Monday, July 25, 2016

Crystal City Twilighter 5K Sweat-fest

It's summertime, and the living's easy...in the air conditioning, but not outside. It's ghastly hot outside just about everywhere. If you live where it's not melt-your-eyeballs hot, then lucky you - count your blessings. Here in the DC area, it's been pretty uncomfortable for a few weeks. For this reason, I've been running less, unfortunately. But I was scheduled for the Pacers Crystal City Twilighter 5K this past Saturday night. Back when I registered, I had hoped to race this one as part of my Mexico City Marathon training. Well, the "feels like" temperature at the start of the race was 99F degrees. And it was dark. You'd think that running in the dark would feel better than running in the sun, but I'm not so sure. The one benefit of the sun is that it burns off some of the moisture in the air. Therefore, running in the dark can me more humid...and it was.

But I drove myself to the race, parking where I park for work. The course would turn a corner just by my office building, so it was convenient and I know the area well. I ran this race only once before, in 2009, and I remember it not only being muggy, but it actually rained that day. People have said that it's either too hot or it storms every year for this race. Oh well, here I was ready to run it.

Pre-race: still looking fresh before the sun went down and the humidity went up

I made sure to hydrate and fuel properly knowing that it would be a hot race. I had lots of water and throughout the day. I ate well early in the day and had an energy bar an hour before race time. I wore a tank, which I don't usually do, and I also wore a visor instead of a hat so my head could vent. In short: I was prepared.

I saw Gary before the race and said hello. I looked for other folks I knew, but didn't see any other runners. I did see Jenn who was working in the timing tent for Pacers, and said hello to her. I got into the corral and noticed that some runners were wearing sweatbands from the race. I guess these were handed out randomly by volunteers in the start area. I wanted a sweatband, but never found the volunteers who had them. At least I got my t-shirt.

The race started on time and I planned to do my 4:1 run-walk intervals because of the heat. I was doing a nice pace right out the gate and was passing several people. I didn't feel my watch vibrate for the first walk break, so I missed it. But I quickly developed side-stitches, which are common for me when running in heat. I stopped to take a walk break, then started running again, still at a decent pace, given the heat. But I could not sustain it. Very shortly into the race I gave up on any plans of meeting my goal of getting my 5K time back down to 30 minutes. I may have been able to do it under ideal weather conditions, but not in this crap. So I ran some, and walked some. I walked quite a bit in the second half of the 5K, but I didn't care. I felt me face becoming flushed with heat, and it just wasn't worth it to push myself too hard for a 5K.

Yay, Shirlington Running Club aid station! (photo from Jen Moustgaard)

There was only one aid station on the course, which is fine for most 5Ks, but I think they should have had two because of the weather. At least the aid station had cold, wet sponges. That felt great on my head and neck. I had been running with my own bottle of Nuun, but I also took some water from the volunteers, who were from my running club. It was great to see familiar faces, and they all told me they were glad they were volunteering and not running.

These fire fighters were my heroes with that hose blast

The other little oasis at this race was near the aid station, and I passed it twice. Arlington County Fire Department was out with a fire truck and hosing down the runners. It felt so good. I walked through the hose and the aid station, but heading into the last mile I figured I should probably do a little more running. I did very short run-walk intervals. I saw one woman down on the course with a friend and police tending to her. I don't know if it was due to heat or injury, but this was exactly what I was trying to avoid with my race preparation and then my decision not to race it.

Not looking quite so fresh at the finish; look how flushed my face was

I made it to the finish line in one piece, got some water and food, and sat for a while. I didn't find anyone I knew. There was no beer tent per se, but we had drink tickets to redeem at a couple nearby bars. They were a bit of a walk, and I didn't want to hang out being social, so I decided to drive home and have my own beer in the air conditioning.

So, this race is done, and I'll probably never run it again. It's not at all a bad race, but the weather is never ideal, and the promise of a cool, summer nighttime race just doesn't really materialize in the end. There were two good things about this race: my time was actually better than I expected (though nowhere near my initial goal), and I was introduced to a new tasty treat: Curate bars were given out at the finish, and they were delicious! They're from Columbus, OH and are available at Target, or so I'm told. Yum.

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