A Return to Racing and the Way Ahead

Apart from a last-minute, ill-advised marathon last February, just three and a half months after my third baby was born, the NOVA 5k was my first race in 18 months.

An extremely low-key Tuesday night rust-buster type race, this 5k was the ideal comeback. Plus, it was hosted by NOVA, the club I used to run with while living in northern Virginia. My husband had a work trip to DC for a few days, so the kids and I tagged along to play tourist and take advantage of the free hotel room; perfect conditions for me to stage a comeback! I have been desperate to start racing again, but races are few and far between in the hot North Carolina summer, so I was very excited to take advantage of the opportunity!

First, just to give you an idea of how training has been, I’ll give you a quick training log. There was lots going on this week: a big jump in mileage (85!), my first race back, and some finalization of race plans for this fall! I was able to get in higher mileage because I did a double on one already-long day to start the week, and finished the week with my first actual long run for this training cycle.

Here’s how the week shook out:

Sunday: 1:46 total- 35 mins to the pool, 35 mins aqua jog, 35 mins home. Really like what I call a “runner’s brick” workout, and will continue it every Sunday I can while the pool stays open. 31 minutes in Weymouth Woods later that afternoon.

Monday: 1:09 mostly on the grass high school cross country course with 15 minutes of strides thrown in.

Tuesday: 16 min shake out run in the am. 6:30 pm race that included a 24 min warm up, 5K in 18:17, 30 min cool down. Read on below for more!

Wednesday: 45 mins easy in the am, 31 mins aqua jog in the afternoon.

Thursday: 60 mins at a decent pace.

Friday: 62 mins total; 30 mins with the triple stroller, 25 minute fartlek on the football field (running hard on the lengths, easy widths), then seven minutes home with the triple home. Started this run mid-morning because we got back from DC really late and it took awhile to get everything together in the morning. It was so ridiculously hot and humid as soon as I stopped running hard and jogged over to get my kids back in the stroller, I had to stop and pull down my shorts to pee in the middle of the field. They thought that was funny.

Saturday: 2.5 hours total! 10 minutes solo to my friend Jen’s house. Hitched a ride and 20 minutes later started running again with a mixed group for the next hour. Peeled off from them, improv tempo as I tried to lose the dog chasing me, and headed to the track, where I did 8 x 200 @ 39/40 w/ 200 jog recovery. Ran home, and finished with some strides. I’ll go into more details about this in a different log, but I prefer to do “mixers” in some of my long runs rather than just going out for a straight run.

And now the race!

I caught up with my coach beforehand, who introduced me to another one of his athletes. She also runs for the Georgetown Running Club, so it was cool to meet a teammate! Coach billed this as a matchup between a miler and marathoner. I told him he was being kind because I knew he really wanted to say it was a matchup between the young and old! Anyway, he said since neither of us had any idea of what to expect for my fitness, we should go out together so she could pace me.

After the gun I let her set the pace as planned. We were supposed to be running 5:55, but since it felt harder than it should have I was in disbelief when we came through the first mile right on target. I was a little worried by how uncomfortable the pace felt. At the turnaround (it was an out and back), I decided to take the lead and broke away. I knew this was my only chance if it came down to a sprint finish. I pushed it and didn’t look back, and ended up slightly negative splitting to average 5:53 and finish first in 18:17.

Lessons learned:

I’m about where I thought I’d be. I have a great base, but am completely out of race shape. And to get back into race shape, I need to race.

I also probably need to do more quality each week, either adding another workout, making one workout longer, or making it harder. It’s somewhat hard to do training solo, which is another reason I like racing: it forces me to work hard, and even if I don’t race all out, I still run faster than I would by myself.

I also realized I didn’t warm up enough. The amount of time was fine, and I sure was sweating in the heat and humidity, but I didn’t run my warm up fast enough. That’s part of the reason the first mile felt so hard from the get go.

And Going Forward…

But now at least I have some races to look forward to! I decided to run the Richmond Marathon in November, which gives me 12 weeks to prepare. Why Richmond? Ultimately, it came down to logistics. There are so many great marathons in the fall, but Richmond is within driving distance, I have a place to stay and friends and family in the area to watch the kids if needed. Picking a November marathon instead of one of the many October ones also gives me a full traditional training cycle to get into race shape. Plus, I’ve heard great things about this race, so I’m looking forward to experiencing it firsthand!

Other big races I have committed to on my road to Richmond: the VA 10 Miler in September and the Army 10 Miler in October. I’d like to fill in with other 5Ks/10Ks as much as I can, but don’t have any scheduled yet. Look forward to several upcoming race reports!

Do you schedule races to get back into shape on the way to a big goal?

I have fun trying to sprint, enjoy long runs in the mountains, and everything in between. Former competitive runner (3 x marathon OTQ & trail marathon national champion) currently working through a lingering injury. I write about trying to stay competitive while raising young kids and moving into a new post-competitive stage.

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  1. Congrats on the win and getting back into racing! I’m excited to follow your training for Richmond and the other races along the way. I’m definitely picking races for the fall as workouts while trying to get back into shape- learning to push again is the goal!

  2. A Tuesday night race where you don’t know a lot of people sounds like the best rust-buster scenario! Do you do strides before racing? (I am certain you do, interested in what your w/u looks like.) I find if I don’t do a bunch of strides and try to kick my HR up, that first mile is either terrifying or just slow. My body is like WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

    I’ve heard great things about Richmond, too! Looking forward to reading more of your training and races heading into it!

    1. I did 2 half-hearted strides before this race. Ha! I know I need to do more, or ideally I run the last few minutes of my warm up hard. It takes me a long time to warm up… but it was just so warm temperature wise, I didn’t have the energy to do what I know I need to !

  3. Congratulations on the win! I agree it’s so hard to do a really hard-effort solo workout (which is why I loathe time trials). Good luck at Richmond – I think you might be racing Pesto there!
    I’ve totally stolen the pool-running ‘brick’ workout, by the way – it’s a great one to do especially in sticky summer weather. And I just go in my old tri gear and run home straight out of the pool – no changing required… 🙂