A couple of weeks after Manchester, high off of adrenaline and confidence, I found the NYCRUNS Ice Cream Social 5 & 10K in New York that Mike and I could do since I knew we’d be spending 2 weeks there at the end of May.
I knew it was risky to run a 5K so close to summer, but it seemed far removed enough from the marathon that I’d be recovered and I also thought it could be a fun family 5K that I could run with Mike, my sister and her husband (turns out only Mike and I were crazy enough to go through with this 5k!).
The second we arrived in Manhattan, we knew we’d be in trouble. It was muggy, humid, sticky, and all-around gross in the city. Within a day, I broke out into the worse skin rash I’ve had in more than 5 years. It was so bad, that I didn’t leave my sister’s apartment for 2 full days, because I was suffering so much from the heat. I did keep up with my runs, though, because those don’t really involve interacting with people (when I have skin breakouts on my face, I just can’t bring myself to interact with anyone… it’s bad, but it’s also the truth). All of my runs were exhausting and I started questioning my fitness when I wasn’t hitting any of my paces in interval workouts and I felt like my legs were taking longer than usual to recover. I told my coach that I’d decide to do the 5k at the very last minute so he even gave me two options for the weekend – a 5k mini taper and a long run if I wasn’t racing.
Well, I decided to give it a go to “get my head back in the game” so I took the mini taper option and went for it. Not even 1 mile in, I wished I hadn’t!
The race itself was really well organized. It’s run by the NYCRUNS run club and the course was on Roosevelt Island, which I doubt Mike and I would have visited had it not been for the race. The 5K was a little bit more than loop of the perimeter of the island and the 10k was two loops. We took the subway from my sister’s place and made it to the island within 15 minutes which was great. After the race, we took the scenic option – the cable car – which I highly recommend.
Mike and I did a little warm up and we both got really nervous about how things were going to go. I didn’t have a race strategy, I just wanted to try to run hard and hang on. I thought it would have been great to come close to my old PB of 22:40 since I felt like I gained fitness since I ran that 5K last November — but, I also knew that I crumble under the heat/humidity and that I might not come anywhere close to it. I actually said to Mike before the race that I figured I’d probably come in somewhere around 23-24 minutes, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was hoping to come in faster than that. Damn ambitions (and unrealistic expectations!).
A lot of little things happened during the race, but in all honesty, my mental game was off and that’s all there was to it. Okay, and it was brutally hot, but I still don’t think I should excuse myself that much. The fact is that 5ks are HARD to run. I’ve never really loved them, but the fact that I’m so bad at them is why I kind of feel determined to “master” them. I got pretty close last year and felt like my work was done. Wrong! Apparently, you have to keep exercising a muscle to keep it in shape? 😉
The small things that mattered and shouldn’t have:
- I borrowed Mike’s watch because mine broke. I thought once you got GPS signal, it stayed “synced”, but when I reset the watch after we did our warm up, I unknowingly reset everything and the GPS signal was lost by the time I started the actual race. I didn’t get the stupid thing going until almost 1 minute into the race. Nothing new on race day! Bad, Alison.
- A boy was trying to weave around crowds at the start, but he’d do it by sneaking in between the tiniest gaps between people and darting/dashing through them like a frantic mouse. I have never seen anyone weave like that before. He darted right in front of me and I ended up tripping on his shoe. Of course I angrily yelled, but he just kept on darting through people like a game of Frogger and ignored me.
- My mouth was so dry and I was having trouble swallowing from the start. I was planning to stop at the water station, but there was only one and I didn’t see it until I was already past it. That was the one and only water station on the course. Somewhere between mile 1 and 2, I actually started dry heaving which was worrisome. I almost stopped to walk but stubbornly kept going. I told myself that this was silly and that I should just stop and not run to the point where I’d throw up. But a part of me was annoyed that I had paid $45USD to run this race and I reasoned that it was “only” 5k. I slowed to walk twice, but never actually stopped to walk because I knew I wouldn’t start running again.
I never looked at my watch or splits once during the race. I knew I’d be too annoyed and I was struggling to finish the race as it was and that they’d be inaccurate since my watch started late. As I turned the final corner to the finish, I didn’t even really look at the clock time because I knew I wouldn’t like what I saw. My watch said I had run 22:49, but I briefly forgot that I started it late so my first reaction was relief. Then, Mike said he saw about 23:30 on the clock and I felt slightly worse but accepted it. But when my final result came in: 23:54, I was crushed. Objectively, this isn’t a terrible time, but it’s more than a minute off my PB and it sucks when it feels like you haven’t progressed.
I only allowed myself to sulk until lunch that day and then I pulled myself together. It’s not worth it to take running so seriously when it’s just a hobby.
The facts are:
- It was about 19/20C (66F) AND super humid. If it was just 19/20C without humidity, it would have been hot, but I don’t think I would have been suffering as badly. The race started at 8:30, but in this weather, it would have been better to start at 7am or earlier!
- I haven’t been doing much speed work since Manchester. I probably lost a lot of speed I had built up from last year in favour of longer, slower distances while training for the marathon this spring. I thought I still had some residual fitness from the marathon, but maybe one month out was enough time for me to lose it.
- I didn’t train specifically for this race, nor did I do a proper taper. I probably should have taken a rest day leading up to the race (if I cared so much about running “my best”).
- I didn’t stop to walk once… which was a huge accomplishment considering how many times I slowed to a crawl and pretty much veered off the side of the course. Next time, I’ll try not to stop AND push a little harder when it hurts and my brain is telling me to stop. Baby steps…
To be honest, I’ve lost a lot of confidence going into this training cycle. That’s the thing with bad races – they happen and they will continue to happen, but since I am a little deficient in the mental strength department, something as little as a 5k gone awry is enough to shake me up.
I am tempted to do another one soon to see if I can do better, but I know logically, there’s no guarantee that I’ll do any better and 2 bad races in a row could really shake me up. I spent all of last year working on believing in myself and trying to push harder in races and I was lucky enough to PB in every distance I ran. Of course that was going to taper off – I just hope I haven’t plateaued because I’m still hoping to get fast enough to BQ this Fall or next Spring (lol, always relating back to that stupid BQ…).
After the race, Mike and I took our bruised egos home on the cable car and the pretty views went a long way in cheering us up. They also gave out some chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bars and bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter after the race. Everyone was really cheerful, and although it was a tad expensive (in addition to the post race food, we got a technical t-shirt that said 10K on it even if you ran the 5K) and that was it. Would I do it again? Probably, but only as a “fun run”, without any time expectations. It’s so easy to say that you won’t race something, but slap a bib on me and a chip timer and I have trouble not caring about my time.
Oh well, onto the next race!