I went into 2015 with only one race on my calendar. I trained hard for it — too hard, maybe? — and it didn’t go well.
With no marathon happening for me this fall on account of the whole wedding + honeymoon thing, I decided I would take a much-needed step back from training.
The only race I did want to run before the end of the year, though, was the New York Road Runners Team Championships. It’s a five-mile race just for NYRR clubs and teams. And I’m on a team!
File under things I never thought I’d say: “I’m on a running team.”
The race boasts a fairly small field, awesome team spirit on the sidelines, and hella fast times. HELLA FAST.
So the race was on my calendar, but I held off on registering because that whopping $20 price tag was really intimidating. But really I held off on signing up because my stomach kicked into high gear in the weeks preceding the race, and I had no confidence in being able to get through five miles without making urgent bathroom stops. Having to stop in a race that short just seemed annoying, and I didn’t want to stress myself out.
I woke up at 6 AM on Saturday morning — unregistered but decked out in November Project gear — to head to the park and cheer on my teammates. First the dudes at 8:30, then the women at 9:30.
I didn’t eat anything or drink anything because I wanted my stomach to be as empty as possible. Even though my plan was to cheer, there was a teeny voice in the back of my head — it sounded like Serena Van Der Woodsen! — saying, “If you feel OK as you head to the park, you can still race! You can sign up and you can run it. XOXO, Gossip Girl.”
I shoved my debit card in my pocket, downed a few Imodium, and cued up my “In Case It’s Race Day” emergency playlist. I slow jogged for a bit in the park to feel things out. And after making a bathroom stop early on, I actually thought, “You know, Feller, I think you can do this.” That voice also sounded like Serena.
I jogged to the start line where teammates had started to gather for the men’s race, and next thing ya know I was handing over my money and told the woman at registration that my predicted pace was “winning pace.” She didn’t laugh.
Cheering for the men’s race was crazy fun. I really do like cheering more than running. By the time our guys had rolled in (SO FAST), I had a ton of energy and I was excited to go for a run in the park. Just a regular day. I felt no pressure, I had no plan, and after one last trip to the bathroom, my stomach was feeling solid-ish. The only goal was to make it through the race — to finish the race — without stopping. And since that’s not anything I could even control, I was good to go!
There were only a few corrals, I had room and time to re-tie my [gorgeous new] shoes, and I crossed the start line in no time.
I was racing!
And for the first two miles, I felt pretty good! I never told myself a pace to stick to, and I knew Cat Hill would come around mile 3.7ish. I knew I would need something left in my Crohnsy tank to get up and over the hill and to finish strong. Plus, our male teammates would all be lined up cheering within the last 400m of the race, and I wanted to be able to kick it at that point. Turbo boosters.
I appreciated a not-too-crowded field, and I picked a few chicks early on who seemed to be around my pace. Eventually I passed them, so I had to scout out new friends. I told myself to stay strong and not let those same people pass me later in the race.
It was hot, though. And sunny.
I was avoiding water stops at the beginning because I wanted to run on empty for fear of upsetting the beast. But by the mile 3 water stop, I needed water. Imodium makes me have a super dry mouth and I didn’t want to start audibly panting, so…water stop. From then on, I grabbed a cup to drink and a cup to throw on myself at each stop. I was drenched. I walked for a bit through the mile 4 water stop to regain some sense of composure, and then cruised to the finish.
I did, in fact, kick it ever so slightly as I approached my teammates. They screamed and I smiled and I loved it. I love that final surge and turn toward the finish. Racing!!!!!!
I passed three women in the final few meters, and crossed the finish line feeling so very satisfied.
Not only did I not need to make any bathroom stops, I wasn’t even focused on my stomach for the duration of the race. I wasn’t worried, I just tried to enjoy racing and being out on a gorgeous Saturday morning with some of my favorite sweaty people.
I spent the rest of the day on the couch wondering how I ever trained for a marathon and functioned after long runs. I raced five miles and ordered off Seamless three times that day. This is 30?
This was not my fastest race. (Nor did I try to make it that or expect it to be that.) I want to run faster than I ran on Saturday, not just for that distance but for all distances. I miss feeling fast and confident, and racing at sub-8:00 paces for shorter distance races.
But that’s not really what this race was about.
It wasn’t a PR (apparently I ran a five-miler on Thanksgiving at a 7:44 pace? how?), but it sure felt like a victory.
Ya did good, stomach. Keep it up.
And major huge joyful shout-out to my NP teammates. They are the reason I showed up, signed up, and made it across that finish line. Love ya, kids. Big time.