Double Race Weekend: Vicki Soto 5K and Colony Hot Oil 5K
Yeah….I have been kind of absent around these here parts lately. Chalk it up to starting a new job (my last post is dated just five days after my start date) and having some challenging personal issues going on.
I haven’t done much in the way of running/training since that last triathlon. True, there was a sort of 4K race at our local park that hardly felt like anything. Then there was a Zombie Fun Run last weekend which was awesome (and I really should write about it) but untimed. I’ve struggled with keeping up with exercise and training now that I am working as a substitute teacher full time.
So it was with zero expectations that I entered into this weekend, something I’d set up months ago: back to back 5Ks on both days. I’ve only ever done races back to back one other time. I wasn’t worried.
This is the third year for the Vicki Soto 5K, the race that honors one of the teachers who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. I’ve run it every year. Last year the weather was horrendous, but this year the day dawned warm (for CT in the fall, 50 or so degrees) and cloudy. Perfect running weather.
My girlfriend and I agreed to walk it together. She has been out of training as much as I have, and so we offered to push her husband’s cousin’s stroller so he could really blow it out.
This race is a huge celebration, so much so that sometimes you forget that we are there because someone died in a terrible way. The family is deeply involved in the planning of the event, and it is well organized and put together. This year there were nearly 3,000 participants. The field was immense.
I haven’t ever walked a 5K before. It was a strange experience. Because I wasn’t listening to music, I really did take in more of the event. The organizers had done a wonderful job with signage on the course, with decorations (flamingoes, Vicki’s favorite animal, were everywhere). There were bands and cheerleaders at many of the corners, and you really felt a part of this amazing, huge celebration.
But I also was itching to go faster as we wound our way through It seemed to take so much longer (and it did!). And while it was a very relaxing experience, it seems odd to me to walk a 5K. I guess you do it if you’re in support of the cause. But for me races have always been about not just the cause, but bettering myself, my last time, feeling like I really did something out there. So while I loved walking with my friend and being a part of the Vicki Soto 5K this year, it didn’t really feel like a race. I finished in 52:40, which is slow even for a walk. To be fair, the little girl we were pushing kept wanting to get in and out of her stroller, and that slowed us down. But hey, there are a lot of people who can’t walk a 5K at all, so I’m not complaining.
The only downside to the Vicki Soto race was afterwards. Because we had walked, probably a good 2,000 people had finished ahead of us. And the lines for absolutely everything were insanely long. They had amazing food and all sorts of free stuff for everyone, but by the time I got there, the lines were just too long for me to want to bother with. It didn’t seem worth it to wait in a ten minute long line for a single cupcake. Which is a shame because they had these really awesome vendors giving away great stuff, but the logistics really need to improve if they want to accommodate that many people.
It motivated me to really try to enjoy the Colony Hot Oil 5K today.
So the Colony race is held by a pizza place in Fairfield, CT. It is a 1600 person race and sells out in a matter of days. The “Hot Oil” comes from a type of pizza they sell; thin crust pizza with a spicy jalapeno oil drizzled all over it. Apparently it is a huge thing around here. I’ve lived here ten years and never knew that.
Anyway, today dawned cooler but one of those gorgeous sunny fall days that make you glad to live in New England. I got to the race site early and listened to music in my car. Lo and behold, a friend I had no idea was doing this race walked right by. Fun! This race is so popular I ran into at least five people I didn’t realize would be there.
We lined up under I 95 and set out. I literally haven’t run more than probably ten minutes straight since my triathlon last September, so I told myself I would just do what felt good. Fortunately for me the course was mostly flat except for a few hills in the middle and the dreaded I 95 overpass. But even that wasn’t that bad. I surprised myself by not needing a walk break at all until just before the water stop, when I encountered the first hill. I walked that, and then again when I hit the water stop a short bit later, and kept going.
The course was through a beautiful area near downtown Fairfield, and the foliage is just slightly past peak, so everything was beautiful. The sun had risen and was reflecting off of everything. I marveled at how good I was feeling, and it totally reminded me why I became a runner. I love that feeling of being outdoors and just focusing on your breathing and your legs and not having to worry about anything else right in that moment. After the last few weeks I felt just so grateful to be there, enjoying the beautiful day and the energy that comes from being in a race.
I finished feeling better than I imagined I would have with pretty much hardly any training over the last few weeks. The net time was 37:47 which honestly isn’t terrible for me.
But the best part of the race isn’t the course, even though that’s pretty awesome. It is the after party.
They have a live band, as much beer as you can stand and pizza. And water. That’s it. No granola, no apples, no healthy things anywhere. It was so awesome. The music cranked and I just soaked it all in. I was grateful to be there, and I will definitely be back next year.