After an extended absence, I’m happy to report that I’m still here and still working through my 50 state challenge. My first new state in a long time was New Jersey, which I’ll tell you all about after filling you in on the 2018 season-that-really-wasn’t.
Where I’ve Been
Essentially, last year really got away from me, as did some of this year. Though I’d had my eye on several races, life and injuries kept getting in the way. Most notably, there was the situation with my cat. As you might remember, she had her first bout of major illness around the time I started this blog in 2017. Though she mostly bounced back from that, she had been touch-and-go since then. Trying to plan trips around flare-ups, though not impossible, definitely got tricky, especially while also taking her medical expenses into account. Then this year around April, she had a worse flare-up than usual. Long story short, it turned out she actually had a rare presentation of aggressive feline lymphoma, which ultimately took her to the Rainbow Bridge a few weeks ago.
For my own part, I spent most of the 2018 running season battling a frustrating case of IT band syndrome. Though it only flared up intermittently, usually at longer distances, I could not seem to shake it, no matter how much stretching or foam rolling I did. Finally, after feeling the familiar stabbing pain two miles into a treadmill run this past winter, I went back to see my awesome physical therapist.
Within five minutes, she determined the problem was actually that my hips were out of alignment, thanks to poor sitting habits (don’t cross your legs at the knee or sit on your feet, kids!). I’m happy to say that after improving how I sit at work, continuing with my glute-strengthening “pre-hab” exercises as I now call them, and upping my foam-rolling game to include substantial work on the glutes, I’ve mostly been free of the IT band beast.
With that, onto the New Jersey race report!
The Stone Harbor Hustle 5K
My adventures this summer included a short trip with the family to the Jersey Shore. Ocean City was a favorite vacation spot when my sister and I were kids, and we all still love visiting even though everyone is all grown up now.
My grown-up way to have fun at the Jersey Shore, of course, involved morning runs on the boardwalk and a race. Lucky for me, the Sunday we were there overlapped with the annual Stone Harbor Hustle 5K, about 30 minutes from where we were staying.
My sister agreed to run it with me. We have a friendly rivalry going on after the last couple of Turkey Trots we’ve done together, in particular the one we did in 2018. That race was not my best ever by any stretch. For one, I failed to officially sign up before the race sold out, so I ended up banditing the race (shhh…) with my mom’s bib. Somewhere out in cyberspace, there is a relatively impressive 5K time recorded for my mom, who I should point out does not run. I still am being made fun of for that one and probably will be for the rest of my life. Worse, I caught a cold in the flying germ tube on my way to Ohio, so really the only thing I wanted to be doing on race morning was sleeping, not running. But I ran the race anyway. In the end, what felt to be a Herculean effort on my part barely got me to the finish line in under 30 minutes, and once I crossed it, I immediately began dry heaving into the bushes off to the side. Meanwhile, my sister who hadn’t even really trained for the race happily trotted over the finish line a couple minutes later. So not cool.
The gauntlet had been thrown, so Stone Harbor was going to be our “final showdown.” Who cared that race morning had dawned 76 degrees with about 80% humidity? It was ON. After a short drive down to Stone Harbor, of course with the family along for the adventure, we stripped into the legal minimum of clothing at the start line. I also took the extra step of pouring half a bottle of water over my head as a pre-cooling measure.
“Oh my god you are so dramatic!” My sister jabbed playfully in our final round of trash-talking.
“Um, you’re going to WISH you were so dramatic!” I teased back.
Despite the heat, once the race started, I took off and never looked back (or so my sister tells it). The course itself was almost completely flat, which helped make up for the feeling of running through atmospheric soup. Even so, I felt better about the heat than I did during my Swarthmore race two years ago. At the finish line, I ended up posting my second-best 5K time ever and still broke 9:00/mile pace. Most importantly, I scored a decisive victory in the sibling rivalry (though it should be said that my sister finished strong, even if feeling a bit warm).
“Yeah, you weren’t being dramatic,” my sister admitted at the finish line.
I smiled to myself, however I will not be resting on my laurels. After all, the 2019 Turkey Trot is just around the corner!