Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Race Recap: Cambridge 5k Freedom Run 2015

After many long, slow miles logged during marathon training, I've been itching to get back to some short, fast races. I was pumped when I found out the Cambridge 5K Freedom Run would be taking place right down the street from my house two weeks after the Vermont City Marathon.

(can you find me?)
I've run more than a dozen races in and around Cambridge. Without question, the folks at Cambridge 5K Race Series put on the best races in town. This race was no exception. It was well organized, started exactly time, had helpful volunteers, a clearly marked course, quickly posted results, free race photos on Facebook (I used some of them here in this post), and the proceeds supported great local causes (Glen Doherty Foundation and East Cambridge Business Association). On top of all that, it was followed immediately by a super fun post-race party with plentiful free beer (sponsored by Slumbrew, Notch Brewing, Night Shift Brewing, and Downeast Cider House).

I woke up too early and went through my typical pre-race morning routine, but enjoyed the added luxury that this race was starting just a mile from my house at the Cambridgeside Galleria. Perfect distance for a nice slow warm-up jog to loosen up my legs before the race. Instead of putting on the Brooks Ghost 7s that carried me through the marathon, I selected an older pair of lightweight, minimal style running shoes since this was a short, fast race. I jogged over and met up with teammates, dropped my bag, and got wrist-banded for the post-race beer.

The course looped from the Cambridgeside Galleria to Inman Square and back. It's a fast, flat course on the same roads I run every week. This included running past my house, where I knew Chris and Duncan would be waiting to cheer my team on.


My goal for this race was to feel strong and prove to myself that my legs still had speed in them. I told myself I'd be perfectly happy with 7 minute miles. It was cool and clear at the start line. When the horn sounded at 9:30 sharp, my brain switched off and my legs switched on. When I race 5Ks, I never, ever, ever run negative splits. It's not an intentional strategy, but my autopilot seems to be set to go out as hard as possible and just hold on for dear life at the end. This is probably not a wise approach.  

I passed the first mile marker, saw 6:15 tick on the clock, and thought to myself, "Oh crap." I had not ever maintained such a pace, and did not expect to today. I checked myself and slowed a little. As I made the right turn onto Hampshire Street, a fellow runner cut the corner and caught my shoe. I stumbled, but managed to stay on my feet. A few blocks later, I grinned and waved like a goon as I passed Chris and Duncan outside our house. Rounded the corner in Inman Square to turn on Cambridge Street. Still hanging on. Definitely slowing. I passed the second mile marker. 12:45. Ciara was waving with poster board signs outside her house, and I grinned and waved like a goon again. There was a slow, steady incline on this part of the course, and I was just hanging in now. Final right turn onto First Street. Finish Line ahead! 


I crossed the line in 20:34, for an overall split of 6:38/mile. This was a PR by 26 seconds. I was more shocked than excited.

I found my Cambridge YMCA teammates at the finish line and snapped a photo.


We made our way to the party, where we balanced out the 20 minutes of running with several beers. 




Our team name was "Cheat To Win". As you can obviously tell from this photo, I am Rosie Ruiz and Steph is Tonya Harding. 


So. About those lightweight shoes and that "sprint out of the gates" strategy...perhaps my body was more worn down than I realized post-marathon. Perhaps I made an unwise shoe choice. Perhaps I just plain overdid it in this race. Whatever the cause, I woke up the next morning with acute, sharp pain running down the front of my left shin. I've never had a running injury. Ever. But I knew right away this was some form of  anterior tibial stress syndrome (commonly known as shin splints), and I should not ignore it. In fact, I couldn't ignore it, because it was screaming at me. Fast forward one week, and I've been sentenced to hiatus from all high-impact activities (including running and all plyometrics) with a follow up next week to determine whether I'm healing, need bone scans for a stress fracture, or something else altogether. I spent two days feeling super bummed and treating myself to self-pity ice cream cones. 


It could be a whole lot worse. I'll take this injury as a warning to take care of my body. There's pushing hard, and then there's pushing yourself until you're hurt. It's pretty important to learn the difference. It sucks that I can't do a lot of the things I love for a little while, but perhaps it will encourage me to embrace a few weeks of self-care and expanding my horizons. I've already made friends with the spin bike and am having fun with strength training. Instead of my long run this weekend, I took a nap and read a book. 

Anyone want to go kayaking? 

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