GOTR 5K and College Ave Mile

When I said I wanted to do crazy things this summer, I bet you didn’t think racing a mile was first on my agenda. Well, neither did I, but that was what I did on Saturday evening.

I have to back up and begin by explaining that the Girls on the Run 5k – the culminating event for the two-month program I’ve been coaching – was scheduled for Saturday morning. There was also a triathlonreally wanted to do in Staten Island that was the same day…which I didn’t realize until recently (I thought the 5k was Sunday the 8th and the tri was Sunday the 15th for some reason…turns out they were both Saturday the 7th all along). Later, I saw that the College Ave Mile was in the evening on the same day, so instead of feeling left out of the races for the weekend, I decided to take on an entirely different challenge and race the mile.

First, the Girls on the Run 5k event was great; all the girls finished and were really proud of themselves (as were their coaches).


gotrIn the afternoon, I met up with Jen to drive up to Rutgers for the mile. I should mention that I was donning something new….My Garmin’s start/stop/up button had been working only

It just occurred to me that the date was wrong before it found satellites for the first time...this was definitely taken on Friday.
It just occurred to me that the date was wrong before it found satellites for the first time…this was definitely taken on Friday.

intermittently for the past week, and it eventually refused to work on Friday. So, I ended up trading it in for a new Forerunner 220. While it is similar to my old 210, I was still figuring things out, obviously. On my warmup I realized it was hot. And I was dehydrated. It was only a mile though, so I figured that wouldn’t affect me too much (and it didn’t). I entered in the “women’s emerging elite” heat. They announced everyone’s names at the start if they had pre-registered…but I had not. I finally got to meet Danielle (Foodosaurus Rex), and she was in my heat too. The gun went off about 15 minutes behind schedule but I never have a sense of time regarding races anyway so I didn’t mind. The route was two half-mile loops around a couple blocks on the Rutgers University College Ave campus. Because we were all lumped together, the first couple turns were sharp. We had to slow down for them, it was so tight.

The start of my race. Photo from New Brunswick Today.
The start of my race. Photo from New Brunswick Today.

I somehow managed to set my watch to auto-lap every quarter mile, but I’m not sure if the splits were as even as they would be for a track race. Regardless, it gave me an idea of if I was running too fast or slow, which was what I wanted. I went through the first quarter in 83-84, and the 800 in 2:53. Thinking that was slower than I wanted, I picked up the pacve a couple seconds on the next quarter mile. With 400-500 meters to go, I noticed two things: 1. A pack of a few girls ahead of me, and 2. that I still felt pretty good – not acceptable for a race of this length! So, I dug deep and passed the pack decisively. The thought that I could try to win the heat popped into my head, but there was a single girl still ahead of me, not within reasonable reach. We rounded the last corner, and I remembered the finish seemed not far at all from it on the previous loop, so I gave it all I had to the point where I actually felt like I was flying. My legs felt awesome, like they were operating on a motor that didn’t take physical effort. It was weird and great. Another hundred meters and they might have really felt it, but I can honestly say I am excited about how I felt at the finish, because I felt fast. I must have closed in about 80 seconds for the last quarter, give or take. My final time was 5:41.35 and I was second in the heat (the first girl ran 5:29). With a runner’s high to blame, I almost signed up for the mile relay (2 x 800m) at the end, but opted not to when I found out I’d have to pay extra for it. Thus concludes a short race recap of an equally short race – so easy when it’s only a mile long!

Finish photo. Again, I swear I'm not mad here, I am having a lot of fun! No sarcasm!
Finish photo. Again, I swear I’m not mad here, I am having a lot of fun! No sarcasm!

The elephant at the race…

As you may have noticed from the starting line photo and the meet website if you clicked the link, the event was very much dominated by a particular NJ-based club. It also attracted other clubs because it was a USATF mile championship event. I chatted with a lot of people that day and it seemed like running clubs were the primary topic of conversation. I think clubs are great, and serve as a way for post-collegiate runners of all ages to stay socially connected and compete as a team. It also can be difficult to find people to do workouts with, and I totally get that reason for joining a team. I’ve thought a lot about the idea…and ultimately, at least for right now in my life as a runner, I am satisfied with not joining a team. I personally like the freedom that comes with being non-partisan: free to do whatever run or workout I want, when I want. To choose to race certain races, or not. To wear whatever I want to for a race. To do runs with members of any club, and attend their sponsored events. I also feel like I have a lot of people I can text or something to run almost any time I feel like it, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that. Maybe I will join a running club someday, who knows. I’m not close-minded about it, but right now I am happy bouncing around and enjoying running with me and for me.

Craving speed

A couple weeks ago I did a fast and simple track workout with the Intervals group (while I just finished mentioning I am not on a club, I should mention that this group is more of an eclectic group of friends in the community that come together weekly due to a shared love of running…and if I’ve ever suggested that you come to a workout, it’s because I legitimately think you’ll have fun and want to see you!): 3200, 1600, 400. It left me a little discouraged about my current level of speed, but I guess the heat and wind gusts played a factor that day more than I realized. After a great workout the next Tuesday night and then the fast finish at the mile, I changed my mind and decided that yes, I do want to get back on the track for a little more fun. So, the plan is to jump into the last all-comers track meet this month at a nearby school (hosted by, yes, yet another club) for a 3k next Tuesday evening. I want to have fun and see what I can do.

20140612_000125If you were thinking my next post would be about the joys of being a newbie cyclist…don’t worry. That is definitely coming.



Back on the track: alumni mile! (And why I didn’t like college.)

Every year, my college team hosts two home track meets, one the second Saturday and April and the other on the last Saturday. The second meet features the anticipated Alumni Mile, a coed race consisting of cross country/track alumni who show up to either hardcore compete with each other or find their way around the track four times by some other means. On the last lap, many of the guys, and some girls who have steeplechasing backgrounds, decide to give the water barrier a shot, to the amusement of the spectators. I have always been among the spectators, but this year I was excited to race! And yes, I was planning to race….

In December, after only a couple workouts back with the Intervals group, I ran the “PI Holiday Mile” in 5:53. I was happy with that, and told myself I’d give it a go again next at the alumni mile. Given that I have been doing a lot of training since then, I thought I would set my goal for sub-5:50. I’m sure racing a mile the week before racing a marathon is not in most runners’ training schedules; but, it needed to happen. I warmed up with some alumni and felt great. We all stood around with nervous excitement about racing on the track again, watching runners finish the 1500. As we were told to line up, three of my former guy

On the starting line.
So, if my legs get tired during the marathon, just remind me that I can always try to run it with my arms…jeez, I don’t know how this happened. And I thought I was developing a case of “the skinny arm.”

teammates ran up to the line out of nowhere dressed as Batman, Superman, and a Ninja Turtle. Thus, we began the race while laughing. I was smiling and laughing the whole time, almost. Well, except not in the photo that was taken of me, to my surprise. My coach was providing some hilarious commentary, which I could only hear when I was on one side of the track. I went through the first 200 in around 40-41 seconds feeling really tired, and thought to myself, well, if I don’t break six, it’s okay, I’m marathon training and already sore. I think I started my watch late though, because I was at 80ish for the 400 and could have sworn I’d slowed down. I’m not sure what my other splits were, I’d assume 2:54ish or something but I kind of made that up? I was able to pick it up with 400 to go and finished strong somewhere between 5:48 and 5:49. My watch read 5:49.08, but my coach called out “about 5:48.” It was the easiest 5:48 mile I have ever ran, that’s for sure. I was the first female to finish, about 5-10 seconds behind the Ninja Turtle (aka Rob).

Our photo finish...can you spot the superheroes???
Our photo finish…can you spot the superheroes???

I cheered in my former teammates in the final straightaway, chatted with them a bit, and then went on the best cooldown ever. I felt amazing. This was good. I thought about many things on the cooldown….

– I ran to my house I’d rented senior year and thought about all that I’ve been through since then. 

– I thought about how I had never ran a race I was truly satisfied by in college. Ever. 

– I thought about how I was only able to run at this meet once before, a 1500 freshman year. If I’d stopped at 1500m today my time would have been about 15 seconds faster. 

– I thought about how many awful runs I had on these streets, coming back from various injuries and not feeling like “myself.” I felt like “myself” now. 

– I thought about the countless nights, weekends, early mornings I had spent in the library studying, rushing around, worrying, stressing, having breakdowns over classes and exams, when everyone else was probably dealing with some of the life lessons and emotions I am dealing with now, in this year after graduating. Did I really miss out on all that and have no idea? Things hardly felt simple then, but they really must have been. My only cares were becoming a healthier, faster runner, feeling like I belonged, and doing well in school. How did I care so much about those things, try so hard to achieve them, and have none of those things actually happen?

As you can see, what started as a happy, carefree “that mile was so fun, I can’t wait to run a marathon next weekend!” little cooldown turned into a twenty minute reflection of what college was “supposed to” be like versus what it was like for me. It’s like I got everything backwards, and now there’s nothing I can do about it. Everyone has their own unique ways of getting where they’re going, though, and all I can do is be confident that I’m taking advantage of what’s in front of me at the moment, running with it, and seeing where it gets me, in running, my personal life, and academically.

So back to what this was originally about….