I’m as fit as I’ve ever been in August.
This revelation came the day that I finished the last of five races in the Arizona Road Racers Summer Series, “the Valley’s one and only summer race series.” Included were four 5Ks and one 4-miler, spanning May 25 to Aug. 11.
I signed up thinking it was a great way to stay active during the summer, when I usually join the rest of the Phoenicians under a collective rock. Most important, my continued training would take me through my 20-year high school reunion at the end of July. (Read: I’d be in the peak physical condition requisite for gloating around my classmates.)
It all seemed simple enough.
Goals Before the Series
- Have fun.
- Train properly.
- Set a PR.
- Break 22:00 (stretch).
Although I follow the schedule-friendly Furman University FIRST training program for my halfs and fulls, I wasn’t sure where to begin for quicker 5k times. I decided to keep my three-day-a-week training program, only faster paces over shorter distances.
Hoo boy, did that plan ever suck wind.
What I failed to consider was the unrelenting, unforgiving Phoenix summer weather. (Um, how could I forget?) When the overnight low is 89 degrees, you can be sure that it’s already going to be low-90s for your crack-of-dawn loop around the neighborhood.
I was used to training in 30–50 degrees, not 80–100. And it makes a BIG difference. So much so that I had to cut some of my speedwork days short, and then I abandoned that day altogether. The most humbling day was my first weekend “long” run of 5 miles. I hit a wall at mile 2. (Wha?!)
For the first 5k race, I ran with a friend, who was also out of practice. We both shot for around 25:00. I was OK with my 25:25, but not OK with how much I struggled to get there.
After a similar result in my second 5k race (25:14), and with my inability to do speedwork effectively or finish a 3-mile training run, I decided to revise my goals.
Goals During the Series
- Train as much as you can.
- Don’t walk during the race.
- Finish every race.
- Try to have fun, OK?
Races 3 and 4 were similar to 1 and 2. In fact, they were the closest together of any of the races (10 days), so I went for all of zero runs in between. But you know what? I was OK with that.
Then, in the last race—after a cruel, cruel summer—something strange happened. I went and very nearly beat my PR! I don’t think I would have done so well had the course been flat. The first half climbed up a road heading to South Mountain trailheads (low 8:00 miles), and the second half coasted back down (low 7:00 miles!). Regardless of the climb, I had a fantastic race. I started strong and finished much stronger. It was a perfect ending to the summer series.
In the end, I ran almost 100 miles in 15 weeks this summer, with no run longer than 5 miles. That’s some serious calorie burn! I am so glad I signed up for the ARR Summer Series and found the time and the motivation to train for it.
» What About You?
Do you have a tried-and-true 5k training program? Leave a comment below!