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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Last-minute racing: Greek Fest 5k

For some reason I thought we'd go to Mississippi this holiday weekend, maybe get away from the business for a few days, so I didn't register for the Greek Fest 5k. But then I realized that we have orchestra tickets in town tomorrow night, so we can't do that - and then I thought, why not race?
If you run the Greek Fest race, you get free beer and free entry into the fest the whole weekend - so it kind of pays for itself, since a. fest beer is pricey and b. I intended on returning to the fest the next day. Not like you really need two days of gyros and ouzo, but I've always wanted to tour the Greek Orthodox church, and I never can do it on race night, because there is a strict dress code inside the church. So Friday morning, still in debate (knowing I was not in 5k shape at all, and knowing that my left leg has felt vaguely weak for about a month now), I packed a bag of clothes, shoes, and Garmin.
I finally decided to race, and texted David that we'd just figure out how out of shape we both were!
Start of the one-mile
David got off work earlier than I did, so he registered us, while I drove around helplessly looking for ways to get around blocked roads. Finally I parked and found him, and we put our bibs on and tossed spare shirts and sandals in his boot.
By the time I'd done that, chatted with a friend, used the bathroom, and run back to my car for chapstick, the one-mile race was almost done, and the 5k was lining up. My Garmin said I had about 10 minutes to the start, so I decided to jog a mile, then do a few strides. But luckily, I didn't go too far - I heard the national anthem, and turned around to barely make it into the crowds as the horn went off. No strides for me, and barely a half-mile warm-up as the race started about five minutes early.

Mile one: I was not terribly far back, since I'd scooted up the side of the start, but I was still passing people for the whole first half-mile. Plus, this race tends to get a big crowd of weekend warriors, who start close to the front, and fall off pace FAST. So there was a lot of weaving. I wanted to run about 7 min/mile pace, knowing that right now that was about all I had, but 6:55 felt comfortably hard, so I stuck with that pace. I focused on normal breathing and using both legs evenly (I've been struggling with that). It felt good to race again, but I resolutely held back! 6:56.
Mile two: Mile two was the interesting one. There were two "incidents" in mile two. The only water stop is in mile two; because of my rushed start, I wanted a water, so I stayed to the left and grabbed one. The problem was that the young boy in front of me (high school runner) grabbed a water, too, then stopped dead in his tracks. No biggie - I put the brakes on, swerved, didn't collide with anyone. But those occurrences just throw your race off when it's a 5k, you know? It wrecks your momentum. And right after the water stop was a hairpin turn, which I knew also wrecks momentum! I'd planned to follow Chris' advice and take 5 quick strides after the turn to get back on track. But that didn't happen. I approached the turn with an older gentleman who is an incredible local runner (he actually holds some national grandmasters titles). I've gotten the impression in the past that he doesn't necessarily race clean - he uses track tactics. And I also have this impression that he's always competing with me, since we are similar paces. Well. We turned. He was on the inside; I was outside. And then he started drifting hard right. And harder right. And straight toward me. He basically ran me off the road: I was in the grass! Very weird. I didn't know what to think about that, but...benefit of the doubt? Maybe he didn't see me. Anyway. Mile 2 was 6:54.
Mile three: I felt pretty good at mile three, and I passed a lady I'd passed *right* at the line last year. I wasn't exactly speeding by the third mile, but I was passing plenty of people, and only one person passed me - my friend Rob, whom I'd been trading places with for a mile and a half. I almost caught a really tall, very long-legged girl: I'd seen her in SECOND at the turn-around, but at the third mile she was walking! But when she saw me she burst off in smoking speed. Weird way to run a race - but when you are over 6 feet tall, a short burst of speed carries you far. 6:53.
Last bits: No speed for me. I just don't have the leg turnover anymore. I finished in 21:33 by Garmin; they haven't published official gun times yet, but it should be a bit slower based on my start place.
Sweaty picture in front of the Greek church. 
- Older runner apologized after the race (I know his name but I don't want to say it). He said, "Sorry I ran you into the shoulder. That's how I cut my corners. Wide." I said no problem, and really - it's not. But I have this feeling that it wasn't an accident. BTW I beat him, so nyah nyah.
- My leg turnover is seriously slow. Bad.
- I worked hard to land with even foot pressure and to use my glutes for power.
- All comeback races suck. This is similar to my first 5k back after the last hip surgery - not fun, not fast.
- But I'm really happy to use this time to work on pacing and negative splits. It's time to put the work in and get it right!
- I need to stop weaving so much: I ran further than I should have, and that hurts you in 5k.
- I am painfully aware of my extra years and extra pounds. Age and weight'll get ya.
- It was an unusually cool morning, so Friday when I grabbed my clothes I packed a black technical T-shirt. Terrible decision: I was HOT.
- I'm happy that I felt fairly comfortable all race. I know there's a lot of work to be done, but it's good to get back out there.
*EDITED TO ADD* Oops. I am entirely to blame for ever listening to my husband on time...he is wrong about 60% of the time, after all. The 5k started at 7:20 and it was actually five minutes late!


  1. I was there too! But only spectating since I'm currently crippled. My oldest and youngest sons ran the mile (more like 1.2 miles). We bolted right as the 5kers took off because all my kids were whiny and hungry and thirsty and the only thing we had to drink was a bottle of wine that my husband bought at Greekfest. Haha.

    Sounds like a pretty decent comeback race for you. Nice splits! I ran a 21:31 at the Opso & Zulu 5k (more like 3.01) last week with a disastrous positive split. My first mile was a 6:44 and I remember thinking, "Oh sh*t!" when I saw it because no way could I hold on to that pace. Not sure what I was thinking going out that fast. Crashed and burned with my last mile in 7:21. So awful. I really struggle running in this heat and humidity. Non-issue right now though as I'm likely banished to the elliptical/spin bike/pool for a while. At least I can be crippled in indoor comfort.

    1. Sorry I missed you! FYI next Thursday we (Varsity) are running from Philip's bar in my hood. It's at 6:30 - but if you're not up to running, we'll be back from our run around 7 pm. Philip's is going to serve complimentary tacos at their "Taco Thursday" soft opening! So join us if you can!

    2. I am so looking forward to getting in on this group run action! We're heading out of town on Tuesday and won't be back until the following Tuesday. Does Taco Thursday happen weekly? Maybe I can make it on the 11th. I'm kinda sorta getting to know my way around that part of town as my kiddo have swim practice at Newman School during the week. The road construction is crazy though!

    3. Or on the 4th, I meant. :)

    4. Well, it's a soft open for the event at Phillip's, so I'm not sure if it will continue. But Varsity runs every Thursday from a different bar. You can get the schedule on Facebook (Varsity New Orleans group). I don't make a lot of Thursday runs, but will sometimes do Saturday. BTW you can email me at gracethacker at gmail :)

    5. Thanks for your e-mail! And I joined the Varsity Sports FB group, so I'm in the loop a little better. Now I just have to get healthy.

  2. Great race report! Its kinda funny how competitive some guys can be. I have had men weave in front of me during races so I wouldn't pass them. Glad to hear you finished ahead of him. Solid even splits too.

  3. People are weird. Some guys really seem to hate getting passed by a girl.

    Great job sticking to your goals and racing smart. You know the fitness and speed will keep coming back.

  4. I'm glad you beat the fast old dude.The best revenge is victory.

  5. I really appreciate your detailed race reports - I think they're my favorite thing you write. That's not a bad time at all for a 5K you were "out of shape" for, a lot of people would love that time, but I know you'll shave quite a bit of that off this summer. I'm one of the most competitive people I know, but I would never pull the old man's stunt in a race. (although I'm quite sure the gentleman you're calling an "old man" is probably my age) And props to David if he's only wrong 60% of the time ... I consider him a genius since I'm wrong about 90% in our home.

    1. He's 65+ I believe! I'm all for competition, but not getting dirty. I just don't think it was accidental.

  6. Great race! I'm impressed with your even splits. I totally would have said something to the guy like, excuse me, and the fact that he later apologized makes me think your approach of just moving aside (and then smoking him) is much better!