I had been hoping to find a race in the Rochester area during the time I’d be home in November and December; this was tough, since the last months of the year aren’t ideal racing months in upstate New York. I was happy, however, to find that Fleet Feet/YellowJacket Racing was hosting a brand-new 5K called the Reindeer Run in mid-December. With proceeds to benefit The Strong National Museum of Play and a promise of reindeer antlers to each entrant, I was convinced. Plus, I hadn’t raced a 5K since summer 2010, before I left for the Peace Corps, and was excited and interested to see how I would do.
Turns out, many other Rochesterians (Rochestarians?) had a similar idea. As of race morning, about 1400 people had registered, making this the biggest first-time 5K in the Rochester area! The course was fun: an out-and-back on both sides of Rochester’s inner loop (the belt of freeway that makes a circle around the city center) — the race organizers made a good point that nobody could run the course before the race, since the inner loop’s usual traffic is cars! But today, for the first time since the 1980s, the city closed part of the inner loop for the Reindeer Run.
Many people showed up early on the chilly (30-35F) Saturday morning sporting their antlers, and some wore costumes (I saw a lot of tutus). I warmed up in my antlers but they joggled around a bit too much on my head so I took them off before the race.
I really had no idea how I would do in this 5K, since I haven’t done speedwork for almost two months and I’ve been training for and racing half marathons (and one marathon) for two and a half years. My tentative goal was to run under 24:00, but I didn’t really expect to run faster than my PR (personal record) of 23:13. I was happy to find Bill, a fellow runner, at the start line to chat with while we stomped around trying to stay warm during the last few minutes before the race started. I put myself about four people back from the start so I could get out fast enough…
…and off we went! Bill pulled away and many people surged past me as I tried not to trip on anyone while finding holes through which to pass people myself. Not having any idea of what pace I was running, I tried to keep it brisk but manageable and found myself moving up and passing more and more people as we descended the ramp onto the inner loop. I knew I had to be just under 8:00/mile pace in order to be on track to break 24:00; all I could do was keep running and see what fate awaited me at the 1-mile marker. “6:58!”, the volunteer called out as I ran through one mile. “Woah,” I thought to myself, “if I can just maintain this pace I’ll PR no problem!”
“Just be under 15:00 at two miles and then you can push to the end,” I told myself as we ran the along inner loop’s curves and up and down its gentle rises. Up the exit, over the bridge, and back down the opposite side’s entrance ramp, we rounded on two miles. I passed through at 13:38, which would mean my second mile was faster than my first (6:41)…I felt like I’d been maintaining a pretty steady pace. My suspicions were confirmed soon after the 2-mile marker when I saw a woman look at her GPS watch and say to her running companion, “the second mile was [measured] short.” Or maybe it wasn’t. Either way, I kept going and started pushing for my new goal: to reach mile 3 under 21:00.
Passing more people and trading positions a couple of times with the watch woman, I ran up the exit ramp and hear volunteers and spectators shouting that the 3-mile mark was just around the corner. Surging ahead, I hit three miles at 20:25 (giving me 6:47 for the third mile) and tried to calculate how many meters .1 miles equalled. I gave up on finding an exact number (it’s 160) after estimating that it was somewhere between 100 and 200 meters. Spotting a woman — or maybe I was passed by her — in a pink coat, I vowed to stay with her as I began my kick. I tried to pass her a couple of times, only to have her stay just ahead. I finally passed her on the straight to what I thought was the finish, but then realized that I had to run around a tight curve to the real finish; that thought threw me off enough to slow me slightly and let pink coat woman sneak past on the inside curve. Ah well. I still ran a PR by almost 2 minutes!
I finished in 21:18 (that’s 6:52/mile average pace) and am pretty pumped about that. I finished 56th out of 1278 people who finished the race (I was thrilled to be on the first page of race results!). Even more exciting, I was 2nd in my age group (F20-24) and the 12th woman overall, out of 839 women who ran the race! (I tried to upload a screenshot of my name in the race results here but it wouldn’t work. Click here instead to find me at #56.)
Despite only running 15-20 miles/week since getting home from the Peace Corps a month ago, I attribute my success and huge PR to a few things: 1) really good base fitness — I’ve been running half marathons and doing consistent speedwork (except for the last month and a half) for two and a half years; 2) weekly runs over the past month with either SW or SA, both of whom are faster than me and so I essentially do a tempo run every time I go out with one of them; 3) consistent yoga and strength training along with a bit of cross training since being home to maintain my muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness. I also think I’ve just become a better racer; now that I have more longer races under my belt, I feel like I can endure almost anything — and maintain almost any pace — for just 3.1 miles!
I haven’t chosen a spring race yet — I’ll be in the UK so would love to find a half marathon to run. If you have any ideas, please send them my way!