Race for the Dream 8K Recap

Or the day it felt like I ran through Hades.

Several months ago I saw an ad for the Race for the Dream in Williamsburg. I’ve always loved that area so I thought it would be fun to do a race there, especially since it runs through the colonial section. Since it was probably cold when I signed up for it, I didn’t really stop to think how hot it might be.

Since Joe recently switched contracts to work at the Pentagon, he couldn’t take time off to do the race. So I asked Mom and Dad if they wanted to come with me. We headed down on Friday because the race was at 8 a.m. Saturday. We stayed at the Woodlands Hotel and Suites since the race expo was in the hotel’s conference center and the shuttles to the race start left from there. Aside from a bit of a confusing entrance, it was a great place to stay. It was cozy and conveniently located. They had a restaurant, mini golf, ping pong, horse shoes, a pool and shuffleboard on site which was nice for those with kids. And they had a pretty amazing spread for their continental breakfast. Their rates were pretty good too. I got a discount as a racer. I forget what exactly I paid, but it wasn’t bad at all.

Our room at the Woodlands Hotel and Suites.

Once we got to the hotel, I relished the air conditioning for a while (we still don’t have AC in our apartment). While Dad relaxed in the room, Mom and I headed over to the expo so I could pick up my race packet. The expo was pretty small, only a few vendors, but it was very efficient. I got a t-shirt and a bag with a few other little goodies. And Mom made a sign to take to the race the next day.

For dinner, we wanted some thing easy and not insanely heavy so we drove to the main drag in Williamsburg and ended up at Friendly’s because we’re fancy like that. I had a BLT and a few bites of Mom and Dad’s sundaes (since they ordered from the senior menu, they got free sundaes).  Although I probably should have eaten something a tad healthier, the BLT actually really hit the spot and I never felt it when I was running the next morning.

On Saturday, I got up at 6 to get ready. I had signed up for the last possible shuttle at 7:10 because I was so close to the shuttle stop and I had no idea what I would do with myself if I got to the race any earlier. I ate a Luna protein bar and grabbed a banana from the continental breakfast. When I went outside to get on the bus, I tried to tell myself it wasn’t too hot. There was a breeze and in the shade it felt okay. Sure, I’ll totally be fine, I told myself.

I have to commend the race directors for the efficiency of the shuttles. They kept coming, one after another, and they never checked what time you had booked. They just kept loading people on. The ride to the drop off only took about 10 minutes, although we had to walk about half a mile from the drop off to the race start. I was a little bummed about that at first and then I saw one of the wounded warriors who would be racing in the handcycle race and felt stupid for grumbling.

The William & Mary campus, near where the race started.

Walking to the starting area.

The best part of the pre-race festivities was the colonial drummers and piccolo players. The race director from the Boston Marathon also happened to be the race director for this race and he gave a pretty emotional speech. We also learned before the race that eight service members would be carrying a 165-pound dummy through the course in honor of all the wounded warriors (the race benefits Wounded Warriors and An Achievable Dream). It was an emotional start to the race and pretty motivating really.

Best race music ever.

The handcycle racers lining up.

After standing in the sun at the start line for 20 minutes, we were finally off. The drummers and piccolo players were still going as we ran across the start line which was pretty awesome. We ran through a few neighborhood streets before we finally began running through the colonial parts of Williamsburg. The first mile, even though it took 9:40, went by really fast. Then the reality of the heat and the humidity began to sink in. It was 75 degrees with 83% humidity when we started. The humidity was killer. For most of the course, there was no shade so you had the sun beating down on you. I knew at that point I probably wouldn’t be reaching my goal of 45 minutes because there was no way I was going to maintain nine minute miles in that heat.

Still, there was a great spirit and a lot of positivity on the course. I passed the service members (in full uniform by the way) carrying the dummy and clapped as I ran by. They were getting a lot of thank yous and were really appreciative of all the encouragement they were getting. I may or may not have choked down a tear at that point. Close to mile two, a bunch of really enthusiastic ROTCers cheered us on. I couldn’t help but smile. And then finally around mile 2 we got a drink of water.

As I was getting to mile 3, I still felt pretty good. Mom had texted me before the race to let me know that her and Dad would be near the water station at mile 3 so I was eagerly scanning the sidelines for them. Knowing I’d see them soon put a bit of a pep in my step. I finally saw them from a bit of a distance and waved. Mom had her sign and Dad took a picture as I ran by. They yelled that I was doing great and that I was almost there. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated having them there. It gave me something to look forward to during the race and helped me maintain my motivation to that point.

Mom with the sign she made for me.

One of the handcyclers on the course.

I’m still alive and smiling!

And then after the water station at mile 3 (where I dumped most of my cup of water over my head), I started to struggle. I started telling myself that I had already done my hottest 5K ever so I could stop and walk for a bit. A lot of people were walking at this point and it would have been easy to do the same. But somehow I kept going. I told myself it was fine to slow down but I just had to keep moving. And I cursed myself for signing up for a 10K in July. (Note to self: no more summer races.)

I finally got close to the finish line, which was inside Zable Stadium on the William & Mary campus. The only problem is that you have to run a big loop around the stadium before the finish, so you basically have to hear the announcer yelling the names of runners who are finishing for most of the last mile. Thankfully there was a lot of shade on the back side of the stadium but I was still dripping sweat. The last half mile felt an eternity. There was a mister before you ran into the stadium so that you could cool down just a bit before you made that final push. Running into the stadium and onto the track was pretty awesome. We had to run about 3/4 of a lap, which felt a tad bit defeating because all I wanted to do was stop. But I picked it up a bit at that point and heard the announcer yell my name as I went by (the only time I will hear my name being announced in a sports stadium). I crossed the finish line at 47:59. My watch said the course was exactly 5 miles rather than 4.97, but really, what difference does that .03 make?

I got my water and my medal and wanted to just collapse in the shade. But I still had to find my parents. They were off in the colonial section where a nice farmer’s market had been set up. We skipped the post-race festivities and I ended up stuffing my face with a doughnut from 7-11 instead.

My medal after I wiped the sweat off.

My race splits:

Mile 1: 9:40

Mile 2: 9:35

Mile 3: 9:37

Mile 4: 9:44 (I was definitely struggling here)

Mile 5: 9:23

According to the official race results, I finished 34th (out of 167) in my age group so I was really happy with that. Overall, I finished 569th out of 2,079. Although I didn’t meet my 45 minute goal, I still bested my time from my last 8K (49:13) and was proud of the fact that I never stopped to walk considering how hot it was. It was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done, probably second only to the half-marathon. I didn’t have Joe there to push and encourage me so I had to rely on myself. My parents were also part of my motivation on the course. Just knowing that they were around mile 3 got me to that point.  And my dad told me after the race that he was amazed at how fresh I still looked when I went by, so that was encouraging. And I was still fresh enough to beat them both in a game of mini golf later that day!  🙂

The race was a great experience, one of the best I’ve had. It’s in a lovely area and there was a unique spirit to it. I found myself smiling a lot during the race. The organizes did a great job, everything was efficient. I would certainly sign up for the race again but I only have one suggestion: move it to spring or fall when it’s just a tad cooler! I really feel for those poor souls who were running the half-marathon version today.

So after racing for almost all of May, I’m on to a bit of a break before my next race in July. Maybe I can hope for a mini cold spell that day…