Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Race Report: Redwood City OktobeRun 5K

My plan for this fall originally was to run lots of short, fast races, with nothing except RNR San Jose over 10K. Things got off to a good start with a great 10K and a super fun cross country race, but after that a combination of social obligations, work commitments, and general life stress/exhaustion took their toll and I skipped out on a couple of races I'd been excited to run. To force myself not to skip anymore I went ahead and signed up for three 5Ks (which you can see over there in the right sidebar), of which OktobeRun was the first.

The last time I ran a road 5K was December 2015 when I was celebrating getting over a stress fracture & somehow magically ran right around 22:00 (there were some timing issues but I think that was about right) in spite of being completely detrained. In the scatterplot of my lifetime 5K times, 22:00 (about 7:05 pace) is toward the slow end but still fast enough to feel respectable. (Which of course I only mean relative to myself -- I know plenty of people would LOVE to run anywhere close to a 22:00 5K and for others that's a jog.) In the intervening three years I've tried to run a track 5K twice when I thought I was in pretty good shape but had to drop out both times with a catastrophic calf cramp. So on the one hand, I was hoping that all my speed-specific training would lead me to a ~21-ish 5K this fall, but on the other hand even just finishing a 5K would be an improvement over the last three years!

Of course then the entire left side of my body fell apart; while the last month has included some pretty significant, strong workouts, it has not included a lot of mileage (less than 30 miles each in weeks 6, 7, and 8 and other than this race, none at all in week 9). The Tuesday before the race I tried to do a short easy run just to see how things felt and I had to call it after about two blocks because I could barely put weight on my left foot.

So, the plan was to completely rest this week, and if by Sunday I could even jog without too much pain, just put on my Wonder Woman shorts and go jog it and have fun (and post-race brunch) with my friends.

If you can't be fast, you can at least look fun! (PC: Jen)

I parked at about 6:30am, got my bib, & started warming up. Happily my foot and hamstring felt fine (like, not 100%, but okay), and I thought it was worth trying to run the race. I wasn't even thinking about trying to actually race it or what kind of time/pace I wanted to shoot for; I was just happy that it seemed like maybe I could get a few miles in without my body revolting.

After two easy warm-up miles and a few strides, I dropped off my warmups, changed my shoes, & found my friends. We'd all thought the 5K started at 7:30am with the half, but it turned out it didn't start until 7:45am, which was too bad since that was almost enough time for me to get cold again. Ah well.

Obligatory pre-race pics! (PC: Mr. bt)

At 7:40 Jen and I shoved our way reasonably close to the front. I had no intention of worrying about pace or trying to run a certain time; I just wanted to run just fast enough to have fun and maybe push a little towards the end if my body would let me. The race started and I loped off, trying not to get run over by Redwood City School children and a little stunned to see 6:25's on my watch for the first half mile or so (which is way faster than I have EVER run a 5K so I did not expect that to last at all!).

As it turned out, I didn't look at my watch very often at all; I just tried to run comfortably fast, pushing a little but not so much as to be uncomfortable, & see if I could find people to stick with or slowly reel in.

There was a freeway overpass in the first mile which added some hills I wasn't expecting (though should have been; I work maybe a mile or two away and drive over that same overpass every damn day) but that that wasn't too bad; then there was a little dirt-and-rocks section that I was glad we weren't on for long because racing flats + dirt & rocks = not such a great time. Somewhere around here my watch beeped for mile 1 but I didn't even look at the split. (It was 7:18, ie, the pace at which I ran my September 10K.)

In the second mile there was an extremely brief but VERY steep hop up onto a footbridge. Most of mile two ran around a little housing development on Bair Island (which is not really an island?); I appreciated the fact that instead of a hairpin turnaround, there was a little loop through the houses which is much more efficient. I probably could have run faster in this mile but I just plain did not want to. I felt like I was giving maybe 10K/half marathon effort and was kind of happy just to stick with that. (Mile 2 = 7:28)

Last miles are always fun (well....sort of....) so after the second mile marker I tried to pick it up a little. My left hamstring was starting to hurt and I wasn't totally sure how hard I could push it without something really bad happening, but I wanted to finish at least strong-ish. I feel like I gave it a pretty solid push in the last half mile or so and finished feeling winded but not falling-over-seeing-spots-throwing-up exhausted.

My Garmin said 22:23 and my chip time was 22:24 (~7:13 pace, because GPS error, I dunno??), which I feel like under the circumstances was pretty okay. (Mile 3 = 7:17; ~6:41 pace for the last .1 or whatever) There was some timing weirdness but I think ultimately I ended up 9th woman and 4th in the 30-39 age group once a few anomalous results were removed. So that was cool.

My foot at that point felt fine but my hamstring was immediately VERY put out with me. It felt like it kind of clenched up as soon as I stopped running and just would not let go no matter how much I tried to stretch it out. Still, I was pretty happy that a week of rest had let me run a few fast-ish miles in a row.

So, in contrast to my RNR San Jose experience, I really enjoyed doing this race even though it wasn't a great finish time. I enjoyed racing, particularly without putting the pressure on myself to give 110% OR BUST!!11!!1! Twenty-two minutes felt like just the right amount of time to be out there. I ran fast enough to hurt a little and pushed myself enough to feel satisfied, and I feel like I'm ready (assuming my body cooperates) to slowly start working toward just straight-up set myself on fire right out of the gate again. But that's a mental thing I need to work towards over the next few months. This race was a good first step.

One more fun WonderWoman pic from Jen. ;)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Redwood City, CA

Date: Late October (Sunday, Oct 28, 2018 this year)

Price: $35 + $3.70 processing fee = $38.70. It was $50 on race day but I don't remember if it was ever cheaper (I signed up maybe a month out?). The half was $95 on race day so maybe, I dunno, $75ish if you registered early? Not too terrible for a half.

Deadlines/sellout factor: Race day registration was available for both distances.

Field Size: Finishers:

  • Half Marathon - 272
  • 5K - 458

Staging, Parking, etc.:

The race was staged on Bradford between Jefferson St. & Main St. Bib/shirt pickup were inside the Redwood City School District building which was right there. Also right at the start/finish was a small gear check table & a few porta potties. I arrived early so there were no lines then, but they got kind of long 10-15 minutes before the race.

One of the great things about Redwood City is that there is a TON of both garage and street parking downtown that is free on Sundays, a lot of it within a block or two of the staging site. I arrived at the venue at about 6:30am for the 7:30/7:45am race and basically had my pick of spots in the first garage less than two blocks from the start.

The Course:

This course was completely flat with the exception of one overpass (up and back down again, going out & coming back so you do it twice) & one very short but VERY steep little jump up onto a footbridge (and then back down on the way back). The whole thing was concrete except for maybe a quarter mile stretch on packed dirt/rocks which was not too bad as long as you watched your footing. Not too many turns. There was one water station at the turnaround which was more than sufficient.

I think everyone I talked to about it clocked 3.04-3.06, so it's possible it was a bit short if you were running good tangents. Though there was also a downtown section with taller buildings so it's also possible that there was more GPS error than normal there. In any case I don't think it was way way off.


A reasonably attractive cardinal-red logo tech shirt, which I didn't take, because I keep just giving away my race shirts within a year or two anyway.

If you decide to run:

  • Logistically this is a super easy race. Race day bib pickup, plenty of easy free extremely close parking, AND they still have a gear check right at the finish line.
  • The half started at 7:30am and the 5K started at 7:45am, so although you will have to arrive when it's still dark you have a better chance of cool temperatures (which was nice on this particular day because it was VERY humid and sunny for the Bay Area).
  • I've been to some terribly organized charity races but this one seemed very organized and with it. As long as you don't care a lot about a bunch of swag or rock bands or whatever it's a great local option.

Overall Assessment:

I'd for sure consider running this 5K again if the scheduling worked well for me. There are so many other half marathons that I really like this time of year that I don't know if I would pick this one over those, but I WOULD consider it as say a supported long workout thanks to the price, easy logistics, & the fact that it's pretty close to home.


  1. What a fun race outfit! Sucks that your hamstring keeps giving you trouble, though.