I ran the NYRR Team Championships race on Saturday.
The short: It was very hot, it was very humid, and I did not run my best, most well-executed race. I feel meh about it. I’m not necessarily disappointed, but I do wish I’d had a stronger showing for my team.
The long? Here’s the long.
Last year, I ran this race mid-pre-wedding-Crohn’s flare. I showed up at the race ready to cheer from the sidelines, and ended up being so amped by the energy that I got a bib at the last minute and joined my team for some fun on the run. The race was a victory for me because my stomach held up and I didn’t have to make bathroom stops.
Team Champs is a great race because it’s exclusive to runners who are part of a New York Road Runners-sanctioned team. I run with November Project, so that includes me! It’s all very rah-rah-team-spirit, and the fields are separated by men and women. It’s a 5-mile race, and this year the women got to race first. (It alternates each year; they also moved the start up by an hour this year because of the heat, so the women started at 7:30 AM and the men went off at 8:30.)
This race is fast and is stacked with competitive athletes. And if you win, you get team bragging rights! YOU CAN’T PUT A PRICE ON THAT!
Let’s get to Race Day.
Actually first, let’s talk about The Night Before. Also known as “The Night I Had Sushi For Dinner.” Sushi is fine. Sushi is great. I love sushi and eat it often. But you know what sushi isn’t? Sushi isn’t Outback Steakhouse.
So I didn’t have my usual pre-race meal. Is that why I didn’t have my best race ever? Probably.
Guess what else happened the day before Race Day? My left headphone broke. The little gummy earbud part came off and I couldn’t find replacement headphones that fit inside my annoyingly small ears. (#tbt to when I used to wear Sony headband-style headphones. I loved those.)
Race Day: I woke up at 5 AM and tried to eat some breakfast, but couldn’t get more than three bites down because it was early and I wasn’t hungry. So I suited up, used the bathroom no fewer than six times, and ordered my Uber.
Then my Uber got super lost and I had to wait a while for it to find me. When my Uber finally arrived, I got in, and Ellie looked on with great sadness as we drove away. It broke my heart. Is racing real worth this kind of heartbreak, I wondered?
I got out on the west side of the park and jogged 2.2 miles to the start. I very quickly noticed how immediately I had started to sweat. It was steamy, even at 6:30 AM. We were gearing up for a scorcher.
I got to the start, picked up my bib, pinned it on, and then something weird happened: I didn’t have to use the bathroom. I always have to use the bathroom before a race. And in life in general! But I didn’t have the urge, so I tried, but didn’t have to go. (Details I probably didn’t need to share…)
The November Project ladies started to gather near the start, and co-leader Jeanie led us in a group bounce and pep talk. I moved into my corral, covered up my Garmin, listened to the National Anthem, and plugged in my single headphone.
Ideally, I would have liked to run faster than an 8-minute pace, and close to a 7:45 or faster pace. I didn’t plan for that — I just planned to run hard and hang on.
In reality, I went out fast and then got less fast.
The first mile started out fun and full of adrenaline and excitement. I wasn’t watching my pace, but it felt fast, and I realized I was breathing heavy before the first mile even ticked off. So I tried to reel it in a bit.
I really reeled it in going up Harlem Hill, which came within the first mile. The hill slowed me down, but I was running by effort, so I just kept moving forward. The second mile included the Three Sisters — those rolling hills on the west side of the park that aren’t bad, but aren’t great — and by the third mile I knew I wasn’t running well and wasn’t getting faster.
Then the fourth mile came along. This is when the sea of runners behind me became the sea of runners in front of me. I was hot, but I started to get chills, which didn’t seem good. I was a little dizzy, and wasn’t having great success using my peripheral vision. I just felt kind of out of it, probably on account of the heat and not drinking enough water.
As I climbed Cat Hill, I felt like I wasn’t really moving. My friend and teammate, Lucy, came up behind me, and seemed to breeze right past me. I would’ve loved to stick with her and finish the race together, but she looked strong and I looked like Mufasa in the middle of the wildebeest stampede. (May he rest.)
So Lucy came and went, and I kept trudging up the hill, all the while cursing the weekly Cat Hill repeats I’ve been doing for clearly not being helpful enough. At the top of the hill, I regrouped, and was able to at least keep Lucy in my sights.
I picked up my pace for the final mile, even though I wanted to die or at least take a quick break to check the Ellie Cam (yes, we have a camera at home so we can watch Ellie when we’re not there; no I don’t think I’m a “helicopter parent”).
The November Project cheer squad — as in the entire male contingent of our team — was stationed a few hundred meters south of the finish line, so I was able to kick into one last gear and pass another runner right in front of them. That felt good. I crossed the finish line just behind Lucy, but not close enough that I risked vomiting onto her.
I didn’t vomit, but I did immediately feel sick and hot. I think everyone did. But I was happy to have a little kick left at the finish, and even though I didn’t PR (I was about a minute slower than my PR), it was still good to push through and work my mental game a little. My official finish time was 39:37 (a 7:56 pace).
Plus, it was a super fun day. After walking around with a bag of ice on my head for a while, I cheered so aggressively for the men’s race that, four days later, I still don’t have my voice back.
I love this race because I love being part of a team. Racing with November Project makes me want to be faster, push harder, and never quit. (Well that’s cheesy!) When I have the NP logo on my shirt, I’m representing something much bigger than myself, and I want to represent it well.
If you’ve ever thought about joining a running team, either for training or racing purposes, I urge you to give it a shot. November Project is a wonderful (free!) option, but there are so many different teams for different paces and personalities. (NP welcomes runners of all shapes, sizes, paces, and ages — so long as you’re willing to show up and put in the work, we want to have you!) Racing with a team has totally revitalized and improved how I approach my training and my racing.
We can talk about that another time.
Congratulations to all of the NYRR Team Championship runners, and thanks to all of the teams for such amazing support and cheering! (The Dashing Whippets, Prospect Park Track Club, and Front Runners, in particular, were all particularly loud this year! Love that.)
DO YOU RUN WITH A TEAM? I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT! Has it improved your running? Talk it out.