Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Harpoon 5M Race Report

A couple weeks ago now (as I write this in an airport in Indy on my way home from a conference) I ran what I will now refer to as the BEST RACE EVER - the Harpoon 5 Miler. There’s a lottery to get into the race, and my friends and I finally caught on to the fact that your odds of getting in are significantly increased if you register as a “6-Pack” team - so the “Pool-Noodles” were born, and we did indeed get in! I’ve been excited about this race ever since we found out, not because I anticipated running a really stellar 5 miler (doubtful) but because It looked like a super fun race with a beerfest at the brewery afterwards - yes please! This is my kind of race! Add to that the fact that it raises money for ALS research, and I was 100% sold.  I headed over to the brewery bright and early on Sunday morning, and it was already WARM - maybe not hot, but 70+ and sunny is definitely the warmest weather I’ve run in so far this year. Since the race draws 4500 runners, I was a little bit concerned about packet pickup/bag drop/etc being a little bit of a clusterfuck, and was very pleasantly surprised when I managed to pick up my bib, hit the porta potty, and drop my bag in about 15 minutes...Harpoon volunteers were on point! I met up with the rest of the team: Joy, Alyse, Dana, Allison, and Jen - and then headed off to warm up for a few minutes with Dana. I felt decent on the warmup but still had no outstanding expectations about my ability to race well. And in all seriousness, I really didn’t care about individually racing well in this race, as long as I was able to be a contributor for our team. Because, you see, after looking at the results from past years, we realized that we had a solid chance to take a top 3 team spot, and I did NOT want to be the one to blow that for us!

By far the most stressful part of the morning was trying to make our way to the start. Out of the 4500 runners at this race, only maybe 500 or so are really competitive, so the 6 of us knew we needed to get to the front, STAT. This meant bobbing and weaving awkwardly through a crowd of people that did not seem to be moving at it turned out, that was because they hadn’t actually opened the gates for everyone to get to the start yet, but how were we supposed to know that? Eventually we managed to make our way through the crowds and to about the 5th row back from the start, near a crew of Cambridge Running Club girls who we were immediately eying up as competition. We bopped around the starting line for a few minutes and then...we were off!

So...the race. I did not run the smartest race of my life here. I went out in what seemed to be a totally reasonable pace but which actually turned out to be a 6:23 mile. And yeah, I was feeling it. I totally got caught up in the crowd mentality and the idea of “I WANT TO COMPETE TODAY!” which I suppose in a way is good, but I could already tell when I hit the 1 mile mark that I was working wayyyyy too hard to sustain. Add to that the fact that I was already extremely warm, and I was already a little bit concerned that I was going to have an unpleasant next 4 miles. “Damn it, Zaferos”, I thought as I headed into the second mile, “why did you have to go and be an idiot?” It was actually sort of interesting - when I ran the 10K last week, I know I said I forgot how to run hard and have gotten way too used to going out “relaxed”. At this race I DEFINITELY did not go out relaxed and I’m not sure if it was the right choice either. There’s gotta be a happy medium somewhere! If 6:55 is ‘relaxed’ and 6:23 is ‘hard’...maybe I should be going out in like, 6:40? Hah.

Almost immediately into mile 2 I started feeling baaaad. I thought at the time that I hadn’t dropped too far off pace (I had), but I was no longer enjoying myself. I tried to use some mind voodoo to convince myself that I was relaxed, but the combination of the heat and my fast start weren’t allowing those tricks to work. Things were not improved when a few minutes later Dana and Allison passed me, both looking really strong….and here I was, riding the pain train at like mile 1.5. Argh. I kept trucking. We headed over a bridge and down a long straight away, and I tried to keep the red singlets of my teammates in my sights. I was conscious of the fact that I was slowing down, and I actually missed the 2-mile split on my Garmin, but I was closing in on 13:30 by the 2 mile clock and I knew that could only mean one thing - I was back in 7:xx range, and at mile 2 of the race, that was definitely not a good thing (this split was a 6:59).

I tried to pull it together, but my mental monologue at this point of the race was unfortunately going down a path of self-destruction. Ugh, you suck. It’s so hot. Why did you go out so fast, you idiot? People are passing you. If you’re already slowing down at mile 2, there’s no way this is getting any better. It was the polar opposite of the 10K, where I felt like I was a little TOO comfortable but I really couldn’t convince myself to go any faster. Here, I was nowhere NEAR comfortable, and I felt like for the pace I was running, I should feel like I could speed up...and I couldn’t. (Newsflash: that’s what happens when you haven’t done speedwork in 6 weeks and have been only running 25 miles per week since your marathon a month ago! Derp!) We headed into a park which I took to be the turnaround point, and thankfully also ran into a bit of shade. Now that I knew I was halfway, I tried to shift my mindset - OK, so you slowed down. Well, don’t slow down any MORE. Maintain, maintain, maintain got me through the park, and as we turned back towards home I realized just how many people I was ahead of. The pack in my area was pretty sparse on the side of the road heading back; meanwhile it looked like a stampede heading out into the loop. I allowed myself a moment to appreciate and be grateful for the fact that despite feeling like hell, I was able to still be ahead of all of those people!

Everything is hard

By mile 4 I was just completely ready to be done. I had just been passed by a pack of 3 women and was feeling kind of demoralized when I suddenly saw that I had closed some distance on Dana. This became my sole motivation for the last mile of the race: GET TO DANA. Bit, by bit, by bit I slowly reeled her in until I was running right next to her with about half a mile to go. We leapfrogged a bit, with me pulling ahead, she responded, pulled ahead of me and I didn’t want to let her get away. We dragged each other down the finishing straight and finished side by side in a time that was WAY faster than I would have expected - 33:39. Unfortunately, my GPS informed me that I had only run 4.92 miles, and my other friends who had run with GPS confirmed that the course was most likely short. Still, this race wasn't about running a PR (although by pace, even with the short course, it still was one), it was about the team!
Dana is in my sights

So glad that's over
Joy and Jen came cruising into the finish not long after Dana and I, and with that our entire team was done! Alyse had come in 2nd overall with Allison not too far back from her, and we had a good feeling about our chances at winning the women's team award, which had been exactly what we set out to do in this race. We grabbed a beer and hung out in the sun for a bit before heading over to the awards ceremony. The awards for this race are amazing ceramic steins, and we all REALLY wanted those steins (you also won free beer, but that was secondary compared to the steins). I felt like I was back at a dance competition waiting for the results to be announced. They read off the 3rd and 2nd place teams and finally announced first place - we had indeed won! The 6 of us screamed ridiculously which also brought me right back to dance competition times, and we went up to get our awards with huge grins on our faces.
Pool noodles, victorious!

The rest of the day was extremely enjoyable - since the race was held at a brewery, there was obviously a beer festival afterwards, and there are few things better than enjoying a few cold ones with great friends after running to victory on a gorgeous sunny day. Joy, Dana and I wound up heading over to Lawn on D to grab some food truck food for lunch and lay out in the sun for a bit before finally heading home. All in all, it was a fantastic day, and one that I came home from just feeling fulfilled and happy. This race definitely reminded me of how enjoyable it is to run for a TEAM - for your own personal time to be less important that your place, and the team winning making up for any problems in your own performance. I was proud of myself for pulling it together in the last mile of the race to get back up with Dana, and even though that wasn't the difference between us winning and getting second (we won by several minutes), it COULD have been, and the fact that I was able to mentally step up because of that made me feel good. It's also something that I've been realizing over and over this summer - how lucky we are to be able to do this! And to be fast enough to go into a race as a team and think, 'you know, guys, I think we can win the team competition', and then do it! To have friends who are passionate about running and training, but just as passionate about enjoying a beer afterwards. These are my people, and I'm so lucky to have them and to have this sport that I love doing, and am not too bad at doing either. 

Harpoon 5 mile
180/4313 OA, 34/2489 F, 21/1053 F20-29
1/68 female teams

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