Name of the race: Red Hook Crit 5K
Where: Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY
Date: April 28, 2018
Time: 5:00 pm
Distance: 3.1 miles (the course was long and actually 3.22 miles)
Terrain: 5 laps of a curvy 1K course
Entry fee: $40
Post-race Food: None
Swag: Cotton t shirt
Time: Gun time 23:51; Garmin 23:45
Performance: Overall & Gender: 85/147
Weather: 63 degrees, 55% humidity, 8 mph wind
A criterium, or crit, is a bike race on a closed circuit where cyclists complete several laps. It’s a fast-paced race where the danger of crashes is high because of the speed, number of cyclists, and tight turns. As a part of the Red Hook Crit, the cyclists kindly clear their circuit for a couple of hours so runners can take over to do our own “crit.” I heard about this race last year and it sounded like soooooo much fun. I don’t remember why, but I wasn’t able to do it, so I was pumped that I was able to register at the last minute this year.
Because the 5K consisted of 5 laps of a course with lots of tight turns, I wasn’t gunning for a PR. I just wanted to run hard and have a good work out. I didn’t have a strict goal, but I was hoping for a sub-23. Mostly I just wanted to go out and run hard. I was a bit nervous because it’s the first 5K I’ve done this year and I haven’t raced a 5K in several months. I kinda feel that if I don’t race 5K periodically, I forget how to suck up the pain that you feel in the last mile.
I asked Ben to come out with me to watch me race. Ben doesn’t always get to watch me run, so it was nice to have him come out and cheer for me. We ran into Unni, a teammate from PPTC and a friend who came out to cheer, so they hung out a few meters past the start/finish line where they could cheer for everyone.
The Red Hook Crit 5K has a separate women’s heat and a men’s heat because of the closed tight course. Only 200 people can be in each heat. The women’s heat is first at 5 pm. Traffic to Red Hook was heavier than expected, so I had just enough time to park my car, pick up my bib, go to the restroom and then go to start line. I was happy to see my teammates and we wished each other luck. The crit attracts a fast crowd, so I was careful not to be right up front.
The first lap was totally crazy. A huge surge of runners carried me forward. As much as I tried to go out too fast, I did. I found myself trapped in the middle of a big pack and several of those runners, like me, also went out too fast. The problem was that they went out even harder than I did, and unexpectedly slowed down right in front of me. I had to constantly maneuver around them. Runners also slowed way down because of the tight turns. All this contributed to my going out too fast in the first mile because I wanted to get around runners and find an open spot where I could run freely. The other concern I had was in trying to run good tangents, which was tricky because of all the turns.
Before I knew it, I finished the first lap. I heard Ben and Unni cheer, even though I didn’t see them. The nice thing about doing a bunch of laps was that I knew I had more opportunities to look for them next time. By the second lap, I was free of the mob, so I was able to settle in and run. I took a peek at Garmin when it beeped that the first mile passed (6:50 – oops!).
I was surprised by how easy the pace felt. But I knew a couple of things. One, there was no way I could hold it for another two miles and two, I was suspicious about the pace because I knew it was highly likely I wasn’t going to get an accurate distance measure from Garmin because of the course layout. I figured it was unlikely I was actually running a 6:50 mile, but a 7:00 was likely. I decided to slow just a tad and then try to hold that pace til the end.
Before the race, I was worried that I would be bored by running 5 laps of the same course. In reality I was never bored. I found that the five laps went by really quickly. Teammates were scattered along various places along the course, so I was always hearing cheers. The constant turns made being alert for navigating tangents necessary. I had fun chasing down runners and passing them. In the last lap two runners overtook me.
I crossed the finish line in 23:51, according to gun time. They don’t have chip time, but by my own Garmin, I ran in 23:45. Although I did run hard, it didn’t take me too long to recover, so I knew I didn’t go out as hard as I could have. Not having raced a 5K in so long, I forgot how to push and endure the burn. I was a tiny bit bummed out that I didn’t run a sub-23 5K, but considering that this race was meant to be a good workout and I did do that, so I was okay with it. My attitude was, “This was a nice practice to remind me that I need to push harder next time.”
I noticed on Strava that everyone’s Garmin said the course was long, but I didn’t pay any attention to it figuring it was probably due to GPS error. A few days later, I found out that the course was indeed actually too long – 190 meters too long. I went to a pace calculator to see what my time would have been; my time would have been a sub-23. I perked up immediately because this meant that I achieved my goal.
I like running 5Ks because I find that they give a nice snapshot of what my current level of fitness is. Last year I was chasing down a sub-23 5K desperately and now I can do it as a workout without having to go out as hard as I can. I would love to do a PR-friendly 5K just to see what I can do, but nice weather in the East Coast doesn’t last long. Spring is finally here, but this means that hot muggy summer is just around the corner.
Anyway, the Red Hook Crit 5K was a lot of fun and if you’re in Brooklyn, you should definitely do it, especially if you belong to running club. So many club members come out that it feels like more like a club race than a typical road race. Ben and I stayed to cheer on the men of PPTC for their heat before we left for a well-deserved Cuban dinner.