Race Recap: Downtown Westfield Pizza 5k

Running a 5k at the end of July on a Wednesday night takes strategy. You have to know what to eat throughout the day and when, how much water to drink so you’re well hydrated but not bursting, and you have to be able to mentally push yourself while also knowing when you need to take it easy because of the heat. Those three things seem easy enough, but as race day progresses it becomes more important… and annoying.

Going in to Wednesday night’s run, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. My runs at home had been feeling less than stellar thanks to the heat and humidity, but while I was up in Rochester visiting my sister over the weekend, my runs felt great in the cooler and less humid temperatures. I talked with Jason, and he said I really had two options: run hard and maybe feel like crap at the end, or take it a little easier knowing that I am faster than my finish time. I figured I would play it by ear, since I really didn’t know how it would feel until I started running, and making a decision while sitting on my couch in air conditioning seemed silly.

Since the race started at 7pm, I arrived in Westfield at around 5:30pm. This gave me enough time to grab my bib and t-shirt (and snazzy bright red hat since I was one of the first pre-registered runners) and get in a warm-up. I was supposed to do a 3 mile warm-up, but felt lethargic and was covered in sweat within a mile, so I called it at 2. Being the smart cookie I am, I brought three different shirts: one for warm-up, one for the race, and one for afterwards. After making a pit-stop at the port-o-potties they have set up by the train station, I made my way over to the starting line. Since the race starts right in the middle of downtown, they leave the traffic open until the very last minute. Being the good citizen that I am, I waited patiently on the sidewalk, while I watched runners haphazardly walk in the street. At one point a cop yelled “GET OUT OF MY STREET!” to which I laughed. Isn’t it the tax payer’s street? But anyway…

After waiting for a few minutes (finally in the street), it was go time. As usual, it was a crowded and bunched up start. So much so, that at one point someone must have tripped over someone else’s feet and a whole slew of people were almost taken down. I don’t think anyone actually fell, but I was pushed and slammed into quite a few people. I’m not sure how I didn’t get taken down, but I managed to stay upright and get away from the mess. The first half mile felt decent, but the second half is all uphill. That’s when I realized the race wouldn’t be anywhere near what I had hoped it would be back when I signed up, so I resolved to just try my best, but not push it too much because of the weather.

The second mile has a  lot of turns and a few more hills and, by this point the heat was starting to get to me. I wound up slowing down a lot in the second mile, but I still felt like I was working hard. It’s amazing how deceiving hot weather and humidity can be while running! There were plenty of residents outside cheering, a lot with hoses spraying out into the street and I made sure to take advantage of any cool drops of water coming my way. Despite slowing down, I was able to pass a lot of people during the second mile. I knew that if I could just save a little energy I would be able to pick it up for the last mile, especially because the majority of it is downhill.

As we started the third mile, I tried to dig down as best as I could to finish strong. I reminded myself what Jason had said to me when we were making a race plan – it’s just a mile. I picked it up as best as I could in the first half, and then let the final hill carry me down the last half. I usually pick it up too early on the home stretch and wind up getting re-passed by people I’ve passed on the downhill, but I managed to hold my ground and even pass a few more people in the final quarter. I got myself across the finish line in 21:38, which turned out to be a 19 second PR from my last 5k in December. Considering the weather, I’m quite pleased. Originally I was bummed, knowing that I have a much faster 5k in me (my 4 miler’s average pace was 9 seconds per mile faster), but then came to my senses and realized that even the slightest PR in the heat and humidity would have been impressive.

After I finished, I immediately grabbed two water bottles and made my way back towards the finish so I could watch other runners. Unfortunately, I made it back just in time to see a girl start to really struggle, and then almost collapse about 200 feet from the finish. Thankfully a spectator ran out into the street and eventually a cop and race official grabbed her too. Understanding the drive and determination of a runner, the cop actually picked her up and hurried across the finish with her in his arms. I cheered for a few more minutes, and then made my way over to get some pizza!


After enjoying a slice, I figured I would check the posted results to see if I placed. The race is pretty big for a local week night 5k, and it attracts a lot of fast runners (especially high school and college runners getting ready to start XC season). Assuming I didn’t place, I quickly scanned the results. WRONG. I wound up coming in 3rd in my age group! So I took some time to grab another water and wander around the different vendor tables. As I was waiting for the awards, I noticed the sky getting darker and darker, and the deep gray clouds moving at a rapid speed. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before a serious storm started. Since the race started at 7pm, they wanted to wait until 8pm to do the awards. Under normal circumstances this would have been fine, but by 8pm the lightening had arrived, and I was watching it flash across the sky as I stood in the middle of the street hoping not to get struck. They got through about 5 age groups before they called it, because the lightening had moved to being right over us, and rain drops were starting to fall. I ran up to the table to grab my medal and just like that, the sky opened. It started to torrential downpour, so hard and fast that I couldn’t see in front of me. I laughed that I had finally dried off, knowing that a cool-down wasn’t going to happen. So instead, I sprinted (probably just as fast as during the race, if not faster) to my car, which was just under a mile away. I let that count as my cool-down.

The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.
The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.

I made it back to the car safely, tried to towel off as best I could, and made a beeline to Chipotle to pick up dinner.  While eating dinner at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night isn’t ideal, it was a fun evening. I whine about the race every year and swear I won’t sign up the following year, but do anyway. I used to be envious of everyone in my hometown that could run, so when I finally started running this was a race I knew I had to do. I mean, it was my first 5k back in 2009! Even though I missed the last two years due to injury, I’m probably going to keep doing this race for as long as I can. And I’ll probably keep complaining about it, too.

Sweat Fest

On Wednesday evening, for the third year in a row I ran Downtown Westfield’s 5k & Pizza Extravaganza race. And every year, it’s unbearably hot – somehow being just a bit hotter than the previous year. As you can guess from the title of the post, by the time the race was over, I looked like I went for a swim. I really think they should consider changing the name of the race to Sweat Fest. I can’t imagine anyone walked away from that race not needing a cold shower or two.

I’m not really complaining (much), rather stating the facts. I love the race for a few reasons, the biggest being that it’s right through the center of my hometown. Even though it doesn’t start until 7pm and it’s in the middle of the week, it’s still fun. I prepare myself the same each year, by guzzling as much water as I can at work, and reminding myself “it’s okay that it’s hot, it’s only 3.1 miles. It’ll be over before you know it.”

The race started as most do – me standing towards the front but not too far forward, yawning the entire time. When I was swimming, my parents always used to tell me it looked completely ridiculous as I stood behind the block waiting for my race, and I’d be jumping up and down, stretching, and yawning. Turns out that’s just your body’s way of trying to get more oxygen, so I always appreciated the extra yawning – plus it helped to psych out the competition, since they probably thought I was tired! We were of course all squeezed in and I had already started to sweat before the horn even sounded. Once it did, though, I was off and thankfully didn’t find myself needing to weave as much as I had during the Firecracker 4-miler.

Since this is the third year I’ve run the race and it’s in my hometown, I like to think I know the course pretty well. The first mile is pretty much uphill, the second is pretty level, and a large portion of the third is downhill. Since it’s all on residential streets, there are families out with water guns, hoses, and open fire hydrants, which I tried to take advantage of. I didn’t, however, stop for any water. This was somewhat strategic as I didn’t want to waste time, and I also already felt like I had to pee – I didn’t want to make it worse. My hip has been feeling less than stellar the past week (super tight and achy), so I wasn’t really sure how it would hold up during the race. I made sure to foam roll it the best I could beforehand, and I think that helped. I also wore a hat (I am so not a hat person) in hopes that it would keep the burning sweat out of my eyes, and it did!

Per the ususal as I was coming down the home stretch I was hoping no one would be in my way once I stopped just in case my almond butter sandwich decided to pay a visit. I tried to kick it up as much as I could, especially when I rounded the corner and could see the clock slowly ticking away at 23:50. Turns out my gun time was 24:00.01 (go figure), and my chip time was 23:50! I didn’t wear a watch, so I have no idea exactly what my splits were – but I remember my first mile was about a 7:35, and that made me nervous for the rest of the race. However, with my overall average pace of 7:40, it seems like I held on to it pretty well! That time was also good enough to land me 8th in my age group, and 306 overall out of over 2500 runners! I couldn’t be happier considering the injury prone winter and spring I’ve had!

Once it was over, I scored myself some free goodies (they have some pretty sweet sponsors – Shop Rite, Stop ‘n Shop, Balance Bar, etc.), and watched my fiance devour some pizza. It’s called the “Pizza Extravaganza,” so they always have boxes and boxes of pizza for the runners post-race. I have yet to enjoy a slice of pizza after the race, since the last thing I usually want to do is eat (at least for about 30 minutes). We were hot sweaty messes, but I think it’s safe to say it was worth it!

With temperatures rising as the week continues (we’re slated for a high of 102 on Friday!) I have a feeling the rest of the week in terms of running will be done very slowly and/or super early. I also have grand plans of spending Friday in and around the pool in our development, exclusively.