Summer Series XC 5k: Take Two

Even though it feels like I just completed my first cross country 5k yesterday, I actually ran my second this past Tuesday. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a little hesitation going into this one, simply because the first one was difficult (albiet fun), and while I do lots of things that are hard and hurt, I don’t usually look forward to that pain. Plus, with the temperature a solid 10 degrees higher than it was last time, I knew it was going to be a sweat-fest.

Around 4:30pm it started to thunder and by 5p there was a torrential downpour. I started to get nervous that the race would be cancelled, or run in the rain. I knew that the park would yet again be muddy and gross, but since I experienced that last time, it was the least of my worries. As in typical summer storm fashion, though, the sun was back out by 5:15p. So I got everything together, and headed to the park for the 7p start.

Because it was so hot, I didn’t want to push it too much, but still wanted to run a competitive and decent race based on the conditions. I started in a much better position this time (the race starts diagonal across a field as you hop over a mini ditch), found the girl that had come in first last time, and set myself behind her. The grass wasn’t nearly as wet as it had been last race, but I still found myself slip-sliding all over the place. After one the diagonal hills, I lost my footing and nearly ate it.

Survived... ish.
Survived… ish.

There were two other women that started out in front of me, but by about mile 2 it was just me, the girl from last time, and a whole bunch of men. I was struggling to breathe and knew my overall pace was slower than the last 5k, but by mile 2 I wasn’t too concerned knowing that I was comfortably in 2nd. I had high hopes of being able to catch the first place woman on the second half of the last lap, but I just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to do it, and she beat me by 4 seconds… again. I ran a 23:01, which was 19 seconds slower than two weeks ago.

Getting my medal!
Getting my medal!

Just like after the first 5k, we got to hang out and enjoy some food and drinks (all I could stomach was a Philly pretzel, as seen above), and then it was awards time! Last time I scored myself a plant (that is still alive, wahoo!), and this time I got a neat little medal since I came in 1st in my age group. See that adorable shirtless man sitting on the picnic bench in the foreground of the picture? He’s 79, and ran last time too… in an impressive 41 minutes! Talk about inspirational.

I’d be lying if I said that this was so much fun the whole time and I wasn’t dreading it a little. I mean, the first 5k was successful and I was really proud of myself, but it was hard! I don’t think it’s abnormal for me to be a little hesitant for repeat pain. I found myself at the end when it really started to hurt, telling myself that it was worth it and that not everyone races a 5k on a hot and humid Tuesday night (yes, mid-race pats on the back are necessary sometimes). But since I came in first in my age group again, my time from the first race still stands as the course record which was reason enough for me to have run again!


Next up on my racing calendar is a 4 miler on the 4th of July with Ashley … we’re both going to PR, I just know it! Then it’s the third installment of the summer series on the 9th. And then the fourth summer series on the 23rd, and a road 5k on the 24th. So yes, I’m racing 4 times (all during the week) in July!

Do you have any races coming up?
If you race during the week, do you do anything differently during your work day?

Summer Series 5k

A local running club, Raritan Valley Road Runners (RVRR) hosts a 5k running series every summer, and I finally decided to join in the fun this year. They have 4 race nights throughout the summer (on Tuesdays, two in June, two in July) and you can do any or all of them. I felt ambitious when filling out the form, so I obviously signed up for all four races. I figured I might as well, since Tuesdays are speed work/intervals anyway, and for only $15 each, I could get in some fast running and participate in some cross-country races (which I’ve never done before).

The last few days have been exceptionally wet around here, which actually caused the race I was going to run in Pennsylvania this past Saturday to be cancelled. Since we’re close to the Raritan River, and the race is actually held in a park that borders it, I was worried that there would be flooding at the park. There was a chance of rain on Tuesday, and I had my eyes to the sky, especially in the afternoon as clouds rolled in and the wind started to pick up. Thankfully the weather couldn’t make up its mind, and by the time the race started the sun was back out for a bit.

This year the race moved to a different park from where they’ve had it in the past, so we actually wound up starting 20 minutes late due to some people heading to the other park by accident. I didn’t really mind, but it was awkward to have warmed up and then sit around for 40ish or so minutes. I really didn’t have any expectations going into the race because I had never ever run cross country before, so I didn’t know if I should try for a PR or not. Plus, like I said, there had been a TON of rain over the weekend, and the park we were in typically floods. So it was no surprise to me to see parts of the path under water, and big puddles of muddy water on the grass. It’s a good thing the sneakers I wore are on their last leg; they’re covered in mud now!

Just a little muddy
Just a little muddy

We got a brief course description, and then before I knew it we were off. Even though they explained the course, I really had no idea where we were going… even though when I first started running I spent 90% of my time in this park. We jumped over a little ravine, trudged through puddles on a path, sloshed through wet grass, ran up some hills, and down some hills… twice. I kept it controlled on the first loop, trying to get a lay of the land and figure out what exactly the course was, knowing I’d have the opportunity to pick it up (if my body let me) the second time around being more familiar. I’m happy to report that after the first quarter mile or so, I didn’t get passed by anyone, and instead did all the passing myself. I did pick it up the second time around, and that proved interesting – I almost lost my shoe at one point due to some seriously muddy grass!

By the last half mile or so I had zeroed in on a younger boy and another woman a few strides ahead of me. Since the path was narrow and had some branches and tree roots, I didn’t push it as hard as I probably could have, which wound up a smart idea because I still managed to roll my ankle at one point. I hadn’t seen any other women in front of me aside from the one in my view, but I was sure I must have missed someone somewhere. Things started to hurt, and I just kept repeating my new mantra, “so much pain. so much fun.” We made a sharp turn onto the field and I powered through to the finisher chute, with the boy I had been trailing out kicking me.

The little bit of pavement on the course!
The little bit of pavement on the course!

I crossed the finish in 22:42, a brand spankin’ new PR! I was kind of shocked – sure I had felt decent, but the race was hard. The whole time I kept thinking about how cross country running is no joke! Everyone around me kept saying after the race “wow, that was a true cross country course!” which made me feel better about how hard I thought it was. It turns out that there hadn’t been any other women in front that I miscounted, and I came in second (by two seconds…) and first in my age group! Plus, because it was a new course, I automatically scored myself the current age group record! Since this is a series, though, I have added pressure now to make sure no one else creeps in and grabs the course record in the next three races. But even if they do, I’m okay with having it for two weeks… I had plenty of swimming records in high school and college come and go… that’s the beauty of athletics! For my efforts I got a sweet potted plant, that I’m actually going to plant in my front “yard” eventually.

Plant for the win - literally!
Plant for the win – literally!

After the race they have food and beer, so I grabbed myself a slice of pizza and a Philly pretzel for dinner. It may not have been the healthiest post-race food, but it sure was delicious! We didn’t get home until around 8:30p, and I was in bed not too long after that since I got up at 6am Wednesday morning to run again. I’m really looking forward to the other three races in the series, along with the other summer races I have on my schedule.

Have you ever raced during the week? Love it? Hate it?