This post is hard to do because I think I am still exhausted -mentally exhausted- from the race. I’ll back up a bit and hope I make it there! If you find this long, I promise you it’s worth the read (I hope!!!).
Every year, on this weekend, I go to see my family in New Jersey, it’s my second-cousin’s birthday and I never miss it. He’s now 15. Check these pictures out, times flies, YOLO! I used to have him up all day long, now HE PICKS ME UP. Shameful.
The last EIGHT years, I did the Mini 10K and then rushed over to New Jersey to make it to the celebrations. This year I decided to skip the Mini (WTF right?!?!?!) and just have cake. But then… you know… what’s a weekend without a race?? Really, what is it? I need to know!! So I found ourselves (because you know I’d
bring force the husband to race too!) a race close enough to my family’s home (is 10 miles close?! who knows! the Upper West Side is far to me!) to not disrupt the weekend celebrations, and have ourselves a little speed-fest! The weather was supposed to be AWFUL (HOT and HUMID!) so I wanted to wait until race day and decide. I didn’t. I jumped the shark and was all signed up by Friday. I am weak, can’t help myself.
The race was a 5K in Nomahegan Park, Cranford, NJ to benefit a Suicide Hotline called Contact We Care, called Alive and Running 5K. It seemed like a fun small local race, so I emailed the contact listed to check if there was a place to leave our bags (aka, a shirt to wear on the train ride back and forth) and Lucinda replied that she’ll take care of it all. Great!
Race Morning… I hadn’t sleep well. Again. I have trouble sleeping on not-my-bed (and sometimes in my own bed for no reason too). My stomach was fuzzy so I skipped the coffee, and just had some water and a few spoons of honey. The weather was… unbreathable. That’s probably the best description. It was in the 90s with high humidity, but unbreathable sounds more like it. I really really regretted signing up, but still decided to go, I was up at 6 anyway. We were at the race start by 7:30 and the race would start at 9:30, so it was just Lucinda, Juan and I. We offered to help so we put the tents up and tried to help without getting in her hair until a massive amount of volunteers arrived and all was taken care of super quickly. Juan and I kept drinking water, taking pictures, and running around for a bit.
Everything had gotten set up really fast and lots of people starting showing up (closer to 9:30 am than we did: SMART).
So, the fun part: exactly at 9:20 am the sun decides to start blasting. I freaked out. REALLY??? NOW???? What about those thunderstorms you had promised? It was unbreathable before, now it was UNTHINKABLE. The weather channel should stop using numbers when the temps feel like that and just put my picture grunting and cursing.
We line up. The amazing race organizers describe the course: “there are 23920329 loops, 293029 small loops, 20932 big loops, then the other types of loops and a few loops in the middle of the loops“. Seriously that’s what I heard. Maybe I was already overheating, or it was just really confusing. I thought, I should have emailed Lucinda to send me a map of all these loops, but soon enough I realized there’d always be someone ahead of me I could chase, so let’s hope they don’t get lost or confused!
He tells us 30 seconds to go, my heart gets up to 200 bits, CRAP. It is too damn hot, why am I even attempting this? I was quite upset with myself. Juan and I kiss, we hear the gun, everybody runs. I saw five women ahead of me and tried to remember the color of their shirt, but 1 second later I wasn’t even sure it it was five or fifty or what numbers or life on earth meant. We all had gone out too fast, which is something that usually happens in every single one of these small races and I am always careful to avoid, but the heat had just burned my brain and I reacted without thinking. I was so upset with myself. 1 minute in and I was already panting, with a 180 heart race and fearing for my life. Stooopid stoooopid little silly girl.
To add to the loopy course, and ugh the heat, was the worst part of this: strategy. I am used to racing in the big NYRR races with 5,000 other people where there’s no need to position or strategize (at least at my level!). I just find my pace, ride that, then hit the gas. I know the course… there’s no stress. I can do that with my eyes closed, figuratively. In these smaller races, it’s ALL about strategy, unless you’re just going for a PR. This was definitely NO day to PR, so I was focusing on picking up these 5 women ahead and that would take a lot more than just running fast. How far back to stay? For how long? When do I surge? Do I pick it up now? Or should I hold it? How long should I hold it for? If I pass someone now, will she pass me back because I went too early? Are they all suffering so badly? Why do I feel like dying? Am I going too fast? Are we all going to burn out? Should I surge now? Can I please pick it up now? Could she please slow down a bit? Should I even bother at all? Should I keep waiting? Do I go now?? Does she know I am here? What am I doing here? I don’t even belong on the podium. I am good closer though. If play it right, I can get closer to the top 3, Can I go now? Wait a bit. Pace it out. Just don’t give up in your head because then your body gives up. Can I go now? It was 3.1 miles of THAT. I am not even joking for one second. Relentless crazy chatter. Well, for a few seconds I would stop those questions and would think something along the lines of I am going to die here today. One or the other. It was pure hell of mental anguish and torture.
Why. Do. We. Do. This. ?
I knew I had gone out too fast. By the half mile, I had passed 2 of the 5 women. Mile 1, I knew would be the fastest and the rest would be hell. I just hoped everyone else had been stooopider than me. I picked two more up. There’s all 4 behind me right by Mile 1, which clocked at 6:52. Oh oh, when I saw that I knew I was in trouble. I just had black tights girl ahead of me (the only woman left ahead) and hoped no other woman would surge. PLEASE. Ahead of her was TNT redhead guy. I kept tabs on them to make sure I didn’t get lost and could just follow one of them. Black tights girl had about 30 seconds on me. Another loop, one more loop, a loopy loop, and Mile 2: 7:21. Shit.
I knew I was falling apart and seriously considered dropping out. Only I had no clue where I was… Don’t give up in your head because then your body gives up. I kept trucking in steady mode. But obviously still freaking out in my head. It was too early to make any moves or decisions. Plus, I had nothing left to surge with. But… black tights was coming back to me. She was about 10 seconds close. Then five… I just have to wait here patiently until it’s time to make the move. But when? I had no idea when this would end… My GPS was all messed up so I had no idea if I had a half mile to go, or 400m or what. Soon enough, we get to the parking lot where registration was, the finish line arch was RIGHT THERE. Black tights is about 3 seconds ahead of me, 5 meters ahead there is a bifurcation with two marshals: 20 meters to the left was the finish, to the right there was another loop of some distance to the finish. I had no idea which way we’d go. But the finish arch was right there and I knew that if I waited I wouldn’t have space to pass her… so I decided to GO. I passed her, got the the bifurcation and they pointed to the right… FCK! I have to keep going!!! This was NOT the finish. I was done. I was toast. All I had left, I had spent it sprinting to pass her. For no reason. Of course 5 seconds later, she passed me again. Good for you, black tights! Oh well, I took my chance and it didn’t work. We kept going. She had now 3 seconds, AGAIN, on me. We get to a turn an the marshalls tell me to take her, that I had her, she was close enough. I shake my head no. I was done. Don’t give up in your head because then your body gives up. I tried… but I was dying. Another bifurcation, a right and a left. To the left, we had about 150 meters to the finish, to the right, about 400 more to go, at least. Black tights went left, and hit the gas. The marshals started shouting THAT’S THE WRONG WAY, COME BACK, WRONG WAY. So I assumed I had to go right but they were not even looking at me and I couldn’t see TNT redhead guy anywhere. UGH. Am I going in the right direction? Did she heard that and is coming behind me? I didn’t have enough energy to turn around or look at my watch, so I had no clue wtf was happening but decided to turn off my brain and just push. Just push. Just push. Assume black tights is coming for you and push. I am gonna die. There’s the finish. Just push. Get through it.
I was done. I wasn’t even sure I had won when I crossed or if I could stay up. Juan was already there so I hung to him because I couldn’t breathe. My watch said 21:36 but the official time was 21:50. Denise, aka black tights, was there. She assumed I was the one that went the wrong way so she didn’t turn back and hadn’t even noticed she was DNF. UGH. Race Timing people knew but I hated to be the one she had to hear it from. She had fought a great great race too. Damn loops.
Juan ended up 4th overall, FIRST in his Age Group and OMG, he PRed!!! HOW?!?!? what a beast. I checked with the timing people and yes, I had won. So weird. So SO SO weird. Really? I guess it takes being sick for a week, losing about 5 pounds, and then not dying in the hottest day: there’s the reward!
Check out the loops in the course:
Okay, you can’t really see it, but it was messy. Well, only messy if you didn’t know what you were doing or where you were like me! Or if the heat just gets your brain.
In the next graph you can see EXACTLY when I sprinted to pass Denise, when I thought the finish was 30 meters ahead. Pace went up, heart rate spiked, cadence blew up to 200 from an avg of 180, and my vertical oscillation jumped (I went from running to sprinting position), and ground contact dropped. Then it all went back to “normal”. I really like that the red heart rate line is so steady going up…
A bit more data in case you’re interested.
And this is from the race results website:
I’ll take it. It wasn’t easy. I had no idea what would have happened if Denise didn’t take that left and DNF, or if she turned around and chased me. I want to think I would have had enough to take her again, but who knows.
Lance, the guy in green, was so super nice, and super involved in the race, he’s with a team called Run Anyway, check them out if you’re in the area!!! Thanks Lance for all you do!!!!
And we were done. And I mean: literally. All I remember doing all day was searching for words, I was SO MENTALLY DRAINED… I just figured if I kept saying Happy Birthday Alex I would be okay but I kept falling asleep everywhere. Wow: my brain is not used to all that much activity apparently. So happy this happened. I’d love to go back next year and race this again. What are the odds the weather will be AS BAD? At least I’ll know the course!!!!! 😉 Thanks Lucinda and Lance and Run Anyway and Denise and everyone involved in this event!!!!