The 9/11 5k is one of my favorite races! Not only it was my first race EVER back in 2007 (when I couldn’t even run 3 miles without a break), but a day of remembering is still very important to me (I posted my 9/11 story here). It is also one of the most fun races in this area because of the atmosphere and the after-party.
My brother came to town super late on Friday night, so after finally waking him and his wife up at noon, we drove down to my sister’s for a bit then went off to meet up some of my running friends in Crystal City for the race!
I also finally got to see Angela, who came home safe after a long stint in Iraq! Yay!
The racecourse this year was different than what I had run last time, in 2008 (last year I missed it, since it was on the same day as the VA Beach Half Marathon). While in 2008 it started and ended right under the American flag, this year, the start line faced a different direction (the flag marks mile post 3).
Now for the race in itself… This is not a race to PR in. In the past, people held up pace signs so you could align yourself with other runners your speed. This year, there was no such thing, so it was a free for all. At the first tenth of a mile, you make a left turn onto a local street and that was a HUGE bottleneck. After starting the race and picking up speed, all of a sudden I found myself walking because I couldn’t get past the crowds around me. Eventually I settled on the left of the course and started passing people through there, weaving in and out of the orange cones that divided both directions of the race course. The course was mostly crowded the whole time, but the first mile and a half was specially packed dodging people all over me.
I was running for a PR, hoping to keep my time under 31 minutes. My previous 5k PR had been 31:28 in July at the Crystal City Twilighter — when the weather was 102 degrees with heat warnings, and I walked every water stop — about 5 of them — because I didn’t want to chance overheating (I had already run 14 miles that morning). I figured I could probably get under 31 minutes for this one, but wasn’t feeling too confident since I hadn’t been running all week.
Once the bottleneck started, I thought I wouldn’t get there at all. It was frustrating, and I kept running to the sides to dodge people (yes, I was actually passing people for a change!). But my goal was to keep my pace below 10 min/miles, and it was surprising to see that despite all the dodging, I still finished my first mile below a 9 min/mile pace! (My fastest mile ever!)
I had eaten some chips at my sister’s, and not drank enough because I didn’t want to have to pee mid-run, so it’s no surprise that even though the weather was in the 80’s and much cooler than my last 5k, I had cotton mouth, it was so dry, I had to keep wiping gunk off the sides of my mouth with my shirt (GROSS, I KNOW!!!). There was only one water stop on the whole course, so when I passed the first water stop, I walked a bit to drink it, as I was having such a hard time with my dry mouth, I wanted to make sure to actually drank water properly.
My body felt great throughout the whole race, but I wish I had sunglasses, because even though it was 6pm as the sun was shining hard in our faces for most of the run, and I wish I had hydrated more, because it really started to get me on the last mile, where I considerably slowed down and was having a hard time maintaining a pace below a 10 min/mile.
When I finally passed the 3 mile marker (the only one I saw), I kicked it to the end.
My mistake? I let my dry mouth dictate my speed for too long — I finished the 5k with plenty of energy to keep going at the faster pace. I should have picked up speed sooner.
The good news? Despite the bottlenecks, my dry mouth, the sun in my eyes, and finishing the race with more left to go, I still PR’d! Heck, I took over 2 minutes from my 5k PR of a month and a half ago, finishing in 29:06 (9:22 pace). I could not believe it! I guess there’s something to be said about it being 20 degrees cooler…
Right after the PR…
Of course, I can’t help but wonder: what if there were no bottlenecks during the first mile? What if I had picked it up sooner than with a tenth of a mile to go? What if I was properly hydrated? What if I had not walked to drink a couple of sips of water during the water stop? My GPS counted that I had run 3.18 miles in that time — that shows how much dodging I ended up doing throughout the whole run!
And, that stupid 6 seconds? It kills me. I KNOW I could have gone 6 seconds faster if I knew it was what it would take to round out the number!
Regardless, I cannot freaking believe how much time I shaved off my 5k. And don’t you love getting medals for a 5k?
My brother after completing his first 5k! (He looks drunk, but he’s just tired from traveling for almost 24 hours the day before…)
Everyone had a great time too — and we enjoyed plenty of pizza, burgers and hot dogs at the end of the race!
Oh, and of course, the unlimited amounts of free beer!
My brother and his wife both had a great time, despite only running this because I sort of made them do it.
Karl was also super happy because even though this was his first official 5k (he tagged alongside me before, but first time he actually signed up for one), he met his goal of keeping a pace of under 7 min/mile, finishing in 21:20! I’m proud of him!
He was also the only one of us who got caught by the race photographers (clearly squinting at the sun):
After the race, a few of us went off to Bailey’s which seems to be our tradition for those races in Crystal City…
You can totally tell I’m super excited to have my baby brother over for the week!