A freak neck injury and the Media 5 Miler

On weekdays I set two alarms. The first acts as a warning that morning is approaching and gives me a chance to savor my final moments in bed. Then, five minutes later, the “real” alarm goes off and Matt, Piper and I begin our day.

Last Thursday morning started out like any other day. At 6:11 I silenced the first alarm and blissfully snoozed for a few more minutes. Then at 6:16 I jerked awake in surprise and whipped my head to the right to reach the off button. As soon as I rotated my head back to center I felt a shooting pain and knew something was wrong with my neck. The very act of lifting my head off the pillow was excruciating and I was unable to turn my head to the right. Uh oh!

I gingerly lifted my head out of bed and somehow got ready for work. It’s a good thing Matt and I work together because there’s no way I could have safely driven a car in this condition. Every bump and dip in the road was a nerve-wracking jolt and I spent our short commute focusing on keeping my gaze facing forward and slightly to the left to avoid the acute pain on my right side.

With slow stretching, ibuprofen, and ice my range of motion incrementally increased throughout the day. I was worried about my neck but knew that this pretty much had to a muscular injury since I could pinpoint the exact minute that it occurred. The real question was, would I be able to race 5 miles on Friday night???

Post-Race in front of the Delco Courthouse

Spoiler: I raced and my head is still attached!

I woke up Friday feeling a little better. I still had to twist my entire torso to look right, but the slight improvement gave me hope.  I hydrated and ate during the day as if I was going to race and then did a test run on the treadmill after work to see if my neck could handle a jog.  I ran a half mile without too much pain and decided that I was going to give the race a try!

36 hours and 44 minutes after my bizzare injury (because really, who hurts themselves turning off an alarm??!) I lined up with 1600 runners for the 37th Annual Media 5 Mile race. In 2014 I finished this race in 42:57 and last year I had a big improvement with a 41:03. In 2016 my goal – at least before my neck issue! – was to better my time for the third year in a row.

The Media 5 Mile course consists of two hilly loops through the borough of Media.  Residents were out in force, lining the streets to cheer on the runners and setting up water stations and garden sprinklers to keep us cool.  Staying cool was much easier this year since the weather was unseasonably pleasant, with temps in the upper 70s and low humidity. That’s about as good as it gets for a mid-June race around here!

Mid Race

Mile 1 chirped by in 7:37 and before I knew it I was at the bottom of the big 8th Street hill.  The hill didn’t seem so bad and I was able to accelerate when I reached Jackson Street the top. Then I turned left onto 6th Street and realized that another block-long uphill climb awaited. (Why hadn’t I noticed this hill the previous two years?)  I felt tired so I gave little kids high-fives rather than kill myself up the hill. Mile 2 was over in 8:03.

I left the hilly section of lap 1 behind and tried to pick up my pace as I ran along State Street past the huge crowds of encouraging spectators. Mile 3 chirped by in 8:04… a little disappointing considering that there had only been a few small hills during this split, but I didn’t dwell on my time.  I grabbed a water at the nearest water station, sloshed a little around in my mouth and dumped the rest over my head. It was time to focus on round 2 of the hills!

Both the 8th Street and 6th Street hills seemed longer and steeper the second time around as I trudged up them. Still, I knew that through mile 3 I had been well ahead of the average pace (8:13) that I needed to maintain to beat last year’s time. When my Garmin reported that the 4th mile had taken me 8:43 to complete I got a little worried, but then I saw the big clock that the race organizers placed at mile marker 4 ticking through the 32:20s. I realized then that I would definitely beat last year’s time and even had a chance to break 40 minutes if I rallied hard enough in the final mile!

Media 5 Mile Stats_

I turned onto Edgmont Street with a new feeling of determination and passed several people as I took advantage of the slight decline. My momentum carried me all the way to Barrell Park where I knew I only had a half mile to go. The uphill block back to State Street seemed like it would never end, but finally I was back on the main drag, pushing towards the finish with every ounce of energy I had left.  I zoomed through the finish with a chip time of 40:13… 50 seconds faster than last year!

Media 5 Mile Finish

Lucky for me my neck ended up being a non-issue.  If anything, the more I ran the looser and better it felt! I only noticed the disconcerting, shooting pain during the two times I pounded down the steep hill at the west end of State Street because this made my stride a little more jolting than usual.

Maybe I could have broken 40 minutes without the distraction of my neck, but overall I am very happy with my new course PR and extremely thankful that I was able to run at all!  Now I just have to be more careful with that stupid alarm clock…

Thank you to Matt for cheering me on and taking photos!

Thank you to Matt for cheering me on and taking photos!

Miles since last post: 2
Days since last post: 8
2016 MILES: 841.9
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Media 5 Mile

Media 5 Miler - me smiling at the start!

On Friday, June 19th I ran the Media 5 Miler for the second year in a row.  In the 6 weeks prior to this race I had been struggling with feeling burned out and tired but I’m happy to report that I pulled it together and finished the race more than a minute and a half faster than last year!!

After last year’s crowded start experience I purposefully positioned myself a lot closer to the starting line this year which was definitely better.  The gun went off promptly at 7PM and seconds later I crossed the start line at a comfortable jog.  (A big improvement over my 30 second lag and shuffle-walk start in the crowd last year!)  I had decided to run without music and as a result I felt much more focused and aware of my surroundings.  Focus can be a good thing and a bad thing during a race… it gives you time to think about your goals, running form, etc. but also means that you have 40+ minutes to reflect on how hot, tired, and slow you feel!

Media 5 Miler first lap turning down Olive Street

I’m #1480, in case you couldn’t tell from my HUGE smile. I love it when I spot Matt during a race!

I never felt too tired or slow during the Media 5 Miler, but with 80+ degree temps I was definitely hot!  Luckily this race has fantastic crowd support and many spectators had garden hoses, squirt guns and sprinklers to keep the runners cool.  Since I was running without a phone or sunglasses I made a point of running through every bit of water I could find and that felt GREAT!

Media 5 Mile Stats

Overall my splits were solid but nothing crazy.  I ended up much faster than last year’s Media 5 but significantly slower than my 5 mile PR time of 39:11 from Brian’s Run last December.  Nevertheless, December weather is approximately 2 million percent better for racing so I’ll take a 41:03 in the summer heat and humidity!!  In hindsight I definitely could have finished in under 41 minutes but with the chip versus clock timing I didn’t realize how close I was to that threshold.  Oh well! 😄

The morning after the Media race Matt and I headed south to Bethany Beach, Delaware for a 5 day vacation and family reunion.  The hot weather was perfect for the beach and we had a fantastic time. (Plus, I REALLY appreciated the flat terrain for my morning runs!!)  Two weeks later we visited the Jersey shore for another beach weekend, and next week we’re headed to upstate New York for yet another long weekend with friends and family.  Life is good!  That being said, I’ve been having so much fun relaxing this summer that I’ve rarely found time to blog, but that’s OK with me.  When fall arrives and cooler weather sets in I’m sure I’ll find more time for races, running, and blogging!

In the meantime, I do have one race on my schedule.  On August 13th I’ll be racing a single MILE on the Henderson High School Track as part of the “Bring Back the Mile” race series.  I haven’t raced a mile since May 2003 so this should be interesting!!!

Miles since last post: 161.2
Days since last post: 34
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.82
2015 MILES: 959.8

 Past Races:

•  May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3), Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
•  April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11), Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26)
•  March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
•  February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
•  January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
•  December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5), Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7), Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
•  November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
•  October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
•  September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
•  August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [PR]
•  July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18)
•  June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
•  May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
•  April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/, Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
•  March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
•  February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
•  January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
•  December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [PR]
•  November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
•  October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [PR]
•  September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Media 5 Miler – My biggest race yet!

On Friday night I ran the 34th annual Media 5 Mile Race in the borough of Media, a walkable (runnable!) little town located 12 miles west of Philadelphia.  Matt and I lived in Media for a few years before buying our house and although we cheered runners on in the past this was my first time actually running in Media’s biggest race of the year.

880 Media 5 Mile Race Start

The race was well organized with bib pick up on Wednesday, port-a-pottys available on random street corners around town, and polite, happy crowds.  The local police closed down the streets that the race course followed well in advance of the start time and the people living along the course set up chairs, signs, water stations and, in a few cases, sprinklers and hoses to prepare for the two 2.5 mile laps that the runners would make through their neighborhoods.

With 1,600 runners, the Media 5 Miler was my largest race to date.  (I know, still not that big compared to say, Broad Street’s 40,000 runners, but it was big for me!)  The sheer number of runners made the start a little difficult.  There were no corrals or pace groups, meaning that all of the runners were gathered in one huge crowd extending back from the starting line.  When the starter said “GO” it took several seconds for the crowd around me to even start moving.  Luckily the race was chipped so my official time didn’t begin until 29 seconds later when I actually crossed the starting line, but all of the runners around me basically shuffle-walked the first quarter mile or so before moving into a slow jog (with constant people-dodging) through the first several turns of the race.

The crowd of runners finally started to thin out when we hit the first big hill around the 1 mile mark.  Matt and I had jogged the course on Wednesday so I knew the hill was coming (and I knew that it kept going up around the next turn!) and I felt mentally ready for it.  I high-fived a runner wearing a giant pickle costume on the way up the hill before finally falling into what felt like a normal pace at the top of the hill.  At the end of the first lap we looped back around to State Street and I spotted Matt on the sidewalk taking photos.  Here I am smiling for the camera.

The second lap felt a lot harder.  Those hills that I had confidently powered up during lap 1 suddenly seemed like mountains and I trudged up them at a slow jog.  Luckily I felt a little better by the time I got to the top and before I knew it there was just a mile left to go.  I told my legs to go faster and somehow that worked (!) and I managed to make my 5th and final mile my fastest split of the race.  Woohoo!

My official chip finish time was 42:57, just 10 seconds off of my PR from March.  I would have really liked to beat my March time, but considering how I was stuck in major foot traffic during the first mile (something I definitely didn’t deal with in March) I think Friday’s race was a better overall performance.  I’m really excited about my last split… 7:54 on Friday vs. March’s 8:36 (!) and I know that I could have comfortably run a much faster first mile if I had had the room to do so.

So guess what this means?  That I’m signing up for another 5 mile race, of course!!  I’ll be running in the Swarthmore Lions Independence Eve 8K on July 3rd, this time with a much smaller crowd and more 5 mile experience to fall back on.

Miles since last post:  101.5
Days since last post:  22
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.79
2014 TOTAL MILES: 822.8

Related Posts:
•  Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1/14)
•  Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30/14)
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14)
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-A-Muck 5K (9/22/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)