Saturday, February 6, 2016

2016 Muskrat Run 5K race report

I've always said that 5K is my least favorite race distance, because it's SO HARD. You basically run just under a sprint pace for 3.1 miles, which is pretty torturous ;) My PR was actually really old, because I just don't like the distance enough to race it more often. In December 2012, I ran 25:44, which was my best official race time. In 2013, I ran 3.1 miles in 24:04, but that was a training run, so it doesn't really count for a PR (at least in my eyes).

This year, we've had unbelievably warm weather for the season. I've always wanted to do this Muskrat Run (just for fun), but when the day comes, it's always icy and the paths at the park are covered in snow. A couple of years ago, there was a blizzard during the race! This year, we have exactly ZERO snow on the ground. I've been watching the weather, and decided to go ahead and do this race. Not just run it for fun, but to run my best!

The last 5K I did was the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, and I ran my hardest that day. My finish time was an even 27:00 (the course was short, so I had to adjust my time to reflect that). Today, my goal was 1) to have improved since Thanksgiving; and 2) to hopefully be on track for a 10K PR in April. I was really hoping to hit sub-25:00 today, but I figured I would most likely hit something around 25:30-25:45.

I've been training much differently than ever before, but I had no real idea if it was working. I've been doing most of my running at a very slow, easy pace (about 11:00-11:30/mile). And a couple of times a week, I run short intervals (about 1-4 minutes each). In the past, I've always insisted that tempo runs are the way to go to get faster; and this training plan I've been following doesn't contain much tempo running (there are only two segments in 10 weeks of training, and the longest time at tempo pace is 10 minutes).

I've been doing a ton of reading about 10K training lately, and the thing that stuck out to me the most is this: most people think they want to get faster, but in reality, they probably just need to work on endurance. Most people can run fast for a short distance; but to sustain that pace, you need endurance. To get that endurance, you need to run aerobically, and keep your heart rate low. I've been second-guessing my training constantly, because I'm not doing speed work for more than a couple of minutes at at time. I knew I was capable of running a 7:55-ish pace, but I had no idea for how long I could hold that!

Basically, I felt like I was going into this 5K completely blind, not knowing if I was going to burn out 10 minutes in or if the endurance training I've been doing would carry me through the whole distance.

All of that said, the race was at 11:00 this morning, so I had plenty of time to get ready. I didn't have to wake up early and rush out the door. The race was at the State Park, which is less than 10 minutes away, and it's a small race, so I figured I'd leave at 10:00 to register. The weather was nearly perfect for a run--32 degrees and sunny, but windy (wind chill was 21 degrees). Running in wind is not my forte.

I left my house at 10:00, and was registered and bibbed by 10:20. I probably should have left a little later, but I always like to be early. In all the reading I've been doing lately, I've also started believing in the importance of warming up before a hard run. I've read about the the physiological benefits to a warm-up, including some strides, before a hard effort. So, at around 10:40, I headed out for a jog around the parking lot, throwing in a few strides.

I was super bummed during the warm-up, because that stupid abdominal muscle spasm was back! I tried breathing deeply, holding my abs in (sometimes that helps), forcing my abs outward (again, sometimes it helps), but nothing was working. Right then, I knew the race was not going to go well, if I'd be able to finish at all.

Just before 11:00, we lined up. I'm not sure how many runners there were, but I would guess about 50 or 60. I knew the course very well, considering it was at the State Park that I run frequently, and they happened to throw in the only "hill" we have in about a 20 mile radius, haha. My friend Tammy was behind me at the starting line, so I asked her to take a quick picture.

I was lined up just behind all the guys who looked like they were there to win. I don't like lining up that close to the front, but I don't like getting stuck behind people, either. I just made my best guess as to where to go. When the race started, I realized I chose well. I was passed by about two people right away, but otherwise, I could see I was pretty close to the front of the pack.

I looked at my Garmin after a minute or so, and I was going way too fast--low 7:00's--so I knew I'd better slow down. It didn't seem that fast, because I was basically running with a pack. Since nobody was passing me, and I wasn't passing anyone, it kind of felt like I wasn't going anywhere (my lungs would say otherwise). I just wanted to focus on being steady, so I slowed the pace down to the high 7:00's.

In that first mile, I actually passed a few people when we went up the "hill"! I thought for sure they would be coming up behind me any second on the downhill, and I felt that way the whole race. Running along the water was brutal, because we had a headwind. My heart rate got up over 175, which is when that effort becomes unsustainable for me. I can maintain 174 or lower, but once I hit 175, I can feel basically myself dying.

The first mile was actually sub-8:00! I was surprised by that, but several weeks ago, I'd run a sub-8:00 in training. After that first mile though, I was just waiting for my body to say, "Nope--not today!" and totally crash (in training, I hadn't run more than 10 minutes at a fast pace). The second mile felt better, because the wind wasn't too bad. I shocked myself with another sub-8:00. (Surprisingly, the muscle spasm from earlier never appeared during the race. I am so glad that I took the time to warm up! Otherwise, the spasm would have happened during the race.)

After that, I was really starting to get tired. We had to go along the water a second time, directly into the wind, and the voice in my head was screaming at me to take a walk break. I saw my heart rate was 176, so I made the conscious decision to slow until it reached 174, even though it meant taking the pace slower than 8:00. Mile 3 ended up being 8:05, so not bad at all. Then I kicked it as hard as I could manage, even though I was ready to collapse, for the last tenth of a mile.

I crossed the finish line in 24:51!! A new "official" PR. I was super excited to have hit my "A" goal. My pace was 7:56/mile, just a second slower than I need to run my 10K in April. After the race today, I feel like it's certainly possible to hit my 10K goal. I have two months to train, and build my endurance even more. I'm doing a 4-mile race on February 29, so I'm hoping to run a 7:55 pace for that. If I can do that, I will have another month to tack on another 2 miles at that pace. Difficult, but not impossible.

After crossing the finish line, I sat at a picnic table and just tried to slow my breathing. I had given everything I had, and I honestly feel like it was my best effort--I don't think I could have finished even one second faster than I did. So, I was really happy with the result. I took over two minutes off of my Turkey Trot time!

After calming my breathing for about five minutes, I was about to leave, when I realized I may have placed in my age group. I was curious, so I hung around to wait. They posted the results, and when I checked the board, I was shocked to see MY name as first place in my age group! I was super excited about that, and then the volunteer working there told me that I had also finished as second female overall!

Yes, this was a very small race, but I am still super proud of it. To be the second female to finish was awesome! I waited around for the awards presentation, and I saw that the first female won $100--something to strive for next year? Haha. I never pay attention to the award info on the race registration (because I usually don't win), but I was psyched when they announced that the second place female (me!) would receive a $50 gift certificate to a runner store. (The race itself was $30--would have been $20 if I'd registered early--well worth it.)

Getting my award

The medal was for winning my age group; the gift certificate was for overall.

I have a total runner's high right now. I love the feeling of setting lofty goals and crushing them! I have a lot more confidence in this style of training, too. Looking forward to seeing what happens next :)


  1. You rock!! Congratulations, Katie!!

  2. Now that's an exciting race Katie! Since you've refocused and counted calories it seems you've gotten your groove back. This is your year and its lovely as a reader to follow your journey. Go muskrats!

  3. Way to go, Katie!!! You look wonderful in the pictures and it is great that your hard work is paying off. Congratulations.

  4. Congratulations!!! It is such a great feeling to place, even in the small races (I placed 3rd in my age group for a race of about 40 people). :-) Good luck with the rest of 10K training!

  5. I'm so excited for you! I've been very interested in your "slower" training to build endurance and it seems to be just what you needed! A PR and an age group win - what a great day for you!!

  6. Super Proud of you! So great to see your goals getting crushed! Enjoy the gift card at the store.

  7. That is so awesome Katie, I am so proud of you!!!!!!!!! You are smokin' fast!

    I am trying to get my butt in gear a little... At least I am going through the motions. I keep updating the blog on the break up story (almost caught up to where I blogged in real time now) and I registered for a 5k this month. (A beer 5k with my running club that re-starts up again next week so I will have a reason to leave my house!) I haven't been running at all though so we'll see how this goes! I have been doing planks in my house, primarily because I can do them in my house, and I am up to 2 minutes. That is something. Somewhere to channel the anxiety. Maybe one day I will be fast like you!

    1. I spent some time reading your blog today. It's fascinating. Do you plan to update it beyond November 2015?

  8. Man this was suspenseful Katie! I was reading through the start with anticipation to see if you beat your PR, forcing myself not to skip to the end haha When I read the muscle spasm bit I thought "oh no!", but then it turned out all good in the end.

    You are incredible, congratulations on placing first in your age group & second female overall! What an inspiration - going from overweight & unhappy, to fit & winning. I bet your old self would never believe this would happen.

    Well done :)

  9. Way to go Katie, that is freaking awesome!! I have been taking a similar training approach lately so it was really great to read this race recap. I'm not nearly as fast as you though....! Great job!

  10. Great job!!! I also took two minutes off my Turkey Trot time yesterday and was only 30 seconds behind the 3rd place runner in my age/gender group. I'll take it!

  11. Great job Katie! I learn so much from reading your blog. Congrats on your PR and on placing :)

  12. So proud of you Katie. What a great run. You said you would and YOU DID!!!!

  13. Katie- you absolutely killed it! Seriously, I have loved watching you totally thrive in these past few months!! In you health, exercise, food- everything!

  14. Nice job!!! That's so exciting!

  15. That's awesome! congratulations!!!

  16. Congratulations!! What an accomplishment.

  17. Congrats!
    FYI that abdominal cramp could be an adhesion from your surgery.

    1. Lori, I can't thank you enough for mentioning an adhesion. I didn't even know what that was, so when I got your comment, I looked it up. I am convinced that's what it is! I just sent an email to my plastic surgeon to ask about it. Thank you!

  18. Congratulations!! that hard work is paying off!


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