There's a first time for everything, right?
Well, this race was not one, not two, but THREE firsts for me at once!
This was my first time ever racing in the fall (2012 was cut short due to injury and 2013 was more focused on goal and maintenance), as well as my first Sunday race. All eight of my others were on Saturdays in the spring.
Therefore, this would also be my first time racing this course.
After hearing that this course was flat and mostly shaded, I was sold on it. So, I signed up back in July after I got a discount code on early registration.
Like I said, this would be a whole new experience for me in more ways than one. Plus I had my usual "This training cycle sucks." moments, so I decided that if I was close to a PR, I would go for it, but not getting it wouldn't kill the race for me.
One perk to this race: Awesome swag and a virtual race bag! The flyers got e-mailed as a PDF download, which meant better swag at number pick-up! Hello, pint glass AND water bottle! Oh, and the shirt is awesome too!
Of course, when picking out my race outfit, my beloved Sparkle Athletic skirt would make a return appearance after both my PR's in the spring! For this race, I decided on white and silver with a splash of orange.
Okay, maybe more than a splash. Still, it brought some color, right? ;-)
This race had the latest start out of any race I had done (9:30 a.m.), but since it was about a 20 minute drive, I still had to get up around 7 to leave my house at 8:30.
Once at the race site, it was a lot of walking around, checking out the one-mile run, and staying loose until start time. Oh, and keeping warm too.
One of the lessons I learned is to be prepared for COLD this time of year! I was one of the few runners in short sleeves and I was freezing before the race. Arm sleeves will be an investment for me in the near future. Some runners were as extreme as wearing mittens and snow hats, but I don't think I would go that far, at least not in October.
Around 9:15, it was time to make our way to the start. This would be another big race (close to 600 runners), and it was crazy lining up. They may have mentioned a few times to stay toward the back if you couldn't maintain a 5:00 mile. How many listened? I can't say.
Before the national anthem, I got someone to snap a pic of me in my cold but cute Sparkle glory. The skirt was a hit with other runners this time too!
One of the drawbacks to this race was the lack of timing mat at the start. I swear this is where the Spring Into Summer 5K spoils their runners. Everyone had the same start time, which I think is why there's such crowding at the front. Maybe next year some of these races will learn.
After the national anthem and the usual pre-race announcements, the horn went off and we were on our way!
My plan was the same as it always was: Run when I felt comfortable, walk when I needed. Usually this would be about a minute run/minute walk ratio.
Yeah. That went really well for the first few minutes. I was more like two minutes running/one minute walking while dealing with crowding for the first half mile or so.
Like Union Beach and Keansburg's races, there were no mile markers. Again, spoiled by Spring Into Summer! Thankfully, I was running with Caledos, so I had an idea of my splits. No guarantees as to total accuracy, since I was dealing with weaving, but at least I had an idea.
I hit the first mile at 10:52, a little faster than I was aiming for. One of these days, I will learn to not go out so fast in the beginning. Still, I was feeling good and secretly wishing for a PR!
After the first mile, I dropped to the one/one ratio for walking and running. My second mile (which is usually the hardest for me) was at 11:25. I was on pace to tie my current PR (11:09/mile at that point), but I realized that I could either push myself and get it, but not have as much fun doing it or let it go and just enjoy the last stretch.
I went with the latter.
Of course, no race is complete with a mid-race selfie, right? ;-)
The third mile wound up being about ten seconds slower than the second, but at that point, I didn't care. I just wanted to go out enjoying myself and I feel like I did that!
The last stretch led us to the Red Bank Regional track where I left everything out there. I was the only one when I was there, so the announcer called me out. Kind of felt cool, to be honest. Hey, we can all dream of being elite runners, right? ;-)
I knew then I didn't have the PR, as the clock was just over 35:00. Still, I felt awesome and completed my eighth 5K!
After I crossed the finish, I immediately went for water. I also got a sample of Rook iced coffee. No food at the finish as they apparently ran out of bagels. A little annoying, but what can you do.
Before I left, I got my official result: a 35:05 (11:18/mile). Missed a personal by 30 seconds. I was actually happy with that time. I ran this race for the first time, felt solid, and had fun! Usually I get so wrapped up in going for personals that I forget to live in the moment and enjoy it! I let the PR go and wound up enjoying myself more this race than either my May or June ones!
Was this race perfect? No. I would have liked to see mile markers and a timing mat at the start, so that crowding won't be as much of an issue and those of us not running with Garmins or apps have an idea of mileage. Still, other than that, this is one of my favorite races to date! Flat and fast course with awesome scenery will probably have me coming back next year!