A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

PTOS & FAPTO Innovation 5K Race Report

As I mentioned last week, I signed up last minute for a 5K taking place a few miles from my hotel where I was staying on business just outside of Washington, DC.

For the first time in a long while I was at a race with no friends, no husband, no running group. And, as it turned out, no gear check. But it wasn't really a problem.

This race was sponsored by the Patent and Trademark Office Society and took place in front of their building in Alexandria, Virginia.

After parking my rental car I walked through a beautiful campus of federal buildings and into the lobby of the building. Did you know the Patent and Trademark Office has a museum? It wasn't open, sadly. Still, it was fun to see the inside of a building that I'd never really given much thought to.

The packet pick up was located on the lower lobby level. Everything in the area seems to be built on a hill so even though you go in on one level you can almost always exit on completely different one.


I grabbed my race number and my t-shirt from the tables in the center and took the shirt back to my car. And, of course, pinned the bib on my tank top. The morning was chilly but the sun was shining. I kept my jacket on while I did my stretches and my warm-up jog. I decided to run to the first mile marker on the out-and-back course to get an idea of what I'd be in for. I'd looked at the elevation chart and was a little worried.

That huge hill? A freeway overpass. And, yes, it was a pace killer on the way up.

I was sweating something fierce by the time I got done and was happy to ditch my jacket. With no gear check, though, I was a little worried. So I put my phone back in the car and asked a nice lady at one of the tables if I could leave my jacket and car keys there.

Everyone at this race was really nice. You could tell that most of them work in the building or at least knew each other. There were about 300 people total and most of them were clustered in groups of friends, joking, and laughing. When the PA system wouldn't cooperate and play the National Anthem someone shouted out, "Hey! Why doesn't Jerry sing it??" And a bunch of people laughed. I guess Jerry is a good singer? Or maybe a bad singer? Anyway, someone else stepped up and we were treated to a less-than-perfect version sung by a willing volunteer.

The race was chip timed but I didn't want to start too far in the back lest I get stuck with walkers or less experienced runners. I had some delusional visions of winning my age group or some such thing since it was a small race.

I'll tell you, though, those DC-area runners are FAST. Or at least they go out of the gate fast. But I'd already run up that hill so I knew what to expect. Which means I wasn't too worried when I slowed down on the uphill.

My Garmin beeped exactly at the 1 mile marker. Exciting! 8:16. Hmmm, not as fast as my last 5K. Oh well.

There was a water station before the turn around point but I eschewed water. We saw the race leader go by the in opposite direction minutes ahead of everyone else. Then it was our turn to do the 180-degree turn and head back.

The Garmin beeped after the mile 2 marker which had me slightly concerned. But then it was time to tackle the big hill again which was slightly less steep from this side. Still, it wasn't easy. I didn't even look at my pace.

A slight downhill and then a long, gradual incline up to the turn to the finish. And then another hill! What? Where did this one come from?

I'm not in this photo but you can kind of see that final hill

I did my best to power up the hill and passed the mile 3 marker at the top. Then, suddenly, I was at the finish line.

The clock said 24:50-something and in my either sleep-deprived or oxygen-deprived state I was bummed. 24:50-something? What a poor showing! Especially when I looked down at my Garmin at it said 3.04 miles instead of 3.1. Bummer!

It wasn't until I looked up the race results later that I realized I'd actually run a pretty good race! I wasn't able to stick around for the awards ceremony (had to get back for conference stuff) and they were only doing awards two deep in 10-year age groups (so I was in the 30-39 age group). Turns out my official results are a time of 24:50 which was good enough for third in my age group and tenth woman overall!

Too bad the race was a hair short so I'm not counting it as a 5K PR. Still, that time translates to an average 8 minute mile even with some decent hills.

And too bad I forgot to reset my Garmin before going for another run a few days later so my stats (and map) are all messed up.

Finding this random race to run was a great decision. Sure, I could have slept in on Sunday morning before the conference started. But this way I was able to see somewhere I'd never been, run a small, fun, friendly race, and get in a workout. All wins in my opinion. So, if you've never done it, I highly recommend searching for a fitness event in the area where you'll be traveling. You never know what you'll find!