Race Report: The Shreveport Firecracker 5k
So we did a thing last week. We busted over to Shreveport for the annual 4th of July 5k race. It’s pretty flat, and it has a BIG turnout for a local race (1994 racers this year), which means it’s normally pretty good for a time trial attempt.
The goal of the race
First things first. The goal of this race for me was to get a baseline fitness assessment to get a feel for what the link in the chain is for me personally. How fast can we run with rabbits to chase? At what point in the race would the acidosis set in? How well could I execute even splits in a race environment? How well would I be able to dig deep mentally and continue to push when it got uncomfortable? And probably some other bits that could be learned as well that I didn’t think of ahead of time.
Getting up and getting there
We got up a little earlier than normal because it’s a little over an hour to the race from our house, and we were hopping Simon a ride as well. Race start time was supposed to be at 8, so we figured if we got there a little after 7 it would give Simon time to get his bib (we’d already picked our up last week on the way home from Oklahoma). That would still give us plenty of time to warm up, use the restroom, and find a decent place at the start line. For breakfast I had a banana, a Blue Machine Naked juice, and half a cup of coffee. The race day standard.
We got there with plenty of time to warm up, but it turned out that it was 80 degrees and almost 100% humidity. It was overcast at least, but it was pretty obvious that keeping our core temperature down was going to be the biggest challenge of the day. I got an easy 1 mile warm up in and made use of the port-a-potty, and then started making my way through the crowd to get a spot on the front line. I intentionally didn’t run more simply because my core temperature was up by the time the race was supposed to start, but I didn’t get a chance to get some striders in as the race officials were starting to push us back behind the start line several minutes before 8.
The only real hiccup of the day – The start
So the race officials got us behind the line a bit before the race was supposed to start. They played the national anthem, and then started the pump song. Everyone on the front of the crowd took “their places” and stayed half crouched with their fingers on their watches. The whole song played, and no fireworks (the start signal). Then a second pump song started and we all assumed the same position. After about a minute or so into the second song we figured out that they were doing the giant beach ball bounce thing in the main part of the crowd behind us. A quick note at this point: there weren’t any corrals or anything like a half or full marathon would have with this many people. Just 2000 people in a crowd that were going to have to get through the starting arch. But that kind of crowd was awesome for pump music and giant beach ball bouncing.
And then the fireworks went off without any warning to the runners or the lead gator.
Everyone jumped with surprise when the fireworks went boom, and then we swarmed forward completely overrunning the gator that was supposed to lead the race. Despite not getting any striders in before the race, the initial adrenaline fueled rush felt pretty smooth. I didn’t get suckered into rabbitting with the lead pack though, intentionally going just a little wide around the first corner to not get caught in the slipstream. This turned out to be a good thing because Kevin Castile (former US master’s 10k record holder) was there. Enough people initially tried to go with Castille that it resulted in there not being a pack to work with. We were pretty strung out by the time we got to the half mile mark. I went through the mile mark right at 5:40, with a couple of gentle inclines. By the time we got to the half way point the heat was starting to set in, and I’d passed a good number of the folks who went out too fast. I had to be careful making the left hand turn to start heading back towards the start/finish area: There was someone spraying down runners. And while it felt awesome, wet asphalt isn’t the best surface for traction.
I went through the two mile mark right at 11:20, which made me pretty happy with the exactly even splits. I’m pretty sure that I was essentially by myself at this point. The runner in front of me was a little out of contact, and I couldn’t hear anyone coming up behind me. And then the acidosis started setting in. And the heat started getting to me a bit. I caught myself checking the watch at this point and doing the calculations of how much distance and time was left. Every 15 seconds or so. After 600 meters or so of this I realized I was in a bit of the mental downward spiral that can catch us when it gets rough, resulting in slower finish times. Once I realized this, I was able to wrench my mind back to the task at hand and make the body work until we got to the finish. There wasn’t really anyone to race to the finish, the guy in front of me finished about 6 seconds ahead and I didn’t hear anyone coming up behind me the entire time either. It really boiled down to a time trial against myself. Not ideal for getting the fastest possible time, but it did give me the opportunity to get a feel for the mental toughness side of the race. I was able to run the last mile at roughly 5:30 pace, which was tough but managed to finish with a decent kick.
After getting through the chute and stumbling over to the med tent to get some water, I started to feel a little nauseous when I stopped to talk to a friend. I could tell the core temperature was up. Probably not dangerously high, but high enough that jogging the cool down wouldn’t actually result in a cool down. So instead I walked back along the course cheering on other runners, some of whom stopped to puke 200 meters from the finish due to heat stress. It made it more obvious that the heat/humidity was the real linchpin of the day. I did end up walking 1-2 miles, the last half mile with the wife (her first 5k walk back after cranking her calf! /cheers!), and then getting a bit of a stretch in afterwards. And then the clouds opened up on us and we got a torrential downpour of a thunderstorm for about 20 minutes. And it felt amazing. Needless to say, we got our free shower, cooled our core temperatures down a bit, and got even more thoroughly soaked. But at least we weren’t going to smell as bad!
Post race lunch
Before the quick shower we managed to get our free beer from the Great Raft Brewery (which really hit the spot once I was cooled down a bit), snagged several pieces of watermelon (which were also delicious), a couple of cookies and a hot dog. After we got our complimentary shower from Mother Nature, we got our dry clothes on and headed to a local Vietnamese restaurant that was open. We snagged some Thai iced tea (which unfortunately actually wasn’t that great at this location), but the Ban Mi sandwiches were awesome.
So what were the take home lessons from this race?
1) It looks like we’ve got the pacing down. We ran even splits for the first two miles and then sped up a bit on the last mile and finished with a decent kick.
2) Heat and humidity are not my friend. I finished with a 17:17, which was 15 seconds slower than last year. I executed better this year, and I actually had someone to race the last half mile last year, which probably would have helped in the rough spot. But I think it was also hotter and more humid this year. I don’t think I’m going to do a bunch of heat training to be able to race better in the heat, given my bigger picture goals. But we’ll probably be trying to nail the faster 5k times in the fall and winter when the weather allows it.
3) I need to do some more interval training. While I think I did a decent job with race execution, I’m pretty sure that with some more interval work we could average a faster pace without suffering from extreme acidosis when it does cool down. Being able to buffer the blood pH will come in handy when it’s cool enough to actually run HARD.
4) Just because it’s a big race, doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be someone to race at the end for a fast time. This means we need to either find the right races (with the right pack), or get better at time trialing on my own. I’ll be working on getting mentally tough with some of the interval training that’s coming up. Hopefully that will help when we get stuck on our own.
So what’s up next? I’m looking forward to Chile Pepper in Fayetteville, AR. It’s on October 5th so it will be cooler. It’s flat and fast because it’s on the ag campus at the university. And there are always people to race, even in the last 400 meters. I did learn just today that the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, OK is scheduled for the same day, so we probably won’t be getting the whole crew together this year, but that’s okay. It’s still going to be an awesome race! Now I just need to write out the training plan…