The Red Hook Crit is most well-known as a cycling race series, which has been held in Brooklyn since 2008, as well as Milan, Barcelona and London in later years. The 5K race, ahead of the bike races, is run on the same race track, lined with spectators the whole way. The 5K this year consisted of 4 loops on the 1.25 km race track with 11 turns on each loop, some being challenging hairpin turns.
Last year, the Red Hook Crit was the day of the Whippets Track meet. After our meet, I went to watch Jennie Cohen and some of the other ladies on the team run the 5K. It was very tricky to take the subway and walk to the race course, so I’m glad I did it when I wasn’t racing.
I didn’t know much about the race when I went to watch last year, but I was impressed with the set-up, beautiful view of the water and the energy of the crowds. Having food trucks and beer on-site added to the fun atmosphere as well. It was awesome to watch Jennie win 2nd place and run a PR! I stayed afterwards for the women’s bike race. It was hard to even see the cyclists as they zoomed by so quickly!
It seemed like racing would be a fun experience, so this year I was even more excited to learn that Strava was putting up some nice prize money. Discussing the race with some other ladies on the team, we felt there was a good chance we could win the first place team prize with a group of 5. And if not… Beers for all anyway!!
I didn’t do any 5k specific workouts leading up to the race, but was hoping my fitness was good enough to run a PR. Despite feeling a little less than fresh the past few workouts, I had a good 10K race earlier in April which was a confidence booster. It was the first time I had a 5K split under 19 minutes during a longer race.
There’s a fine line between not being nervous enough for a race and being too nervous. I’ve been able to find that line pretty well over the past year going into races at a variety of distances, but unfortunately not so before the crit! I hadn’t visualized the race and gotten myself into a confident mindset the day prior, as I like to do. And then the day of, I got a bit too nervous and had trouble figuring out what to eat and at what time.
Nevertheless, I was still excited as I remembered the atmosphere of the last year and how the spectators really got into the race. The late start time with the sun beginning to set also makes for some awesome photos.
Somehow, most of the women who were running found each other in the crowds before the race and warmed up a bit together. About 10 minutes before 6, they called us to enter the race track and we walked up to the start. There was a drone flying overhead and tons of photographers just past the start line. I saw some familiar Whippet faces on the sidelines and waved! The sense of community among runners is really amplified by the excitement of this race, and highlights the best qualities of the New York running scene!
On the starting line, I took a few deep breaths and did some obsessive hamstring stretching as usual, and then the race was suddenly off with a guy just yelling “GO!”
The 5K, like the bike races, has a “prime” cash prize for the first runner to finish the first lap who also completes the race. This means the race goes out quite quickly with runners vying for that extra prize. I certainly got sucked into the fast start, although I wasn’t contending for the prime.
I had calculated what I needed my lap times to be in order to run a PR, and was definitely too fast going through the first lap. By the second lap, I had already chewed into the time I banked on the first lap so that coupled with how I felt, I knew a PR probably wasn’t happening.
At that point in the race, I decided to relax a bit and enjoy the experience. I still tried to push through and accelerate off the turns and maintain pace as best possible, but opened my ears a bit to take in the energy of the crowd! It was also great motivation to be running close to Elizabeth for most of the race.
During the third and fourth lap, it became challenging to weave in and out, especially on the turns, as I was lapping some runners. At the last turn of the third lap before heading into the final, I high-fived a kid leaning into the track from the infield. This was one of my favorite memories from the evening!
In the final lap, I tried to pick up the pace a bit, worked through the turns, and sprinted down the home stretch. Unfortunately a girl passed me in the last 10 meters for what I learned later was the last individual cash prize spot! I ended up finishing 9th overall in 18:37. My goal had been to go 18:20 or under, but I was satisfied given the conditions and course.
The day of the race was hot and quite windy, not to mention in the middle of allergy season! I think those were all challenging factors for many runners this year.
After the race, some of the women Whippets cooled down and we were together when we heard over the loudspeaker that we took first place for the team competition! We watched the men’s 5K race, collected some nice swag (t-shirts, rx and Cliff bars, food vouchers) and headed back outside for some beers and the podium!
With the sun setting over the water, we posed for pictures on the podium with 2nd and 3rd place teams (NBR and Brooklyn Track Club) between two big red hooks. Afterwards, some of us stuck around for food, chatted with friends from other teams, and watched the women’s bike race. It was really a great and unique experience, made even better because we got to enjoy it as a team!