The Global Energy Race is a series of 10Ks held in 37 cities and 22 countries on the same day, all over the world in an attempt to break the world record for the race taking place in the most cities in one day. Most importantly, the race raised money for food banks across the globe. In Philly, 1 loaf of bread was donated to food banks for every person who participated in the 10K run or the 3K walk. (Spoiler alert: We broke the record, and it was fun to have been part of a world record.)
After experiencing my first-ever DNF last weekend, and spending last week nursing an inflamed gastrocnemius, fatigue and a cold/virus, I had my trepidations about racing in the Global Energy 10K. By midweek, I was feeling a bit better and decided that I would race the 10K but would not go all out, barring a fever or unforeseen accident or injury (to quote Bugs Bunny, "One never knows, do one?").
Last weekend, everything seemed to go wrong. Although intellectually, I felt confident because I had put in all the work, physically, I just felt crappy, despite my denial. The gastrocnemius, the GI issues (talk about feeling crappy), the oncoming head cold, the fatigue, the weather. Oy! My stars were not aligned. It happens.
This weekend, on the other hand, everything felt right. Or more aptly, things felt deliciously normal. Calm, like it should feel. Read on...
The night before
As usual, I laid out my kit so I would not have to worry about anything on race morning. I did some last-minute foam rolling and stretches. I double-checked the start time, set my alarm, then noshed on my favorite pre-race dinner: spaghetti with marinara sauce, sprinkled with nutritional yeast and some red pepper. After catching up on "Casual" on Hulu, I tucked in early and slept fantastically.
The morning of...
The alarm went off at 4:15 and I woke feeling refreshed. After doing some hip stretches and stick rolling in bed, I got up and made a small soy latte. Ignoring the "don't do anything new on race day" adage, I decided to try my coach's pre-race breakfast: a mini whole-grain bagel with peanut butter. I also downed an extra glass of water.
Last weekend, I felt nervous pre-race, probably because I not feeling well, and I knew I was going to suffer way more than the requisite amount of pain that's involved with racing. But this Sunday, I felt calm and confident. I browsed Pinterest while I nibbled my breakfast. I answered some emails. I even painted my nails before leaving for the race. Totally different mindset and energy than last weekend.
The race was only a 10-minute drive for me. I made sure to arrive in plenty of time. I would rather be early than late – being late just adds unnecessary stress.
It was mercifully cool – around 55 degrees. I actually packed a throwaway T-shirt (collected from a previous race) to keep me warm until gun time. The mood was very chill.
As a rule, the shorter the race, the longer the warm up. For a 10K, unless it's crazy hot like during the Mayor's Cup, I usually warm up with a 2-mile jog and 4-6 100 meter strides to wake up my legs, followed by dynamic stretches.
I did my warm up jog along the Delaware River waterfront marina. The sun was rising from behind the river, bathing the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and Battleship NJ across the river in Camden, New Jersey with a glowing, pink-golden light. A peaceful and a serene place to collect my thoughts and maintain my sense of calm. Amazingly, I only saw one or two other runners warming up here.
The race started about 15 minutes late, so we runners made small talk and laughed at the Philly Phanatic's antics while we waited. I wished my teammates, Kinjal and Chris, good luck. When the gun finally went off, I felt calm and collected, remembering I was only going to run at 85-90% effort. After the first mile, I was running close to a 7:10 pace and it felt good. Amazingly good. Much easier, in fact, than last week's 7:30-ish pace.
I asked myself "Can you hold this pace for 5 more miles?" And my answer was "Absolutely." I didn't even feel like I was working hard. I experienced none of the pain you expect to experience during a race. (This is the difference between giving 85% and giving 100%.)
So I settled in. I eyed a few contenders ahead of me, confident I would catch them later on. My heart rate was relatively low for a race.
Then, just past mile 2, mass confusion and chaos ensued. A race official with a flag guided us off the road but about 50 yards later, there were no markers instructing the runners how to stay on the course. We saw some people turning around; no one knew what to do or where to go. Faster runners who were ahead of me literally stopped in their tracks. I looked at my watch. My pace descended from 7:10 to 8:00 while my heart rate jacked up past Mount Everest from the stress. I knew I needed to make a decision fast. I decided to follow the front runners who decided to turn, including my teammates who were at the tippy-top of the pack.
It took a few moments of self talk to get back to my calm state of mind. I even told myself to slow down. Being toward the front of the race is fun, but it was also a lonely out and back. The anxiety of that nebulous mile loomed in the back of my head the entire race, as I found out later, it had loomed in just about every runner's head.
Once I crossed the 5 mile mark, I had enough gas in the tank to book it the rest of the way. I ended up finishing as the 5th female of 511, 1st in my age group by almost 11 minutes and 24th finisher overall out of 817. Full results are here.
I was super happy with my result, especially considering last weekend. And especially considering I did not go all out. I'm also glad that I did not let my DNF get to me. My first thought when I crossed the line was "I'm back."
At the finish line, the hottest topic amount runners was the wayfaring fiasco, We nervously checked our times at the results station and traded war stories about how we decided to navigate the confusion. In the end, everyone encountered the same issue.
That's the thing about races. When you run enough of them, you'll eventually encounter various "worst case" scenarios and will therefore gain the experience and wherewithal to know how to navigate them. Instead of a 10K, this just became a "race."
My Philadelphia Runner Track Club teammates, Kinjal and Chris, both placed as top female and male finishers, and the prize was pretty sweet: they both won a trip for two next year to run this race in any city where it's held. Last year, another teammate, Paul Matzusak, won the men's race, so he ran it this year – in Barcelona!
- Great experience and great swag for a low cost – $20 (I signed up and got the early bird discount).
- Good runner-to-porta-potty ratio – Most times, there were no lines, and when there were lines, they were short. Porta potties were exceptionally clean and included water and disinfectant – luxuries for a road race.
- Fantastic short-sleeved Kappa tech shirt – one of the nicest I've ever gotten at a race. Two-toned: neon orange with blue highlights, and amazingly, it looks good on me and fits so it's a keeper. Race shirts are usually 1) fugly and 2) ill-fitting. They often only come in men's sizes, which I consider tremendously unfair, especially since women often outnumber men at races. This race offered men's, women's and kid's sizes. The women's small was too big on me, so they were nice enough to give me a kids' XL, which fit perfectly.
- Nice swing duffel bag with a zipper and a grommet through which you can thread head phones. Another keeper.
- Handsome finisher's medal – Huge and fairly ostentatious for a 10K.
- A small towel (not pictured) emblazoned with all participating cities
- Great finishing area – featured a recovery zone with mats and a yoga teacher to take you through stretches, something I've never before seen. Games for kids. Vendors with free giveaways, samples and games.
- Packet pickup at Philadelphia Runner in University City was very easy and the volunteers were super friendly.
- Fast and flat course.
- Great location on the waterfront.
- Pre-race communication was not great. The main web site needs a redesign. It offered very little practical information.
- Wayfaring – This was the biggest problem. After it went off-road, the course was not well marked. Next time, they need better signage and perhaps a volunteer or two to help guide runners in the right direction.
- Post race food, though plentiful, included a lot of unmentionable ingredients, which most serious athletes will not touch. This said, I only partook of the water and a banana.