight miles on the trail.

The weather had improved since Thursday night’s race, and both yesterday and today were quite comfortable.

In hindsight, I’m glad I cut the 10 miles down to 8 for Saturday morning. I felt ok, but I think there was a little lingering fatigue from the race.

About an hour in – around the 6-7 mile mark – I was ready to be done. My pace was normal, but my legs weren’t feeling it. So I was happy to hit eight miles, stop my watch, and call it a day.

Looking Ahead

This week wasn’t quite what I had hoped.

I had this 5 mile race on my calendar for a long time, and I was hoping I’d hit a decent time. Have something to show for all my training.

Instead, I was reminded that summer weather is a fickle thing. One night this week could have been perfect. But Tuesday was a horrible night for racing, and Thursday was only somewhat better.

Regardless, the racing and the training will pay off in the fall when the weather improves – and as we get closer, I’m getting more and more excited about Chicago.

Next week, there are no races on my calendar. Just some training. The following week, I have a XC race and a mile race coming up.

Check back for the results.

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