Saturday, I ran the Frostbite 5-Miler with my team, the Philadelphia Runner/Puma Track Club. This year, the race was part of USATF's Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix Race Schedule, so the field was packed with serious competitive runners. I had heard from friends about the course's infamous hills.
The first race of the season is always ... well ... a shock to the system. When you're racing often, your mind and body get into a rhythm. You know what certain paces feel like. How far you can push yourself. What suffering feels like. (Just kidding...sort of) Hollie, who blogs at Fueled by LOLZ, races much more often than the average runner, and I can totally understand why.
I don't usually get nervous before races but I'll admit I was a little anxious before this one, because It's been 3 months since I've raced and I was not sure what to expect with the hills.
Dinner was pasta wth vegan pesto, topped with cheesy nutritional yeast – always delicious. I never get tired of pasta. I also enjoyed my customary glass of Rioja. A crisp Pinot Grigio would have paired much better with this dish but I went with what I had on hand.
As a side dish, I decided to work in something new. I've heard so much about how beneficial beets are for runners since they contain sodium nitrate, which is linked to improved exercise capacity. I like beets, so I ate about 1 cup with my favorite Roasted Red Pepper Dressing from the Abundance Diet Cookbook.
It was slated to be warm on race morning, so I set out my kit– Under Armour boy shorts, arm warmers, Nike Air Zoom Elite shoes, and my team's new singlet, courtesy of Puma (Cute, right? I love its built-in running bra). I know my Balega socks don't match, but it was the best I could do with my current laundry situation.
I tucked in early and slept soundly
Since the race was almost an hour drive, I rose at 5 and had a small coffee with soy milk and rye toast with Earth Balance and my favorite orange marmalade – a slight departure from my usual English Muffin. I had intended on eating another beet, but I totally forgot to. Beets are not usually top-of-mind breakfast chow!
A last-minute weather check showed that it was going to be in the high 20s at gun time, not low 40s. I quickly changed into capris, but threw everything but the kitchen sink, including my shorts, into my gym bag.
I arrived just before 8AM, well in advance of the 9AM start. The weather was quickly warming up, so. I decided to change back into my shorts and it's a good thing. By the time I competed my 2-mile warm up run and strides, I was sweating.
In the school gymnasium, I chatted with my teammates and with Sloan, who runs the race each year dressed as Aarcky Penguin, the Ambler Area Running Club's (AARC) mascot. Despite this handicap, he runs at a fast clip.
Pretty soon it was time to head outside to run.
The start was crowded. The race began right on time, and we were off.
Every race has a story. I just didn't think this one would end up starting right after the gun went off. A petite, 60-ish woman elbowed me as she ran like a bat out of hell past me. I thought it was an accident. It happens. But then she also elbowed a bunch of runners ahead of me– the front-of-pack runners. One of my faster teammates also got elbowed, and her boyfriend who was spectating saw it all happening from the sidelines. I thought it was aggressive and frankly, silly. Yes, the start was dense as many race starts are, but it was not like we were racing the mile in the Olympics on an indoor track.
I knew this was not a negative-split course. My strategy was to book it on the downhills and go conservatively but hold steady on the uphills. First two miles clocked in at 6:52 and 6:59.
The course consisted of rolling and sometimes steep hills, as well as loads of turns. It wound through some town streets and also through a suburban development which I thought was odd, but nice because you didn't feel so packed in.
There was no room for your mind to wander on this course. My running mantra du jour was "Run smart." I concentrated on running the tangents so as not to lose time. I focused on changing gears and not getting too hung up on pace, especially on the uphills.
At a steep uphill around mile 2.5, I caught up with Madame Elbow. As I passed her, I gave her plenty of room.
The race ended with a steady, gradual half-mile ascent and I ended up in an amusing pack – me, a middle school boy, and a guy who looked to be around my age. We took turns in the lead position, and silently worked together to tow ourselves up that hill. This is one of the things I love about distance running: even though you are racing against someone, you can also work with them – a great lesson.
The hill crested and I approached the finish, implementing my final kick. Since I was looking ahead and not down, I tripped rather ungracefully over a ginormous speed bump. Luckily, it didn't take me down. I finished in 35:50, 7:10 pace. A PR for me by more than 1 minute! My previous PR was set on a pancake-flat course.
I had 2 soft goals for this race. My A goal was to win my age group, which I did not achieve. My B goal was to podium in my age group, which I did achieve. The PR was a nice surprise that eventually softened the reality of not hitting my A goal, especially considering I was not going all out and that the course was so hilly. I never expected to PR on this course.
The ladies in my age group ran fiercely – kudos to them! And the winner of the next age group up, 55-60, ran a blazing-fast 6:30 pace which beat us all. So inspiring.
In retrospect, I think could have gone faster on the downhills, because I did feel strong on all the uphills. All in all, it was a good baseline race to kick off the spring season.
I am so proud of my team. The PRTC ladies dominated, taking 1st through 4th place. Every female PRTC team member either placed overall or podiumed in their age group. Sam Rocker and Margaret Vido, who won 1st and 2nd, both broke the course record! PRTC men also kicked butt, taking 1st, 4th and 6th place overall.
Race Review: The Good
So many good things to say about this race:
- Well organized and staffed
- Veritable post-race feast
- Nice, long-sleeved tech shirt that also came in women's sizes (Still no XS, but it's a start)
- Buff for all finishers
- Tux theme made the race fun. Race officials all wore tuxes, as did the 2 running penguins, by default
- Plenty of parking
- Option to pick up bib night before or race day
- Reasonably priced
- Cash prizes
- Mini race-day expo
Race Review: The Not-So-Good
The pre- and post-race is usually held at Wissahickon High School. Because of construction, this year, events had to be held at the smaller middle school facilities across the street. So keep in mind, the race directors made the most of what they had to work with
- Bathroom lines were super crowded. Think: queues of panicked runners, with legs crossed about 10 minutes before start time.
- PA system was awful (both for National Anthem and post-race ceremony)