Philadelphia's Third Annual Mayor's Cup race was held on Saturday, August 17, 2017. The Mayor's Cup brings Philadelphia runners from all these clubs together on the infamously challenging Belmont Plateau Cross Country course, in mid-August for a day of food, fun, and friendly competition. There are no individual awards – teams compete for the Mayor's Cup, which goes to the fastest team.
As usual, I ran with my team, Philadelphia Runner Track Club. We won the Mayor's Cup last year – when the race was ridiculously, painfully and dangerously hot. In fact, the heat index was 110 degrees when my 5-mile race took off last August, making this year's 73 degree start temperature and 90% humidity feel almost Arctic by comparison. It was definitely still hot and sticky, but you can't "reason" with your body's thermostat about how much cooler this weather was to run in. Besides, this is nether a PR course nor a PR race – no race in mid-August is. It's just a fun day for light running rivalry.
For this reason, I was not overly concerned about this race. Of course, I wanted to do well. But all the races held this day – trail half marathon, road 10 miler, trail 10K, road 5-miler and XC 5K – are very tough courses with serious elevation and terrain to contend with, so I knew I had to temper my expectations. My race (5-miler) and the 10-miler featured 2 miles of steep, long hills, including a 1.6+ mile climb at 3+ grade in the middle of the race.
The night before, I had my usual pasta dinner and some dry rosé. I also made some gluten-free vegan crumb cake to take to the event, and what cook brings something without tasting it first? So I tried some for dessert. I was so chill that I forgot to take pictures, but I laid out my kit (team crop top, blue Athleta shorts and Nike Zoom Elites) as per usual. Since the after-party was really the main event, I packed flip flops, a wipe-off towel, etc.
When I got to Belmont Plateau, the atmosphere was festive. I grabbed my bib, caught up with some teammates and friends before their races and pretty soon, it was time to do my warm up. I only did a mile jog and some dynamic warm ups: butt kicks, cariocas, knee lifts, lunges, jumping jacks, etc.– enough to get the blood flowing. I prefer to do a more extensive warm up for a 5-miler, but it was quite humid out so I decided to save my energy for the race.
I did a run-through of this course last weekend, just to remind myself of how tough the elevation was and to mentally prepare myself for the pain. My goal was to not go off too quickly. But once the gun went off, halfway up the hill, my Garmin said 6:30 – way too fast for a steep starting climb for me. I tried to chill out, slow down, shorten my stride, and fall back into my breath. All around, runners were passing me right and left, but I knew I would catch them at the crest of the hill.
And I did catch many of them after the hill crested. But I was breathing way too heavily considering I was not even a mile into a race. I went out too fast – the world's most common racing mistake. The next 1.5 miles were flat or downhill, so I flew, while trying to keep my heart rate and breathing controlled but pushed. The frontrunners, like my teammate Sam Roecker who won the women’s race, were already way ahead. Here, is where I had a chance to fly past those who had spent all their energy on the initial hill.
By mile 2.5, the humidity totally kicked in and I realized that, even though it was much cooler than last year, it was still August, and this race was still going to be a beast. I had read a quote by Olympian Alexi Pappas last week – about how much she dreaded the pain that came with racing, but one way she dealt with it was thinking that she had invited pain to the party – so that it was an expected guest. While I like this idea, I tried it and it only worked for about 10 seconds. I said “Hello, pain, welcome.” Then a few seconds later, I said, “Get the $#%& out of here, pain.”
A soft goal of mine was to run all the way up the 1.6 mile hill since I had to stop to walk last year (as did everyone else), while my heart rate reached heat exhaustion levels. I achieved this goal and ran all the way up the hill – although I did end up stopping farther on in the race for about 5 seconds so I could take a sip of water without choking. (I cannot drink and run fast. Need to work on this.)
After the hill and the short flat, it was all downhill on the grass. I was really hurting, but I flew past other runners from earlier races who were ahead of me, letting gravity and my arms take on most of the work. Toward the finish, I saw and heard my teammates yelling “Kick it home, Dynise!” Their encouragement helped me because I was dying – it felt almost as bad as last year. Usually I have a little something left, but I had given it all and no one was happier than me to cross that line.
I ended up finishing in 38:39 and taking 8th place overall. :15 seconds faster per mile than last year and one place higher. I would have liked to have done better but I just didn’t have the best day. The fact that 6 of the 7 women in front of me are in their 20s and 1 is in her 30s, made 8th place easier to swallow. Plus. I won first in my age group and was also thefirst master’s runner.
Splits: 7:39, 7:01. 7:47, 8:30 (hill!); 7:28.
The highlight of the Mayor's Cup is the huge after-party. Everyone brings food, drinks, hangs out, and trades running war stories. Most runners generally eat very cleanly during the season because nutrition does affect your performance. The funny thing is that I never see so much decadent and junk food as I do at the Mayor’s Cup! The tables and tents from 35 running clubs overflow with donuts, cookies, cupcakes, salty snacks, BBQ and creamy casseroles, not to mention loads of beer. It’s like one gigantic running bacchanal. One exception were the awesome jackfruit tacos that SarahNade made, She runs for our sister team Team Philly, also sponsored by Philadelphia Runner. To this point, I was not a fan of jackfruit faux meat but these were amazing – plus they are healthy. (Recipe please, Sarah?)
One of the nice perks is that Philadelphia Runner offered free post-race sports massages by Phila Massages for my team and the Philly Runner team. It was a nice perk and I indulged because my hammies and gastrocs were burning (Thank you, Brianna!). I highly recommend Phila Massages. They do a fantastic job.
The Mayor's Cup
PRTC won the Mayor's Cup for a second year in a row! Shout out to the PRTC ladies who went UNDEFEATED in all 5 distances. The women's outstanding results, coupled with two first place male finishers earned us the happy honor of seeing the Mayor's Cup trophy once again displayed at Philadelphia Runner's Center City store for the next year. So we can still confidently use our tagline “Philadelphia’s fastest running club.”