This race would be classified under "it seemed like a good idea at the time." I wanted to keep up my running speed during the summer and short races are a good way to do that. I didn't do all that badly, but I underestimated the aftereffects. Normally, running at any level even early in the morning in the summer in Phoenix is challenging. In June, the temperature at dawn can be in the low seventies. Later in the summer, it can range from high eighties to low nineties, which is why the area in such a hell hole in summer and Phoenicians leave town in droves to escape the heat. The day of the race, the low at dawn was 82 degrees. I ran a 5k two years ago when it was 89, so I thought it wouldn't bother me. Much.
I got to the race site and did a twenty minute warm up run. I was hot already. I wasn't feeling all that great. My stomach was a little upset and it didn't like the fact that I was running. Maybe the gazpacho I ate yesterday wasn't friends with my digestive system. The race is at the Rio Vista park in Peoria, and the run follows the New River and Skunk Creek flood channels. "Creek" and "River" are only part time designations. Most of the time, these water systems are mere trickles, if that. The trail system is mostly flat with some up and down to connect with the streets. It wasn't too bad looking, with enough trees to make it look like a park, but not enough to provide much shade.
Since the pathway was fairly narrow at the start, they started us in waves, with the five minute/mile people being first. I couldn't believe the amount of five and six milers, but it turned out that there were quite a few fast people there. I started out with the nine milers. As I got going, I could feel the heat building up. It was like hitting a wall. My first mile time was 8:50, which was what I wanted to run. Strangely, my heart rate wasn't raising much. Usually, my 5k heart rate averages about 165 and the adrenaline of racing makes it rise quickly. I wasn't sure I could keep up this pace.
The second mile was about a 17:20. There were ramps to go up and down. I tried to keep my speed up going up and take advantage of the down ramps by going faster. I tried to pass the kids because they deserved to get dropped. I was fairly cranky by this point. My stomach was holding up, but I didn't feel great. Probably no personal records this race. I passed a boy about 10 years old, who passed me, who I passed again. I'm not sure if I beat him.
Mile three was about 27 minutes, so I had lost some time. Only one more mile to go. It felt like one mile too many. I poured water on myself to try to cool off. Usually, the last mile, I see my quicker run cadence paying off. I pass people with slower foot strikes who don't seem to be moving all that much faster. I try to pick off people to pass just to get my mind off my discomfort.
I push the last mile because I wanted to go faster and I know the discomfort will be ending soon. It is really hot by now, with no breeze and running feel awful. I see the bridge to cross to get to the finish line, but it seems to take forever to get there. I finally get my heart rate into the low 170's and try to think positive thoughts. The last mile was an 8:40 pace. Finally, I finish in 35:40, which at least is a sub nine minute mile pace. I was glad that the race was over. I was glad I had enough fitness to be able to push the last mile and run it faster than the previous three miles. I placed third in my age group. I have found that it becomes easier to be competitive in my age group once I hit 56. I don't know why. Do women give up running when they reach my age? Do they come to their senses and not race?
The race had a nice holiday vib. Some people had dressed up in flag fashion and one lady had decorated her walker in sparkly garlands and flags, which I thought was cute. The race organizers had grilled hot dogs and hamburger, which took me a little while to be able to stomach since it was still technically breakfast time and my stomach was still giving me problems. But it was "free" food and of course I had to eat it. One needs protein to recover from a race, after all.
The bad part of the race was the recovery. Racing in heat is much harder to recover from. The recovery from Xterra race I did in June took me almost two weeks to feel like I wasn't totally exhausted. This race, I was sore and tired until the following Friday. I was also burned out mentally and depressed. I like pushing my limits physically, but this was verging on not being worth it. I have to function in the real world after all, and I was dragging myself around with no energy or motivation to do anything. No energy to work, no energy to do the many annoying chores that I have to do, no energy to face the blast furnace that is July in Phoenix.
Next time I decide to run in the heat, shoot me. Or at least make a sacrifice to appease the gods of "Too Hot to Run Even Remotely Hard Without Feeling Like Crap for Days".