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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Big Easy, Big Heart, Big Disaster

Saturday I ran the Big Easy, Big Heart 5k. It was by no means on my list of must-do races: I'm not in love with 5ks and French Quarter races are dreadfully inconvenient. But I had been asked to join Tulane Medical Center's race team, and this was a team event, so I signed up.

Unfortunately, running with the team means wearing this stifling heavy T-shirt to race...but it's worth it to promote my hospital I suppose.
I knew this was going to be a slow slog for me. The conditions were terrible for a race: quite hot (78 at the start, 81 at the finish), 87% humidity, and pavement that had been baking all night (the low today was 74). Plus, we are having weird stormy weather, and the wind was strong and gusty - 22mph plus gusts. I looked all this weather up on the drive over, which wasn't exactly inspirational.
David dropped me off at the start and waited for me to pick up my packet so he could take the T-shirt home, since I planned to run home after the race. It was already warm, and I saturated my shirt with sweat just on the warm-up. I noticed to my chagrin that the Quarter had been freshly washed, so some streets were wet and soapy, and others were dried, but oily, since washing causes the oil on the street to rise to the surface. I made a mental note not to slip and fall during the race.

I lined up fairly far back, and didn't do any kind of strides pre-race simply because I was already hot and tired. I planned to run between 20:30 and 21, unsure of how the weather would affect me. I found out soon enough: my 6:35 pace I started at felt fast. I regretted my hot, sweaty T-shirt by about mile 0.1 - it was already clinging suffocatingly to me. I slowed a little as we got off Canal street and headed into the French Quarter, hoping the race pack would thin before we got to narrow streets, and it did. I stayed basically with the same group the whole time, although there was a front part to the pack and a back part. Naturally I was right in the middle with no wind protection at all. My first mile was around 6:36, and I felt dreadful. Right after mile two started, we hit a very slippery patch of street, and everyone's gait changed. I noticed that occurring in front of me and slowed just in time to avoid a nasty fall. We maneuvered tight streets and potholes, but things got a little less slippery after that, and even though I was slowing down, I passed several people at this point. I had been near a gentleman for much of mile two; we had warmed up together and I really wanted to pass him because I had mentioned the weather during our warm up and he smirked, "So is that your excuse du jour?" Whatever dude. It was hot and disgustingly moist and heavy and YES, that is my excuse! So anyway, I passed him in mile two, and then mile three? I just hung on and tried not to pass out. Of course as we turned to head back to the finish, we hit the worst headwind of all day. Between the heat and fighting the wind - which was so hot and damp it was like running into a dryer vent! - I totally lost focus on time. I didn't even look down. But when the finish line came into view, I knew I had to sprint to make my goal. I ended up with 20:45, almost right in the middle of my time range.

I ran a 20:36 on a long course a few weeks ago, so the math works out that I was a full 12 seconds per mile slower today - wow. But I blame part of that on the conditions. In a few months, I'll be begging for weather in the 70's and humidity under 90%, but I'm not acclimated yet. We were lucky to have a long, cool spring, and Thursday was our first warm and humid day, so I'm barely coping with it yet.

After the race, I planned to run the 1 mile race held at 9:30, but when they announced that it was pushed back to 9:40, I decided to run home. The run home nearly killed me. It was late and hot and all of a sudden, my blood pressure plummeted. One minute I was fine; the next I was completely weak and shaky. I staggered into the McDonald's on St. Charles Avenue and begged a cup of water off of them - and fixed my blood sugar with three packets of sugar. It immediately helped, and I was able to run all the way home (in my racing shoes - but the Mizuno Musha isn't terribly flat, so I thought it was safe). All in all, it wasn't a terrible day. I am committed to getting more races in, even when that means running ugly 5ks in ugly weather. It's great practice, and I'm learning to be thankful for any race that I'm well enough to run.

Next up: Greek Fest 5k, unless something else comes up before then!


  1. Gah. Thick cotton t shirt? I can't stand that even in 60f!
    That's an excellent race, especially considering the temps! Watch out or you'll start to love the 5k :)
    Your last 5k was long and still in the 20: range? Sounds like you're smoking fast these days!

  2. Yuck, that sounds like awful race conditions. I am glad you passed the jerk who made a comment about you making an excuse.

  3. Nice to read a post about you racing again. When I quite blogging for a stretch you were injured and hurting. So, this was nice to read you and see you looking hot as ever! Ha! Seriously, nice legs! And the t-shirt part reminds me of how my friend Josh ran this 50k in a white cotton t-shirt! Crazy dude. But he kicked my butt anyway. Nice job Gracie! Hope the weather is better for you in the next 5k.

  4. Congrats on completing the 5K in what were not the most ideal of conditions :) I probably would not have lasted 3 minutes before I would have given up and ordered a pizza ;)

  5. Gah! That sounds miserable. Sounds like you did pretty well under the circumstances. I'm terrible in hot races but humidity (which we almost never have here) is even worse. Maybe you'll get some good karma out of it at least!