ETS Firecracker 5k

I have a laundry list of things to catch up on! Might as well start at the beginning: I ran a 5k on Tuesday the 24th of June. It was hosted by ETS and the YWCA, and it’s a very popular race among…well, almost every local runner I know. This, coupled with the fact that I had to sit out and watch the race last year, made me really excited to run it. My goal was to have fun, be grateful for being able to race, and run hard. After all, I had already tested my limits in the mile two weeks before and the 3k a week before, and in both I had felt like I could extend that fast effort to longer distances. Such as a 5k. So, I wanted to see how long I could hang on to a pace that’s slightly outside of my workout comfort zone. If I was successful, I thought I could PR, so that was in the back of my mind. I knew that a.) the course wasn’t flat as a pancake, b.) it was at 7:30pm and it would be hot, and c.) I wake up at 4:45am on Tuesdays and rarely get the chance to fuel properly if I’m not going to risk feeling sick. So I had no idea how it would go.

The group pre-race.
The group pre-race.

I biked to the ETS campus, which was only about five miles away. Steve was in town for the week, so I warmed up with him, his 14-year-old host-family member Harry (no other way to really explain…), and our Asics rep Joe, who decided a few days before to run. The start line was really congested, mostly of runners I knew, which was funny and nice! One of them, however, was my former college teammate who just graduated in May, fresh off a good track season. I knew there was no chance in beating her but I figured I’d see how close I could stay. When the gun went off, Sara found me quickly and I was determined to run side by side with her, since we do a lot of times in workouts. The first mile felt really long…maybe because it included more than one uphill, downhill, and flat section. I hit mile 1 in 6:09 – quick, but I was okay with it. The second mile was pretty much all flat, but I settled in a little and ran 6:28. The final mile was part of the first mile again, and it was agreed upon by everyone that the uphill felt much harder the second time around…I could see my college friend up ahead the entire time, but she was too far to catch (she won, in eleventh overall, 19:12). I pushed as hard as I could for a 6:16 last mile and 47 seconds for the last 0.15 mi. to finish in 19:41, twelfth overall and second female. I was very pleased with my time and effort, especially under the conditions. It was a 16-second road PR, and of course it made me think that 5ks aren’t so bad, and I should do a flat, fast one someday…more on that another time.

The start. My face is in this, it's just...small.
The start. My face is in this, it’s just…small. Photo credit: Martin Griff/The Times of Trenton.

Interesting thing about Joe’s race: he decided to move up after pacing Steve for awhile, and was leading the race when the lead cyclist turned the wrong way just before the third mile marker. He wasn’t giving a race effort, so he said he didn’t mind much, but I know he was annoyed by the incident. He’ll have to come back next year for redemption (but he probably won’t…)! He was grateful for the abundance of free food after, for what it was worth. 

The Intervals group ran as a team, and we placed 2nd! Most of us individually won our age groups too (in this race you actually didn’t get a medal unless you placed in your age group)! I think the racing high got the best of us, as we took a lot of pictures after….

Bling and shoes.
Bling and shoes.
Age group award. There's a whole thing inside, it's a big deal....It just occurred to me that I saw that girl running today. I only know it was her because I saw the shoes....
Age group award. There’s a whole thing inside, it’s a big deal….It just occurred to me that I saw that girl running today. I only know it was her because I recognize the shoes now.

I was going to keep up my weekly habit of running shorter races (they progressively got longer) on the 4th of July, where the group ran a 10k together, but then I decided very last-minute to go with my family to Maine after all, so I missed it. Maine included a lot of miles, both on foot and on the bike. It made me realize that I do like training here much, much better though. Strange to say, but even in beautiful places, I need variety. The fact that I can go any which way from right here and not get bored, rather than just one or two ways, is awesome. The possibilities are endless. If you are a runner or cyclist in the Princeton area and do not agree, come talk with me.  


2014 ETS Firecracker 5k results

Triathlon training updates coming soon!




Thanksgiving & December, revisited

I justified my behavior by saying things like, “You should just be thankful every day”….which is still true.

You may recall that in September, I was a little apprehensive about the season of autumn in general. I had my moments, but all in all, I had a great season. It was definitely full of ups and downs and unexpected surprises, but throughout it all, running was a constant – something I haven’t been able to say throughout many, many falls! Fast-forward to late November. It is a known fact among my close friends that I am not the biggest Thanksgiving fan. Alright, I may have said “I hate Thanksgiving” at least once or twice in the days leading up to it for several years now. Food is only one category, and traditional Thanksgiving food includes pretty much nothing I enjoy. I don’t like turkey with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (it’s the worst, really), that pineapple-orange thing that always seems to be on the table, green beans covered in onions (leave the green beans alone!), pecan pie. Ick, ick, ick. I can’t think of a worse combination. Some people say, “at least you can drink.” Well, no, my family doesn’t do that on Thanksgiving. Football? I’m not really into it, and hardly anyone in my family sits down to really watch it that day. Going out the night before? No desire to go out in my hometown, it’s too crowded, I’m getting up early to run the next day. It sounds like no fun. In other words, yes, I am a Thanksgiving grinch.

It (the grinchness) kind of began in full effect two years ago. The weekend and the context is not worth explaining because it’s in the past, but in short, it represented all sorts of bad things in my mind. Last year, I wanted to try to combat that at least a little. God forbid not by giving in and eating cranberry sauce. By running a turkey trot. I know that’s a tradition for a lot of people and a lot of families, but somehow, despite having many runners young and old in my family, this never caught on! If there’s anything that can make me forget bad memories and live in the moment, it’s running. I kept up my own little tradition again this year and entered in the same turkey trot right down the street in Princeton. The Philly Half may have been a week and a half before…and I was supposedly resting…but I couldn’t resist taking a shot at a sub-20 minute 5k to cap off the year! I knew the course had a relatively big hill the entire last mile, and that I hadn’t exactly been training for a 5k PR, but I was still going to try.

(Flats! Finally!)
(Flats! Finally!)

Trinity Turkey Trot 5k mini race reportImage

The night before the race, I was thinking of staying in but then my plumbing went all sorts of CRAZY – I’m talking strange noises that sounded like monsters in the walls, really whacked pressure, and brownish-orange water. Well that’s cool…I couldn’t get a shower, drink water, use the toilet, or make my dinner. I packed a bag and went to stay with friends…and kind of went out for a little…and slept on the couch…and was awoken earlier than intended after about 4.5 hours of sleep. All great things to do before racing a 5k. Whatever. I warmed up over three miles because it was cold – just under thirty degrees at the start. I still wore shorts, though I can’t say I really felt anything on my legs at all…pretty numb. The first stretch of the course is straight downhill, then it levels off. I went through mile 1 in 6:21. I was hoping for more like 6:15-6:17 given the big downhill. I was thinking I wasn’t that warmed up yet and continued pushing. There was a gradual uphill during pretty much all of the second mile, which I clocked at 6:33. Then, there was a guy behind me that was clearly trying to pace a girl to a certain time. In doing so, he made sure to repeatedly mention that I was “right there,” and she could “go get me.” This happened like every ten seconds. It was a strange sort of motivation to really get in gear and be relentless in the last mile up the big hill. That mile was 6:37, and when I saw that the finish was close and the current time was only in the low 19s, I really hammered it (at 5:40 pace for 0.1, apparently) to finish in 19:57.15.* I was pleased. While I think I could definitely run 19:30 in the right training and course conditions, I was unsure sub-20 was still possible given the slower splits. And yes, 5k is the only distance I have never been able to negative-split (though, this course was made for positive-splitting with the elevation). Oh, and probably the mile. More on the mile later….

*note: I ran over a minute slower in 2012…and I think the clock began too late and gave us an extra ~13 seconds. Ouch.

That’s me on the right, on the first downhill stretch. Am I the only one who knows all the tangents?!

Then, the priest/race director gave out free pies in the church. Long story. It was pretty hilarious. I didn’t get one…you kind of had to cheer for it aggressively.

The priest giving someone a free pie. And me watching on.


So, I was obligated to “celebrate” the holiday in a way normal, non-grinches do, unfortunately, and I did so. I had some salad and a few bites of turkey…with dressing on it. Not gravy. Anyway. The good thing about Thanksgiving was we…oh wait, that was another family gathering two days later. Never mind. The good thing was the turkey trot. Yeah. Anyway, two days later (after a brutally long day at work into a non-brutally long, fun night Friday), we convened again and found lots of old family photos, which was so fun. Further evidence I have a thing for boats, of any kind:

Who needs water?

The December First Lighting of the Lights Party

After that party, I was eager to head right back up for what was to be a spectacular event – or, at least a spectacle in some way – the lighting of the lights, which as a rule was to be done at midnight on the first of December. This is my friend’s annual rule, and he had gone crazy decorating his porch with lights all day. At midnight, we would count down and turn them on. And, according to him, it would officially be “Christmas time!” My feelings toward Thanksgiving sometimes spread into the rest of the holidays, I admit. I believe that sometimes people come into your life exactly when you need them. This friend of mine (as of September) is no exception. It’s moments like these I am most grateful for friends…I have more now than I did in college, and this is a wonderful thing. Okay, I’ll stop the deep stuff and show you the good stuff. Presenting…THE LIGHTS:

I was somehow tricked into having a great weekend…that was coincidentally Thanksgiving weekend! Huh. I hope everyone else enjoyed the weekend too.

As far as the running-related events that are on my radar…the PI Holiday Mile is next Tuesday! Yeah, I’m going for another year-best time. Sigh. It never ends. the good news is I did a regular workout last night that totaled nine miles, and my legs are feeling a lot less tired…aka a lot more ready to take on Boston training well-rested starting in a few weeks! Much more on that later. I’ll probably ask a lot of questions for you to answer if you’re reading, then listen to no one but myself. Oh, and there was bigggg news released yesterday about something coming to the area next fall, but I’ll save that for another post…because this one had such a not-angry ending compared to the beginning!

Go for the Gold 5k race report + support Team USA!

So…I ran a 5k today. Not my typical Saturday morning routine, unlike a lot of runners. I’m usually getting in some sort of training for a longer race ahead, and so when I still felt sub-par yesterday from River to Sea, I was almost about to bail and run nine miles on trails instead (something that sounds five times more fun and familiar to me…). However, I went and raced, and I’m glad I did!Image

I signed up for the race after feeling pretty left out when my ITB forced me to cheer on my friends from the sidelines for a 10k and a 5k in June and on the 4th of July. I especially felt frustrated when my Intervals group entered as a team in a couple races and I couldn’t be on it. So, when the Go for the Gold 5k was brought to the table and sparked interest among some group members, I jumped at the opportunity to finally join the crowd, and registered. Unfortunately, only one other group member actually ran it; other commitments prevented some who originally were thinking of running from showing up. I also wanted to do it because it was organized by USRowing, and proceeds went to the America Rows Program (hey, remember when I learned to row???).

Race tee…

So, I showed up at Mercer County Park…the only place I seem to race these days…a little before 9:00 AM to get in a good warmup. The race started so late; it was almost difficult to sleep later, so I ended up being 0% rushed. The start was on the grass by the picnic area that was actually the turn-around at the triathlon. It was very low-key and very cross country. I saw a girl who had been wearing a Rider XC t-shirt lining up next to me near the front, and I had a feeling she would be pretty fast. She was also wearing old Nike spikeless Milers. Side note: I anticipated this post being extremely entertaining: an intense recap of how I was determined to beat the girl who ran those two races I wanted to run and ended up placing, to my frustration since I wasn’t even able to race to even compete against her. She didn’t end up running this race, so there went that goal. I tried pretending any female in front of me was her, but it didn’t quite work.

The race course was pretty simple:

ImageWhen I found out my “rival” would most likely not be there, I needed another goal. After surprising myself by running 6:27 pace for the last leg at R2C, I thought it would be cool to try to do that again for 3.1 miles (versus the 2.35 that night). That would give me a 19:59, and breaking 20 minutes was something I’ve always wanted to do on the roads. My ITB started feeling knotty this week though, leaving me to decide I should not kill myself trying to do that, since Hood to Coast is soon. And anyway, it is ridiculous to suggest I should shoot for a 5k PR coming off of an injury and having hardly done any workouts yet (just one)….In the end, my splits ended up being the following:


So, this was actually a road 5k PR (with a grass start and finish, but oh well)! I haven’t ran a 5k that fast since 2007, and my previous 5k road race PR was 20:59, from 2006 (again, I don’t do this often…). Not too bad for this strange post-injury time period! I didn’t get passed after the small grass field at the start, and I passed about three people during the second half. My official time and stats were: 20:29.8 (average pace of 6:36), 8th place overall, 3rd female overall, 2nd in F20-29 age group. I was glad the woman I could see up ahead who ended up running 19:56 was 30 (she didn’t look it)! I saw plenty of recent Running Co. customers, including my uncle’s dentist (?), and a bunch of National Team rowers I knew, who ended up presenting me with my medal. Pictures aren’t up yet but I was definitely looking at the wrong camera and still sweating buckets in the middle of my three mile cooldown, so it will be splendid I’m sure.

Takeaway message: take chances. Training isn’t always perfect. That doesn’t mean you can’t surprise yourself and feel good about it. It’s about pushing yourself and having a good time while doing it, no matter who is running with you, who is watching, and how “ready” you are for that race distance.

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Coxed Pair pwning the other team by 48 seconds in the final....
Coxed Pair owning the other team by 48 seconds in the final….

This is a fitting post in which to insert a promotional plug of sorts. Not for a shoe, or a quadballer, or anything of the sort. For my friends, who qualified on Wednesday (I watched…such a crewpie) for the Rowing World Championships in South Korea in the Men’s Coxed Pair. The coxed pair is not an event funded by USRowing; therefore, they must raise funds for their entry and all other expenses themselves. They have made a donation page and really appreciate your support! They leave on Friday, and the Championships are August 26-September 1. I’m very excited for them that they have made the team this year, and I have no doubt they will represent the US well and hopefully bring home some shiny hardware in a few weeks!

Here is a video of them practicing on the Schuylkill (no I have yet to spell that correctly on the first try) if you’re interested!

USRowing-logo-2-color-01Thanks for reading on after the race report! Check back soon for my Saucony Guide 6 review!