Vicki Soto 5K Race Recap
What a difference a year makes. Last year, when I ran the Vicki Soto 5K, the weather was perfect, the event felt so spiritual and meaningful, and it was a huge celebration we didn’t want to end.
This year, the weather started looking ominous for race day early in the week. The forecast fluctuated between rainy and cool and windy and cold and snowy and cold. It had started looking like it wouldn’t be that terrible, but when race day dawned yesterday?
Rainy, cold and windy. In the 40s, with a biting wind and rain.
Such a shame, because the race had sold even more spots this year, they had lined up even more food and post race fun, and it was clear the day just wasn’t going to turn out the way the organizers had hoped.
I went down to the race early with my friends hoping to get a good parking spot. Last year, we spent this extra time milling around, visiting the vendors and soaking in this moment of peaceful reflection with those of us who still live with the Sandy Hook tragedy every day. This year, we spent most of the pre race time in our cars, hiding from the elements.
Finally, it was time to get moving towards the start line. The organizers stated that only about half the people registered had shown up, and thanked us for doing so. I could believe it, honestly; I’ve never run in such miserable conditions. A little drizzle, sure, or a few flurries. But never had I stood out intentionally in pouring rain for a run. Never. Every time we talked about how awful it was in our group, we reminded each other that this woman died protecting little first grade kids from a maniac. We could at least put in three miles in the rain for her.
Still, that last ten minutes waiting for the race to start was terrible. When we finally were off, I felt stiff and cold and clumsy. It took several minutes to make it to the starting mat, because there were still probably 1500 or so people running. And of those people, somehow, we had gotten stuck in a huge crowd of walkers. It was an insane challenge at first to weave in and out of them, and I was slowed down as a result.
This frustrated me, because I had been using this race as a mental goal post for the last three months. I knew this race, knew if I trained and pushed, I should be able to get in under 35 minutes. I’ve been using my Asics training plan, pushing, working. When RunKeeper told me after the first five minutes that I was at a 16 minute mile (at least two of that was walking to the start mat and wouldn’t count, I knew), I was pissed. I pushed through and finally found myself in a group of people that seemed to be mostly running and powered forward.
The first mile passed quickly and I was feeling good. We got down to the area near Long Island Sound and despite the rain and gray skies, it was truly beautiful. By now I had warmed up and the rain and wind felt mostly good. There were cheerleaders and kids from the local schools out cheering, despite the weather, and I felt strong.
I could hear the RunKeeper telling my pace was powering down each five minutes so while I wasn’t sure where I was exactly, I knew by my body that I was going strong. Suddenly, I found myself at the big overpass I remembered from last year. It’s the really only big hill on the whole course (the rest being mostly flat or slow inclines) and I was determined not to walk it. Last year, by this point, I felt tired and couldn’t make it. This year I pushed up that sucker and honestly didn’t think it was as terrible as I had thought it would be.
But it took its toll. I tried to push faster on the decline from the bridge, but found myself winded. The rain and the wind blasted me fiercely going down the hill and I could feel myself having to push through it, like sludge. I had to adjust to a slower pace to catch my breath. I knew, even as we ran over the start line, that the course wasn’t a straight out and back. The finish line was still probably a third of a mile away, and I had to get there. I had no idea what my time was because I’d started my RunKeeper before I’d hit the start mat. I heard it chime off 35 minutes, and just hoped I that the time it had taken me to get to the start mat was enough that I would still meet my goal. I kept telling myself, “No regrets, no regrets,” over and over. I didn’t want to regret not pushing myself during this race. Even if I didn’t make my goal, even if I didn’t hit my goal time, I wanted to feel like I ran the best race I could.
I sprinted for the finish, seeing the clock tick just over to 38 minutes. Had it taken me three minutes to get to the start mat? I didn’t think so, but I was hopeful. I ran through, hoping for the best.
In the end, I didn’t meet my goal of beating last year’s time, or my goal of under 35 minutes. My time was 36:07, which was five seconds SLOWER than last year’s time.
At first, I was angry, really, angry with myself. How could I let that happen? I have been training for months for this race. How could I not have met my goal? But honestly, the rain and the wind were absolutely a factor. Terrible running conditions. The wind definitely slowed me down at the end. And secondly, the sea of walkers impeding my progress at the race start was a factor too. My friend who ran with me was a minute slower than her time last year. Her husband was a minute off of his best 5K time too, and this course should have been a PR course for him.
And, I was 5 seconds faster than my time last week, which was a flatter course with ideal running conditions. Also, it is my second fastest 5K this year. I am getting faster. Is the progress as fast as I’d like? No. But if I keep pushing and training, I will. I will never be one of those people that can just show up at a race after not having run for months and run a 33 minute 5K. That’s clear to me. Sure, I could be upset at that, or I could do whatever it takes to improve my own times. Because at the end of the day, the only person I’m competing with out there on a race course is myself.
After the race was over, I found my friends. For the first few minutes we were fine standing out in the wind and rain because we were still warm from running. We went to the food tent and got some pizza and beer (because it was there, don’t judge me for drinking before 11am) and ate quickly. Just in the few minutes of standing there, our bodies started to cool and we felt chilly standing in our soaked running clothes and shoes. We hated to do it, but it was time to go.
All in all, a good race. A really good race. I felt really proud of showing up in the rain to run this race. Proud to support this cause. Proud to be part of this community that time and time again rallies to support our heroes. I’ll be there again, next year, no matter what the weather is, hoping for another good time, and keeping the spirit of those 26 angels close to my heart.