When my longtime friend Rachel shared that she’d be running the Hot Cider Hustle 5k race for her birthday and invited me to join in, I immediately signed up and decided to do something a little gutsy and attempt a PR. With my recent slight uptick in mileage and renewed passion to run a bit more, it was an easy decision to come out and celebrate with her and test my legs a bit.
I had begun to train for a 5k earlier this year (under Rachel’s expert coaching) and was enjoying the change of pace (pun intended) in my training, however when my father in law became suddenly ill and subsequently died in April, I ditched the speed work in favor of long runs which just felt easier and a better fit at the time. And of course I kept on training for longer distances and eventually ran a trail marathon in September.
The 5k is a distance that I have limited experience with. Unlike many runners, I did not start with the 5k. The last time I ran a 5k without a running stroller was August 2014, I was 11 months postpartum and it was on a very hilly course. I set my PR of 25.52 on that course and was happy to let that stand for the next 4+ years.
Going for a PR made little sense as I have done ZERO speedwork in the last 8 months or so. Why did I think I could do this? Just a gut feeling that I’d be able to dig deep and stay in the pain cave for 3.1 miles. I credit the last year and a half of crossfit for the confidence in my ability to go deep in discomfort and keep going. I also hoped that months and months of box jumps would somehow make me a bit faster too!
Race day brought a cold snap-real feel of 10°, along with wind I could hear from inside of my house and icy roads which made the drive to the nearby race a bit difficult. I decided that though I couldn’t control the weather, I could accept it and try to make the most of it.
The hour leading up to the race can only be described as a shit show. Here are a few things that went wrong: I arrived at the venue (a local school) 50 minutes early only to be directed to the overflow parking lot a few miles away. I missed the first 3 shuttle buses from the overflow lot back to the race start as each time the bus came back around, it went to the end of the line, thus I stood outside waiting in the cold for about 30 minutes. Once I arrived at the start, it was incredibly unclear where to pick up my packet. I figured it out eventually but when I went to get my bib, they didn’t have it and had to reassign me a new number. At 5 minutes to the start, I finally had my bib but no time to use the bathroom or warmup. I would say that this race was one of the least organized events I’ve participated in.
The crazy amount of people waiting to get on the bus.
I eventually found my friends and stood around waiting for the race to start (which it did about ten minutes late with hordes of people still trying to make it to the starting line.) So without a warmup, or last minute bathroom, I crossed the start line and worked to find my pace.
For the first time in years, I decided to listen to music. I knew that I wanted to mentally be in a place to block all of the distractions out. I didn’t want any opportunities to slow down and start socializing during the race which is what I do during trail and ultra runs. I was not there for that. So with music in, I set out and found comfortably hard for mile one. I did have to make an approximately ten second pit stop to re tie my shoe. With frozen hands and a glove removal involved, I told myself I had one chance to get my shoe tied correctly, so no errors were allowed. Back up and running, I worked to regain my pace and continued on but decided that with this unplanned stop and the fact that my feet felt uncomfortably frozen, I wouldn’t check my watch during the race.
After running long distances for the last several years, I could’t believe how fast the miles were ticking off. When I passed the mile 2 marker, it was kind of a surreal feeling that the race would literally be over in minutes, whereas for a typical race for me, I’m still in the warming up phase at that point! With that thought, I dug a little deeper and tried to get to the next level of manageable discomfort.
The course winded back into the school where it had started and without looking at my watch, I knew the finish line had to be close. As we re entered the track, I saw that the start line was now the finish line and we had less than a quarter mile to go. I pushed a bit harder and mentally willed myself to find my “puke pace” in the last hundred meters. The number “25.12” flashed on the clock in front of me and I knew that I had PR’ed.
Final chip time: 25.10, 8.07 average pace. 14 out of 135 in my age group
Post race selfie
I had done it, and felt so strong in the process! My group quickly came together as we all crossed the finish line within about 60 seconds of each other and they asked if I done it-I shouted “yes!!!!” and we celebrated with mugs of hot cider. I felt exhilarated as it’s been years since I’ve PR’ed anything. It felt so good to push hard, fight through the self doubt and be uncomfortable. As much as I tend to shy away from the 5k, I could see myself doing it again. If I can ever manage to stay away from longer distances, I’d love to spend an entire training cycle devoted to improving this.
Because it was still freezing, we quickly got into Julie’s car, changed out of our sweaty clothes and headed to breakfast. We spent the next hour warming up, eating, drinking copious amounts of coffee and recapping our races. Overall, it was a wonderful day and I’m proud of my performance.
Sweaty but freezing