Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Back to Back 5ks: BEST Kids Superhero 5k and Race for Hope DC

I’ve been having an enjoyable spring of racing, signing up for some brand-new races, including ones I’ve had my eyes on for a few years. The past few weeks have included a few back-to-back weekends of racing, and since my training lately has been more of a steady stream of 30 mile weeks, without intensive peaks, I’ve been jumping in, racing, feeling sore for a few days, and then proceeding onward.
Superhero 5k (April 20): This was a small race out on Haines Point, a course very familiar to me. I had looked at some previous race times, and it looked like I might be able to win the race, depending on who showed up. However, on race morning, I lined up on a cloudy morning next to my friend Chris. Now, Chris and I met at a track meet in 2013, and have raced against each other probably about 10 times. And when I say raced against each other, I mean that she has beaten me handedly every single time. But, it’s still good to have someone close to my pace to push off from. We wished each other well at the start and then took off.
I'm in black with an Olympic shirt on - Olympians are my kind of heroes 
When I say that this was a small race, this should put it into perspective: Chris and I pull to the front – not the front for the women, but the front of the race, with only two guys running alongside us. We are virtually stride for stride, and I was very excited, thinking that this would help set me up for a good time, and almost assuredly, second place. Whoosh – through mile 1 in 6:20. While the race itself was so quiet (Haines Point at 8AM on a weekend is one of the quietest places in DC), I felt excited that Chris and I were running together. When it seemed like she was going to pull ahead, I would push a little, and this continued through the turn around. I pulled ahead by a few yards, knowing that if it came down to a kick, hers would be better than mine.
A couple of strides away from the finish line
Apparently Donte Stallworth recognized me from a
previous race I had won - and I had no idea who he was
until the race. He asked me for some advice as he was
debuting in his first 10 mile race the next day,
which he finished in 1:21:56
Before we hit the 2-mile mark, Chris pulled ahead so strong, getting probably 30 yards ahead of me. It was such a strong and decisive move, and I could not respond to it. I slowed down to about 6:26 pace, feeling tired and now running basically solo, watching Chris pull ahead from me. As we rounded the bend with less than a quarter mile, I figured I’d miss my sub 20 by a little, but that this was overall a good pace. I saw Chris slow down, and then stop for a second, which was strange. She then picked it up again, but this unexpected hiccup was not normal for her. As I started to gain on her and pass her, she stopped again. I went on to win in 20:15 and Chris came in a minute later. I was worried, as I had never seen her looked that pained. She had had a problem with her inhaler and just lost it at the end. It took her a while to recover afterwards, and I felt really bad seeing her look like that. So while it was a win for me, it didn’t really feel like I earned it, mainly because Chris can kick my butt any day of the week. But a win, $100 gift certificate, congratulations from former NFL wide-receiver Donte Stallworth, still made for a good day.

Rain wasn't going to keep 1,200 runners away!
Race for Hope 5k (May 1): This was a race that’s been on my list for a long time. In 2009, I had the pleasure of meeting BethAnn Telford through the Pacers Ambassadors program. Not only is BethAnn a multi-time Boston Marathoner and Ironman finisher, she is a brain cancer survivor and pediatric warrior ambassador. Everything she puts her mind, heart, and body to, she does so with single-minded focus and determination. I'm so proud to know her. I was so proud to run on her TEAM BT Race For Hope at the Race for Hope DC 5k. The stars aligned this year, I signed up, even did a little bit of fundraising in memory of a friend (Tonya Burek Dubeansky – here is a link if you wish to contribute to this great cause). I knew that this was a massive race, with a lot of vibrant teams dedicated to this important cause. And when I say dedicated, it was pouring rain on Sunday and that did not deter many people. Jumping around, running around, trying to stay warm, I went to the start. At the start, they did a survivor walk, and nothing puts a lump in your throat like seeing so many determined survivors participating, while also know that in their absence were so many who did not make it. It was very emotional, particularly to have a friend involved, and with that spirit, we took off.
It was so cool to be so close to VP Biden and hear
him speak on such a personal topic
Similar to the week before, I pulled up to the front, this time with the goal of breaking 20 minutes. I had raced on this course just 5 weeks earlier at Scope it Out, and was hoping to better plan a tactically-smart race this time. The rain is pouring and we are running, and two girls are running alongside me, one who looks like a teenager, and one who looks fit and amazing. Sometimes you can just tell in a short glance if someone is really speedy. Yes, part of it is often the outfit, but she looked fast, and in fact, she was. The three of us ran together for about the first mile (6:30), and then they pulled ahead. I figured I would just run my race, and try to catch them, and maybe a guy or two throughout. The speedy-looking woman must’ve took off, because I could see that the teenager was within reach at the turnaround, but speedy chick was very far away. At around mile 2 (6:25 – so very close to being on point to break 20), I passed the teenage girl, offering her a few words of encouragement), and just racing for the clock. I also received a boost by all of the walkers (and there were thousands, clad in ponchos, walking in the pouring rain) who were on the other side of the course cheering as I raced toward the finish line. The home stretch is down Pennsylvania Ave, literally racing toward the White House. Not totally thrilled that a Trump building is going up next door to it, and I was glaring at it as I raced to the finish line. I ended up in second in 20:05, which I was pretty happy about. Sure, it would’ve been nice to knock off a few extra seconds, but those time goals can be fairly arbitrary. So anyways, a time is a time, and while hitting those benchmarks sound cool, it is more about the experience anyways.
But I digress. Afterwards, they announced that they had a special guest who would speak to everyone on behalf of the fight against brain cancer. It was Vice President Biden who lost his son Beau to brain cancer last year and has made it his moonshot mission to pour more money and resources into fighting cancer. His speech was so moving, and despite the pouring rain, everyone was so attentive and excited that he was there. And, it turned out that the speedy chick who beat me was not just speedy, but super speedy. Heather Hanscom is actually a formerMarine Corps Marathon winner and placed 6th in the 2004 US Olympic Trials, and and is a brain cancer survivor. Wow. So, it was a big win in the fight against brain cancer that weekend, and the Race for Hope ended up raising $2.1 million. Wow!

I thought a back-to-back weekend of racing was tiring, but a few hours later decided to go from the double to the triple. Stay tuned.