Monday, September 14, 2015

Iron Girl 5K (Sandy Hook, NJ)

I can finally say I'm an Iron Girl!

One of the races I was wanting to do forever was the Iron Girl. However, there were none in my area, with the exception of the Sandy Hook Sprint Triathlon. And since being a triathlete is not in my budget or radar right now...yeah, no tri for me.

The crew behind Iron Girl Sandy Hook must have read my mind, because they added a 5K only option this year, complete with finisher medals.


I was actually more excited than nervous about this race. Then I saw the start time: 7:15 a.m. Can we say "Early?" I know, those of you who have run Disney and/or Rock and Roll races are used to the early starts, but for those who've only done a handful of local 5K's...yeah, 7:15 is a tad early.

Still, I wanted to be an Iron Girl, and if that meant a 5:00 wake up on race day, then so be it!

I knew going into this race that I wanted my outfit to have as much pink as possible, since this was the Iron Girl and all. ;-) I put together something that was pink, sparkly, and awesome!

Part of my Instagram post said, "I may just be racing the 5K, but I still put forth the blood, sweat, and sparkle to make this happen!" Totally got that from the shirt. ;-) Still, I knew that I would look awesome, so that meant I would feel awesome too, right?

I actually got up a few minutes before my 5:00 alarm yesterday, ate, checked my socials, got dressed, and was on the road at about 5:50. Win!

That was, until I actually got down to Sandy Hook.

Since the bike course of the tri down by the park entrance was set up, the road in was one way, and narrow at that. Can you say "Not fun?"

For those who are not local and are unfamiliar with Sandy Hook, the park is about seven miles long with a marine high school as well as a former military fort which you can tour on the weekends.

You can kind of guess where we had to go. The race parking was in the three lots closest to the fort and school, since the run and swim parts of the event were along the bay and the fort. Thank goodness that pretty much every park ranger was on duty that morning, and all of them were super helpful with directing traffic.

What Iron Girl forgot to mention was that these lots were also super far away from the start lines. It must have been about a mile trek from my car to the race area. Not fun. 

Pretty sure the map was not to scale. Whatever. 

Of course, I had to make the best of it and get a pre-race selfie along the fort! I mean, how many other races can you do that? ;-)


At this point, I was really glad I was doing the 5K only. I wouldn't have to worry about being late setting up transitions or getting body marked. The only thing I had to worry about was finding the 5K start area, which was a challenge, but as I saw other pink bibs (5K only was pink, triathlon was blue), I knew where I was going. 

I then found out that there were only about 50 or so 5K runners. I knew going in that the 5K would not draw as much attention as the tri, but was not expecting an event that small. Yay for a top 50 finish?

Before all the fun got going, I had to get a pre-race pic in the full outfit. This was not the best pic, but it got the job done. 


Since this was such a small run, there was no start mat. If the national anthem was sung, we didn't hear it either. An event official gave us a run down of the course, then yelled for the start. We were off!

This was a pretty simple out and back course, the same one that the triathletes would eventually run on. Gorgeous views of the bay on one side with the historic Fort Hancock on the other. 

I realized that my app didn't start right when I did, so I knew it would be short. Whatever. I would have an idea of my pace anyway. I wasn't going for a PR, so I wasn't trying to drive myself crazy or anything.

My plan was to stick to run-walk intervals of about 90-60 as long as possible, going to 60-60 as needed. I was in a zone for pretty much the entire race, and did not get a single selfie during the race. Fail, much? Some would have been cool, especially with the barracks and even some troops on the route. I didn't think they would appreciate it too much, so I decided to go on my merry little way.

Even though I was in a zone, I was still cheering other runners as we passed each other, and even was giving out high-fives throughout. With so few of us, how could you not? Awesome vibes the whole time. I loved it.

Pace wise, I wasn't the greatest, since I still can't get negative splits in a race. Maybe some day. Still, I was able to keep all my miles below 12:00 each. I'll call that a win. =)

I admit with 5K's even, there are parts where I want to cringe and say "This sucks," especially when I see other runners on the other side of an out and back course. Still, as fast as you say that, the sight of the finish line is right in front of you!

Which is pretty much what happened to me yesterday. 

As soon as I saw the finish area, I ripped off my headphones and bolted for it! I crossed the timing mats, went under the white arch, and was able to call myself an Iron Girl! 

Event volunteers weren't out at the finish line yet, since the fastest triathletes were just starting the run. However, there were several troops at the area, and I can say I got my medal from a troop. Uh, coolest thing ever! I shook his hand, thanked him for all his service, and went on. I did the same thing to the officer who gave me my water bottle. 

Shortly after, I stopped my app. It had me at 33:59 for 2.9 miles. I knew it was off by about a tenth of a mile or so, so I wasn't surprised. I was more surprised that the course wasn't a full 5K, but in reality, I should have seen it coming. We were on the same course that the triathletes were running on, and they were promoting that as a three mile run. Still, I felt awesome with how I did! I had miles consistently below 12:00 for the first time since May! 

Once I had finished, I stuck around to see some of the other runners, and we were all congratulating each other. Again, I loved the vibe. As my friend Dani says, "Positivity breeds positivity!"

After a few minutes of walking around to loosen up and let my stomach settle a bit, I grabbed a bagel and juice from the post-race refreshment area. I just wish they had more water available, but it was what it was. 
Most of us who ran the 5K wanted to stick around to see the first triathletes finish. I almost never stick around a race long enough to see other finishers, so this was awesome. 

In between spectating, I had to get a post-race pic with my medal. This one has the face of "Tired, but proud of myself!"

I hung around for a bit and congratulated some of the tri finishers. I give those women credit. Doing a tri is something I wouldn't do anytime soon, but I realized fitness and sports in general are not a one size fits all thing. 5K's are my thing, so I'll stick with that.

Eventually, the fun had to come to an end, and I made my way out of the park. But first, I knew I wanted to stick my feet in the ocean as a way of celebrating my awesome morning.

Official results were posted online a few hours later. I wasn't listed right away, but a few e-mails fixed that, and I had an official time of 34:03. If this race was an actual 5K, I was on pace for about 35:00, which was what I was going for anyway. I ended up first in my age group (of only I never place, and even though I didn't get anything for it, I decided to have my moment of happy. =)


Will I do this race again? YES! Despite the hike to and from the parking area, and the course being a bit short, I LOVED the atmosphere and camaraderie among the athletes, whether you were a triathlete or a 5K only runner. The atmosphere is something not seen at too many other races, so that was an awesome takeaway. Not to mention that Iron Girl is probably the only event where even the 5K participants get medals! 

I'm hoping that the 5K comes back to Iron Girl Sandy Hook next year! It was an awesome experience that I was not expecting to enjoy as much. I ended this one much differently than in June, and I have a huge surge in confidence going into my goal race in Little Silver in three weeks!

(Disclaimer: The two map pics are from Iron Girl. The rest are mine.)

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