After canceling my marathon plans, I signed up for a series of 3 mile races at a local park which were taking place every Wednesday night. I just wanted to do something fun. Something that I didn’t have to train to be good at. Essentially, something completely different than I’ve done, well, ever since my post-high school return to running. I needed to get myself comfortable with being uncomfortable and this was the best way I could see to achieve that.
The series completed this past Wednesday and for its inaugural year, I’m totally happy/surprised at how well it was run. It was low key, no frills, and everyone that showed up was friendly. I think the race was $45 for four races or $15 to sign up the day of each race. For Buffalo races, that’s prettt cheap.
The fun part was that it was the same 3 mile course each week, so you got to know it well. For me, a little too well. At the finish, you tore off your bib end and handed it to somebody collecting the order for the stats. Like I said — no frills, no chip time. Finish came with a bottle of water handed to you and an informal invitation to a local bar after (Regretfully, I didn’t take part in those because I’m a grandma and I like to be in bed by 9pm on a Wednesday!)
I had no idea what I could run a 5k in, let alone a three mile race through the hills of Chestnut Ridge. Honestly, the runs around my house are lucky to have 100ft gain over 10 miles, so almost 300 feet of gain (and loss) over 3 is rough.
I went out without any strategy. I found myself in the first female spot for about a mile, so it obviously wasn’t the most stacked race. It was upper 50s with the lightest breeze so weather felt perfect. I remember trying to stay light on my feet during the down hills and using my power on the uphills. I definitely passed some people on the uphills but they always caught me on the way down.
The girl who finished first had passed me after the first mile and I tried hard to hang with her but she was just a hair too fast. I ended up finishing second female and while running that fast sucked, I was elated that I pushed myself harder than I have recently and knocked out sub 8 minute miles on that course.
Week 2 – 23:11
Going into this race, I had no idea if I could keep pace with what I did the week prior. It was in the 40s and cold AF. I also noticed some of the speedy women (sub 19 for a 5k) locally had shown up. I was a little disappointed because I was looking forward to finishing high overall — it’s not often I have a chance at age group awards!
So I watched the fast girls take lead and tried to focus on my own race. This guy was pacing a girl who looked a little younger, he spent the entire race talking to her, describing the course and how to approach each hill. They were slightly ahead of me and I tried to hang on for as long as I could because his advice was so good. He wasn’t out of breath either, so it was all calm. If I could put him in my pocket for every race, I would.
I fell out of hearing range with about .75 to go, but had heard enough to use it to my advantage. The girl who beat me the week before was still beating me and I was trying hard to play catch up. It didn’t happen. I was elated to finish with a faster time, all of which I took off in the final mile.
Week 3 – 24:26
My calves were sore for this race so I wore compression socks. I hoped I wouldn’t run into the issues I had while wearing them on the treadmill, but guess what? I did. My legs cramped up pretty fast and stayed sluggish and tired. The weather was crappy too, low 60s but a steady rain.
A couple fast people showed up this week but not as many as the week prior. In fact, probably half as many people showed up. I saw the girl who finished ahead of me twice walking, as I passed I tried to say something motivational but truth was, I was dying. She said she had a bad cramp. As I started to suck wind from chatting while running up the final hill, a giant bug flew directly into my uvula. It wasn’t that bad at first until I could still feel it back there, which triggered my gag reflex and I had to pull to the side for about ten seconds to either vomit or calm myself. I ended up calming down but after that brief stop halfway up the hill, it was hard to get going again.
Week 4 – 24:34
I felt good! Despite running a half marathon four days before this race, I felt calm, cool and collected. My calves were recovered, I was hydrated, and it was the final week — I wanted sub 23 here.
So, it was also 80° and sunny. The first extraordinarly warm day we’ve had in the middle of spring, when my body has yet to adjust to anything. I was sweating before I started.
My first mile was by far the fastest of the series for me (7:26) and then I powered hard up one hill because duh, there was a camera there. I tried to keep pace on the downhill by letting myself go a little more than I normally would; my feet were hitting the pavement hard. Balls to the wall, I told myself. But then my calves and quads were on fire and mentally I just didn’t want to push through. I slowed to a jog and thought about how I’ve been doing this for fun, I’m having fun, and whatever. The gap between myself with the front group and the people behind me must have been rather large because it took a solid :10 of walking (I know, I know) on two separate occassions before a couple people passed me.
I was passed by the girl who has finished just in front of me in every race in the last 400m or so. I tried to catch her (plus there were people on my tail, I could hear!) but I didn’t. Between the heat and my apparently dead legs from Saturday, it wasn’t the ideal conditions for me.
The series was based on your best 3 times and I finished 2nd (by only about :20!) in the 20-29 age group. Had I not walked in the final race, there’s a chance I would have had the first place… but that wasn’t why I signed up for the race anyways. I wanted to have fun and I did.
There’s a few more series races coming up this summer I intend to compete in. This will be by far, my most active year of running in my life. Racing yourself into shape isn’t really the best thing to do, but for me, it’s what I need mentally. Considering I’m not going to be doing much speed work outside races, I’m not super concerned about an injury possibility. The next series is a bunch of mile races between this upcoming Saturday and September (7 or 8 races), and a weekly Tuesday trail series (I know! Me? Trail?) at the same park in August for 3.2 miles each week.
Basically, I’m planning to spend a fuckton on races that aren’t goals because… why not?