It’s been a long time since I’ve run a 5K — 2009 in fact — and I’ve always said that I’ve never really mastered this short distance. This was probably the closest I’ve come to that, in terms of consistency; the three full mile splits were 7:59, 8:04, and 7:54. Would’ve liked a bit more a kick on that last mile but beggars can’t be choosers. I ran it with my friend Steve and we did a good job of keeping each other moving. No PR, but it was only 25 seconds off of the PR from five years ago, and I consider that a huge victory. 5 seconds per year? Thumbs up.
I swear, every time I go for a 5K, something happens beforehand. Sometimes it’s benign, like simply running a marathon eleven days earlier and getting injured in the process. Other times it’s a combination of getting bronchitis and a trip to the ER for gallbladder problems. So when I ended up with a calf strain two weeks earlier, well, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I felt good enough to give it a shot, even though I knew that I still wouldn’t do what I would have been capable of sans injury.
It was a nice, quick race. I started with Butch and Chris, but after about half a mile I remembered that it’s only a 5K and I was moving way too slow for a race that I wanted a PR in. (The GPS said around the 1/2 mile mark that my time was 4:30. A nice “going for a run with friends” pace, but not a racing-just-three-miles pace in the slightest. A 5K is just such a small distance that a too-slow first mile will never really get made up.) I picked it up at that point, and it paid off; a 24:27 finishing time, which finally replaced my old 25:40 from two years ago (the post-marathon-injury race). I like to think that had I not had a few weeks off I could’ve gotten even faster, but that just gives me a new goal for next time.
I still don’t think I’ve mastered running a 5K, but that’s something I’d like to work on next year once I’ve (at least temporarily) bid marathons adieu.
After everything that’s gone on this month—getting bronchitis, scratching my marathon, ending up in the ER with cholecystitis—I wasn’t sure I was even going to be able to run this race! With a supreme lack of running this month, coupled with uneasy lungs and abs, I knew I wouldn’t beat my PR from last year of 25:40. It’s frustrating because in August and September I was in shape to have beaten it with little problem today. But that just wasn’t an option, and going into it knowing that wasn’t so bad.
That said, it would’ve been a little hard as it was thanks to a really slow start. Waaaay too many walkers and strollers that were really far up towards the front of the corral at the beginning, meaning they were blocking people who were trying to run. I have no problem with them being there—I used to be ultra slow after all—but it’s important to also pick a starting place that is appropriate. I think I walked the first 30-40 seconds before I could even start running, yeesh. But still, not too bad. I definitely am not up to a full amount of energy just yet, and annoyingly I had to walk a tiny bit of that hill in the last mile again this year. Yeesh.
At the end of the day, my watch says I was 1:06 off of last year’s finish time. Since I’d told myself it might be as much as 1:30 slower, I’m a-ok with that. It is a little sad to look on the big list of races and note that right above it is a 10K race where my pace was 10 seconds per mile faster. I think that really says it all in terms of where I physically am right now. As I told Alma (who flew by me and looked like a badass), at this point I’m just concentrating on making it to the end of the year and starting over in many ways. It’s a shame because I’d have liked to get stuff rolling now and in December, but that’s just not looking possible at the moment. Still, we’ll see.
Finishing time: 26:45
Average pace: 8:38min/mile
Splits: 8:40, 8:21, 8:55, 0:49
Before you run a race, there will at some point come that moment where (despite the amount of nervousness before and after), you believe you can do anything. Climb Mount Everest? No problem. Bench press 3000 pounds? Piece of cake. Fortunately, said moment passes pretty quickly. The problem, I’ve discovered, is when you are given something much more sane but still slightly nuts, because then later on you might still want to do it. Like, oh, run two Thanksgiving Trot races the morning of Thanksgiving, two hours apart, a mere 11 days after your marathon.
8:00am brought the first race, the Arlington Turkey Trot 5K. This is a new race, in its second year, that runs through the neighborhood streets of Clarendon. The combination of it being Arlington (we love our running) and a gorgeous, 70-degree day meant a huge turn-out, probably over 800 people (last year was around 400) and general chaos. I got to walk to the start from my apartment, and the area was festive and exciting. Of course, what I was forgetting was that since this race is in Clarendon, that means it is a race full of hills.
I’d set out to beat my 5K PR from two years ago (a 26:23), which was on a nice flat course and where I was much more rested. Still, anything was possible. I actually ran into my cousin Ann about a mile into the race; she’d caught up with me, but then quickly dropped back. When two miles in I was at 16:15 total, I knew that barring disaster it wouldn’t be a problem to PR. About half a mile later, I also knew that I was suddenly and without warning out of energy. This was a problem. Gasping and dying on those hills, I did the only thing I could; much to my shame, I walked for about 30 seconds until I got to the top of another colossal hill before I carried on. I finished in a 25:40 (meaning the last 1.1 miles were at an 8:34 average), which while not the finishing time I was hoping for (heck, I ran my 3-mile training run in May at a 23:46) was still good enough.
Afterwards I hung out with Ann, ran into no less than two different acquaintances through running (Ted and then Deborah), and decided that running the other Turkey Trot was crazy. Completely ludicrous. I was still a little sore from the marathon, it seemed, I should just stay home. But one more race meant an extra helping of Thanksgiving dinner.
10:00am brought the second race, the Alexandria Turkey Trot 5-miler. This is a much older race, on its 32nd iteration. (I’m not that much older than the race!) Crowds were huge here as well, and I told myself that I was allowed to quit if necessary, it was no big deal. Really. I only have ever done one 5-mile / 8-kilometer race before, and while on a normal day my 44:35 finish time would be easily beatable, I was suddenly not very sure.
The first mile? Horrible, to the point that I almost quit on the spot. My knee was stiff and sore, and more importantly? I was tired. Maybe I shouldn’t have stayed up to watch Project Runway the night before? (That 10:00pm start time is killing me.) And I had just run another race. But come on Greg, pick it up, it’s not that hard.
At mile 3 I looked at my watch—26:16. That’s an 8:45 average. My old PR involved an 8:58 average. So I just had to keep up the pace. Except, just like earlier in the day, I was no longer sure I could do that. I wanted to just go home and take a shower; this was a bad idea, and at this point I was only sure of one thing, that I would never do this again (or at least not without proper rest and being injury-free in advance).
And then, finally, the finish line. I pushed as hard as I could, although people were inexplicably stopping just on the other side of the finish line, creating a longjam leading up to the finish line. Oh come on people, move it, this is going to be close and I’m not happy about my finishing time as it is… and then it was done, a 44:10 by the skin of my teeth. This is a finish where I know I could (and would) have done a lot better with only one race for the day instead of two. Next year I’ll choose one or the other and call it a day.
But on the bright side, I can now say I did it. And going back for seconds? So absolutely worth it.
Arlington splits: 8:06, 8:08, 9:25 (8:34avg for that 1.1mi)
Alexandria splits: 8:55, 17:21 for miles 2-3 (8:41avg), 9:11, 8:42
Within five seconds of starting the Race for Hope 5K, I was already composing this journal entry in my head and it began with, "There’s something very liberating about instantly knowing that you won’t be getting a personal record in a race and simultaneously not worrying about it." That was this morning for me; I crossed over the start line, and my head just wasn’t in it. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. A better description might be that my body just wasn’t in it; I was feeling extremely tired before we even began, and raceday adrenaline just wasn’t doing anything. (I hit the first marker at 8:03 and thought "well, that’s not going to stick." Sure enough, mile 2 was 9:16 and mile 3.1 was 9:40 (which is an 8:47min/mile for the last 1.1 so that’s not as bad as it looks).)
But you know? This wasn’t a sour grapes "but I didn’t want a PR anyway" moment. Don’t get me wrong, I’d take one in a heartbeat; this broke a run of PRs that began with the St. Patrick’s Day 10K in March 2004 and extended for a whopping total of 15 races. And if this had been any other race I think I’d have been a lot more disappointed. But it’s the Race for Hope, which raises money to benefit brain tumor research. There are a lot of survivors who run the race, as well as people who have both "in memory of" and "in celebration of" bibs, shirts, signs, bandannas, and anything else they can think of. It’s an extremely emotional race; I get choked up at least once or twice throughout the race course every year.
So, no PR. That’s ok; I’m just really happy that I got to run this race for the fourth time in a row, and that I was there. In terms of this time last year there was improvement, I’ve come a long way in the past few years in general, and it was a good day. (A tiny bit disappointing that my maintenance run last Monday had a faster pace, but ah well.) As the Prince song goes, "So far, so pleased."
…Or, the Worst Organized Race Ever.
All right, "The Worst Organized Race Ever" is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. This morning was, however, the worst organized race that I’ve run in (and I’m still reeling from the nightmare from trying to get to the start line of the Virginia Beach Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon in back in 2003). Now to their credit, SOME (who put on the Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger 5K) is a good organization and their hearts are in the right place. But… well…
I got there half an hour early with Alma and her friend Monica; while they had their numbers, I hadn’t been able to pick mine up yesterday. What happened next can only be described as an eternity of waiting. Let’s put it this way: I got my bib number faster at every single marathon I’ve ever run. Or for that matter, anything. The pages they were checking people off with weren’t in sequential order, the line moved so slowly I was starting to think that everyone at the front had died, they ran out of safety pins, and they finally said they were going to just start handing out numbers to people in line and you could register it to your name (and get your t-shirt) once the race was over… except they didn’t.
I literally got my number when I heard someone way over a megaphone, "Ok, runners, areyouready?*TOOT*" I swear, that’s how fast between the question and the sound was. And, just like that, you were off down a course that had… no mile markers. Helpful, huh? To be fair, there were some markers along the course, as I suddenly discovered when I passed the 2K point. Kilometer markers only? Were any of the runners here really worried about their per-kilometer pace? It was an out-and-back course through West Potomac Park, so it was nice to run alongside the water in the Hains Point area… well, at least until a Park Services truck that had been parked on the side of the road suddenly decided to start moving and do a u-turn on Ohio Drive. No, I am not making this up. The first two leaders had just passed by me going back towards the finish when the truck did this, nearly wiping out not only us at (approximately) the 2.25K mark but also the rest of the leaders. I saw several of the leaders hit the truck’s side in anger, to which I cheered.
At the far end of the course, there was a water stop… well, sort of. Rather than jugs of water, there were two people using a water cooler to pour water into cups. Suddenly I found myself thankful that I’d actually brought along my water bottle and belt, even though my main reason had been to have somewhere to put my keys. There was no chip timing at this race, but there were people standing at the end of the course writing down numbers as people came through. This is a race that, I should point out, over 2000 people registered for. (Actual turnout was probably closer to 1000.)
Meanwhile, how was I? Well, I felt like crap to be honest. It was cold and starting to sprinkle on us, my nose was running and dripping down my throat (ugh), and I got a stitch in my side. Oh, and I ran almost the entire thing by myself because I wasn’t able to find Alma and Monica again before the race started (they’d gone to use a port-a-potty while I was getting my number and then *TOOT* the race was off!). I saw Alma coming back on the course when I was almost at the turn-around, and I finally caught her around the 4.5K point of the race; I picked up a tiny bit of speed at that point (or maybe Alma was slowing down?) because I ended up going over the finish line first, but certainly no more than 5 or 6 seconds ahead.
Despite feeling pretty bad I still did better than my last 5K, with a new PR of 26:23. Yay! (My old PR was 27:45 from back in May.) Pity so much else seemed to go wrong. Maybe I could just find a nice 5K somewhere warm for January?
Oh, and I think next year I’ll just run the Virginia Run Turkey Trot out in Centerville. Hills be damned, I’ll take a slightly harder course if it means simple competence.
My friend, co-worker, and fellow marathoner Julie has an older sister named Susan. Susan shares a lot of the same qualities as Julie; kind, sweet, fun to be around, and the sort of person that you never forget. One big difference, though, is that Susan had a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit removed from her head about a decade ago.
I can’t imagine a world without Susan; the nightmare that Julie and her parents went through is just too hard for me to think about. Susan’s one of the lucky ones, though. She still has hardships from the tumor and the surgery to remove it, and it’s something that changed her life forever. But running in the Race for Hope 5K this morning, which benefits the Brain Tumor Society, once again really brought home for me that a life that’s forever altered is far better than not having a life at all. It’s always emotional to be there, with all of the "In Memory Of" notices pinned to people’s clothing, or personally made t-shirts with pictures and words of memory for everyone to see.
There are a lot of people running and walking in memory of small children. You’ll see entire families turning out to remember a single member. This year it was a mother and her very young daughter running for a lost husband/father that got me choked up early on. Running down Pennsylvania Avenue and past the Capitol Building, I kept my eyes open for people wearing yellow Race for Hope t-shirts; the yellow ones are specifically for brain tumor survivors. Seeing them there would always catch my breath, and make me think of Susan and how proud I was to have a sheet stating "In Celebration Of" attached to my back with her name on it. The run was ultimately for her, and for Julie, and her family, and everyone else whose lives have been touched by the horror that is a brain tumor… but most of all, it was for Susan, who beat the odds and survived.
I’d told myself that I’d run a 9:15min/mile average for the race. Susan used to be a super-fast runner so hitting that time would be a good challenge for me. When I hit the first mile marker, my watch blinked back a 9:44 time. Not good. I sucked up my strength and pushed through the rest of the race, ignoring a stitch in my side that showed up somewhere around the two-thirds mark. As I got closer to the finish line it was saying, "Slow down, take your time." Then I pictured Susan hitting me with her Winnie-the-Pooh balloon that she carted around during the Baltimore Marathon and yelling, "Come on, slacker, you’re almost there!" She’s a tough taskmaster. And in the end, a 27:45 (or 8:57min/mile) finish time was waiting for me. It felt good to finish, and I thought to myself that this new PR was a great way to honor her.
Susan forever rocks my world. And she knows it.
I got up early this morning and ran the Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K with Julie, Manda, and a couple of others from my old run site. For the past three years I’ve talked about doing one of the Turkey Trot/Thanksgiving runs and I’ve never gotten my ass in gear to do so. So of course, the year I finally did… it rained. It didn’t start raining until everyone started lining up and then rained on us for the entire first mile. Ugh. (If I’d known it was going to rain I’d have put on some bodyglide. Ow, ow, ow.)
Still, even taking it easy and accounting for slowing down for the rain (I didn’t have a hat so my glasses were covered, which means I can’t see where I’m going and have to be careful) I lopped off a couple of minutes from my old 5K PR, so that was nice. (Now I’m eyeing a 5K in December to see what would happen if I really push it.)
Went into DC today to run (*deep breath*) the Cassidy & Pinkard “Race for Hope” 7th Annual 5K Run/Walk to Benefit the Brain Tumor Society & The Brain Tumor Research Trust. This is the second year I’ve run it; my running partner Julie’s sister is a brain tumor survivor so the race means a lot to her. It’s an emotional race; almost everyone has either a “Participating in Celebration of…” or “Participating in Memory of…” pinned to their shirts, to say nothing of the survivors who are there to run or walk the event. It was great to see so many people out there.
…and then I shattered my previous personal best. Last year I ran it in 40:49, which is a 13:10 minute/mile pace. Very respectable for me. This year? Well, based on my watch (official times won’t be released until the evening)… 37:20, or a 12:03 minute/mile pace. Damn.
I think Weight Watchers should hire me as a spokesperson.
For most of the week, my calf was aching and I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to make the race. However, by Saturday evening it was feeling completely normal, so I ended up running in the Brain Tumor Society 5K after all. (Julie’s sister is a brain tumor survivor, so it meant a lot for her to have others come.) The run itself went really well—I was hoping for an under-40 minutes time and tried to hustle a bit in the last quarter mile to hit that mark (leaving the others behind—sorry about that!) but by my watch missed it by about 50 seconds. Oh well. My overall pace was still pretty good and I’m not complaining! Nice crisp, cool weather helped it being a pretty enjoyable experience.