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:

g4tg5ksplits

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!

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Learn to Row Day

It is really natural for a runner to consider biking or swimming as a form of cross training or another endurance activity to take up and try to improve in just for fun. I did that very early on, and while there is a lot of work left to do for my abilities in those fields to catch up to my running, the novelty of the sport of cycling and swimming has worn off…or was perhaps never quite there. While a team sport, like a pickup game of softball or kickball sounds like fun, I would never commit to regularly participating…too much skill and standing around, not enough pure rhythmic, repetitive expenditure. Rowing was a mystery to me all throughout high school and college. My high school did not have a team, but the shiny new Camden County boathouse on the Cooper River was a turn-around point for a ten-miler I did from my house. When there was a regatta and we didn’t know, my teammates and I would dodge bows and fear for our lives for a few minutes, then take another route instead.  In college, I knew of a couple people who were on the club crew team and practiced earlier than my team did during indoor track season. This was about all I knew about rowing. Then, I started working at the running store in 2010, and realized how prominent rowing was in Princeton. My first week of work was also the first week of work for two [former] coworkers training with the National team at the Princeton boathouse. One was a tall, strong rower and the other a short, strong coxwain (spoiler: the former went on to win bronze in the 2012 Olympics). We became close working weekends together when their practice was over. Sometimes I would ask questions, but the sport was still so foreign to me that it remained mysterious and intriguing.

I met several other rowers at the store after that, as many would come in for running shoes or gels and chat about their training. Early this year, I thought about what it would be like if I tried to row. I train like a triathlete year-round; the upper-body strength requirement wouldn’t come as difficult to me as many other runners. I also thrive on endurance and I imagined that a rowing workout or race would be pretty mentally and aerobically comparable to running a workout or race. If there was a perfect place and time to try, it was here and now, when I can do whatever I want with my training and am immersed in an area where it is just as common for someone to row than to play baseball.

So on Saturday, June 1, I participated in National Learn to Row Day with the Princeton National Rowing Association at Mercer Lake. I decided to do this event versus others in the area because 1.) I would actually be able to row on the water, not just in the tank and 2.) it was free (duh). I showed up pretty darn excited. After a brief introduction from Princeton National Rowing Association, a group of about 20 of us went inside to the erg room. I had never been on the erg before, mainly because I didn’t want to use it the wrong way, honestly. PNRA rowers taught us the technique in steps, and it was much easier to get the hang of that way. To improve the cross training of everyone reading, here is the proper way to use the erg:

1. The Catch (position 1): Your seat is all the way forward, knees vertical, arms and wrists straight.

The catch.

The catch.

2. The Drive (phase 1): The legs extend powerfully, the torso leans back, and the arms bend at the elbow to pull the handle to the sternum. In this phase, it was very helpful to think, legs-body-arms.”

The drive.

The drive.

3. The Finish (position 2): Legs are contracted and straight, abs are engaged as the torso is extended back.

The finish.

4. The Recovery (phase 2) : the triceps work to send the arms forward. The torso then flexes forward, and then legs bend as you slide back up the catch position. This is essentially the opposite order of phase 1: “arms, body, legs.”

The recovery.

We stayed on the erg for about 20 minutes. It was amazing how much more efficient (and fast) you can get after spending time getting your form correct! It was way different than running, when you can let your mind run free and not concern yourself with what you’re really doing. I suppose once it becomes second nature rowing could become more like running, mentally, but I still think there needs to be more focus involved. [This is a good video demonstrating proper form.]

After the erg lesson, it was time to get on the water! I was able to get out twice, in two different boats. Some of the Mercer Juniors (high school rowers) hopped in the eight boats with us (and coxed) so we would have some experienced rowers with us. The coach’s boat went out beside us and we did some sequences that would allow all of us newbies a chance to really row and understand how it feels. One thing we did I felt was most effective was having the bow four and the stern four take turns rowing together. The feeling of making a strong, smooth stroke and feeling the breeze on the lake was so awesome! (In other words, it was cool that I was part of actually making the boat move….)

This turned into a rather long post, but in summary: I loved rowing, it didn’t hurt my ITB at all, and now I have a new cross training activity that certainly isn’t easy!

Lake Mercer…I will be back.