Well that title sure left nothing to the imagination, huh?
The funny thing is, I almost didn’t run this race, the Read Write Run 5K. I woke up early on my own on race morning, Saturday June 16. My stomach was bothering me, as it had been for the last few days. I thought maybe I’d rather do Refine instead, and even went so far as to open the class schedule and begin the sign-up process to see if there was room in Brynn’s 8:30 am class. There was.
But on the other hand, I wanted to run a 5K race. The last official 5K I ran was my very first race in September, 2009! I always wanted to see how I race this distance, but New York Road Runners practically never offers this distance race in Manhattan, I think because there’s no good way logistically in Central Park to make it work. There actually is one this year in November, but it costs $45 and I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.
The other appeal of this particular 5K was the location — right in Liberty State Park, a really incredible place to run in Jersey City. Not only is the park HUGE (the first time I ran there I covered 4.5 in-park miles and when I checked my map after, I barely made a dent), but the views are beyond stunning. You stand on the very edge of New Jersey with views of Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
The weather was gorgeous and I decided to do the race. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. And I wanted to try and finish in 25:00 — my goal time.
The website said there was a bag watch, but because I didn’t know what exactly the situation would be like and how safe it was, I decided to leave my phone at home. That meant no camera to record the beautiful morning views and scenes of the park, but I didn’t want to be stuck running with my phone. At home it stayed. What also stayed home? My iPod Nano. During the Mini 10K the week before, my music felt loud and annoying. I decided to do this short race without any music. (And during my next run two days later, I had to take my music off less than halfway through because it was so distracting — more on this in a future post!)
[My Mini 10K photo. Annoying music pictured.]
All I had was $20 (which I lost at some point. RIP.) and my lip balm. I didn’t even need to bring my keys! I love living in a doorman building! And now that I just revealed this to the internet, I have this to say: Please don’t rob me.
Anyway, I jogged two miles to the race start. Whenever I run to actually get to a destination, the time flies because it doesn’t feel like a real one. It’s just a way to get somewhere and mentally it’s like another experience.
Of course, I arrived way too early. That’s how I am. They had music playing, and I was happy to hear Counting Crows and Dave Matthews Band over the speakers — my two favorite bands, and two bands I am seeing live this summer. I took that to be a good sign. There was no line to pick up my bib and goody bag. I’m used to D-Tags or B-tags tracking my distance, but this race had a different system.
That raised foam thing in the top center tracked the time.
Bag check turned out to be safe and I slightly regretted my choice to not bring my phone. There was a man behind a desk handing out tickets to match the ticket you pin on your bag, and he returns it to you after the race. Even though I wanted to take pictures of just how gorgeous the park and the race route and the view was, I still knew I made the right choice because you never know. If bag check wasn’t secure, I’d have been stressed if I did bring my phone.
With time to kill, I went inside the ferry terminal and got to use a real bathroom. No portapotties at this race! I meandered back to the race scene, where more people arrived and were registering and getting their bibs. There was a lot more race day registration than I expected.
The purpose of the Read Write Run 5K was to raise money for the Ethical Community Charter School in Jersey City, so there were kids, families, activities for the kids and food for purchase before the race. After the race I didn’t stick around, but there was an entire days’ worth of activities going on.
Since I had so much time to kill, I decided to stretch and warm up. I found a spot, stretched my calves and hips, and did the first warm up exercise we do at Refine ReGroup: While standing, hug one knee into your chest, then stretch that leg back in a deadlift/Warrior 3, then swing that leg forward into a lunge and twist your body towards the leg, repeat on the other side, and then start over. This stretches your muscles, gets your core engaged and warms the muscles right up. Doing this in the park on my own before the race, I felt like I really knew what I was doing. Ha.
Finally, it was almost 9:30, the time the race was set to begin. While it was clear that we’d be running through a structure for the Finish line, there was no similar structure for the Start. There was only a sign, and I couldn’t figure out how our start time would be recorded. For my first 5K in 2009, they only timed the finish (which means I’ll never truly know my time, although it had to be a little faster than my result) and I hoped that wouldn’t be the case again here.
I chatted with some people and they asked me where my headband was from. I told them I bought it at Flywheel, and they said “Oh, OK because a friend of ours started a line of headbands that looks like like that. It’s called Sparkly Soul.”
“THAT’S WHAT THIS IS!” I said. How funny! They asked me my name and when I told them, they all started laughing. Apparently their friend who started Sparkly Soul is also named Dori. I had no idea, and I’ve even tweeted with them a bunch of times!
They made the announcement that the race was starting soon and we all got ready by the Start. I was a couple of feet back when they made the announcement to move forward — and I found myself on the Start line. As in, first. As in, in front of everyone else. I figured this would be the only time in my life I could start a race first, so I decided to stay there. Really exciting!
Someone sang the National Anthem while we all faced Ellis Island, since the closest flag was over there. I thought that was especially patriotic.
And then, after a false start, the man with the microphone said the real “GO!” We were off.
This is the path the race ran along. It was a straight out-and-back along the water, and this view faces where the finish line was.
Starting alongside the faster runners meant I ran much faster than I even realized. I started out feeling amazing but things got rough quickly. I finished that first mile in 6:53. Somehow.
I remember running the 5th Avenue Mile in September, 2009 (just a few weeks after that first 5K) and finished in 7:46, but felt like death the entire time since I was basically sprinting. After that race, with my chest hurting and ears throbbing, I had to leave without getting the free souvenir stainless steel water bottle and just find a bench to lie down on.
So, here’s more proof of improvement. A 6:53 mile after already running two miles, and still able to run four more after that (I ran the two miles back home after the race).
But of course, I don’t normally run this fast. I don’t think I even could without race adrenaline, and it was a little much for me. And without any music, I could hear my breathing and it wasn’t pretty.
I’d never raced without music before. I actually ran the Richmond Marathon without music. The difference between that race and this one was that I wasn’t racing the marathon. I was running it, at a comfortable pace, and my breathing reflected that.
But this was my first time racing without music. I never knew how labored my breathing sounds when I’m working hard (well, I had some idea based on those laps around the park at Refine ReGroup) but it’s jarring when you truly realize just how bad you sound. And how hard you are working.
I tried to ignore it, tried to breathe more normally and slowed down a bit. I wasn’t feeling great, but I knew I was getting close to the turnaround point because I could see it, and also because a few runners started coming back the other way.
The few quick glances down at my watch gave me times in the 8s, and I didn’t realize just how fast I was running. For some reason, my watch times seemed fast but not THAT fast.
The good thing about starting out with a 6:51 mile is that 8:30 doesn’t feel like so much work. That’s why I do tend to like starting out too fast, on purpose. Everything is relative for me when I run, and when I start out slower I have a hard time getting any faster. When I start out too fast, less-fast-but-still-fast paces feel like crawling.
There was a water station during the second mile and I grabbed a cup from a volunteer but had trouble drinking it because I was so flustered, so I ended up accidentally spilling it on my legs.
I slowed down significantly from the first to second mile, but I still finished that mile much faster than I ever run – 8:05!
As soon as the last mile started, my stomach started burning with pain. I mentioned earlier that I was having GI trouble during the days leading up to the race as well as on race morning, and it caught up with me here. I know that burning pain well, but there wasn’t anything I could do but keep running.
This last mile took forever, it felt so long! Even though I slowed down even more, I could tell I built in enough of a cushion that I could slow down and still finish in my goal time of 25:00.
It was discouraging facing the finish line, seeing the part of the park where the race ends, but being so far away from it! I pushed through, kept breathing, did my best. As I got closer to the end there were more people cheering. A little boy yelled out “GIRL POWER!” when he saw me, which made me smile and wave. I wonder if it was because of my pink shirt, or if he said that to all the women who ran by.
As I got to the finish, I was able to push a little harder. The people by the finish line seemed so happy for me that it made me smile (which I was not able to do at last week’s Mini 10K — my finish line video looked ROUGH) and throw my arms up as I finished the race.
My last mile was my slowest (positive splits FTW) but I know the final .1 was faster, around 7:46 according to the Nike+ software (the splits above only show full miles).
As soon as I stopped racing, I felt better. In fact, I felt AMAZING! I knew by my watch and the race clock that I beat my 25:00 goal. I practically skipped to the baggage pick-up and while I was there, a cute guy who finished in 23-something talked to me. THIS TYPE OF THING NEVER HAPPENED WHEN I WAS SINGLE. What the hell!
Once I had my stuff, I headed out for my two mile jog back home. It was surprisingly easy, even though the race was so hard. I even ran the first of those two in 8:57 but it didn’t feel that fast because, like I said, it is all relative with me.
I arrived home and began my obsessive refresh of the race results page.
And finally, that evening while we were at a party, I got my official results.
Official time: 24:27
Average pace: 7:53
Second in my age group! Aaahhhhhhhh!!!!!!! (Update: I didn’t stick around after the race for the awards, but I won a MEDAL that I will be getting from the race organizer!)
Not only did I destroy my arbitrary-but-still-a-reach goal time of 25:00, but I came in second place in my age group! I know this was a small race with 291 finishers and 34 in my age group, but still! I also really like the fact that there is no way I could have come in first place, even if I pushed harder — so there are no “what ifs.” I ran my best race and I spent the majority of the time since then smiling and saying to Andy, “I came in second place!”
And that pace. Wow. I never thought I had a sub-9 race in me, much less a sub-8. I can’t believe how far I’ve come.
So, there was something in the results to account for people who started further back. Because I started at the Start line, my time wasn’t adjusted but I noticed that other people’s were — and I can’t figure out how that works. My number that says 1.0000 is the “Factor” and 0.9844 is the “Percent.” Can anyone explain to me how the “Factor” works? How did they know where people started?
I am still really excited and really braggy about this race. I’ll probably reference it in every conversation I have, whether it fits or not. So, sorry to the people who have to talk to me. And sorry to my brain, which I may have promised during this race to never run a race again because it is actually not fun after all. Turns out it is fun.
Ready for more.