A Couple Beats Short in Club Metro’s Got Heart 5K

20130608-174117.jpgName of the race: Club Metro’s Got Heart 5K

Where: Jersey City, NJ

Time: 9:00 am

Distance: 5K (officially 5K, but the course was really short)

Entry fee: $25 + processing fee before May 15th, $30 on race day

Swag: Short-sleeve cotton shirt and short post-race massage from Massage Envy Spa

Post-race Food: Gatorade, bagels, and pizza from Two Boots

Time: 22:24 (Unknown pace and distance)

Performance: Overall 14/89; Gender 2/44; Age (30-39) 1/10; 2nd place overall female

Award: Silver medal

Weather: 67 degrees, 77% humidity

It was the race of our lives! Or it would have been if the course had been honest; it was short by quite a bit. Although I would have loved to say that with hard training I sliced off two and half minutes off my previous PR, at the current state of fitness and training, it’s not possible.

Ben and I heard about this inaugural 5K last year when it had been originally planned for early November. Hurricane Sandy caused the race to be rescheduled for the spring. We kept this 5K in our minds as we planned our spring race schedule. A couple weeks ago, after the massive fail of the canceled NJ Liberty Run Marathon and 5K, Ben read a post from the Club Metro’s 5K race director that said, “We got all our permits.” We laughed and knew we had to go and support them.

Most of the 5Ks in Jersey City are in Liberty State Park, but initial course map showed that we would be running in downtown Jersey City and the waterfront. When the race director debriefed us before the race, he reminded us that “this is urban racing.” The actual race course was a bit different from what was posted on their website. The start and finish line was in a parking lot near Grove St. PATH station. We ran on city streets and the waterfront. The streets were not officially closed, but good portions of the city street running was controlled by the police. They kindly stopped the traffic so that the runners could safely run on the streets.

We were pleasantly surprised about the race starting right on time. We expected a small delay because it’s the inaugural race and unexpected things could happen. The race director suddenly called all the racers over to a start line in the parking lot and then yelled, “Go!” Off we went, before I was ready. I was caught off guard and I didn’t have Runtastic up and running. I set the app as I ran and then tried to shove my IPhone into my Spibelt. I didn’t quite have my phone securely tucked in and all of a sudden it flew out. My heart leaped out of my chest because I saw my phone flying through the air and landing right on the sewer grate. My worst fear was that someone was going to kick it accidentally into the sewer. I scrambled to fetch my phone. A few more cracks on the phone, but it’s secure in my hand. I decided to run with the phone in my hand. Luckily this all happened right at the beginning before I really started running, so I didn’t lose time.

The little kids from the Boys and Girls Club flew along with the leaders. I picked up my phone and had a death grip on it and then recommenced the race. As usual the little kids started too fast and quickly decided to stop running. One of the little girls zoomed right past me to cut me and then seconds later decided to stop right on my pathway. I almost mowed her down, but I gently grabbed her shoulders to move her aside, so I could run past her, rather than over her.

I found the decision to have the start line in the parking lot unusual because you had to make a sharp right turn right out of the lot to run on the street. The parking lot was on a quiet street and the police was there to control traffic, so I don’t know why the start line didn’t start on the street. This way we could have had a nice straight start instead of starting by making a sharp turn.

Unfortunately at the first major turn at Columbus Drive, we had no police control over that intersection. The racers were running straight out onto the street and into traffic. Ben let another runner take the lead and another runner followed after Ben. The three of them led the rest of us. I was amazed by how polite and accommodating Jersey City drivers were. As the racers streamed by, a car quickly stopped and I could hear a driver matter-of-factly stating, “Oh, a race is going on,” as he patiently waited for a break.

Because it was a small race, I was able to keep track of the number of female racers ahead of me. I saw two runners in front of me. One of the female racers ran really quickly and I lost sight of her fairly soon. But I knew I was third overall and I wanted to see if I could keep this position. Less than a mile later, a girl passed me and the other girl just ahead me. I didn’t worry about losing my overall position among women because I knew I could pass the girl who was originally in second place. So when we were running on the first pier, I ran past her. She tried to keep up with me. I could hear her music just behind me. But I kept up the pace until I dropped her. My goal was to keep the girl who had passed me in my sights. I knew I couldn’t beat her, but I wanted to keep up with her as much as I could. I used her speed as my pacing guide.

There was no lead bicycle, but the race director assured us that there were plenty of volunteers on the course to direct us. This wasn’t quite true. They should have put a volunteer at every turnaround point (there were several turns in this complicated course). Although there were fair number of volunteers to direct us, there were still a number of places where it was unclear where we needed to go and it was a judgment call. There were a handful of runners in front of me, so I ran wherever they ran. I was really grateful for them because I had no idea what the course was. There’s a large turnaround point in the course where we had to run around the Goldman Sachs building. When I came back around, I could see that several of the runners who were well behind me were not running around the building. Thankfully none of those runners overtook me because I would have been really annoyed if they had “beat” me.

Another place where I got confused was at the second pier. We had to run all the way to the end of the pier and back up, but I had forgotten this. I was really confused why runners were coming back and wondered if we had gone the wrong way. Then I remembered that this was another turnaround point. There wasn’t a cone or anything indicating where we were supposed to turn around exactly. I wanted to run a fair course, so I decided to touch the rail before I could run back.

I was in pain and I couldn’t wait for the race to be done. I was grateful for the police working to manage the traffic so we could have a safe race, but I didn’t have the energy to croak, “Thank you.” I was so happy that a runner behind me yelled thanks every time we passed a cop. Even though during the race I couldn’t say anything, I was really thankful and I would like to take this opportunity now to express my gratitude to the Jersey City Police Department.

One final turn and I could see the flashing lights of a parked police car that indicated where the finish line was. I kicked it up the best I could. As I made the last sharp turn in the chute in the parking lot to cross the finish line, I saw the timing clock. I was hoping to see a 23:XX. What I saw instead blew me away. 22:XX.

WHAT! HOW DID I GO THAT FAST? WHAT HAPPENED?

These were my confused thoughts as I crossed the finish line. There was no timing chip. We were being timed the old fashioned way with someone clicking off a stopwatch  every time a runner crossed the finish line and another volunteer at the end of the chute collecting the tags off our bibs.

Ben rushed up to me to let me know the course was short. He got 2.8 miles on his Garmin and his time was 17:30. Unfortunately because of my IPhone drop, I hadn’t recorded the distance and pace, so I had no idea what I ran. As we waited around, we spoke to other racers and we all agreed the course was short.

The announcement of the winners took a bit of time to clear up because one of the racers had crossed the finish line well ahead of everyone else because he had cut the race so much. That runner told the race director to place him in fourth place.

In the end, Ben took first place overall and I got second place for women. I was really surprised because I was convinced that I was in third place for women. I couldn’t figure out what on earth happened to the first female runner who disappeared so quickly in the beginning. When Ben and I got back home, Compuscore already had the results up, so we did a little investigating/stalking on Athlinks. The woman who came in third is a really fast runner based on her previous races. What we think happened was that there was a group of three racers in the lead (that Ben was a part of) and another group of runner a few minutes behind that I was a part of. We think that the third place woman was somewhere in between the two groups. At some point she got lost with this confusing course and fell behind badly because her finishing time on the short course was much longer than her usual 5K time.

Ben’s race was exciting because he was a part of the lead pack making all the decisions of where we needed to run. At one point he cut the race a bit short, but he made it up by missing a turn and running longer on another part of the course. He came up to the finish line just behind the guy who ended up coming in second place, because that guy failed to realize that you needed to turn into the parking lot to get to the finish line. Ben immediately turned right after the parking booth that was our landmark just before the finish line. By seconds, Ben beat him to the finish. On Compuscore it says that Ben’s time is 16:45 instead of the 17:30 he ran because the guy who crossed the finish line first insisted on moving down to fourth place and Compuscore re-ordered the top four racers, but not the times.

So there you go. You want an awesome time? Either train really hard and hope for a good day, or run a crazy confusing and short course.

In the end Ben and I had a great time. The race director took responsibility, apologized, and promised that it would be better next year. From the general organization of the race, everyone could tell that Club Metro worked really hard to put on a quality event. Sure there were mistakes, but these are the growing pains of a new event. No one held it against them because we believe that they were sincere and overall it was a pretty good race.

I enjoyed getting a complimentary post-race massage from Massage Envy Spa. Two Boots brought pizza originally to sell to racers, but they quickly realized that racers don’t bring money with them. So they ended up donating the pizza to the racers, which was a lovely thing to do. Ben and I got quality medals. His was in “gold” and mine was in “silver.” The medals were a good size and had a nice heft.

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Liege Waffle from Waffle de Lys

After the race, Ben and I had brunch with his friend and girlfriend. We had a huge brunch at Barking Dog, but the best part was getting this incredible Liege waffle from Waffle de Lys in Hoboken. Waffle de Lys, a mobile cart, makes these wonderful Liege waffles, which are my favorite waffles. Liege waffles are slightly sweeter than the regular Belgian waffles because of the large crystalized sugar that’s baked right in the batter. Freshly made, warm from the griddle, and topped off with cool and cream vanilla ice cream, this is a truly decadent treat. Waffle and Dinges in NYC also sells Liege waffles, but theirs is not as good as Waffle de Lys. I recommend following them on Twitter and coming over to Hoboken to taste it yourself. Yes, it’s worth a visit to Hoboken for these waffles.

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