Monday, February 02, 2015

Super Sunday 5 Mile Race Report

Yesterday I ran the Super Sunday 5 Mile race in Kendall Square with the lowest of low expectations. I signed up for this race about a month ago and it seemed like a wayyyy better idea at the time - as race day approached my predominant feeling was "ugh, I'm going to run so slowly, this is going to suck". Add to that the fact that Andrew and I spent Saturday night first at a dance event at Aeronaut Brewery (one of my favorite new places this side of the river) and then indulging in an incredible dinner at Kirkland Tap and Trotter (fried pork ribs appetizer, I think I'm still drooling thinking about it), both of which involved some beer, and we had a recipe for a not-so-great race morning.  When I woke up to see that the temps were in the low teens, feels like negative temps with the windchill, my excitement continued to decrease. I spent probably double the necessary time getting my crap together before setting out; the half-mile jog to the T station felt like I was running through Jell-O. I'm almost ashamed at how negative my thoughts were at this point: Ugh, it's so freaking cold. You're so slow. Your legs are such a mess, this is just going to be embarassing. Despite taking Saturday off I was definitely feeling my 17 miles in poor conditions on Friday and with a slight hangover on top of it things were not looking so nice.

Once I got some Dunkin' coffee and got on the train, I started feeling a little bit better. Several of us had decided NOT to wear our GBTC singlets to this race (mainly because of the above mentioned "I'm going to suck and not race" thought process), which gave me an opportunity to race in THE BEST SPANDEX EVER. I found them at Target for $15, advertised as "fashion leggings" which I find hilarious because a) in what real life situation would you ever wear pants like these? and b) they happen to be made of the same cotton/poly/spandex blend as basically all of my running tights. EPIC WIN!
These pants are my spirit animal
The race started at 10, and I arrived at the start around 9:30. This race has definitely grown since I ran it as the Super Sunday 10K back in 2010, and there were tons of people milling around - pretty great to see that you can still get a turnout of 2K+ runners even when it's frickin' freezing outside! I had planned on doing a quick warmup, but after hitting the porta potty and jumping in the bag check line, it became clear that by the time I checked my bag I would have maybe 15 minutes before the race start. Don't get me wrong, the volunteers did a GREAT job of handling the line of hundreds, but I think everyone had brought a bag with more warm clothes, and EVERYONE felt like 9:30 was the time they wanted to get rid of it. In the meantime I was texting with Joy desperately hoping that I would actually be able to find her in the madness - since we weren't wearing team kits, I had no idea what she WAS wearing! Somehow we managed to connect and jogged around the block a couple of times before heading to the start. Super warm-up, legs and feet were completely frozen and I was totally in a "whatevs" sort of mood at this point.  Wait, what? I'm supposed to run a race now? Well, OK, fine then.

Honestly, there isn't a ton to say about the race itself. I started running, and it turns out I was running faster than expected. I kept running, and continued to run faster than expected, and it felt significantly easier than I ever could have imagined given the pace I was running. The course wasn't too exciting in terms of scenery, but it had a LOT going for it in terms of terrain; it's been a REALLY long time since I ran a race that could even remotely be categorized as "flat" and this fit the bill. There were a couple inclines/declines over bridges but other than that, very very gentle terrain.  I never actually figured out if the roads were fully closed but I think they were at least partially, because there was a nice full lane open to run in which was pretty great. I went through the first mile at 6:47 and was kind of like, huh. That wasn't that hard. So I started thinking to myself "keep this pace feeling relaxed".  A few people surged past me in the second mile but generally I was just holding my spot, all alone as I for some reason always tend to be in races. I can't remember my 2-mile time but it was still in the sub-7 realm. Once again, I thought, huh, this still feels really relaxed. At one point the thought occurred to me "Is this what a tempo run is supposed to feel like?!". I considered trying to pick up the pace but I still didn't have the confidence that I wasn't completely going to crash so I kept on point with "keep this 6:50ish pace feeling relaxed". Around mile 3 the 5K runners fed into the 5 milers, which was a little bit annoying because I had really locked into a nice groove, and then suddenly around the corner comes a horde of runners who were running at a slower pace. I had to do a little bobbing and weaving but once I got past the initial rush, I got back into daylight and reclaimed my "running alone between packs" status. By the time I reached mile 4 (in I believe 27:27) the pace was finally starting to wear on me a little bit. However, the finish was now close enough and I felt like I had just enough left in the tank to try to actually...gasp...pick it up! As this was happening I was literally thinking to myself I don't think I've EVER had something left to even try to pick it up during the last mile of a race. Did I not run hard enough? I guess maybe not. Holy shit, I'm running 5 miles in under 7 minute pace and it doesn't feel like I ran HARD enough?? What this real life? Finally in the last half mile, that good old "hot damn, I'm about ready to be done running" feeling kicked in, and I started losing steam a little bit from my early kick. Still, I powered across the finish line feeling reasonably strong and incredibly pleased with my 34:xx (I stopped my watch late and originally had a 34:30, my official chip time was 34:17). SIGNIFICANTLY better than I ever would have expected, even on a perfect racing day. This was an automatic PR since somehow in my racing career I've never managed to race a 5 miler - now I've got a lot to live up to the next time I do!

I quickly went to retrieve my bag because I knew that as soon as I stopped running I was going to get extremely cold, extremely fast. By the time I finished up with that I was able to meet back up with Joy, and then we ran into Kaitlyn also! We all imbibed in a post race beer (because nothing says "normal" like drinking a Backlash outdoors, in 16 degree weather, at 11 in the morning, after racing 5 miles) but then decided to forgo our second because we were FREEZING and pretty ready to get back indoors. I cooled down back to Harvard with Kaitlyn (and then rewarded myself with a caramel 
machiatto) to get some decent mileage on the day. 
GBTC ladies in non-GBTC apparel post-race

So what's the moral of the story here? Well, here's the thing. I've now had three races in a row where I "surprisingly" ran fairly fast. This race especially felt like a fairly "relaxed" effort, especially when I look at my pace, and take into consideration the freezing weather and pre-race fails. it time to finally admit that I might be getting faster? That is the whole point of this running thing, right? I think sometimes I forget that I don't necessarily have to be stuck running the same paces always and forever. That paces that USED to feel incredibly hard or straight up impossible might actually be possible these days. I'm 27 - in theory, I'm in the prime of my running life, with several years of solid, consistent training to back me up. I'm really loving this new footloose and fancy free, no expectations, "I'm not really racing!" sort of attitude, and it seems to be paying dividends. But I also think it's time to reevaluate what I believe I can do - because you know what? Maybe I CAN be better! Maybe I already am. And I probably should stop making excuses, stop feeling "relaxed" when I'm racing, and really. freaking. race. And then see what happens.

Race details for those interested: RaceMenu/Race Cancer consistently put on really solid events that are clearly well thought out and fun. They tend to attract larger fields and are generally pretty competitive, this race especially so, but they're definitely super welcoming to first timers or more casual runners.
COURSE: Honestly, I couldn't ask for better for a city race. I really don't particularly care about scenery when I'm racing because I'm not looking at it anyway, so give me a nice flat boring course over hilly and beautiful any day. Definitely a fast course. Well marked, clocks at miles 1, 2, and 3, at least partially closed to traffic as far as I could tell. I believe I saw a water stop as well (one of the volunteers complimented my pants, which of course made me happy).  The only detractor was the 5K influx at mile 3, which maybe could be fixed by modifying the 5K course slightly? It really wasn't that big of a deal but definitely took me out of my race a little bit.
SWAG: I was a little sad about the cotton t-shirt this year (my tech shirt from the old 10K is one of my favorites) but the color is nice and the design is fairly attractive and simple. As the race has grown I can imagine they would probably need to up the price to do a tech shirt and still donate the same amount to their charities, so it's understandable. We also got a bottle opener (you could exchange it for a hat, but let's be real, I really like bottle openers). Post race party included 2 beer tickets and some food - I only took advantage of 1 beer but on a nicer day or with a heated tent I would definitely have stuck around longer. If you're fast enough to win stuff (and you need to be pretty fast), there are cash prizes and the trophies were Super Bowl trophy replicas - nice touch.
ORGANIZATION: Again, this group really puts together solid events. My only complaints would be that a few more volunteers manning the bag check area would have been helpful, and a warmer and/or indoor space would have encouraged me to stick around longer for the party!
$$: I honestly can't remember how much I paid for this race, somewhere in the $30-35 range. I wouldn't pay that for the 5K option, but I think it's reasonable for a 5 mile given how well organized the race was, the amount of swag, and the fact that part of the proceeds go to several reputable cancer research foundations and charities, which I can definitely get behind. For a larger race, I'd say they're doing a good job of keeping it affordable!

Super Sunday 5M
34:17 chip time (6:52 pace), PR (also set an unofficial 4M PR of 27:27 within the race)
216/1419 OA, 33/746 F, 21/322 F19-29

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