Race report: ASICS & AskMen Summer Series 5K

Why do I sign up for 5Ks? They always seem like such an awesome idea until I am actually racing one. The ASICS & AskMen Summer Series 5K was no exception to that. As a matter of fact, when I finished I was happy with the idea of never running a 5K ever again.

It all started about a month ago when I was reviewing my marathon training plan and noticed that training paces progressed every six weeks to account for natural progress during training. Me being the person that I am and needing all things to be logical and justified decided that I should run a race that fit into my training around the time of the increase. I found the ASICS & AskMen Summer Series 5K and totally did not give any thought to the fact that it was an hour away by train, on August 1st which would likely be hot, and was going to be on an exposed stretch next to the windy harbor. Nope, I just needed that justification for pace increases so I signed up.

The week before the race

I was traveling the week before the race so my training schedule got a little wonky. I ended up training 4 consecutive days in the week of the race and was only able to get in one rest day the day before. I had also delayed a full body circuit until late in the week. Who doesn’t like a challenge, right? So the day before the race I did my best to rest and recover. My hamstrings were sore and tight and later in the evening my heel started to bother me. I was also nervous about the heat and wasn’t sure what time goal to shoot for given I knew I had progressed since my last race, but I wasn’t sure how much. I decided on 3 goals:

A: 28:00 (9:00 mpm)
B: 28:31 (9:10 mpm)
C: 29:02 (9:20 mpm)

My “A” goal was based on a reasonable assumption of progress since my last race, “B” was a little less improvement, and “C” was based on my last race time. All were adjusted for an expected temperature of 76º using Jack Daniels’ VDOT Running Calculator.

The morning of the race

The morning of the race was pretty uneventful. I woke up just before my alarm at 5:15 am, ate, showered, dressed, did a little bit of stretching, then went to pick up the car. Drove down to the course, picked up my packet, checked my bag, and sat around for a bit waiting to warm-up. My warm-up was 2 miles at easy pace and I felt okay. I added a couple of 10 second strides in at the end just to remind myself what running fast feels like. Made a last minute pit stop and then hit the chute. I lined up in the crowd about 10′ back from the start line. The race director ended up popping in right next to me after making his announcements which was kind of neat.

The race

The air horn sounded and we were off. I crossed the start 5 seconds after the horn. I was mixed in with some fast runners and was running a 7-7:15 mpm pace for almost the first quarter mile. After blowing off that steam, I settled into a ~8:45 mpm pace. I knew I was running faster than anticipated, but I was trying to run by effort and figured if I crashed and burned later, at least I tried. There was a pretty significant headwind going on and I was a little nervous about effort going out, but told myself the awesome tailwind on the way back (it was an out-and-back course) would help me through the second half. I told myself when I hit mile 2, I would slow down slightly and recover a bit from the first mile before the last mile.

My race strategy was go out hard, float for the second mile, then push it home for the last mile. I found it difficult to slow down for some reason. I feel like sometimes I forget how to not push. I have noticed this on training runs, as well. At any rate, I was keeping an ~8:45 pace until mile 1.55 where we turned around. I slowed for the turnaround and the water stop directly after. By 1.7 miles I was back up to the ~8:45 pace.

Halfway point
Turning around at the halfway point.

Steve Prefontaine once said “The only good race pace is a suicide pace and today looks like a good day to die.” (I’m no Pre, but you really can’t argue the man’s logic given he never lost a collegiate 5K or 6K race.) By mile 3, I was definitely feeling like I was making a valiant attempt at suicide pace and a mile never seemed so long. Early in the mile I looked at my watch to see my race time and realized that even if I trotted the last mile at ~10:00, I would meet my “A” goal. But I didn’t slow and didn’t stop pushing even though it was feeling very much like a suicide pace. There was heavy breathing, some involuntary grunting, and a few people that passed me looking way to comfortable. One guy passed me quite easily and when I offered him a “good job” and commented on how effortless he looked, he told me he took it easy during the headwind before galloping off like a gazelle. I’m pretty sure that man was not running a suicide pace. Anywho, mile 3 was long and hard and to add insult to injury the sun decided to come out full force for the last quarter mile. It’s cool, I like a challenge.

Just before mile 3, I noticed a woman running off my shoulder. She definitely looked like she was running a suicide pace. I told myself that we would push each other through. Then she slowed down. I encouraged her to keep up, but around that time I noticed that two running team peeps were at the finish cheering for me. I picked up the pace and pulled away from the other runner to sprint through the finish. My last .11 was run at 7:16 pace. As I passed my cheering teammates, I threw my hands in the air and yelled to them “it’s gonna be a PR!!” I saw the clock and realized that I had totally shattered my PR goal. Final time: 27:16–43 seconds faster than my “A” goal.

Finish line
Crossing the finish line.

Race stats

Official finish: 27:16
Pace: 8:48/mile
Overall: 77 of 198
Age group (F 30-39): 8 of 37

Weather: Overcast, 75º, 66% humidity, 10mph wind

-Mile 1: 8:41
-Mile 2: 8:55
-Mile 3: 8:52
-Last .11: 7:16

Garmin distance: 3.11
Last comparable race (6/4, 3.2): 29:37, 9:03 pace

Pi Day 3.14 Race Report

Well it was bound to happen and I am surprised it didn’t sooner — it rained on my race day. It was low 40s and rainy as I headed to Roosevelt Island for the Girls Prep Ultimate Pi Day 5K. I considered not going, but since there is always a chance it could rain on marathon day, I decided it was better to get the experience in now than then. So I suited up for the weather with a trucker hat and rain shell and headed out the door.

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59th Street Bridge, Roosevelt Island Tramway, and Manhattan from the bib pick-up line on Roosevelt Island. Also a lovely shot of the Port-a-Potties. 😉

Pre-race

This was also the first time that I have done race day pick-up for a NYCruns race so I got there pretty early to ensure I would get everything done in time–bib and swag pickup, pit stop, stripping layers, dropping bag, and a warm-up. I overshot by about 30 minutes and spent those huddled under a covered sidewalk trying to stay warm and dry. I managed to at least stay dry. About 10 minutes before the race, I headed out into the rain for an easy warm-up.

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Hanging out under the overhang in front of a building waiting for time to warm-up.

The race

The race started promptly at 9:26:53. I haven’t been doing any speed or threshold work since last October before my injury and Winter base training so I knew I wasn’t going to PR. I really just wanted to see what I could do, where I am at, without the top end training. I felt good for the first mile (10:27), a little less good the second mile (10:31), and was hurting by the third mile (10:30). I’ve never felt strained to push my finishing kick, but I certainly did at the end of this race. I managed to pull out a 7:54 pace for the last .14 of the race, though, which I am super proud of given I was struggling so much. My Garmin clocked me at 32:50 for the race, but chip time said 33:30. More on that in a bit. Garmin distance said 3.17 (actual race distance was 3.14) which I am sure was from all of the Frogger I was playing along with some GPS drift.

Post-race

After the race, I had some mid-back pain on my right side, but otherwise felt okay. I wandered over to the snack table and wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t eat anything on it. Headed over to grab my bag which had my own snacks in it then wandered back over to the covered sidewalk to change into dry clothes. Got stripped down to my bra and someone started yelling behind me for everyone to leave. I turned around it was some lady with a “Roosevelt Island Security” slicker on. She continued to yell and ridiculously harass all of the runners. I just kept changing clothes and eventually walked off when I finished. Stretched a bit on the platform then headed home. Coffee from my favorite shop on the way home has never tasted so good or so warm!

Thoughts on the race and road racing in general (Warning: Rant-y)

Okay, so back to the chip time and some more details about my feelings about the race. Back when I first started racing in 2011-2012, I loved NYCruns races. They were small, cheap, and there were plenty of back of the packers to keep me company. I didn’t care that there weren’t water stops or highly visible mile markers. I was slightly annoyed by the swag–mostly coffee cups (like I need more of those) or oversized shirts that I ended up not being able to wear. But as newbie runner, the races had everything I was looking for including not feeling like less-than because I was so slow and sometimes needed walk breaks.

Things are pretty much the same with NYCruns except now I have more race experience under my belt and I expect certain things for my money. Like, I had forgotten how freaking narrow the course is around Roosevelt Island. Aside from being relatively flat, it is kind of a horrible place to race. You run on roads part of the time, but a lot of the time you are running on a narrow walk path that circles the island. If you are running middle of pack, it is just way too cramped. Add to that water puddles and runners who act like a cartoon elephant that just saw a mouse, and you get some considerable frustration. My shoes are actually covered in mud because there were several times that I ran next to the sidewalk in the muddy grass because people kept stopping and getting jammed up. Another thing was the mile markers were the equivalent of a realty sign. So if you didn’t happen to be looking for them at the exact moment you were coming up on them or weren’t on the same side as they were placed, you missed them. It was cold and wet and having to pull my hand and wrist out of my jacket to check my mileage was annoying. And what is up with putting the only water/snacks for the entire race a gazillion feet from the finish?! I literally had to back track on the course and walk across a muddy lawn to get a drink. Add to all of this the fact that I now have yet another oversized tech tee that I will get little use of and the fact that their chip clocked me at 40 seconds longer than my Garmin did. There is absolutely no way my watch was 40 seconds off. I started it just before crossing the start line and a few seconds after crossing the finish (I was sprinting and slowed to a walk before hitting stop). There is no way I was off by almost a minute. The only explanation is that the start sensor caught my chip while I was waiting to start. All of this may seem like whining, but if I am going to pay to run a timed race with support and a souvenir I actually want those done properly. I mean, I could just run around Roosevelt Island in the rain my damn self with a water bottle and a shirt that actually fits and get an accurate time FOR FREE and without annoying people who for some reason feel the need to pass me within inches then run directly in front of me so close that I have to move because I may step on them. Anywho, long story short, I don’t think I will being doing any more NYCruns races and probably won’t be doing any other road races besides the two that I am already signed up for–Brooklyn Half Marathon and NYC Marathon. I just don’t see the benefit in them anymore. I’ll stick to enjoying the road by myself and in fun runs with friends. Definitely not upset about spending more time on the trails, either!

Race report: 2014 Dash to the Line 5K

This was my second time running this race. Last year I had a great time and finished in 31:51. This year I was hoping to run an official sub-30 5K. Doing so would be at least an almost 2 minute improvement and would bump me into a faster corral for all NYRR races.

Race week: The best intentions

I planned to lower my mileage this week by 25-30% and to do a 2.5 day taper. I ended up running back-to-backs on Tuesday and Wednesday because I was a bit fatigued from my weekend trip so I skipped my Monday run. Both weekday runs went well–even if I did push more than I had planned on Wednesday’s shakeout run with Bart Yasso–and I felt confident for the race. On Thursday, my right knee was sore and I could tell it wasn’t a muscle or tendon issue it was overtraining. I RICEd and tried to stay off it as much as possible, but commuting into work and back doesn’t make that easy. My commute home ended up being longer than usual and with weight, too. On Friday morning, I was hopeful as my knee seemed okay. But that afternoon as I made my way to the Javits Center for my 6 hour volunteer shift, I knew it was probably going to be an issue. After standing for 6 hours and the long commute back home, I RICEd and headed to bed.

Race morning: This is not how I planned it

Race morning I overslept by 10 minutes which was just enough to throw off my schedule. I got to the train late and ended up getting off a stop early for bag check to try to make up time as I didn’t want to wait for the transfer for one stop. Got to bag check a little before 8, dropped my bag, used the facilities, and started towards the start line which was almost two miles away a little after 8. I had intended to run to the start as a warm-up and had I been able to I would have arrived well before the 8:30 start. However, at this point it was obvious that my knee was pissed. It was painful to walk, much less run. I walked a mile then jogged the last .75 to the start.

When I got to the start, they were already collapsing corrals. Since I knew there would be a lot of walkers, I tried to get as close to the front as possible. I ended up next to a very tall Norwegian gentleman during the wait for the gun. He gave me updates about what was happening at the start as I happily answered questions about the race for him. At this point it had started to rain and without moving, it felt very cold in the 45º. We were all ready to get this thing started.

The Race: Mile 1

As I crossed through the start, my plan was to still try for my sub-30, but to be okay with letting it go if I needed to. The start was very, very congested so staying conservative wasn’t an issue. There were already many people walking and lots of slower runners. There were plenty of faster runners trying to cut around everyone and being a little dickish. I tried to stay to the outside and pass without cutting off too many people. By the time we were heading under the Grand Central viaduct, I was running as “free” as I would the entire race. My Garmin was clocking me right around 9:35mm which was on pace for sub-30. My knee hurt, but I felt like I was okay to push through.

It wasn’t until my Garmin buzzed with my mile 1 time that I realized how off it was from the course. I thought it strange that my pace had jumped to 8:41mm, but figured it was just because of the downhill. It was actually because the watch was off by about .2 miles. When I looked at my time when I hit the mile 1 course marker, I was just over a 10mm pace. Time to pick it up.

The Race: Mile 2

By this point I had started playing some pretty serious frogger with walkers, slower runners, and people stopped in the middle of the course to take selfies. Many runners were running five and six abreast and some were carrying flags stretched across multiple people. My shoes were pretty much soaked at this point, not because of me running through puddles, but from nearby runners tromping and splashing through them. I hoped my wool socks would protect me from blisters. By this point, I wasn’t noticing my knee as I was too busy trying to get around people and keep my pace while playing frogger. Around mile 1.25, I made my way around some flag runners and one had an untied shoe. I tapped him and let him know. As I turned back to the course, I literally hit a wall. It was a pedestrian wall. Some jerk had actually walked across the course and I ran right into him, full body, at ~9mm pace. I was having a hard time navigating the course while running with the flow, I am not sure how he got across it walking. I rolled off him, thought about yelling something obscene, but turned my focus back to the course.

As I got to the park, the crowd really started to thicken. I was racing with my NBR jersey so I was very aware of my behavior and tried not to bump anyone. Inevitably people would drift over into me as I passed, though. My Garmin ticked off two miles and another sub-9mm, but mile 2 was still a ways off. I glanced at my watch just passed the mile 2 course marker and it was 19 something. I couldn’t do the math to figure out my actual pace as I tried to focus on frogger, but I knew I would have to pick up the pace through the park–through the hills. As I turned the corner into the park, I got tangled up with a few runners and when I finally got clearance I was almost elbowed in the face. “Turn Down for What” started to play as I hit the Central Park loop and got some space. Game face engaged.

The Race: Mile 3 and The Finish

The Central Park portion was tough. By this time my heart rate was in zone 5 (+90% of max) and my knee was starting to hurt pretty badly again because of the hills and my speed. My legs were also becoming heavy because I was running in zone 5. I just kept pushing. By the time I got to the mile 26 marathon marker, I knew I only had .2 miles to go to the finish. But I was in pain. So much pain that I was fighting tears. I pushed. At some point I looked at my Garmin and it said 29 something. I looked at the finish. I looked at my watch. 29:49. Just 10 seconds to make my goal. It hurt. There were people in the way. I couldn’t just let it go, though. I pushed harder. I felt like crying, but didn’t let myself. I sucked it up. I finally crossed the finish. I checked my watch. 29:55. It was going to be close.

The Race: Statistics

Official finish: 29:49

Pace: 9:36/mile
Weather: Light rain, 45º, 76% humidity, 6mph wind
Unofficial splits (based on comparing course map to Garmin):
-Mile 1: 10:07
-Mile 2: 8:50
-Mile 3: 8:57
-Last .11: 8:10
Garmin distance: 3.37
2013 Official Finish: 31:51
2014 Improvement: 2:02!

Post Race: Sub-30 meetup and heading home

After the race, I headed straight to bag check. Grabbed my bag and changed out of my wet singlet and arm warmers. My socks were so wet that they were going squish squish when I walked, but I didn’t want to change into dry socks until I got out of the park. Two of my teammates a few minutes to make it over so I stretched. We waited awhile for a third, but didn’t hear anything. He had crossed the finish just before me so not hearing from him was strange. We wondered if maybe he decided to just head home. We were cold and it was raining so we decided to start walking to find food. He ended up texting and caught up with us in the park. I slipped on my warm-ups over my tights, but was still cold. We ended up at a diner at 55th and Broadway. I finally got to use the bathroom and change into dry socks. Steak and eggs and home fries and coffee. NOM NOM NOM. It was great catching up with my online teammates. After breakfast we headed down to the train together. I was limping along and ended up slipping on some stairs down to the train. Luckily I caught myself and just ended up in a pistol squat. The commute home was slow, but brightened by all of the supportive posts on FB that I finally got a chance to read. It is incredible to me just how supportive my friends are of my running. I know many runners who deal with lots of friends being annoyed by their running. I feel truly blessed.