Race Report: 2015 Yiasou Greek Festival 5K

(Originally published August 30, 2015.)

For reasons I don’t completely understand, I really, really really wanted a PR for this race.

First, I need to go back to Monday before the race. After a fairly uneventful run that morning, I noticed as I was walking around work that my left Achilles felt a little sore, especially when going up and down stairs. That’s not something I’ve experienced before. Well, I went home, looked up some stuff, and of course immediately focused on the worst case scenarios, which would be no running for several months. Forget about the 5K, that would mean I’d miss out on the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon.

I went out Tuesday morning for a workout. I got through the intervals, but when it came to the cool down, I could only make it one mile out of two before calling it quits. At this point, I was pretty worried.

Luckily, on Tuesday, my co-worker who wrote my training plan would be back in the office, and I remembered that he had some Achilles problems that he had dealt with. So I asked him for advice. Basically, it can be summed up in one sentence: Stretch the **** out of your calf. Of course, he also said that if it still hurts after that, go see a doctor.

I think I spent most of Tuesday afternoon stretching while still at work. Wednesday was a scheduled rest day, although I did plenty of stretching that morning. And on my next run Thursday morning, it paid off. No Achilles pain. (I had other random fleeting aches and pains, but that’s normal at this point.) Crisis averted.

Now, let’s get to the stuff that’s more related to the actual race.

Since the race is sponsored by Run For Your Life, they offered packet pick-up at all 3 of their locations, and you would choose which one when you registered. I chose University, and drove over there after work Thursday. (Hooray for Thursday packet pick-up!) I got my bib, my shirt, and two tickets to the actual Greek Festival, which isn’t for another two weeks, and I might not even be in town for it. I didn’t notice if they had safety pins, but I decided to recycle some from a previous bib.

Here’s a picture of the shirt, a tech singlet, and my first running shirt without sleeves.


I’m not sure what’s going on with the light in that picture. The shirt is just a solid medium blue. They actually had gender specific shirts, which I don’t recall seeing at any of my previous races. In case you were wondering, the women’s version is pink.

So, according to my training plan, I was supposed to run a 4 mile warm up before the race, then a 5 mile cool down afterward. I talked about my strategy with my co-worker who created my plan. He said that I should try to minimize the breaks between the runs. He also said that, since I was really trying for a PR in the race, I might want to switch it so my warm up is only 3 miles, and the cool down is 6. That sounded good to me. I’d make sure I got 9 miles in outside the race, and anything I couldn’t get to in the warm up, I’d just add to the cool down.

Also, since they mentioned there wouldn’t be a whole lot of parking near the start, I decided I would drive over to Freedom Park and leave my car there. That would be a little over a mile from the start of the race, so I could use that as part of my warm up.

On race morning, I got up, took a shower, ate some peanut butter on whole grain bread and a handful of Goldfish crackers (salt is good when you know you’ll be sweating), drank some water, used the bathroom, and headed out.

I discovered that East Boulevard was already closed near the Greek Orthodox Cathedral at around 6:35, just over an hour before the race. It made sense, since the Starting Line (and Finish Line) were there. I went over one block and made my way toward Freedom Park. Then I realized I was going to need to use the bathroom again. Argh.

I got to Freedom Park and did my business, (While the bathrooms at Freedom Park are nothing to write home about, I suspect they’re a whole lot better than the Port-a-Potties I would have dealt with closer to the starting line.)

By the time I started running my warm up, it was 6:52. This was less than ideal.

I made my way up East Boulevard, and ran down a couple of the side streets. I ended up running down Dilworth Road East and Dilworth Road West, which were part of the course, although I ran them in the opposite direction of the race. As I got closer to the starting line, it was almost 7:20, and I didn’t want to miss the start. So I stopped at the 2.5 mile mark. I could have run a little longer, but I didn’t think I’d get to another milestone in time. Oh well, guess I’d have to run 6.5 miles afterwards.

According to my Garmin, it was 63 degrees when I started my warm up run, and 66 at the start of the race. It was still kind of humid, but definitely cooler than it has been. For August, we really lucked out on the weather.

I made my way over to the starting line, and around 7:25, I took this picture.

2015-08-29 07.24.46

They only decorated the Finish Line side, so this side looks a bit spartan.

Right after I took that picture, they announced that we could start on either side of East Boulevard. I decided to move over to the left side in the hopes I could get slightly closer to the starting line. So I took another picture after I moved.

2015-08-29 07.27.10

There’s a timing mat somewhere up there, trust me.

They let people with strollers start right at 7:30 (something I’ve never seen at a race, but I appreciated it), and then, two minutes later, they gave the signal, and we were off.

The very beginning of the race had a slight downhill. I looked down at my watch and saw that my pace was 7:09. Whoa. Time to slow down a bit.

I eventually settled in at a fast (for me) but more reasonable pace, and finished the first mile in 8:28, which was the fastest mile I had ever run up to that point. (Yes, that’s foreshadowing.)

I hung on during mile 2. I did slow down to a walk for the water stop, which was around the 1.8 mile mark. It’s a good sign that I can’t really tell where it is based on my pace graph. It was still humid, and I had run 2.5 miles before the race, so I figured I needed to make sure I drank the water instead of trying to wear it. Because of the water stop, I finished mile 2 in 9:06. Still, that’s faster than my previous 5K PR pace, so I figured I was in pretty good shape.

I kept going on Mile 3, constantly doing the math in my head. I was thinking I probably had it, but I wouldn’t know for sure until I got to the finish line. It was tough, both physically and mentally, but I didn’t slow down. Mile 3 was 8:36.

The last .13 was slightly uphill. Remember that downhill at the very beginning? Yeah, we had to take it in reverse at the end. Still, I managed to pick up the pace, and I finished this last section at an average pace of 7:43/mile.

My watch said 27:10. The clock had said 27 something. I got my PR. My official time ended up being 27:09.

I couldn’t stick around for very long after the race, since I had another 6.5 miles to run. I grabbed a banana, a bottle of water, and a miniature Clif Bar. They also had some granola bars and bagels. They were giving away small canvas bags to carry your post-race snacks, but considering my car was over a mile away and I wasn’t done running, I passed.

The post-run free beer was Michelob Ultra, not local and not good. Granted, I wouldn’t be able to partake even if they had a good beer available, but I’d still like to see local beers at these races.

They had a booth with a couple of laptops so you could get your results, but the line was really long, and I didn’t really have time to wait. So I left without knowing my exact time, but I did know that I had a PR.

Before I left, I had to take one last picture.

2015-08-29 08.13.57

Yes, that’s a spire from the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the background. That was semi-planned. I was in a hurry, and planned on taking one shot. It just so happened that I managed to get the spire in my shot.

I found out later that, according to my Garmin, I set a new record for my fastest mile ever, 8:25.4. I suspect that was the last mile, from 2.1 miles to the end. Pretty good considering I had never broken 9 minutes for a mile before.

I’m really happy with my result. I’m not sure I want to do specific training runs before and/or after a race again. It added some stress, and I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy myself more if I didn’t have to worry about the other two runs.

Overall, it’s a good race, and it’s on my radar for next year. And if nothing else, I can say that I got the PR that I wanted.