Race Report: Run for the Roses 5K

I had wanted to write this race report on Sunday, so it would be as fresh in my mind as possible. I had thought this was going to be an awesomely excited race report about how much faster I’m getting and how much I ended up PRing by. Instead, as I noted in Monday’s quick post, I’m incredibly disappointed and frustrated with my poor performance :(

Leading up to the race, I did (mostly) everything right. I didn’t work out at all Friday and Saturday, even though I was itching to hike/run/something. I wanted to be as fresh as possible Sunday, so that my legs would be raring to go. I didn’t get quite as much sleep as I wanted Friday night, since I woke up naturally around 5am when I had planned the whole morning to sleep, but I at least woke up feeling decently rested. I took care of a lot of errands/cleaning on Saturday morning, and flew to Albany that afternoon/evening, choosing a super healthy dinner on my layover at O’Hare in the form of a mason jar salad from a vending machine. Seriously, one of the best airport dinners I’ve ever had – I was so pleasantly surprised!

Unfortunately, despite a full 8 hours of sleep on Saturday night once I arrived, I found myself startled awake by my alarm clock Sunday morning. Not ideal, but after I had been up for a little while, I felt fine and thought I’d still have a good race. My parents were both coming to the race to watch and cheer me on, and we even stopped at Stewart’s to get coffee on the way.


For those of you not from upstate New York, Stewart’s is a gas station / convenience store that has absolutely incredible coffee and ice cream. I never really appreciated it when I was growing up, but now I make multiple Stewart’s stops a day when I go visit.

It cost $8 per car to get into the park where the race was being held, which was a little bit of a bummer – I thought that should have been disclosed up front or (even better) included with race entry. My parents and I parked one car outside the park and then carpooled in so we wouldn’t have to pay twice, at least :) There was a pretty long line of cars waiting to get in, but I had intentionally gotten us there really early to allow for delays like this. Although I only got to the parking lot about fifteen minutes before the start, that gave me time to get my packet, pin my bib on, and head for the start line with five minutes to spare.

I had wanted to do about a half mile warm up, but with the time constraints, settled for a short 0.1 mile jog up the road (yup, the start was a slight uphill) and back down. It didn’t feel great, but it didn’t feel bad either; I just wished I could have gone longer. I’ve noticed at Orangetheory that I do my best after a half to a full mile warmup, so I was hoping to replicate that. As it turned out the, start was a few minutes delayed, so I probably would have had time to run more.

Instead, I stood nervously toward the front of the pack of runners as we awaited the start. My heart was already beating fast just in anticipation, and I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t have that caffeinated coffee before the race. Caffeine is supposed to help performance, but that one drink seemed to already have my heart rate elevated, and that didn’t seem like a good thing. Or maybe the caffeine’s effect was in my head, and I was just nervous? Highly possible.


This caption says it all.

The race director came over to get things going, and opened with “Welcome to the 31st Annual Run for the Roses! As you know, this is one of the toughest 5K courses in the area, so we’re really glad to have you all here today.” I’m pretty sure at this point my mouth dropped open. WHAT?! One of the toughest 5K courses in the area?? There hadn’t been a course map on the website, so I tried to sketch out the course on GMap Pedometer to better understand the elevation profile, but couldn’t get that to work either. The course description said that it started downhill and then the second half had some uphill, but I wasn’t at all expecting “the toughest 5K course in the area.” Right then and there, I knew this wasn’t going to go well.

After a few more remarks, the race started. After we took off, I found myself in about the first dozen runners or so… though a few got well ahead of me by about a quarter mile in. I wasn’t really checking my watch much for pace yet, and was mostly just trying to run what felt comfortable on the initial slight uphill.

I didn’t feel peppy like I’d hoped after two days off, and that already had me frustrated. I didn’t feel sluggish, exactly, but I just didn’t have quite the energy I had wanted. I went back and forth with another girl as we headed (slightly) up the first hill, but then solidly passed her as we started the gradual downhill. At the one mile mark, I checked my Garmin – 6:04. I had wanted my first mile to be 5:45-6:00, so I was only a little behind my pace plan.

My plan was to positive split the race, since I knew there were hills on the back half. I had hoped to run 6:00, 6:20, and 6:40 – but if I felt good as the race went on, use those paces as minimum speeds. I told myself that at mile 1.5, I’d allow myself to go faster if I wanted to, but up till then, I should try to rein it in. Well, turns out that remembering to rein it in wasn’t a concern; the 6:04 pace felt just reasonably comfortable, rather than super easy like it should have been when it was the first mile and it was net downhill.

The course shifted to flat shortly after the one mile mark, and then about a quarter mile later, started heading uphill. I was now at the halfway point of the race, where I had told myself I could start pushing hard and maybe getting ahead of my plan. But with the incline of the hill I was on, I didn’t want to try to push harder; I decided that just continuing to run at a steady pace was my best bet. I passed a water station and grabbed a cup without slowing down at all, but then decided I actually didn’t need a drink. Rather than trying to drink on the run, I just used it to rinse my mouth out and spit. I was squarely the second place female at this point, and as we headed up a particularly long steep incline, I could see the pace vehicle (an old restored Ford convertible) and front runners about 30 seconds ahead of me – there was no way I was even going to attempt to catch them.

As I neared the left turn I had seen the pace vehicle make, I managed to pass one guy who was dropping back. Normally, I’d get excited about spotting people ahead and passing them. But for this race, I really didn’t care how I ran compared to anyone else… it was just me versus the clock. And unfortunately, I knew the clock was against me. When I finally got to the two mile mark, my watch was already at 13:04 (so exactly a 7:00 second mile). That was not where I wanted to be at all, particularly since I knew the last mile was going to be pretty much all uphill. But, that time did mean there was a chance that I could still at least PR and finish under 21 minutes. Could I do it?

After turning left around mile 2.1 (yup, 1.5 to 2.1 was pure uphill), we had a short little downhill – which made me both happy and sad. Happy to get a quick break; sad because I knew that we were already well below the finish line and I’d have to make that up with more uphill after. And I was right – it was now a pure uphill for the next 0.6, with no breaks at all. I just kept reminding myself that I only had two songs left and I’d be done with the race. Though what those songs were, I couldn’t tell you – my music wasn’t really helping to inspire me at all.

Around mile 2.7, we turned right to get back on the main road that the race had started on, and I was relieved that I at least knew the course from here. It was in this stretch that the third place female caught up to me and surged past. I knew I wasn’t going to catch her, but I just focused on not taking a walk break (which I wanted to do, because I felt like I was doing so poorly it didn’t matter) and continuing to run at the best pace I could. The uphill continued until 2.9, and then we got a short little downhill (30 feet of drop) before the course flattened out to the finish. I saw my parents chatting with other spectators and cheering for me on the side of the road, but I couldn’t acknowledge them at all – I was just trying to keep going. In checking my Garmin later, I learned that I hit my mile 3 split in 7:14 – a full 30 seconds slower than planned. Yikes :(

Unfortunately, while the final loop around to the finish was flat, it felt long – we crossed under the start banner and then made a huge circle around the parking lot. I was telling myself that I had less than a minute to go, but I couldn’t even see the corner that marked the end of the loop, so it didn’t feel close at all. I made the two right hand turns to reverse direction and finally saw the finish line ahead of me, but with 21:00 already having ticked by on the race clock, I didn’t have any motivation to really sprint it to the end. I did kick it up a notch (6:20 pace for the last 0.1), and finished breathless… but not at all happy with my performance.


Every finisher got handed a rose at the finish. I proceeded to prick myself multiple times with the thorns. Also: that time I captioned was my watch time; the official gun time was actually 21:12.

It took several minutes after I crossed the finish line for me to be able to catch my breath and speak to my dad, who had run over to give me a hug. I felt terrible on multiple fronts: both physically terrible from the run, but also emotionally terrible that I hadn’t gone sub-20 (A goal) and I hadn’t PRed (B goal). Based on my training, I had been so sure that I was going to PR by a lot that I really didn’t contemplate the possibility of not even PRing at all. But here I was, twelve whole seconds slower than my 5K last fall. The course was much harder, so I logically knew that being only twelve seconds slower meant that I was in much better shape… but I still felt like a complete failure. I took several days to write this report up, hoping my feelings would change and I’d adopt my usual optimistic outlook upon reflection, but that hasn’t been the case and I’m still really bummed :(


My face was pretty much like this the rest of the day, and this continues to express my thoughts on running since then. Which is to say: run streak totally broken.

To make things worse, now that I’ve run the course, I was able to finally get the elevation profile. It’s definitely not easy – drops 150 feet in the first half (when I was trying to take it somewhat easy and not go out too fast), but then regains that 150 feet from mile 1.5-2.5 (in the toughest part of a 5K). By the numbers, 150 feet of gain doesn’t seem like much at all, but Adam pointed out to me that 150 feet is actually a lot when it’s over a mile (or even a 5K) and not spread over a whole marathon. And, at a fast speed, that elevation is even worse. “Think of it this way…. Go jog up a hill. It isn’t much harder than just walking it. Now, try to sprint up the hill, you’ll be dying.” That comment made me feel a tiny bit better.

A few other things made me feel infinitesimally better. There was a kids’ mile fun run that started an hour after the 5K, and the organizers inexplicably waited to do awards until after that was done (even though there were no awards for the mile because it wasn’t timed?). That meant I had a lot of time to hang out after the race, and I ended up chatting with a few other runners before I went to go cheer on the kiddos. The second place female is a collegiate runner for a D1 school, and she wanted to know what school I run for – so that was really flattering in my old slow age, both that she would think I was in college and anywhere near qualified to be on a running team :) She told me that her 5K PR is under 19:00, and she ran 21:05, so that’s a decent indicator of how slow this course was. I also talked to the first overall male, who finished in 19:39, and he told me that this course is always 1.5-2 minutes slower than others. So, that makes me feel better that I’d likely be a lot faster somewhere else.

But hypotheticals don’t count for anything, so right now, I’m still sitting at a 21:00 5K PR… which is incredibly frustrating to me. (Ironically, just last summer I didn’t believe I could run a 21:00 5K… but here we are. Thanks, Orangetheory!) I’ve recently run faster than 21:00 when I’ve done 5K (or longer) training runs on the treadmill, but I need to find a race where I can make it happen for real. I thought this race would be it, but that’s my fault for not digging to get a better understanding of the course ahead of time.


Here’s a fake smile. Thanks for nothing, Grafton Lake :(

As far as trying again? I’m not sure when exactly that will be, as my next several weekends are pretty booked up. I am planning to run the inaugural Superior 5K in my little town on Sunday August 27th, but that course starts out uphill for the first half, plus it’s at altitude, so it’s not really a good course to try to PR. (Though I will of course give it my best shot, for sure.) Then, as I mentioned on Monday, I’m planning to run the Broncos 7K on Labor Day weekend. And the next three weekends in September, I have to be in Colorado for a friend’s visit, another friend’s wedding, and a volunteer gig – so that rules out traveling to sea level for a race until at least October. That’s so far away! I am really eager to test my speed now… but I kind of blew it this weekend both with the course I picked and the not-awesome effort I put in :(

So – race recap is ending on a pretty despondent note instead of a triumphant one :( But while I look for a good destination race, I’ll keep training to go even faster and try to guarantee a PR next time. Fingers crossed!

Race stats:
Distance: 3.1 miles
Time: 21:12
Pace: 6:50/mile
Overall place: 9/127
Gender place: 3/70
Age group place: 1/14


  1. Susan Fiehl says:

    Hey, there will always be bumps in the road to success, as you well know. Live and
    learn from them that’s all you can do, and never give up the dream! Overall, your dad and I got to see you in action so it wasn’t a complete bust… we’ll be happy to come to your next try in October if it’s east of the Mississippi! :)

  2. I feel dumb for stating such a fast time on the preview post. – not that the time was unreasonable but that i had ignored the part in the preview about a hilly course. Oh well, live and learn.

    If we’re strong enough for lofty goals, then we’re strong enough to be resilient when we fail. I don’t like telling people what to do, but could you start increasing either the length of the reps or the number of reps of those orange theory fartlek workouts. I’m impressed by the intensity of the work, but feel you could benefit on race day of having a little more work under your belt. If i remember right, you’re saying that the way it is your heart rate is staying comfortably under/in the orange zone. Tell me that means we need to start changing the stimulus..which might mean a few workouts going over. Just food for thought!!

    • I had gotten the course totally wrong too.

      Orangetheory is pretty static (they change it every day but I basically have to do what they tell me). You’re right that I’m rarely in the orange zone, but I think that’s more a function of my low resting heart rate than it’s because I’m not working hard enough. However, I do want to double down on my non-Orangetheory treadmill runs – possibly some sub-6 paced interval repeats of 1/2 mile or so, and possibly some solid 6:00-6:20 interval repeats of 1 mile. And, I still need to pick a goal race!

      Thanks as always for your awesome encouragement and support. I always get excited when I see I have a comment from you :)

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