Tag Archives: 5k

Running is Dumb… and Awesome!

The title of this post represents the type of internal monologue I have with myself (re: running) on a daily basis. It’s a love/hate relationship. It’s hot and cold. On and off. You get the gist. It isn’t how I feel just towards running, though. When I swam in high school and college I had a similar approach. I hated swimming when it meant waking up at 5am for practice in the middle of January. But I loved it when it meant swimming a PR, winning a championship, and forging life long friendships. The same is true for me when it comes to running. And I’m sure a lot of you feel similarly about your sports/hobbies/extra curricular/life. But it’s that up and down that keeps us going, right?

My running friends and I joke to each other a lot about how we hate running, especially when the weather is terrible or we have to get up super early for a run. We joke that it’s terrible, but we keep doing it. So obviously, we don’t hate it that much. Or maybe we’re just masochists who like to punish ourselves a little. Whatever it is, its kept me coming back to running year after year, injury after injury. And I don’t think that’s going to ever change. While those awful training runs are a plenty, and waking up in the cold and dark to run alone in a park is never enjoyable, those slightly unpleasant moments are far outweighed by the feeling of success and accomplishment when you nail a workout or crush a race. At least they are for me.

This past Saturday I committed to running the NYC Runs Spring Fling 5k. Like I usually do about mid-week before a race, I was whining about how I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to have to wake up early and travel all the way to Roosevelt Island. It was going to be cold, and I was tired of figuring out just how many layers were the right amount for running. I was also hesitant at my level of fitness. I’m wildly competitive with myself and am also easily disappointed. I knew that I could be setting myself up for frustration… but I could also be setting myself up to be pleasantly surprised. I’ve been running pretty consistently since mid-November, but only recently started doing anything in the way of speed work. I was in phenomenal shape the last time I raced a 5k, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I wouldn’t know unless I toed the line on Saturday morning. So with slight trepidation I met up with my Jersey City pal Miranda and made the trek to Roosevelt Island, wearing a lot more layers than I would have liked.

You sure it's spring?

You sure it’s spring?

We arrived at 7:30am, an hour before the start. It was just enough time to each get a picture, whine about the cold, visit the port-o-potties, bring our gear to bag check, and run a mile. As we were waiting for things to get started we saw Carla, and walked to the start with her. We lined up towards the front (yet there were still somehow little children in front of us?), and things got underway right at 8:30am. Since I was towards the front but not IN front I took it out a little faster than I would have liked, just to try and get away from some of the crowd (there’s a hairpin turn less than a quarter mile into the race, so I wanted as much breathing room as possible). I looked down at my watch and saw 6:15, laughed, and tried to reign it in a little; there was no way I was holding onto that for 3 miles. I slowed down slightly, continued to chug along, and tried to figure out exactly what I wanted to do during the race (better late than never?). I thought my best bet was to keep it feeling hard but not impossible and to see what happened. So that’s what I did. I did my best to keep my effort around 90% and chug along. It felt hard, but not like I was running out of steam or really, really pushing the pace. Before I knew it we were at the lighthouse turnaround point with the wind at our backs, so I pushed the pace slightly for the last half mile or so. There weren’t a lot of people near me, so I knew I had a pretty good chance at placing in my age group.

Spoiler alert: I won my age group

Spoiler alert: I won my age group

There was another hairpin turn right before the finish which was slightly annoying, but thankfully there wasn’t really anyone around me so I didn’t have to worry about crashing into someone. Before the last turn I quickly looked at my watch, realized I could make it in under 21, and hustled my way to the finish. I wound up crossing in 20:43, exactly 8 seconds off my PR from September 2014. It was good enough for 26th overall, 6th woman, and 1st in my age group (gotta rack up those 20-29 AG points before I move up June)! And more importantly, I couldn’t be more pleased! Considering I’ve only been running consistently for about 3 1/2 months after all my injury drama and my 5k PR is from when I was in tip-top running shape, this bodes well for my 2016 racing season… so long as I can stay healthy. I’d love to be able to run a sub-20 5k, but I know that will require a lot more work; those 35 seconds will be hard to shave off. It was a huge confidence booster, and it makes me excited for the spring, summer, and fall. I’ll have to remind myself of days like Saturday when I’m up at 5am trying to beat the heat, trudging through less than enjoyable long runs, and having one of those “running is dumb” moments.

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Race Recap: Greta’s Run 5k

I remember September 11th, 2002 just as clearly as I remember September 11th, 2001. The days were eerily similar – beautiful blue skies, light winds, and a perfect late summer/early fall day… and tragic. After a moment of silence outside on our high school’s front lawn for the first anniversary of September 11th, I went off to lunch. Our high school offered four lunch periods, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th… and I was lucky enough to have 5th (yes, I was hungry by 10:54am for lunch). After that I can’t remember what class I had, but I remember being in math class 7th period. That’s when our principal came over the loud speaker to let us know there had been an accident in the front of the school, and that everyone needed to stay put. Naturally we all began to panic. My classroom was towards the back of the school near some fields, and we just watched as police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances went racing by. It seemed like hours passed… and they did. Our teacher would get a phone call every so often with information, but she wouldn’t share much. Eventually though, we saw a helicopter land on the field out back, and a few stretchers go racing by.

I’d later learn that during 7th period, as students were sitting out front eating lunch, a gust of wind came along that was strong enough to knock a very large (dead) tree branch from it’s trunk. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been an issue, as students wouldn’t have been in the front of the school at that time. However, construction prevented them from sitting in the courtyard, so the tables had been moved to the front. Unfortunately the giant tree branch fell on a group of students (mostly freshmen) eating lunch. Everyone recovered, except for Greta. Her injuries were too severe, and three days later she passed away. Our school was rocked to the core by this tragedy – how could a student, simply sitting outside eating her lunch during the first week of school, be killed? It just didn’t make sense. I had known the family from YMCA swimming, and was completely heartbroken for them. There were vigils, wakes, and the funeral that almost the entire student body attended. I know that I will vividly remember those days for the rest of my life.

But as it happens so often, out of tragedy comes something positive. Last year, one of my friends (and former CCD students) organized a 5k run in Westfield to raise funds for a program to serve adults with special needs, who typically age-out of programs as they get older. So while I wasn’t able to run last year, I made sure to mark it on my calendar early and register right away for this year. I knew that regardless of the outcome of my actual race that it was a cause I wanted to help support! But onto the actual race report…

The race didn’t start until 11am, so I had plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep and have my pre-race breakfast. My mom came with me to the race, and we were there with plenty of time to spare. I went for a quick warm-up, and lined myself up towards the front of the race. I started chatting with a fellow runner, who it turns out knows quite a few people I went to high school with! After some songs from the choir (that’s right, choir), it was time to run. Per the usual, I nearly tripped over a little boy who started in front of me and decided to stop about 50 yards past the start. Thankfully I didn’t fall (and I don’t think he did either). The first mile came relatively quickly (6:38) and I felt decent. I knew that if I could hold on to that pace, I’d PR. Of course by 1.5 miles I wanted to quit, but I knew I had to keep going. By the time I was halfway, I had picked off quite a few runners, including a handful of females. No one was saying anything, but based on what I could see ahead of me I knew I was either second or third. I slowed down a little during the second mile (6:45), but this portion also had the most “rolling hills.”

New PR! And 2nd Overall Female

New PR! And 2nd Overall Female

I told myself just to hang on the best I could for the third mile, and it was here that I heard someone yell “alright! Second female!” I had no idea how close the third place woman was, so I tried my hardest not to slow down. The course had a lot of turns but I think I managed to cut them all really well (Garmin actually read 3.1!). Once I turned by the middle school I knew we were almost done, so I tried my best to kick it up to “puke pace” … which turned out to be the same pace I ran the first mile in – go figure (6:38). I crossed the finish and saw that the girl I had been chatting with earlier, Erin, was the overall female winner! We grabbed some water and decided to do a cool-down together before heading back over the the finish area for the awards. It didn’t hit me until after I had finished that I ran a 20:35, which is actually just over a minute faster than the PR I set in July. Icing on the cake was my 2nd place female finish!

Kennedy approves of the medal

Kennedy approves of the medal

After the race my mom and I got Starbucks and a sandwich from my favorite bagel shop, and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s before heading home. It was really great to run a race that supported an important cause and was in honor of a really great girl. It was also fun to see a lot of familiar hometown faces and catch up with some people! This is definitely a race I’m going to keep on my calendar for every year.

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Race Recap: Downtown Westfield Pizza 5k

Running a 5k at the end of July on a Wednesday night takes strategy. You have to know what to eat throughout the day and when, how much water to drink so you’re well hydrated but not bursting, and you have to be able to mentally push yourself while also knowing when you need to take it easy because of the heat. Those three things seem easy enough, but as race day progresses it becomes more important… and annoying.

Going in to Wednesday night’s run, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. My runs at home had been feeling less than stellar thanks to the heat and humidity, but while I was up in Rochester visiting my sister over the weekend, my runs felt great in the cooler and less humid temperatures. I talked with Jason, and he said I really had two options: run hard and maybe feel like crap at the end, or take it a little easier knowing that I am faster than my finish time. I figured I would play it by ear, since I really didn’t know how it would feel until I started running, and making a decision while sitting on my couch in air conditioning seemed silly.

Since the race started at 7pm, I arrived in Westfield at around 5:30pm. This gave me enough time to grab my bib and t-shirt (and snazzy bright red hat since I was one of the first pre-registered runners) and get in a warm-up. I was supposed to do a 3 mile warm-up, but felt lethargic and was covered in sweat within a mile, so I called it at 2. Being the smart cookie I am, I brought three different shirts: one for warm-up, one for the race, and one for afterwards. After making a pit-stop at the port-o-potties they have set up by the train station, I made my way over to the starting line. Since the race starts right in the middle of downtown, they leave the traffic open until the very last minute. Being the good citizen that I am, I waited patiently on the sidewalk, while I watched runners haphazardly walk in the street. At one point a cop yelled “GET OUT OF MY STREET!” to which I laughed. Isn’t it the tax payer’s street? But anyway…

After waiting for a few minutes (finally in the street), it was go time. As usual, it was a crowded and bunched up start. So much so, that at one point someone must have tripped over someone else’s feet and a whole slew of people were almost taken down. I don’t think anyone actually fell, but I was pushed and slammed into quite a few people. I’m not sure how I didn’t get taken down, but I managed to stay upright and get away from the mess. The first half mile felt decent, but the second half is all uphill. That’s when I realized the race wouldn’t be anywhere near what I had hoped it would be back when I signed up, so I resolved to just try my best, but not push it too much because of the weather.

The second mile has a  lot of turns and a few more hills and, by this point the heat was starting to get to me. I wound up slowing down a lot in the second mile, but I still felt like I was working hard. It’s amazing how deceiving hot weather and humidity can be while running! There were plenty of residents outside cheering, a lot with hoses spraying out into the street and I made sure to take advantage of any cool drops of water coming my way. Despite slowing down, I was able to pass a lot of people during the second mile. I knew that if I could just save a little energy I would be able to pick it up for the last mile, especially because the majority of it is downhill.

As we started the third mile, I tried to dig down as best as I could to finish strong. I reminded myself what Jason had said to me when we were making a race plan – it’s just a mile. I picked it up as best as I could in the first half, and then let the final hill carry me down the last half. I usually pick it up too early on the home stretch and wind up getting re-passed by people I’ve passed on the downhill, but I managed to hold my ground and even pass a few more people in the final quarter. I got myself across the finish line in 21:38, which turned out to be a 19 second PR from my last 5k in December. Considering the weather, I’m quite pleased. Originally I was bummed, knowing that I have a much faster 5k in me (my 4 miler’s average pace was 9 seconds per mile faster), but then came to my senses and realized that even the slightest PR in the heat and humidity would have been impressive.

After I finished, I immediately grabbed two water bottles and made my way back towards the finish so I could watch other runners. Unfortunately, I made it back just in time to see a girl start to really struggle, and then almost collapse about 200 feet from the finish. Thankfully a spectator ran out into the street and eventually a cop and race official grabbed her too. Understanding the drive and determination of a runner, the cop actually picked her up and hurried across the finish with her in his arms. I cheered for a few more minutes, and then made my way over to get some pizza!

PIZZA!

PIZZA!

After enjoying a slice, I figured I would check the posted results to see if I placed. The race is pretty big for a local week night 5k, and it attracts a lot of fast runners (especially high school and college runners getting ready to start XC season). Assuming I didn’t place, I quickly scanned the results. WRONG. I wound up coming in 3rd in my age group! So I took some time to grab another water and wander around the different vendor tables. As I was waiting for the awards, I noticed the sky getting darker and darker, and the deep gray clouds moving at a rapid speed. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before a serious storm started. Since the race started at 7pm, they wanted to wait until 8pm to do the awards. Under normal circumstances this would have been fine, but by 8pm the lightening had arrived, and I was watching it flash across the sky as I stood in the middle of the street hoping not to get struck. They got through about 5 age groups before they called it, because the lightening had moved to being right over us, and rain drops were starting to fall. I ran up to the table to grab my medal and just like that, the sky opened. It started to torrential downpour, so hard and fast that I couldn’t see in front of me. I laughed that I had finally dried off, knowing that a cool-down wasn’t going to happen. So instead, I sprinted (probably just as fast as during the race, if not faster) to my car, which was just under a mile away. I let that count as my cool-down.

The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.

The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.

I made it back to the car safely, tried to towel off as best I could, and made a beeline to Chipotle to pick up dinner.  While eating dinner at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night isn’t ideal, it was a fun evening. I whine about the race every year and swear I won’t sign up the following year, but do anyway. I used to be envious of everyone in my hometown that could run, so when I finally started running this was a race I knew I had to do. I mean, it was my first 5k back in 2009! Even though I missed the last two years due to injury, I’m probably going to keep doing this race for as long as I can. And I’ll probably keep complaining about it, too.

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Race Recap: Rutgers Big Chill 5k

Sometimes when you set out to have a “fun easy run,” you wind up setting  PR… right?

Oh, you mean that doesn’t happen to you? Yeah, it doesn’t really ever happen to me either. Yet I was that jerk on Sunday morning when my friends asked me what my race plan was, and I replied nonchalantly with “Eh, no plans. It’s cold, I ran 9 miles yesterday. I’m just going to go out there and do whatever, not trying to PR or really race.”

I truly didn’t believe I had any fast-ish legs in me on Sunday morning. I’ve been slowly increasing my mileage since the Richmond Half, and this week was to top out at 33 miles (which isn’t a lot, but relative to what I was running a month ago, is). I ran a hard 7 miler on Wednesday with 3 of those miles at tempo/progression, and on Saturday I ran 9 miles as my “long run.” So based on that (and the fact that it was going to be pretty cold) I hoped to just finish within 23 minutes or so on race day. I had no intentions of really “racing” and the two beers I had on Saturday night I think helped solidify those intentions.

I woke up Sunday morning, threw on two lux layers and my long tights, and headed over to Rutgers University’s College Avenue campus where the race was being held. I got there with enough time to park, meet up with some friends in the gym, and then head over to the race start where I proceeded to shiver for about 5 minutes. This particular race is a fundraiser, and the fee for the 5k is an unused, unwrapped children’s toy worth at least $10 (some lucky kiddo is going to love my Merida doll). You have the option of having your bib chipped or not, and I figured if I was going to run, I might as well make it official (and I’m glad I did)!

Trying to keep my face warm before the race

Trying to keep my face warm before the race

After about 5 minutes of shivering it was go time. I should mention here that I forgot my Garmin watch at home, so I had absolutely no idea what pace I was running during the race. Last time I forgot my watch I was running my very first 10k on an extremely hilly course, which was definitely a negative (I ran the first half way too fast and crawled through the second 5k), so I always get nervous when I forget it now. I’d like to think I’m a smarter runner than I was a year ago, and since it was “only” a 5k I knew that if I did go out too fast, I wouldn’t have to try to hold on for too long. Plus, I always hear about people leaving their watches at home, running on feel, and doing really well. So I decided to go with that approach! As I came up to the first mile I saw 7:06 on the clock, and thought to myself, “Well, I guess this isn’t going to be an easy run.” I decided to try and keep the current pace so long as it wasn’t too much of a struggle, which it wasn’t. The second and third miles were about the same (I’m impressed by such even pacing), and I managed to squeeze in just under 22, in 21:57 (5th in my age group, and 14th woman overall out of 512)!

Thumbs up for this girl

Thumbs up for this girl

This winds up being a 45 second PR, which isn’t huge, but is something! I’ve really wanted to get under 22 minutes for a 5k – for some reason I had in my head that was a “competitive” and “relatively fast” time – so it’s been my goal. Obviously now that I’m (barely) in the 21 club, I’d love to get to the 20 club, but that’s going to take a lot of work! Since I ran 9 miles the day before, wasn’t planning on racing, and pushed it only to about 90% effort, I’m excited to see what I can do when I truly race a 5k and push it to puke pace (how I judge my race efforts). This is the second weekend in a row I’ve finished a race and been pleasantly surprised with myself. I finish and think, “wow, did I really just run a race at that pace?” I really didn’t think low 7’s would be coming to me so easily. I hope I can keep it up!

I don’t have any other races on my calendar in the immediate future, though I will likely run the Westfield Hangover 5k on January 1st to kick off the year on the right foot, and hopefully I can find a few other local races to run  between now and the Shamrock Half in March (goal race). I couldn’t be happier with my 2013 racing performance despite my injury setbacks and lack of a big marathon PR, which was my main running goal for the year. I’m excited for (faster) racing in 2014.

Tell me…
Are you done racing for 2013? 
What’s on your racing schedule for 2014?

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Summer Series XC 5k: Take Two

Even though it feels like I just completed my first cross country 5k yesterday, I actually ran my second this past Tuesday. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a little hesitation going into this one, simply because the first one was difficult (albiet fun), and while I do lots of things that are hard and hurt, I don’t usually look forward to that pain. Plus, with the temperature a solid 10 degrees higher than it was last time, I knew it was going to be a sweat-fest.

Around 4:30pm it started to thunder and by 5p there was a torrential downpour. I started to get nervous that the race would be cancelled, or run in the rain. I knew that the park would yet again be muddy and gross, but since I experienced that last time, it was the least of my worries. As in typical summer storm fashion, though, the sun was back out by 5:15p. So I got everything together, and headed to the park for the 7p start.

Because it was so hot, I didn’t want to push it too much, but still wanted to run a competitive and decent race based on the conditions. I started in a much better position this time (the race starts diagonal across a field as you hop over a mini ditch), found the girl that had come in first last time, and set myself behind her. The grass wasn’t nearly as wet as it had been last race, but I still found myself slip-sliding all over the place. After one the diagonal hills, I lost my footing and nearly ate it.

Survived... ish.

Survived… ish.

There were two other women that started out in front of me, but by about mile 2 it was just me, the girl from last time, and a whole bunch of men. I was struggling to breathe and knew my overall pace was slower than the last 5k, but by mile 2 I wasn’t too concerned knowing that I was comfortably in 2nd. I had high hopes of being able to catch the first place woman on the second half of the last lap, but I just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to do it, and she beat me by 4 seconds… again. I ran a 23:01, which was 19 seconds slower than two weeks ago.

Getting my medal!

Getting my medal!

Just like after the first 5k, we got to hang out and enjoy some food and drinks (all I could stomach was a Philly pretzel, as seen above), and then it was awards time! Last time I scored myself a plant (that is still alive, wahoo!), and this time I got a neat little medal since I came in 1st in my age group. See that adorable shirtless man sitting on the picnic bench in the foreground of the picture? He’s 79, and ran last time too… in an impressive 41 minutes! Talk about inspirational.

I’d be lying if I said that this was so much fun the whole time and I wasn’t dreading it a little. I mean, the first 5k was successful and I was really proud of myself, but it was hard! I don’t think it’s abnormal for me to be a little hesitant for repeat pain. I found myself at the end when it really started to hurt, telling myself that it was worth it and that not everyone races a 5k on a hot and humid Tuesday night (yes, mid-race pats on the back are necessary sometimes). But since I came in first in my age group again, my time from the first race still stands as the course record which was reason enough for me to have run again!

1stplace

Next up on my racing calendar is a 4 miler on the 4th of July with Ashley … we’re both going to PR, I just know it! Then it’s the third installment of the summer series on the 9th. And then the fourth summer series on the 23rd, and a road 5k on the 24th. So yes, I’m racing 4 times (all during the week) in July!

Do you have any races coming up?
If you race during the week, do you do anything differently during your work day?

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Summer Series 5k

A local running club, Raritan Valley Road Runners (RVRR) hosts a 5k running series every summer, and I finally decided to join in the fun this year. They have 4 race nights throughout the summer (on Tuesdays, two in June, two in July) and you can do any or all of them. I felt ambitious when filling out the form, so I obviously signed up for all four races. I figured I might as well, since Tuesdays are speed work/intervals anyway, and for only $15 each, I could get in some fast running and participate in some cross-country races (which I’ve never done before).

The last few days have been exceptionally wet around here, which actually caused the race I was going to run in Pennsylvania this past Saturday to be cancelled. Since we’re close to the Raritan River, and the race is actually held in a park that borders it, I was worried that there would be flooding at the park. There was a chance of rain on Tuesday, and I had my eyes to the sky, especially in the afternoon as clouds rolled in and the wind started to pick up. Thankfully the weather couldn’t make up its mind, and by the time the race started the sun was back out for a bit.

This year the race moved to a different park from where they’ve had it in the past, so we actually wound up starting 20 minutes late due to some people heading to the other park by accident. I didn’t really mind, but it was awkward to have warmed up and then sit around for 40ish or so minutes. I really didn’t have any expectations going into the race because I had never ever run cross country before, so I didn’t know if I should try for a PR or not. Plus, like I said, there had been a TON of rain over the weekend, and the park we were in typically floods. So it was no surprise to me to see parts of the path under water, and big puddles of muddy water on the grass. It’s a good thing the sneakers I wore are on their last leg; they’re covered in mud now!

Just a little muddy

Just a little muddy

We got a brief course description, and then before I knew it we were off. Even though they explained the course, I really had no idea where we were going… even though when I first started running I spent 90% of my time in this park. We jumped over a little ravine, trudged through puddles on a path, sloshed through wet grass, ran up some hills, and down some hills… twice. I kept it controlled on the first loop, trying to get a lay of the land and figure out what exactly the course was, knowing I’d have the opportunity to pick it up (if my body let me) the second time around being more familiar. I’m happy to report that after the first quarter mile or so, I didn’t get passed by anyone, and instead did all the passing myself. I did pick it up the second time around, and that proved interesting – I almost lost my shoe at one point due to some seriously muddy grass!

By the last half mile or so I had zeroed in on a younger boy and another woman a few strides ahead of me. Since the path was narrow and had some branches and tree roots, I didn’t push it as hard as I probably could have, which wound up a smart idea because I still managed to roll my ankle at one point. I hadn’t seen any other women in front of me aside from the one in my view, but I was sure I must have missed someone somewhere. Things started to hurt, and I just kept repeating my new mantra, “so much pain. so much fun.” We made a sharp turn onto the field and I powered through to the finisher chute, with the boy I had been trailing out kicking me.

The little bit of pavement on the course!

The little bit of pavement on the course!

I crossed the finish in 22:42, a brand spankin’ new PR! I was kind of shocked – sure I had felt decent, but the race was hard. The whole time I kept thinking about how cross country running is no joke! Everyone around me kept saying after the race “wow, that was a true cross country course!” which made me feel better about how hard I thought it was. It turns out that there hadn’t been any other women in front that I miscounted, and I came in second (by two seconds…) and first in my age group! Plus, because it was a new course, I automatically scored myself the current age group record! Since this is a series, though, I have added pressure now to make sure no one else creeps in and grabs the course record in the next three races. But even if they do, I’m okay with having it for two weeks… I had plenty of swimming records in high school and college come and go… that’s the beauty of athletics! For my efforts I got a sweet potted plant, that I’m actually going to plant in my front “yard” eventually.

Plant for the win - literally!

Plant for the win – literally!

After the race they have food and beer, so I grabbed myself a slice of pizza and a Philly pretzel for dinner. It may not have been the healthiest post-race food, but it sure was delicious! We didn’t get home until around 8:30p, and I was in bed not too long after that since I got up at 6am Wednesday morning to run again. I’m really looking forward to the other three races in the series, along with the other summer races I have on my schedule.

Have you ever raced during the week? Love it? Hate it?

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Relays

To an outsider, sports like swimming and running seem very much individual sports. However, for those of us “in the know,” we realize that at times it can be a very individualized sport, but at the same time, highly team oriented. As someone who puts a lot of pressure on themselves and is intrinsically competitive, swimming was the perfect sport for me growing up. I was able to race against myself and the clock, but at the same time contribute to a team and a common goal. So after I graduated, it was really no surprise to myself or anyone I know that running was the sport I decided to take up next.

Relays were always one of my favorite parts about swimming. I always swam the shorter relays (200 or 400), meaning it was anywhere from 25 to 60 seconds of pure “give it your all.” Or, as I fondly referred to it, going balls to the wall (almost literally). Swimming isn’t much of a spectator sport, but walk into any meet, and you are guaranteed to see people up on their feet, eyes glued to the pool when it comes time for the relays. Sometimes the hardest part about being on a relay was not your actual leg – but standing nearby, either completely out of breath or having near heart palpitations before your turn, knowing there is only so much you can do, and the rest falls into the hands of three teammates.

So obviously when I saw that there was a 10k relay at a park basically 5 minutes from my house on Sunday, I knew I had to sign up. The concept was simple: find a partner, and you each run a 5k, broken in half… meaning 1.55 miles twice. The event was put on by a local running team, so the field was fast. I decided that my best plan of attack was to treat it like a speed workout. Even though running 1.55 miles followed by a 10-ish minute break isn’t ideal, I figured it would be a good general test of my endurance. Plus, I was pumped to see that the race swag was a pair of gloves, instead of yet another boxy race shirt.

They even have little grippies!

They even have little grippies!

The best part of the race was the start – I generally start too fast and have to try and pull back in the first half mile or so, but since I was only running 1.55 and then getting a break, I didn’t pull back as much as normal… but I also didn’t feel like I was trying nearly as hard as a 7 minute mile usually feels. Since the field was full of legitimate high school and college runners, I kept on my merry way as people flew by me. After the first leg, I was definitely tired, but felt like I could have kept going, finishing with a just around 7 minute pace average. I tried my best to keep moving on the muddy grass, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my turn, so I didn’t move nearly as much as I would have liked.

By the time I started my second leg, my legs were definitely feeling it but overall I was comfortable. And then I got annoyed. Some dude decided that he was going to use me as a wind shield and draft off of me for the next mile. I considered slowing down, and even at one point as he was breathing heavily down my neck ask him if he was going to continue to draft off of me for the remainder of the race, or if he wanted to grow a pair and run his own race. Of course being much meaner in my head, I refrained and carried on. I came around the bend to hand off my baton, and was slammed by someone coming in behind me not paying attention. Not really the way I wanted to end my part of the race, but I was pleased with my overall 22:12! Unfortunately there wasn’t any water near the hand-off area, so I jogged in circles until the hubs finished, with our respectable time of  43:50.

I did about a mile cool down, and waited to see the results just for fun. We came in 55th and 11th in our division (co-ed open). Then we booked it to Old Man Rafferty’s in downtown New Brunswick for brunch with some other friends that ran the race as well. It was a perfect ending to a fun morning. The weather was perfect, the running was speedy but not too difficult, and anything that ends in cupcakes is good if you ask me.

This was obviously round 2.

This was obviously round 2.

Overall I’m really happy with the race, and the way I’ve been running in general. My last few runs while nothing spectacular, have felt good, and have been in the low 8’s. I’d really love to PR at my next half marathon in April, so if I can keep up the mileage and incorporate some more speed work like Sunday’s race, I think I’ll be in good shape. Now if only I could find more relays to do!

Have you ever run (or swam!) a relay? Love or hate them?
Do you have a favorite post-race food?

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Super Sunday

Friday marked the first day of using my brand spakin’ new Believe I Am training journal. I ordered the journal at the beginning of January and have been anxiously awaiting the beginning of February to start officially using it. Even though Fridays are rest days, I couldn’t wait to start using it and scribble in my first race results in the book – the Super Sunday 5k.

Welp, guess my main goal is out there now...

Welp, guess my main goal is out there now…

I really had no plan going into this 5k, with it being only 2 weeks after the Disney marathon. I knew that getting my legs to move fast would be tricky, especially after waking up to see snow on the ground. So I picked a pace that I thought would be doable but not easy (7:30 average), and figured if I felt better then I’d go for it, but if not, I would at least be happy with my finish time. Of course I have big plans for all my racing distances in 2013, but knew Sunday wasn’t going to be the day to PR.

It was COLD on Sunday morning. The race started at 11am and we arrived around 10am, so we spent a solid 30 minutes in the car with the heat on trying to stay warm after picking up our bibs and t-shirts. The shirts were interesting… I was offered either the women’s medium which was described as “kind of small, with kind of short long sleeves” or the men’s medium that was “kind of big, like a nightgown.” Why they didn’t have a men’s small or a larger women’s shirt I have no idea, but I decided on the nightgown look. I actually wound up putting the shirt on underneath my singlet; I seriously underestimated the cold and would not have been comfortable with what I had on. By the time the race started my toes were a little numb, and my exposed ankles and neck were stinging. But once we started I was immediately distracted by the faucet also known as my nose (you’re welcome).

The race was small (only 259 finishers), and wound through Somerville streets. It only snowed about an inch or so over night so the roads were mostly okay, but there was some slush that made me nervous. I was able to navigate around it because the roads were wide and empty, but there were definitely a few steps where I had zero traction. There were lots of turns, and I’m happy to report I ran the tangets well. I also managed not to floor it my first mile (like I’ve been known to do) and kept my pace very consistent. Since it was a smaller race, I knew there was a chance I’d be able to place at least in my age group, and maybe even overall. I’ve placed at a few races before, but they’ve always been on the smaller side… which I’ll take! The only women I had seen on the course I passed, but I knew there were a few that must have taken off and were just out of my view. I eyed up a small and speedy looking girl at the start, and my prediction was right – she went on to win the entire race! But other than that, I really wasn’t sure where I’d come in.

As it turns out, I finished in 23:16, right at that 7:30 average I wanted to maintain, and 20 seconds off of my current 5k PR. Being the race was so small, that ranked me as the 4th female overall, and 1st in my age group! The prize was a sweet pint glass, that I conveniently got to use while watching the Superbowl!

Look at all those layers!

Look at all those layers!

Next up on my racing schedule is a 5k Road Relay at the end of the month. In teams of 2 you each run a 5k (broken in two) to total a 10k, passing a baton and everything. I’m really looking forward to it! I’m ready to ramp up my mileage and add in some speed work to get ready for the Spring’s half marathons I have on deck. And of course, to use my shiny new Believe I Am journal!

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Racing For Fun

I remember when I was younger all of my friends played soccer. It started out as “in-town soccer,” and for those who were serious, they eventually moved up to “traveling soccer.” Where I lived, you played soccer in the fall, lacrosse or softball/baseball in the spring, and you swam on the swim team at the local town pool in the summer. Obviously I wanted to be like everyone else, and told my parents that I too wanted to play soccer. They were all ready to sign me up and I was ready as well – until they told me how it worked; practice was on Saturdays, and games were on Sundays. The mere thought of a game and having to compete against people scared me to death – I immediately changed my mind and decided to stick with ballet and tap dancing.

Fast forward a few years, and I was taking swimming lessons. Eventually I had made my way through the ranks (our YMCA had cute group names like porpoise, flying fish, dolphin, etc.), and one of the swim instructors had a heart-to-heart with me; it was either time to join the swim team, or to move on. I really enjoyed swim lessons, and finally through a lot of convincing, I signed up for the swim team when I was in 6th grade. Little did I know, that first day on the Westfield  YMCA swim team would determine the next 10 years of my life, becoming increasingly competitive as the years passed.

Me during my non-competitive days… Love you Kate!

Why the cute little anecdote? Well, I thought it would be a good precursor to explaining how I approach running. I have an odd relationship with competition; I thrive in it and feed off of it, but at the same time, it scares me to death. I often put so much pressure on myself (as we all do) to succeed in anything and everything that I do, and it’s sometimes overwhelming. I think part of the reason why I struggle through marathon training is twofold; I don’t have nearly enough confidence to think I can do it (well), and at the same time, figure that if my training is lackluster, any time will be an accomplishment. I suppose you could say it’s a little self-sabotage. I work myself up over PR’s and placement, that I forget why I even started running and what it means just to cross the finish line.

After Chicago, though, I realized this is no way to continue my running career. Only running a few races a year because I’m constantly striving for a perfect race is absurd. I should be finding as many races as I can and running them all (as my wallet allows)! So, on my quest to do just that, this past Saturday I ran a 5k for fun – that’s right, there were clocks but no official results or scoring. There were clocks at every mile as well as the finish of the certified course, but as the event’s website says, there was no official scoring or results, “in an event to keep it friendly.”

Such an appropriate Brooks shirt!

Since I hadn’t run a 5k in over a year, I knew it would be almost impossible for me not to PR, and because it was such a small race, I had little pressure. I toed the line, and as the bullhorn went off, I booked it. Within the first quarter of a mile or so I looked at my watch and realized I was running around a 6:20 pace. I laughed and tried to reign it in the best I could, knowing I’d wind up crawling across the finish if I kept it up. Since I’m never at the front of a race (though I’m usually not TOO far behind), I forgot that there were likely people around me that could run this in about 18 minutes. Once the reality of what I was capable of set in, I was already losing steam. I crossed the first mile just under 7, and the next 2.1 were a struggle, running around a 7:30, and then a 7:20 the last 1.1. I was able to PR in 22:55 (7:23 average) and cross as the third female overall.

The race was perfect – I had little pressure on myself, and while I started out too fast, I’m happy with the run overall. And, who doesn’t like a post-run beer?! I’ve got my eyes on some more 5k’s between now and Disney… I just have to make sure my wallet will allow it!

Do you ever race for fun?
Do you prefer high or low pressure races? 

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Running and food are a perfect combination

Downtown Westfield is doing something right. At first, you might think to yourself – why on earth would I want to run a 5k at 7pm at the end of July? That’s just asking for torture. Well, perhaps because you’ll get to eat all the pizza you want as soon as you cross the finish line. Yes, as soon as you cross that finish line the first thing on your mind is water and to continue walking, but once the nausea passes and you realize it’s over, hunger sets in.

For the past few years (I believe about 9) Downtown Westfield in New Jersey (my home town!) has been doing a 5k pizza run extravaganza. If you’re unfamiliar with Westfield, it’s a pretty nice town; it’s won the Main Street USA award a few years, the television show Ed was filmed here as well as tid bits of quite a few commercials and movies. It was also called home by the creator of The Addams Family, Langston Hughes, Dave Brown (Giants), Zora Neale Hurston, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe… you get the drift.

This is my second year running the race, and last year it was actually my first 5k, and second road race. It started to drizzle and there was some serious wind and lightning before the start, but I was hopeful it’d hold out until we were done – and it did! I decided to rock my newly acquired No Meat Athlete shirt, which is adorable! Even though I’m not 100% veggie and my fiancé joked it was false advertising, I think the idea behind the shirt, and the fact that I’m at least conscious and mindful about what I eat is what counts!

Happily rockin' my shirt pre-race

I had a little trouble starting MapMyFitness on my iPhone once the race started, so people were pushing me out of the way (rude!). It was honestly one of the rudest races I’ve ever run – people were cutting me off left and right, zig zagging so I couldn’t get in front of them, and elbowing me and invading my personal space! I had a cramp within the first half mile till the end, and my side is actually a little sore from it. But in the end I finished in 25:21, almost a minute faster than my previous PR, set last October. Hoorah! With the heat and humidity, and it being at 7p after a full day of work, I was very pleased.

Down the home stretch... I have no idea how both feet are planted

Once the race was over, my fiancé had a slice of pizza while I guzzled a ton of water, and we focused on trying to cool off. Since the race was in my home town, my parents so graciously offered for us to come over to enjoy dinner from one of my favorite Thai restaurants, Thailand. Being a creature of habit, both my fiancé and I ordered our ususals; I got Pad Kee Mao, and he got the Chicken Pad Thai (nice and spicy, of course). We also all shared an order of spring rolls, and some salad. I’m a huge fan of the salad because it comes with some fried tofu and a delicious peanut dressing. After relaxing a bit more, we shared a caramel pretzel Klondike bar, which are my newest obession. I’ve always been a huge fan of Klondikes, but these are amazing! Crunchy, sweet, and salty are the perfect combination. I highly recommend them.

I’m looking forward to some more deliciousness this weekend, including a trip to the beach tomorrow for our half day with a stop at WaWa, and some type of BBQ on Saturday. Oh yeah, and some running.

Happy healthy nomzing!

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