Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Every Mile a Memory: Johnnycake Jog 5 Mile Race 7.9.17

I honestly intended on keeping this short, sweet, and to the point. You can see I failed miserably. I've added subheads for those who want to skip the fluff. LOL

The Course

The Johnnycake Jog 5 Mile Race is very popular and competitive. It's one of the few USTAF certified courses locally (as far as I know anyway) and it draws people from all over the country. This was it’s 41st year and last year for the 40th anniversary, they added a 5K distance. The course is relatively flat with a sneaky, gradual hill between miles 1 and 2. Sneaky meaning when you drive it in your car, you'd barely know it was an incline but running it is a different story. Not a killer hill, you just don’t realize how long it is and since maybe people start off too fast as it is, that hill can make or break how you do the rest of the race.

The route is pretty basic and all right turns. The first stretch along a road outside the county fairgrounds, the second is down a busy but residential road call Johnnycake Ridge Road, hence the name of the race, with a little shade here and there (but not much), and the final stretch is what I call the death march: 1.75 miles in full sun straight down a very busy 5 lane road surrounded by shopping plazas. Basically a concrete jungle with next to no green space so the heat from the concrete makes it feel 100 times warmer. It seems to go on forever…and ever… AND ever with no finish arch in sight most of the way. It literally can be a death march if it’s hot and humid because you get absolutely no break from the sun and if there was any breeze, you wouldn't feel it because of the buildings. We were lucky this year because of the unseasonably cool and wet summer we've been having here on the North Coast, race-time temps were in the upper 60s/low 70s and the humidity wasn't bad, at least not at race time.

If there are two things people “complain” about this race is that sneaky hill in the beginning and the death march at the end and several people swear they will never run the race again because of one, the other, or both…only to show up the next year. Waving hand…that was me… matter of fact, I said it in 2015 but went back for more in 2016…this year made round #3 LOL. 

Ironic it is held in the City of Painesville? I think not.

To race or not to race, that is the question

For the past month, I have been dealing with what I thought was a hamstring issue so I haven’t raced since June’s Race for the Place 5K. I have been taking it easy ever since which means I’ve had to pass on all the races I was planning on doing and have done more run/walks than runs in an effort to keep whatever what’s going on in my back of my left leg at bay. I went back and forth whether I should attempt this but I wanted to do this race because A. it’s the only 5 miler locally I am liking mid-distance races more and more and B. my son., Rick, was going to run it and it’s one of the very few races we can do together because of him being in track and cross country and not being allowed to run road races during those seasons. I waited until a couple days before the race to sign up and once I picked up our packets, I was really excited to be finally able to be in a race again at whatever capacity that would be.


Knowing how competitive this race is, in the years I’ve done it, I’ve never expected to get an AG placing because the women in my AG are just too dang fast. We're talking finish times in the low 30s. As with any other race, I look at the previous years times and try to gauge where I might fit in. In 2015, my goal was to place in the top 15. I came in 10th. In 2016, my goal was to make the top 10. I came in 7th. For repeat races, I always make it a goal to beat the time from the previous year. In 2015, my time was 46:57 and in 2016 it was 43:25. Since I haven’t been able to do any fast running in over a month, I really thought it was going to have a negative impact on my race time plus given the fact that most of my miles over the last month have been run/walk miles and not all running miles AND throw in I haven't actually ran 5 miles without having to take walk breaks in the last month, I pretty much decided my only goal for this year was just to be able to finish because I didn't even know I was going to be able to run it, much less race it. If a top 10 placement and PR miraculously happened, it would be icing on the cake but I definitely wasn’t counting on it. With that said, I decided for this race I would not worry about what my Garmin said and just run completely by feel and see how it went. In past races, I usually end up making that decision after I'm already well into the race but this time I decided to do it from the get go. This would truly be a race where time was not a factor and I would just run for fun. I was leaving everything out on the course.

Queen of mysterious injuries

As most of you know, whatever has been going on with the back of my left leg has been a bit of a mystery. It really did come out of no where and even the PT isn't sure what's going on. Well, if that wasn't bad enough when it came to my anticipated race performance, I woke up Saturday morning barely able to walk. The ball of my left foot was on FIRE. Seriously, it hurt to walk. I have NO idea what happened either. I ran Friday and was fine, was fine all day at work, even walked the beach with Paul Friday night after dinner (I've walked that beach more times than I can count and was even there just a few weeks ago and didn't have any problems). I know I didn’t step on anything so yet again, another mysterious injury. While the pain subsided a bit throughout the day, I could still feel something and I was so upset because here I was racing for the first time in over a month and now this! And it wasn't even just a 5K… it was 5 miles! How the heck was I going to do this?! I hoped that maybe the pain would just go away on Sunday morning as mysteriously as it came so I proceeded to get my race outfit ready Saturday night.

Of course, my black cat decided she needed to lay on my race outfit and I was trying to get it ready. Like I needed any more "bad" luck for this race. However, her name IS Hope and I DID pick out my "unstoppable" "hope" Balega running socks to wear... Hmmmmm...

Race Morning

I slept like crap all night obsessing about my foot and praying that when I got out of bed, I would be miraculously cured. Nope, I stepped out of bed Sunday morning and was hardly able to walk again. I honestly didn't know what I was going to do. Do I even attempt to do this or just bag it all together? Do I try it and if my foot doesn't improve, do I turn off at the 5K turn off just to get back to the fairgrounds faster? Do I take my phone (which I don’t usually race with because I have my iPod Nano) in case I am in such excruciating pain I need to have Paul come pick me up? I was at a total loss. I thought about wearing the new pair of shoes that haven't been broken in yet but even though they are the same make and model as what I've been running in for the last year and a half, I was worried if that would make matter worse. Goodness knows I didn't need any MORE running injuries. I also thought about going to the store to see if they had pads I could use to cushion the ball of my foot with but we were running out of time and I didn't know if they'd have what I needed. Wouldn’t you know I was looking through a drawer in the bathroom right before we were getting ready to leave and I found two silicone foot pads I forgot I had! Yay! I doubled them up and even though you're not supposed to try anything new on race day, I was willing to give it a whirl. Race morning cup off coffee done, banana eaten, foot pads inserted, it's time to go!

Warm Up

We parked our Jeep in a shopping plaza a little less than a 1/4 mile from the staging area which is at the county fairgrounds. My foot ached but at least I could walk. But how about run? That was the question. Once we got to the staging area, Rick and I decided to go for a warm up run. Even though the padding helped, my foot was still sore but I decided I would attempt the 5 miles because if worse came to worse, I'd just walk to the finish. I could at least manage that. 

Race time

The 5 mile started at 8 am and the 5K started at 8:15 so when they announced for the 5 milers to head to the starting line, we said goodbye to Paul went to find our spots. Rick saw one of his XC friends closer to the front so we wished each other luck and I went a little further back. Last year I purposely put myself closer to the back so I didn't start out too fast but it was so aggravating having to weave around people, strollers, etc. (there are several hundred runners) so I was just far back enough where I wouldn't be in the way of the serious runners but close enough I would hopefully not have to deal with the usual mayhem. Since this race is all right hand turns, I decided to stand as close to the right side as possible. The gun went off and so did we.

What a different self-talk makes

I remember reading the article "Talk yourself through a better 5k" on RW not too long ago and decided to use some of the strategies mentioned. One was replacing the “Uh-oh, I started too fast” thought with “This is what I’ve trained for.” Another was how dwelling on how hard a effort feels makes it worse so rather focus on how well you're doing. I think this is the first race I've done where I completely let go of all thoughts about how fast I started out and bad I was feeling in any particular moment during the race right from the start. There have been other races I've kind of let go midway through but this was the first time I went into a race with this mindset. I would tell myself "this is the speed that I am running at this moment and right now I feel good. If it gets to be too much, I will just scale it back as needed and enjoy just being out there." In all honesty, that's what racing is all about to me…it's not about winning or placing. Don't get me wrong, those are nice when they happen, but those are not the end all, be all in my opinion. Racing is about being out there doing something I never dreamed possible. Not to mention, the race vibe is such a rush and I am highly addicted to it.

Wow, let me tell you what a difference freeing your mind makes!! I will admit I looked at my watch one time a couple minutes into the race because old habits die hard and I think it might have been in the 7's but I didn't obsess about it like I usually do. The only other times I would glance my watch was when it would vibrate after every mile because I wanted to see how closely my Garmin matched the course mile markers. Quiet honestly, I couldn't believe when I saw numbers in the 8s! I certainly didn't feel like I was running that fast. That right there had many positive mental effects because I actually felt good and not like I was dying. What's funny is even though I happened to notice my numbers were in the 8s, it didn't really compute how well I was really doing. I've never been good when it comes to numbers anyway LOL.

The miles

It always impresses me how so many of my running friends can break down a race mile by mile and write about things that happened during each specific one. I thought I would try that for this race but the miles just all blend together now and my short term memory stinks so here are just some general things about the race that stand out.

I must have picked a good spot to start this race because even though the crowd didn't thin out until about mile 3 or so, I rarely did a lot of bob and weaving. Perhaps I just happen to pick the right people behind who were running my speed. There was yet again one little boy whom I though was going to constantly cut me off which always seems to happen but not this time. Whew.

I used my usual race strategy of picking out a person ahead of me trying to stick with them. If I passed them up, I'd find someone else.

It was pretty amazing that I felt zero foot pain when I ran and when I got to the sneaky hill where I thought my hamstring my bark, it was like there was never an issue at all. Even after the race and throughout the remainder of the day…no foot pain, no back of leg pain. As I write this though, the ball of my foot still hurts. I can run just fine but walking is still painful and my back of leg business was completely gone until this morning. So.weird.

Perfect playlist

Music played a huge part in this race and rather than make a new playlist, I decided to use the one I made for the 10 Mile Drop. I will always be one of those people who run with music and I've talked about why before so I won't go there again. When I run on the treadmill, the only way I have found I can tolerate it is by watching music videos. I go off to another world. Often times I will have my own little concert going on, too, complete with air drums (I'm sure the people at the gym think I'm crazy). Well that's kind of what I did during this race. I figured if this was supposed to be a race for fun, I might as well go with it! LOL A song would come on and I would just zone into the music. There were a couple times I did some head banging, fist pumps and I think I even played air drums at one point. Now mind you, I wasn't obnoxious about it but I am sure the people behind me thought I was off my rocker.

Even though my playlist is set to shuffle, the songs that came on as certain times could not have been any more perfect. Rather than talk about all of them, I will only name a couple. The first song when the race started was "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. I was my "power song" when I ran my first HM in honor of my dad and because this is already long enough, I won't go into why that song has such meaning but feel free to visit my blog post about it if you want to know more. It was the perfect song to start off with because I thought back to my determination to finish that HM and how I was determined to finish this race even if it meant I had to walk. Another one worth mentioning is "Ready to Go" by Republica. I distinctly remember it starting right around mile 3 because shortly after the mile marker is when you make your last right turn and start the death march toward the finish. I will be honest as mile 3 approached, the negative thoughts started creeping into my head. It was nearing 80 degrees, there were no clouds, and the death march was coming…worst part of the race! But the song came on and I took that as sign that I was ready to take those last 2 miles head on. Death march be damned!! Power of positive thinking at work once again! There are other songs that had other significant effects on my performance but I will just leave you with those two.

The Death March

If the death march isn't bad enough and not being able to see the finish arch for what seems like an eternity, looking at the shops and plazas as you are running past and realizing just how far away you really are makes it only worse. This year I decided I was only going to focus on what was ahead of me and not what I was running past (which in turns maked me think about how much farther I still have to go). Good strategy. I also focused on the two people who were running in front of me. I had been thinking how I was going to approach the last mile and if I was going to try and gun it as I got closer to the finish line. It was hot and I was pretty tired at this point so I decided I was going to just keep the pace with the people ahead of me and not push for a fast finish. A couple of us leap frogged a bit and while I was able to pass one woman, I was never able to pass the other. That's ok though, I never let her get more than a few strides ahead of me.

I'm not sure at what point I saw Paul along side of the road but I gave him a high five as I passed and said "I'm nailing it" because I was still running and hadn't needed a single walk break. I had no clue how true that statement would be just a few minutes later. I know he said something to me because at this point I had taken one of my earbuds off and turned down my music so I could hear the crowd, something I do at every race, but I couldn't tell you what he said…I was on a death march to the finish and that was my focus but seeing him must have put a little more pep in my step because I could feel myself starting to pick up the pace. And then I saw Rick in the long line of people cheering right before the shoot and also heard one of the XC kids call out my name which always gives me a little more oomph but the biggest oomph of all was seeing the time clock at 41 something and realizing that I was just about to PR this race….so I dug as deep as I could and crossed the finish line. I grabbed a water and walked around for a couple minutes trying to catch my breath. I saw a couple of people from the running club so we chatted for a bit. Paul and Rick eventually found me when Paul showed me my official time (gotta love live results), I just couldn't not believe the numbers I saw. Official time 41:19, a PR by over 2 minutes! We headed over to the building where the computers with the results and post race snacks (bananas, pizza, and my favorite, bagel bites) were. If PR-ing by 2+ minutes wasn't enough of a high, seeing that I placed 4th in my AG and moved up in the ranks yet again, all with my mysterious ailments, put me right over the edge. I jumped up and down like a kid with excitement.

Rick wanted between 35:00 and 40:00. Not to bad for his first road race since both ankle sprains.

I wanted to hang around for the group picture with the running club which I always miss so we headed over to the tent and I got to meet a few people I chat with on Facebook but have never met in person.


The main one is how self-talk can make or break a race. This is the very first race where I didn't dwell on how bad I was feeling but rather how good I was feeling. I didn't worry about whether I started out to fast, I just ran. Even when it came time for the death march, the way I approached it and ran it mentally was a huge game changer. If you haven' t read the article I mentioned about, I highly recommend it.

Once again, racing with no expectations yielded results I never imagined. I thought for sure I'd either have to DNF or take walk breaks so I went into this race with the intention of just having fun…and look, not only did I have fun, but I kicked some butt while I was at it!

Because I was feeling so good during the race and still running at a pretty decent clip, does that mean I wasn't pushing myself hard enough? Don't get me wrong, I didn't feel like I was taking a leisurely stroll but I'm wondering if that's where the positive self-talk was coming into play or if I really had more to give. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. Just something I think about.

Going forward, I will not worry about what my watch says, especially in the beginning of a race. I planned on taping it for this race but forgot until we were already on our way. I may just do that for the next race though. If I remember, that is LOL.

I have to say with the exception of the 1st and 2nd miles where I had to deal with running in the herd and then sneaky hill, I am pretty impressed with myself how consistent my mile split were and I wasn't even trying…I was just running. Maybe I'm getting the hang of this running thing after all.

This race confirmed all the more that I'm really not a fan of 5Ks and I am more of a mid-distance kinda girl. It sealed the deal as to what distance to pick for next month's Rock Hall HM/Rock City 5K race. They are offering a 10K distance this year and I've been going back and forth between trying my hand at the 10K or stick with the 5K because both years I've set my PR for the year and also won 1st and 2nd places in my AG. I think I'll try the 10K and see how I fare.

Lastly, having to take time off and not race and run like I would like to this past month apparently had no effect on my race times like I thought it was going to. This is a HUGE mental boost for me because I've been feeling pretty discouraged lately. I can't wait for my next race!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this if you made it all the way here.

41:19 and a new PR
4/18 AG
48/192 Females
23/81 Female Masters
182/444 OA