Name of the race: Penguin Pace
Where: Wayne, NJ
Date: Feb 4, 2017
Time: 9:00 am
Distance: 2.67 Miles (short)
Terrain: Fairly flat
Entry fee: $27 ($25 with discount)
Swag: Cotton t-shirt, travel mug, and free photos
Post-race Food: Bagels, cream cheese, hot chocolate, and water
Performance: Overall 13/195; Gender 3/118; Age (30-39) 3/34
Weather: 23 degrees, 42% humidity, winds 8 mph
A race that’s only 2.67 miles long! The distance was intriguing and it was managed by Barwick Group that also manages Grape Gallop, a race held at a vineyard. I greatly enjoyed Grape Gallop, so I knew that I would have a good time at this race too. So I signed up and on a cold winter morning, Ben and I went out to Wayne, NJ.
I wondered why 2.67. Why not a full 5K? Why not 2 miles? Why 2.67? The answer is not nearly as interesting as the question. One lap around the lake is 2.67 miles long. Robert, the race director, thought about doing a 5K, but he wanted to have a race where people ran fast and got back inside even faster. His goal was to create a fun race that got people out running and having fun. He figured the more casual runners were more likely to come out to a flat shorter race than to longer hillier race in chilly weather. As for the more serious runners, we’d get our speed work in for the week.
I timed our drive perfectly. We arrived with just under a half hour til the start. There was plenty of parking at the community center. I got my bib and an old-fashioned shoe chip (a physical chip that had to be tied to my shoe and returned at the finish) and got to use a comfortable warm indoor restroom. You know you’re a runner when you think an indoor restroom is a fantastic perk for a race. There were two outdoor port-a-potties, but very few people were choosing to use those.
The race announcer asked us to seed ourselves appropriately so that the fast runners were up front. A few kids lined up right at the start line, but one of their dads admonished them and indicated that they needed to move back. Being that it was a small field, I took the liberty of seeding myself right at the front.
At the sound of the horn, we all took off. I was the first place female for the first few hundred meters, but another girl overtook me for a hundred meters or so. I easily ran past her because it was clear from her breathing and rapidly declining pace that she shot out like a rocket with no regard for pacing and was blowing up right then and there. We’ve all done this before.
From there on out, I was the lead female for over half the race. I thought I had a legitimate shot of winning the race. The cold air made breathing a little difficult and running felt slightly harder than usual, but I was churning my legs. I started to fear that I was going to lose the lead when I heard the sounds of feet and breathing behind me. I was pretty sure it was a woman. I couldn’t shake her off and I couldn’t run any faster. She eventually passed me and kept going. I settled in for second. About a minute later, a light patter of feet quickly scampered past me and I KNEW there was no way I could keep up, much less pass her. I watched the two women ahead of me fight over first for a half mile. Then the woman who passed me more recently pulled out ahead and ran to first place.
I was getting very tired and it felt like my heart was going to burst. I heard more feet behind me. Heavy footfalls told me it was a male, so I didn’t worry about him passing me. I just had to secure my third place. Then I heard lighter feet. I wondered it was a woman. I could see the finish line ahead of me. Would she suddenly turn on the afterburners and run me down?
Ben turned his head and yelled, “Speed up!” After pacing me for several races, Ben knows what I’m like while I’m running hard. I HATE being told to run faster while I’m approaching the finish line because I’m giving all that I can and I don’t have any more to give. He’s learned not to give me any encouragement whatsoever (other than yelling my name) during the last few hundred meters of a race. On the other hand, Ben had a clear view of where the girl was relative to me and our paces. I was slowing down and she was speeding up. She was going to beat me to the finish line if I continued slowing down.
I heard Ben and knew this was his way of telling me the feet behind me was a girl. With less than .2 miles left, there was NO WAY I was going to lose my third place overall win by being edged out. I whispered to myself, “Okay, Elle, I know it feels like your heart is going to burst, but you’re going to have to run faster and run until your heart actually does burst.” With that, somehow I scraped up whatever energy I had left in me and somehow found a kick that I never had before. I crossed the finish line in 3rd and the other girl crossed a few seconds later.
If you see the pace analysis from Strava above, you can see that I picked up my pace considering in the last .1 mile.
I’m super happy with how I ran toward the finish. I gritted my teeth and pulled out a Leo Manzano-like kick ignoring how much I was hurting. I just didn’t care. I did not work so hard to lose an overall place right before the finish line. If I had to expire from a heart attack to prevent, then so be it.
The award ceremony was about an hour later, so Ben and I went inside to eat bagels and drink hot chocolate. We found the guys who came in 1st and 3rd overall and we started talking to them about running and racing. The guy who came in 1st lives in Jersey City, so we talked about the local races that we did at Liberty State Park (and when I came home and did a little searching on Athlinks, I found out that the three of us actually had been at another race together almost four years ago). The post-race hangout with those guys was quite fun and we all celebrated each other victories.
Then there was a raffle and I won a $10 gift certificate to Wendy’s. I’m not used to winning anything at a raffle, so I stared at my number and thought, “Surely, this isn’t me.” Ben actually had to push me to go collect my winning.
It was an excellent race, and I’m not saying this because I got an award. It’s well-run and with an impressive cream cheese spread for the bagels. There were several delicious flavors to choose from. I got a handy little travel mug that I’ll be using for pre-race coffee in the future. As usual, another fantastic event by Barwick Group. I hope this race happens again next year (this year was the inaugural event) and be sure to check out their other events around New Jersey and Long Island.