It’s been a while since I’ve raced a 5k. The last time I did a 5k in a race setting was in March of 2014 at the Best Damn Race Orlando! Back then I nailed my previous PR and came in at 33:30- which I was overjoyed with being that it was only my third race EVER. Then I decided to focus on distance running for a bit. I started training for my first 10k and the Tower of Terror 10 miler at Disney. From there, I went into half marathons and sort of focused on obstacle racing for a while, neglecting the road races altogether. Every year when summer comes around I say I’m going to sign up for the summer beach 5k series- but I never do. So this year I made sure to do it! Add to the fact that I’ve always wanted to do this series is that I’m currently working on a ‘project’ with the Sub-30 Club running group called “Get Your PR” project- we all picked a distance (relatively short since it’s summer…1 mile, 5k or 10k) and then we split off into groups of people focusing on that distance and support each other with our training. It’s really helped keep me motivated and focused on my training this summer!
Anyway, when I showed up to Madeira Beach yesterday evening, the parking lot for the race was already full so I parked at the public beach parking a few lots down. I was a little nervous because I didn’t know anyone who would be there. Despite the fact that I’m a pretty social person, I always kind of dislike going to races alone because it seems as if everyone knows each other and I’m kind of just standing around going, “La, la, la, I’m here by myself…”
After I checked in, I texted my boyfriend and did some social media stuff to pass the time. When they announced that we would be starting soon I walked down to the beach with the relatively small crowd (about 200 people) and went to stretch by the start line. Fortunately the sand was pretty packed out from being rained on earlier, so it was a better surface than if it had been loose sand. Finally the announcer asked us to line up at the starting line and one of the volunteers sang the national anthem. After the countdown, we were off and running!
I didn’t really have a race “plan” for this one- I was using this 5k to see where I stood in a race setting and especially on uneven surface. I figured I could use this time as a ‘base’ time and that would be the time to beat for the other two races. On my Garmin I set the pacer to alert me when I went under 10:00 minute miles or over 10:45. That seemed like a reasonable time considering it had been a while since I’d run on sand. I started off feeling pretty good- the first mile was relatively easy and I managed to maintain a 10:20 pace for it. My legs started to cramp a bit in mile 2. The course was an out and back along the beach so we hit the turn around where there was a water station and I stopped briefly to take a sip of water and dump the rest on my head. That mile was 10:40- still within my desired range, but definitely slower than the other two.
When we hit the mile 2 marker I kept telling myself that I only had a mile to go and I’d done this a thousand times before in training. I tried hard to maintain a faster pace (it varied between 9:58-10:15) while I was running that last mile, knowing that I would be able to have a pretty good overall time if I could just stick it out for the last mile. When we got to about 2.6 miles I kicked it in gear. At that point I could clearly see the finish, so I focused on passing landmarks and people until I got to the finish chute, where I ran hard for the final 1/10 of a mile. Right past the finish they had people handing out cold wet towels (thank you lovely people!) and everyone was congregated cheering on those who were coming in. It was a great little race and even though we didn’t get swag or medals I enjoyed the atmosphere immensely!
By the time everyone started to finish the sun was setting so I got a few pictures with it because it was so beautiful. I’m really glad we had great weather for this race! It was gorgeous outside and breezy being so close to the water, so it wasn’t as bad as running in straight heat.
The after party was across the street at Mad Brewing Company at John’s Pass, where they have plenty of shops and bars. I’d been here once before and enjoyed it, but this time I didn’t stay long since I barely knew anyone there. I did meet a nice family that chatted with me a bit while I was wolfing down post race food. This was a very fun event and I’m excited for next months race! Now that I know I came in at 31:08 I’m using that as my time to beat for next time- so bring on the speedwork sessions! Maybe I can get out to the beach runs here in my town to practice- they have one every Tuesday night but lately I’ve worked literally every Tuesday night since summer started.
Side Note: I finally decided on a lighter, speedier shoe model- the Saucony Ride 9. I used those in the race last night (what is it with me and Saucony that I buy them right before a race and then race in them without ever having worn them before??). They worked really well though! Can’t wait to get in some track sessions with them!
Have you ever done a beach race before? Do you like to keep races on your schedule in the off season to keep you motivated?