Race Report: 2016 Yiasou Greek Festival 5K

Hottest. Race. Ever.

I survived, even though I’m such a glutton for punishment that I ran an extra 9(!) miles total. Like I said on Facebook, marathon training is serious.

I’ll start with packet pickup on Thursday. I always appreciate it when Saturday races have Thursday packet pickup. I drove over to the University location of Run For Your Life after work. The bibs weren’t pre-assigned, which seemed unusual for a race of this size. They handed me bib #351, from the top of a stack of bibs, and made a note on the computer that that would be my bib number for the race. They offered me safety pins, but I have more than enough from previous bibs. I also got two tickets to the actual Greek Festival which starts on September 8, and a t-shirt. Sadly, it’s not a tech t-shirt, but it looks nice.

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Of course it’s blue. All my shirts are blue. (Not really, but I do have a lot of blue race shirts.) They had gender specific shirts again this year, and the women’s shirt was a light orange.

A friend of mine invited me to join him for drinks after work on Friday. This seemed like a bad idea for several reasons. Obviously, I was running a race the next morning. I also had planned on driving to Raleigh (almost 3 hours away) after the race. My friend picked a place, Blue, that’s in downtown Charlotte, which I’d have to ride the light rail to get to. And the light rail was going to be packed with Panthers fans, because they were playing a preseason game Friday night. In spite of all of that, I decided to go.

I made it up there, a little later than I had hoped, mainly due to all the Panther fans (No offense to Panther fans, I usually root for you guys). I ordered a beer, and met a guy who works with my friend. Of course the topic of running came up, and my friend’s co-worker mentioned that he wanted to put together a Ragnar Relay team. Ragnar has been on my radar for a while, so I was really excited to find someone else who’s interested. Moral of the story: Just say yes, you never know what will happen.

I did manage to get home and get to bed at a decent hour. I don’t usually sleep well the night before a race. I guess it could have been worse, but it could have been a whole lot better.

Now, my training plan had me running a 4 mile warm up run, then the 5K race, then 5 miles after the race. Last year, I got a late start due to some bathroom issues, and could only run 2.5 miles before the race. This year, I wanted to get the 4 miles in. I did the math, and figured I’d need to start running sometime between 6:30 and 6:40, so I’d need to get up around 5 AM. Ugh.

I got up, showered, got dressed, ate two Clif bars, drank a bunch of water, brushed my teeth, used the bathroom, and took a pre-emptive store brand Imodium AD. (It worked.) I brought my FlipBelt with me, not because I needed to carry a bunch of stuff with me, but I needed a place to put my medal. (The medal was new this year. I’m not a big fan of medals for 5Ks to begin with, and I’d have to run while carrying the medal. I know I should be grateful for the medal, and I know it’s a First World Runner Problem, but it’s still inconvenient.) I brought a Gu as well, and decided to use it right before I started my warm up run.

I drove over to Freedom Park. It works out pretty well. I’ve heard that the parking close to the starting line is a mess, but Freedom Park is about a mile away from the starting line, so there’s plenty of parking, and I needed an extra mile for my warm up anyway.

I put on some sunscreen, ate my Gu, drank some water from the water fountain, and started running at 6:36 AM. I did some quick math, and figured I had enough time for 4 easy miles. The problem is that it was already 73 degrees and really freaking humid.

I ran a little bit along the greenway, ran back to East Boulevard, and headed toward the starting line. I ran down a couple of side streets, then down Dilworth Road East and Dilworth Road West, in the opposite direction that I’d be running in the race.

I was approaching the 3.5 mile mark, and I realized that while I had enough time to get that last half mile, I needed time to try to cool off (or at least stop heating up) more than I needed that distance. I stopped my warm up at 3.51 miles. (In a freaky coincidence that I didn’t realize until later, my bib number was 351.) I figured I’d add the half mile to my “cool down” run, so it would be 5.5 miles.

They had some water bottles out before the race, so I grabbed one and quickly drank it. It helped a little. I then wandered over toward the starting line, and took this picture.

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It’s no fun standing around waiting for a race to start when your shirt is already drenched with sweat. I felt bad for the people standing around me.

One difference I noticed this year is that the Greek Cathedral was being renovated, and part of the parking lot was closed, so a lot of stuff was moved around from last year. The sound system was noticeably worse this year. I couldn’t really hear anything, but at some point, I heard what sounded like a countdown, and we were off. I crossed the starting line at 7:34 AM.

I should have moved up a little closer to the starting line. I had to work around several slower runners, and an older guy in jorts(!). Setting aside for a moment the fashion merits (or complete lack thereof) of jorts, who runs in denim? And in August, in Charlotte? Crazy. Anyway, I still managed to finish Mile 1 in 8:58, which wasn’t terrible, but sadly, it would turn out to be my fastest mile.

In Mile 2 I had gotten past the slower runners, but the heat was taking its toll. At around the 1.8 mile mark, we got to the water stop. I power walked through and grabbed a cup of water. As I started running again, I felt all of that water in my stomach. My overall pace had crept up to over 9:00/mile, and with the heat, I knew I wasn’t getting a new PR. (I guess it means I don’t have to update the banner with a new picture for my 5K PR. Yet.) Knowing that I had another 5.5 miles to go after the race, I pulled back a bit. Eventually, my stomach felt better, but the heat and humidity were still brutal. I finished Mile 2 in 9:42.

Mile 3 didn’t get any better. I did notice a black and white cat sitting next to a group of spectators, and decided that I’d look up the Greek word for cat, and that would be my nickname for the cat. According to Google translate, it’s “Γάτα” (or, when spelled phonetically, “gáta”). So, black and white cat, I now name you Γάτα. I finished the mile in 9:47, giving me the dreaded positive split. Ugh.

I did manage to rally right at the end, even though it’s the only uphill part of the course, and for the last .12, my pace was 7:51/mile. I crossed the finish line and heard them call my name, which is always a nice touch.

They gave me a medal and a small canvas bag. Inside the bag was a whole banana and two mini muffins. The muffins had some kind of reddish berries in them that I couldn’t identify. Bits of strawberries is my best guess. The muffins basically tasted like sugar, which, at the time, wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I grabbed another bottle of water to wash down my food and try to cool off a little.

The free beer was Michelob Ultra, which, even though I really couldn’t drink beer at that point, is still disappointing. It’s definitely not local, and in my opinion, it’s not good either.

They had some laptops set up where we could look up our time, so I went over to get the official result, which was 29:22. (My Garmin had me at 29:24 and 3.12 miles, so I did a pretty good job of starting and stopping my watch on time.)

I’ll say this, in spite of all the construction, they did a pretty good job keeping everything organized. Other than the sound system, I can’t really complain. (I can complain about the weather, but the organizers can’t do much about that.)

Anyway, after some orange juice and some Gatorade (I wouldn’t recommend that to most people, but they ran out of bottled water, I needed hydration, and apparently I have a really strong stomach), I took the obligatory car key picture.

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(Side note: Later that day, my phone died. I don’t know exactly what happened, but it was very sudden. So this picture ended up being the last picture I would take with my LG G4.)

With that, I posted my picture on Facebook, put my medal in my Flip Belt, and started my final 5.5 miles. Ideally, I should minimize the break between the race and the “cool down” portion of my run. I took 38 minutes. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that long, but I’m not a machine. I mean, at that point, it was up to 82 degrees. I did stop at my car to drop off my medal, and I also stopped at every water fountain. It wasn’t pretty, but I survived. (5.51 miles, for a total of 12.12 miles for the day.)

I have mixed feelings about my performance. I was hoping for a better time, and I’m disappointed that I got slower on each mile, except for the small kick near the end. I was slower than last year, but it was much warmer this year. I feel like that’s the story of my current training cycle, my paces are slower, but this summer has been so much more hot and humid. (Also, I’m fairly certain that if I had stayed home Friday night, I still would have had a similar result, so I definitely don’t regret going out.) Other than the water stop, I didn’t take any walk breaks, so there’s that.

I finished 2 minutes and 15 seconds slower than last year. Last year, it was 66 degrees with a little humidity. This year, it was 79 degrees with a whole lot of humidity. I may not have gotten a PR, but I did set one new record. 79 degrees is the hottest temperature I’ve seen at the start of a race, breaking the record of 76 degrees at the 2014 OrthoCarolina 10K Classic. I still think OrthoCarolina had higher humidity, and not only was it twice as long, it definitely had a much more difficult course. Still, to put it in perspective, I did finish faster in this race than my first 7 5Ks.

One other note, I thought that this would be the last run ever in my 4th (and last) pair of Brooks Adrenaline 15 shoes. I retire my shoes at 400 miles, and I thought the 12.1 miles would put me right at 400, but apparently there was a math EPIC FAIL on my part, and I ended the day with 399.9 miles. (I ran in them one last time the week after the race, putting them at 406.9 miles.)

Vital Stats (This is something I haven’t done in any previous race reports.)

Full Name of Race: Yiasou Greek Festival 5K presented by Novant Health
Location: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 600 East Boulevard, Charlotte.
Date and Time of Race: August 27, 2016, 7:30 AM (Actual start: 7:33 AM)
Bib Number: 351
Official Finishing Time: 29:22, 9:27/mile. 460th of 1,105 Overall, 53rd of 77 in Age Group (Male 40-44)