Sunday, January 6, 2019

New Year's Day 5K: A fun start

I ran the New Year's Day 5K in Reston, Virginia earlier this week. I've run a New Year's race every year since 2009, either on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.

Cheryl, Allison and me in our "rabbit" gear
I prefer New Year's Eve races because then you can have an indulgent meal and a drink or two on New Year's Eve. But my favorite race was discontinued, so New Year's Day it was. There weren't a ton of options to choose from, and I really didn't like the race I ran last year. So I decided to run this one because my friends were running it, and Potomac River Running races are always well organized with good awards. 

The reason I wasn't psyched about this course was because of its awkwardness, which I will describe shortly. It was also only three weeks after my marathon, so I knew I probably wouldn't be very peppy. To add to all of this, I had been battling and on-and-off sore throat for the previous two days.

Before the Race
A few days before the race I thought it would be cool to try and run 20:19. But when I woke up that morning, I revised my goal to 21:19. I had a dream that I ran 21:xx, and that felt about right based on my energy level. Greg woke up with a sore throat and didn't feel well, so he opted not to go to the race. What a bummer because we had matching outfits! And, of course, it would have been nice to spend that time with him too.

Given that I didn't feel 100% either, I questioned if I should even run the race. But, keeping in mind that my primary goal was to have fun and see my friends, I went anyway.  Potentially this was a stupid idea, since I knew my body was fighting off some kind of bug. Racing a 5K would only hurt my immune system, and not help it. But, like many runners, I was stubborn. Even though this wasn't a goal race and I honestly did not care about my time, I still wanted to do it.

I met up with my friends Allison and Cheryl and we ran a 2-mile warm up. It was unseasonably warm-- 60 degrees! Last year it was only 14 degrees for my New Year's day race. What a huge difference. During the warm up, we ran along the course. I had never run this course in a race before, but since most of it was on the W&OD trail, I was very familiar with it.

The Race
I had decided a few days prior that I would not look at my watch during the race and I would run by feel. Since I didn't care about my time, it felt like a low-risk thing to do. As such, I will not be providing a mile-by-mile recap, since that is not how I experienced the race. I experienced it as one big long chunk of hard running.

We started and I went out at what felt like 5K effort. Since I wouldn't be focused on my pace or my watch, I decided I would focus more on the people around me and just "be present". After running on the road for what felt like about half a mile, we made a hairpin turn onto a narrow downhill path. There was no passing on this path because it was so narrow, and there were also tree roots making the pavement uneven, so I had to be careful with my footing. At the bottom of the path, we made another hairpin turn onto the W&OD trail. 

I didn't mind the trail so much but it was rather hilly. It was a paved trail with no tree roots like the path, so it was easier to simply cruise. I thought I heard my Garmin beep at one point for a mile, but then I thought I heard it again like 3 minutes later, and I was confused. I hadn't seen the first mile marker, so I had no idea how far or how long I had been running. It was really disorienting!

Finally we came to the turnaround (another hairpin) so I knew I was about halfway done. But it felt like I was more than halfway done. My instincts turned out to be correct because this course was not a perfect out-and-back; there was more road running at the beginning than the end. So the turn around was probably like 1.75 miles. But I didn't realize that at the time. 

Things got really, really hard after the turnaround. We were now running in to a headwind and it was
mostly uphill. And then, of course, another hairpin turn, up the path with the uneven pavement, another hairpin, and then towards the finish. My goal during this time was to keep the effort hard and not to let any women pass me. Both goals were achieved, and I even passed one woman.

Once I was back on regular road, I got more peppy and accelerated toward the finish. I tried to catch a glimpse of the clock as I approached, but my view was obstructed. All I saw was the 21, which was not a surprise.

After the Race
It turns out I ran 21:35, which was good for first place in my age group and 9th overall female. I was pleased with this, given that the race had a relatively competitive field. I looked at my watch to see my splits. They were 6:54, 6:54, 7:16, and a 5:37 final kick. I was pleased with the consistency of these splits, and wasn't surprised that the last mile was the slowest, given the uphill/headwind. I do have to laugh that I had a few marathon miles faster than 7:16! And my average race pace is pretty close to my half marathon pace. Just goes to show that there are so many factors that impact a race time. 

Basically, my coach and I chalked it up to hard running on a difficult course and fun with friends! I wonder how my experience would have been different if I had looked at my watch. I think I would have been discouraged and spent a good portion of the race feeling like I wasn't running a strong race. So it's good that I just didn't look and ran the race without knowing how I fast I was going.

Ashely, me, Hannah, and Michelle (1st overall)
I cheered for Cheryl and Allison as they finished and then we did a cool down jog. Afterwards, we went to the awards ceremony and then we had brunch along with several other friends. We toasted with mimosas and celebrated the new year.

The day after the race, my easy run felt "off" and my sore throat came and went. But by Thursday, I ran a hill workout and felt really strong and energized. I was confident that I had finally beaten the bug. But by Friday at around noon, the illness came back in full force. On Saturday (yesterday) I had to skip my run entirely because I was so weak and tired feeling. Today I also skipped my run, but I think I feel a little better than yesterday. 

So, as I said initially, maybe this race wasn't the smartest thing in the world. But I could have ended up just as sick even without it. I'm optimistic that I will be fully recovered soon and that I can resume training for Shamrock.