I think from now on all my short distance races need to be on the fly. Much like the Red Hot Run a couple of weeks ago, this one was an incredibly last-minute decision. Like so last-minute that I wasn’t even committed to it on the drive over and when I realized that I had forgotten my Garmin and went home to get it, I almost didn’t leave the house again. I was exhausted, it was chilly outside, and I just wasn’t feeling it.
Plus…yeah I know. I’m supposed to be tapering. But short runs are part of a taper right? And this was just a regular 5K sans world’s largest water slides and wrecking balls.
I found out about this race through my run club. The Women’s Distance Festival is part of a Grand Prix series sponsored by the Maryland RRCA and participating clubs. It consists of 10 5K races and women who complete 4 or more of these races are eligible for a participation award. I don’t know if I’m going to end up participating in 3 more or not – more last-minute decisions? – but what captured my interest was the fact that they are women-only events. The most well-known of these is the Baltimore Women’s Classic, which I am going to miss due to the fact that I’ll be Ambassador-ing it up at The Fit Foodie in Fairfax. It’s hard to be sad about something when the trade-off is a race/yoga/stuffing my face with delicious food kind of weekend.
(PS: COME RUN WITH ME!)
This particular race is held at a local college and from what I understood, the course would be 2 loops of the campus. I didn’t go to the school so I wasn’t familiar with the campus at all, but as I drove in I noted that it was a whole heck of a lot of rolling hills. Parking was no problem and sign up was a breeze, just as it normally is with run club events. The premium for this race is REALLY nice too:
A single shoulder backpack with lots of pockets, a water bottle holder, and moisture-resistant lining. Perfect for all my funky gym gear.
I got myself organized and went out for a little warm up jog to kill some time before the 8am start. I didn’t have any delusions of grandeur for this race. I had just run 8 miles the day before and yes…supposed to be tapering so this was just for fun. If I felt like I could speed it up a little I would, but if not? NBD.
Just before 8 we got the signal to move on up the hill to the start. This race has a fantastic downhill finish. I was a little worried that we would be starting right next to the finish line and have a steep climb right away, but luckily that was not the case. Some announcements happened, we were introduced to the fellow that would be leading us through the first course loop via bicycle, and a smiling woman sang the National Anthem before the instructions were given to take our marks and an air horn went off WAY too close to my head.
I was part of the front of the pack at the start and then for the first quarter-mile or so I was actually THE front. Of the whole thing.
Just me and dude on the bicycle.
It sounds kind of awesome, but this has never happened to me before and as a result I panicked. I’m always following at least someone and being the lead person felt REALLY bizarre. I have a bad habit of going out way too fast in 5Ks so I took this as a sign that this was the case and cooled my jets a little bit. Two very fast girls that were running together passed me and I felt this odd sense of relief like a lot of pressure had just been lifted off. That’s when I started to relax and really found my groove.
Because the course is two loops, I would get to tackle this one gnarly hill twice. The first time around it was no problem and the person standing at the top of the hill – which just so happened to be the end of mile 1 – yelled that I was at 6:50-something…I couldn’t really hear her over the Chemical Brothers, but it sounded awesome! I was doing better than I expected! There was a little bit of a downhill after that and I passed over the starting line for the second time, still in 3rd place, and feeling really strong.
Shortly after mile 2 there was that damn hill again and this time it was more like Mt Everest. I knew that once I got to the top that I would be in the home stretch. Or so I thought. As I huffed and puffed my way up, I started to wonder how this was going to be a full 5K because 2 loops of the campus was working out to be quite short. As if to answer my question, a volunteer standing at the crest of the hill steered me and the two fast girls who I had closed in on quite a bit to the right instead of the left and down a nice hill. Just as I started to really enjoy the break for my legs we reached another volunteer who was turning us back around.
Up again we went.
Now I was passing other runners who were about to encounter the same sad surprise. After that was behind us though? Smooth sailing. I hit the final downhill, turned into the driveway and cranked it up to eleven. I glimpsed the clock as I went past and in that moment I thought I knew, but I couldn’t be 100% sure until I shut off my watch. I almost stayed home, but instead I held on to my 3rd place finish and even better, I kicked one of my 2014 running goals straight in the teeth.
MY FIRST SUB-22 RACE FINISH!!!
(And a new PR obviously.)
1 6:53.9 1.00 6:54
2 7:02.1 1.00 7:02
3 7:17.6 1.00 7:18 <— That final hill was a killer.
4 :35.3 0.11 5:17 <— That’s what happens when I crank it up. One day I will run a full mile that fast. (In my dreams.)
The awards were super cool and unique as well:
It’s a starfish! I’m in love with it.
And now? I’M TAPERING. Seriously. The rest of the day was spent walking around the zoo, attending a birthday party, playing at the playground, and drinking margaritas.
From start to finish, everything about this race was awesome and I’m not just saying that because of my PR. (BUT OMG PR!!) The course was beautiful and easy to navigate, the volunteers were awesome, the awards were fun, friendly attitudes all around, and there was a great little post race spread set out for us. I met some very cool people…usually I fly so solo at events like this and it was extra fun having some great conversations with folks. (I even foresee some track nights in my future!)
For some of the women there this race was their graduation from the C25K program and it was so inspirational to see them achieve that goal! There was also a runner there who is nearly 80 years old and she finished the tough course in 40 minutes. Simply awesome.
I want to be her when I grow up.
I hope everyone had an amazing weekend full of fun, friends, good weather, and great runs!
Where did your feet take you?