Citizens Bank Not Your Typical 5K – 2015 Edition

Not Your Typical 5K is the name of the race that happens every July in Middletown. Not typical, because who plans a course like this? Why run from Main Street, up the hill, back down again, back up again, around campus and down again? Why run in the evening in July in Connecticut, where temperatures are almost guaranteed to be over 80 and and humidity is likely to be through the roof as well? Well, why not. The race is a big event and all the local runners compete.

I’ve run this race four times and it always gets under my skin. There’s something about running down Main Street with a bunch of running friends and hoofing it up that hill. It’s a race that encourages you to go out too fast and pay for it later, with half the town watching. I actually think I might get more stressed about it each year and this year was no different.

The day before the race I did a mile time trial on the track. I’ve been running pretty well since coming back from my injury and I had high hopes for this time trial. My best timed mile is 7:19 from the East Hartford Memorial Mile and I thought I might even come close to beating that. I figured I could hold 7:30 for a mile or at least 7:40. Nope. 7:52. Ouch. A great time, but well below expectations. My legs felt weak and just wouldn’t move. Not a great pre-race workout.

Then Wednesday morning, my daughter Rose complained her stomach didn’t feel good. She didn’t want to go to camp. It seemed like general 7 year old shenanigans, but then I took her temperature and she had a little fever. She was bitten by a tick a month ago and because of Lyme disease, we are on the lookout for minor fevers. I kept her home from camp and made a doctor’s appointment for an evaluation about possible Lyme disease, which could involve a blood test. A blood test is not going to be fun for any 7 year old, but I know Rose. It would be hell.

By the time I walked into Innovative to work out with Tough Guy Trainer, I was a mess. He took one look at me and asked what was wrong. I let him know and we went ahead and did the workout, which of course did help me feel somewhat better. At that point I didn’t even want to do the damn race. I wondered if it would be my first Did Not Start and thought, well, whatever. Who cares. Not a great attitude for a 5K, a race that involves inflicting a whole lot of pain on yourself if you’re going to do it right. Boy, was I not not not in the mood.

11709644_10152939630369249_3496865089454663659_nGratuitous picture of me at the gym, taken by Tough Guy in a sneaky moment!

But, then at Rose’s doctor appointment, they said she didn’t have enough symptoms for the Lyme test. Yeah! We celebrated with frozen yogurt and I went to work for awhile. I also attempted and mostly failed to get my head on straight for the race. My thoughts went something like this: 5Ks suck and this one sucks more than most. Why did I even sign up for this thing? Given the crap mile from Tuesday, I could look forward to public humiliation. Of course I completely realized the ridiculousness of all that, as surely no one cares but me what time I run in the damn race. Even Coach Cowboy said, the worst outcome here is that you get in a good workout. I still managed to get myself worked up into a pretty good tizzy about it, though I felt somewhat better knowing we were at least off the hook for the blood draw.

In my obsession with improving my time, I looked at the dreaded pace calculator. I have run this race faster each year so I also looked up my previous times.

2011 – 29:46
2013 – 29:27
2014 – 28:03

Of course those three seconds from last year were totally annoying. I was pretty sure I could get under 28 so I looked up average paces for 27:30 (8:51) and 27:00 (8:41). An 8:45 pace throughout this race sounded uncomfortable, but manageable. I would be totally happy with 27:00 or even 27:30. I just wanted to survive this thing and somehow I was still worried I wouldn’t.

Finally I talked to Coach Cowboy on the phone and he said two things that helped. First, run the race tonight and you never have to run this damn race again. Thank goodness. In my head I committed to volunteering next year. Then I could still be part of the action but not run. Whew. Second, we broke the race up into segments. It’s only a 5K, but the course is complicated so we had five segments.COURSE-MAP

Segment 1: From the start, down Main St, up the hill on William, to the corner of College and High.

Segment 2: Down the hill on College and the second straightaway on Main.

Segment 3: Up the hill on William again [yes, this is a course from hell!] and back to the corner of College and High.

Segment 4: The loop around Washington Terrace, Mount Vernon St, down Wyllys back to corner of College and High.

Segment 5: South on High St, down the hill on William, long straightaway on Main into the finish line.

Suddenly the race seemed do-able. Five very small pieces. Not Five Easy Pieces, but small ones. I went home, ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and gathered the kids, then drove back to town.


I handed the kids off to the Incredibly Awesome Mervus. Our fabulous dance studio owner is also a runner and she gave us the keys to the studio when the port-a-potty line was too long. Seriously, the whole town goes to this race. Coach Cowboy and I had also worked out a warm-up so I found a place to do that. Even the warm-up felt a lot better than that damn mile the day before. There’s no chip at the starting line of this race so starting position matters. I had been tempted to line up alone so I didn’t freak myself out by standing near my fast friends, but there was my gang all together so of course I joined them. The gun went off and it was finally time to get this show on the road.

cdb47d2739365e1690453c6031a5bbecd058a99b82265c47b7496ec82b34a370Waving for the camera in my Sub30 Women’s Club shirt!

Segment 1: Down Main St and up the hill. I saw Mervus and the kids right after the corner onto Main. Gave them a wave. This is one of the most adrenaline-fueled stretches of racing I’ve ever done in my life. Nothing like running down Main Street of your hometown. It’s very easy to go too fast here. Swifty was gone like a shot, as I expected. Maple Leaf Trail Runner also was lost in the crowd. That left me next to Teacher Runner. I expected her to leave me behind quickly but thought, well, maybe I can hang with her through the first hill. We sped down Main St together and I glanced at my watch. Something like 7:30s. Previously that time on my watch would have caused panic, but I’ve been seeing 7s down there sometimes now so I figured it was ok. Up the hill was of course a little slower and I can stick to Teacher Runner on a hill so we were still together at the top. Down High St, got my breathing under control after the hill and suddenly Segment 1 was over.

Segment 2: Down College. I was telling myself, it’s ok to run fast down this hill. You probably lost time going up and you can make it up here. Watch says 7:45 or something, but again, that is ok. First mile marker clicked off at 8:18. Ok, oops. That is faster than intended but I’m not dying yet. In fact, I’m still here at Teacher Runner’s shoulder, which is kind of my running heaven right now. So, I hung with her a whole mile. Good. Down Main St again and keep the power on because the hill is coming. Segment 2 done.

Segment 3: Up the hill again. Coach Cowboy frowns on water stops during a 5K but I just wanted something cold. I grabbed a cup, opened my mouth, and threw the water at my face. I’m not sure any got in my mouth, but it felt good. I was VERY happy I didn’t grab Gatorade by mistake. Up the damn hill. Still hanging with Teacher Runner. On to High Street again. 9:30 on the watch, but ok, that’s a big hill. The race leaders go by on the opposite side of the street. The local running celebrity who wins this thing almost every year is in second place with a sheepish look on his face. He knows he’s not winning this year. Past the corner on College and High. Segment 3 done.

Segment 4: Down the rest of High St, left on Washington Terrace. I am still next to Teacher Runner as I realize this is part of our standard long run route. She and I have done this path together many times in the past few months and this is where we pick up the pace. Amazing how geography gets in your blood. I remembered feeling strong in mile 8 of those training runs right here on this road and it worked, I felt strong again. We turned left onto Mount Vernon. There’s another hill here that I sometimes forget about and have sometimes walked up, but not today, not even close. Mile two clicks by in 8:48 and I think, I’m still under goal pace and I’ve got something like 30 seconds in the bank. I’m apparently not dying because I’ve only got a mile to go and this is when I should really turn it on. I wonder if that’s possible and now Segment 4 is done.

Segment 5: We past the corner of College and High, for the third time, going the opposite way now, south on High. This is going well and maybe I will run this race again next year. Or maybe I’ll run it with Aidan, my son, or maybe I’ll volunteer to go with someone running their first 5K. But I’m also thinking, damn, this is going well enough that I’m probably running this stupid thing again next year. Then I’m not even thinking, or counting, I’m just running. It’s possible I’m drooling. We turn left onto William downhill at last and less than a mile to go. Now Teacher Runner turns on her kick and I can’t stay with her so she runs away from me at last, but I don’t even care. I know I’m well under 27:30, under 27:00 and probably in PR territory not just for this crazy race, but for an overall 5K PR. Down the hill and now I’m counting, but I can’t think enough to get past about 30. People are passing me, but I’m passing other people and I wonder if any of them are women aged 40-49, the only people who count right now, ha! Then the left onto Main Street and far far away is the finish line. I can’t read the number after the 2 and I think does it say 28:xx? Or 26:xx? Wow, my eyes are getting bad! But this is silly because I can see my watch just fine and I know that clock says 25:xx, as unbelievable as that is. I use all my willpower to get my feet to turn over faster and move down that street! This stretch of road seems SO. LONG. But finally it ends. They call my name as I cross the line and I get out of the way and put my hands on my knees to catch my breath. Segment 5 done. Race done.

IMG_5184Teacher Runner coming into the finish. I hope she beat that kid!

IMG_5178Me coming into the finish. Not sure why I’m looking down?

Teacher Runner came to check on me and we got water and ice pops. Every race should have ice pops! I grabbed some for the kids, becoming coherent enough to think, just get everyone the same flavor so they don’t fight. Then I found Mervus and the munchkins and get plenty of high fives. I was SO happy this had gone well and I went to get to the results tent to find out the actual time. I started to laugh when I saw my name on this list: 26:15. One second slower than my overall 5K PR. I couldn’t stop laughing. I texted Coach Cowboy the result and then he called. I still couldn’t stop laughing and he’s laying into me because I was such a basket case all day and then ran a great race. Between the race noise and my laughing and his yelling I could hardly understand a word he was saying, which was probably for the best until I finally asked if he was actually mad, which of course he wasn’t.

IMG_5176Teacher Runner, Swifty, Maple Leaf Trail Runner and me, happy to be done!

I went back and found my family and friends. I love the post-race scene. Swifty and Early Bird both placed in their age groups so we watched them get their hats. Then Teacher Runner and her son joined us for pizza and drinks at First and Last Tavern. I love this race as much as I hate this race and I’m probably running it next year. Sigh.

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2 Responses to Citizens Bank Not Your Typical 5K – 2015 Edition

  1. Kelly R (from sub30) says:

    YEAH! What a great run! LOL at your “crap, guess I have to run it again next year.” Sounds like a great time. 🙂

  2. Ted Wilson says:

    Sarah, you said in your reply to my email that your race had gone well, but this stirring account tells the rest of the story. Thanks for sharing your inner race. Definitely sub-30!

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