There have been only a few (painfully memorable) times in my adult life when I ran races on back-to-back weekends. Not surprisingly, the “Round II” of those back-to-back races were not among my best performances. As such, I did not toe the line of this race with a bubbly sense of confidence or enthusiasm. Indeed, had it not been for Alek visiting Orlando this week during the break between his spring and summer terms in college, I surely would not have entered the Orlando Runners Club (ORC) Race Into Summer 5K on June 11. Moreover, those of us who have lived in Central Florida for more than 10 minutes know that the concept of “Racing Into Summer” is a foolish (if not catastrophically stupid) proposition.
We arrived at the race far too early (as usual) so that Alek could engage in his “pre-game ritual” of a lengthy warm-up run. By contrast, I stepped out of the car and felt “warmed up” two steps later. I begrudgingly ran a half-mile warm-up while Alek insisted on a rigorous 2-mile venture. He returned rather steamy and sweating profusely. My half-mile warm-up jog was plenty to shake out the kinks and drain about a gallon of valuable water and electrolytes from my body.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 are sweaty and ready for the start
The field was small, but remarkably fast. Let’s face it – only die-hard, well-trained runners would torment their bodies under these conditions. Most of the weekend warriors opted to stay in bed, which inspired incurable envy in my heart. This year’s field was only 180 runners, down about 25% from last year. Not too surprising in light of these conditions. Given this small and fast field, my finish percentage (top 28% — 51St of 180) was not nearly as impressive as my other 5Ks in the past three years in which my finish percentage hovered in the top 10-15%.
But here’s some good news for a change. My 24:38 (7:56 pace) performance in this race was a full minute faster than last week’s race in Hamden, CT (25:36) and the 5K race that I ran with Alek last June in Orange, CT (25:32). Although this Orlando course was mercifully flat and pleasantly scenic on a paved park trail, the race day conditions were extremely unfriendly yet again. Like last week’s race, the temperature at the start was pushing 80 degrees and the humidity was oppressive (above 90% this time as compared to the already-challenging 75% humidity last week). Nevertheless, I battled the elements and placed second in my 50-59 division, this time taking home a medal (instead of some donated cookies) for my trouble.
Holding on for dear life as I storm toward the finish
For the really impressive spin on these results, chew on the following (since I have no donated cookies to offer you). Alek and I ran this race (and last year’s 5K race in Orange, CT) on the same courses and under the same weather conditions. And yet the old man improved by a full minute in the span of that year, whereas the 21-year-old, 0% body fat, Division I lightweight competitive rower was 10 seconds slower compared to his time from last year. So I guess my aggressive hill training and indoor rowing training in CT last month actually did yield some benefit (and I have the persistently sore legs to prove it). Upgraded training almost always makes an impact in my times in races located reasonably close to sea level, unlike last week’s rocky mountain low. Alek and I both struggled mightily under the grueling heat and humidity in this race, but let’s be clear: I fared better in this longitudinal study of these two races in June 2015 and June 2016. Much to Alek’s chagrin, it’s age before beauty this time, baby.
Alek finishes strong to place 8th overall in 19:09 and secure first place in his 20-29 age group
To Alek’s credit, he has been impressively consistent and strong in 5K races since his high school cross country days with almost exclusively rowing training and virtually no running training. All three of his post-high school 5Ks were within a 10-second margin just above or below 19 minutes.
But my performances have been as variable as New England weather. And yet there’s a disturbing “reliability” in my 5K efforts on closer review. Basically, if you want to predict how I will perform in a 5K in my fabulous 50s, just check the weather and the course profile. My two best performances (Feb. 2014 and Jan. 2016) were on flat courses in cool or cold weather, whereas my two worst performances were on hilly courses in CT in warm or hot weather (June 2015 and June 2016). You don’t need a Ph.D. in statistics or exercise physiology to detect the painfully evident story in the cold hard facts below.
Fly Me Back to the 80’s 5K – Jacksonville – 22:59 – Feb. ’14 – 1st Place (Flat, cool)
Seasons 52 5.2K – Winter Park – 24:05 – Jan. ‘16 – Did not place (Flat, cold, windy)
ORC Race Into Summer 5K – Orlando – 24:38 –June ‘16 – 2nd Place (Flat, hot, humid)
Race Brook Rockin’ 5K – Orange, CT – 25:32 – June ’15 – 2nd Place (Hilly, warm)
Hamden 5K – Hamden, CT – 25:36 – June ‘16 – 3rd Place (Hilly, hot, humid)
Thing 1 and Thing 2 live up to the prophecy of their race numbers by placing first and second in their age groups, respectively, for the second consecutive year.
This race was one of the best organized and runner-friendly races I have run in recent memory. In addition to usual fare of bananas, bagels, and Gatorade at the finish, there were several friendly vendors serving up samples of post-race goodies like smoothies, energy bars, and exotic energy drinks. There was a festive awards ceremony that also featured a raffle for several amazing gift baskets brimming with generous gift certificates to many Orlando-area business.
The family-like atmosphere that the ORC volunteers provided for the race and post-race ceremony inspired me to register for an annual membership to their running club when I returned home from the race. I joined ORC to help keep me honest for the brief time that I’m in Winter Park training this summer and for when I return from my sabbatical in December for serious training through 2017. ORC offers three training group runs per week in Winter Park. It is a well-established (40 years strong) and well-organized group of competitive runners. I highly recommend it! Alek and I did a 6-mile training run in grueling heat and humidity at 7:00 AM the day after the race with an ORC running group in Winter Park. It was very challenging but well worth it. The older I get, the wimpier my training becomes if left to my own devices. One piece of the barrage of tough-love criticism that Alek threw my way after the race is a point well-taken: my endurance is fine but I need to work on speed work and tempo runs to get faster in 5Ks. Easier said than done, but the only way it will happen is if I run in a group with people to chase.
I’ll be training on the CT hills for most of July and August while searching for that perfect blend of fair weather and flat terrain to ensure that I run a sub-24:00 in my next summer 5K during that period.