On Saturday, May 14 I did my first in-person 5K since September 2019. I tend to favor longer races at slower paces and don’t race 5Ks as often as I used to. During my last marathon training segment I only ran 5K pace for a couple of workouts. Sometimes 5Ks intimidate me more than half or full marathons because my training specifically targets those paces while I rarely target 5K speed. I’m simply not prepared to go that fast which makes them feel especially torturous! I know I could take it easy and not push myself to the max but I have a hard time not giving it my all.
I was willing to put myself through the worrying and agony to run the Dart Frog Dash 5K at the Toledo Zoo. A couple weeks earlier I got together with my friend Lisa for a run and visit to the Detroit Zoo. I commented that we should try to visit the Toledo Zoo too because it had been ages since I’d been. A day later Lisa sent me a message with info about a 5K there. It was $30 for the race plus admission to the zoo. Perfect!
The Toledo Zoo is close to two hours away from me but Lisa lives halfway between. I drove to her house then we drove together the rest of the way. We got there over an hour early because we both prefer to have the extra time. Plus, we had to walk a good half mile in the zoo to packet pickup at the aquarium, back to the car, then back into the zoo again.
20 minutes before the start of the race Lisa and I did a mile-long warm up run. It was a beautiful morning in the 60s but it was pretty humid. My hair made that especially obvious! It had been in the 80s for my last few runs so I was starting to adjust to the heat but I hadn’t dealt with humidity yet. As least this race would only be 20-some minutes long for me.
I was glad to hear someone announce that competitive runners should start at the front and people walking should stay near the back. I knew enough to line up near the front while also leaving a little gap because faster people should be in front of me. At 8:30 we were off!
A ton of people flew past me at the beginning. I figured a bunch of them should have filled that gap in front of me! I also had a hunch that I might catch some of them during the race. That included a couple of kids who started at the front. Too often I’ve seen kids rocket off the starting line at an all-out sprint. Then I catch them a quarter mile into the race when they’ve run out of energy. That’s exactly what happened at this race. I didn’t have a clue how to pace myself until I was in my late 20s or early 30s so I get it! I always feel bad when it’s clear they haven’t learned that skill yet and hope the rest of the race isn’t totally miserable for them.
Honestly, I wasn’t really sure how to pace myself since I hadn’t trained for that kind of speed. A few days before the race I decided I should try some quarter mile segments at 5K pace for practice and completed six of them. I was dying by the end so I hoped the race atmosphere would give me a boost somehow!
I ran the race by feel and glanced at my watch at times to see how it was going. I knew I wasn’t running a PR kind of pace, not that I expected I would pull that off anyway. The first mile was basically a straight shot down Broadway/River Road along the Maumee River. I ran the first mile in 7:12. We looped around a neighborhood, went back out to River Road, then branched off into a neighborhood that eventually led us into the zoo. I picked it up to 7:07 pace for the second mile. As expected, I passed a few people here and there who had probably started too fast. There were a few minor hills and rather than dreading them I told myself that’s where I’d catch some people. In the meantime, I was sweating like crazy. That humidity! It was kind of painful running so fast but I kept pushing through.
We had a straight shot on the zoo sidewalk at first but then we ran on the Tembo Trail. It was mostly a brick surface and it got tricky in spots. We actually went through some of the exhibit space but I was oblivious to any rhinos, hippos, or elephants at that point. There were a bunch of quick, sharp turns that slowed me down quite a bit as I tried to round them. I realized a girl was catching up to me so I just tried to move fast enough so I wouldn’t get passed! My third mile was 7:28. I was in the 7:10s until I got to that Tembo Trail section.
There was another nice straightaway where I could pick it up again until I had one more turn to make right before the finish. I was running close to a kid and thought I better slow down to make sure we didn’t cut each other off as we both tried to hug that last corner. Then I gave it everything I had left! I hit 6:48 pace for the last tenth of a mile.
No one passed me at the end, but when I saw the pictures after the race I realized how close the finish had been. Obviously the women were younger and not in my age group but I was still glad to place a little higher overall for women.
I was dying for a minute after I crossed the finish line but then I went back to the long straightaway to see if I could spot Lisa. Thanks to her red shirt I saw her and cheered as I took a few pictures. Then I went back to meet her at the finish.
I always look forward to post-race treats so I wasn’t especially excited that they only had water and bananas. No medal either, which is no big deal since I have too many as it is. Getting free admission to the zoo was a worthwhile perk so I was forgiving.
I checked the results and saw that I was the female masters winner and fifth woman overall! Pretty cool! I finished in 22:50 which was a little over a minute slower than my PR. I was happy with what I had managed to run without real preparation.
Lisa’s results hadn’t shown up yet so we went back to the car to change into dry clothes. I had brought a protein drink and some Picky Bars which helped make up for the lack of treats. Lisa’s results finally showed up and she was only about 10 seconds slower than her PR. Pretty impressive on a humid day with that tricky Tembo Trail segment! She was third in her age group so we went to look for awards before we explored the rest of the zoo.
We found a table where we each collected cool prizes. Because I was the female masters winner I received an envelope that gave me a zoo membership for a year! That membership also gives me 50% off admission to several other zoos I’ve wanted to visit again. I was pretty excited about that prize!
We spent a few hours walking around the zoo and it seemed like a perfect day. It was sunny and beautiful and we had fun exploring the whole zoo.
After we had been there for a few hours and it continued to get hotter we reached a point when we’d had enough. We got a little more antsy and started to move through the exhibits a little faster. I enjoyed taking some nice photos and we had a great time between the race and exploring the zoo. My watch said I had done more than 10 miles by the time we left for the day!
I’m really glad we did the race and it made me realize that I should try to do more speedwork this summer. It’s usually one of my least favorite kinds of workouts but it makes me stronger. It was nice to see how well I did at this race. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much if I trained for that kind of pace. It would also be nice to see what I’m capable of doing if I prepare. 5Ks don’t leave me beat up for days afterward like half or full marathons so maybe I should add them to the mix more often.