Saturday, September 16, 2023

Zebra Dazzle 5K

I've been waiting my entire 20-year running career for a race like this. A zebra-themed 5K! A dazzle is group of zebras, so "Zebra Dazzle" was an appropriate name. 

This race was held in Washington DC to benefit the Amyloidosis Foundation. It was organized by the sister of a woman who passed away from this rare disease.

Team ACE of Stripes
My friend Cheryl discovered this race when she was searching for local races. When she shared it with me, I knew it was something I had to participate in. I'm extremely fortunate to have two good friends, Cheryl and Allison, who were willing to dress in zebra print and run this race with me!

We planned our matching outfits in advance. We each bought the same pair of zebra shorts, which Allison and Cheryl later told me would be their spectating gear for the Marine Corps Marathon! I love how they are so zebra-spirited! 

We registered as a team. There were no team awards, but in the results our team name showed up next to each of our names, which was cool. We settled on ACE of Stripes: A for Allison, C for Cheryl, and E for Elizabeth. 

Before the Race
I was so excited about this race! I got dressed in my zebra shorts and matching crop top. The crop top was actually a gift from Cheryl before we even got the matching shorts. Of course I had my Zensah Zebra socks and matching adidas Adios Pro shoes. 

It took us about 45 minutes to drive to the race in Rock Creek Park. When we got there, we noticed they had fun signs along the course. Each sign had a zebra on it with a motivational message. I was loving it so much. The shirt also had a photo of a zebra on it next to a runner. Best race shirt ever!

Course signage

We warmed up for about 20 minutes and then we were ready to go. It was 57 degrees and sunny with low humidity. Unseasonably cool for this time of year! We definitely lucked out. I would normally give this a 6 out of 10 on my race weather scale but since it's only mid-September I will bump that up to an 8. You actually couldn't ask for anything better this time of year, but that does not automatically make it a 10! In my world, it's not possible to get a 10 unless it's October through April. 

Goals
My main goal was to look like a zebra and I think I accomplished that.  I got so many compliments on my outfit. And of course another key goal was to have a fun morning with my friends. I also thought that the awards might have zebras on them so I was hoping to win an award. I didn't have a goal pace or time because I was mainly doing this as a workout. I have a 20-mile run on tap tomorrow so I didn't want to go all out. I decided I would run as hard as I could to feel like I got a good workout in.

Course Elevation Profile

Mile 1
The race started and two little boys ran out in front. I think they were about 10 years old. I decided to run with Cheryl until we saw Greg for our photo opp. Allison stayed back as she is just getting back into running.

I sped up to where one of the kids was and I said "there's a zebra chasing you!" and that really motivated him to go faster. But it wasn't long before he realized he couldn't keep up. That's when he quickly developed a new plan: block my path so I couldn't run faster than him. I would run around him and get ahead, and then he would sprint and cut me off, and get right in font of me and walk. This was quite dangerous because we were on a steep downhill, I was running at around a 7:15 pace and he kept cutting me off and stopping in front of me. 

He was only 10, so he didn't know any better and I was nice about it. I told him he shouldn't right in front of me because I might run into him. But he did not listen. This happened for about 2 minutes until he finally gave up. The stopping and starting was definitely annoying on the steep downhill, but thankfully it didn't last long. By mile marker 1 I was leading the race; there weren't even any men ahead of me.

I had't been looking at my Garmin because I really didn't care about my time, but mile 1 clocked in at 7:13. Effort wise I was probably running slower than marathon effort since the whole mile was downhill and it was nice and cool. Granted, I was primarily focused on a photo opportunity and not running over a child - so I have an excuse!

Mile 2
It was an out-and-back course. When my Garmin reached 1.55 I saw a woman sitting in a chair and I assumed she was the person manning the turnaround station. Since I was the first runner she wasn't quite prepared. I asked her if I should turn around and she said yes.

The course was part of a popular running route in DC so there were many other runners around, but none of them were part of the race. Many of them cheered for me! It was really awesome to have so many runners cheering for me when they saw my bib. This was SO MUCH fun!  I was so focused on being a zebra and everything around me that I didn't pay attention to my pace. I was running around tempo effort by this point, though. Mile 2 clocked in at 6:57.

Mile 3
It was time to go back up the hill. According to my Final Surge training log, there was 159 feet of ascent in mile 3. I think that's probably the most ascent I have had in a single mile during a race, ever. Second would probably be the Sugarloaf Marathon followed by the DC half marathon. 

I knew I was in the lead by a healthy amount based on the turnaround so I didn't have a ton of motivation to really push. A mile-long steep hill at the end of a 5K is far from ideal! I got to the top and then booked it to the finish line. My final mile was 7:33.

After the Race
I crossed the finish line as the overall winner - there were no men ahead of me. My official time was 22:07. Could I have pushed harder? Yes. Did I have the motivation? No. Do I care that I didn't push harder? No.

Cheryl followed a minute later as the second overall finisher. The final runner of our dazzle, Allison, came in a little bit later, finishing 10th overall. The awards were cash prizes, and I will probably have to buy myself something zebra with the winnings! We cooled down for just over a mile and then headed to brunch. 

I was really impressed with the organization of this race. The zebra mile markers, the zebra signs, the shirt and medal-- and all for a great cause. It was definitely a fun morning and all of my goals were met! ACE of Stripes will have to defend our title next year. This takes "Racing Stripes" to a whole new level!

Tomorrow I plan to run a 20-miler and thankfully the weather will still be on the cooler side for this time of year. My next race is a half marathon and I am not sure if I am going to race that at full effort or use it as a marathon pace training run. It might be warm and humid enough that marathon pace = half marathon pace with the weather. Fall racing season is officially in full gear!