Sunday, February 12, 2012

LA Chinatown Firecracker 5K and 10K

EVENT: Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 5K and 10K
DATE: Sunday, February 12, 2012
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 08:05 am; 8:35 am
FINISH TIME: 23:44; 59:00

On the Wednesday after last week's half-marathon, I did a light jog and tweaked my right knee.  Ugh!  I wasn't totally surprised, as it hasn't quite been right since I was training for my last marathon.

Anyway, because of all the races as of late, I really had to psych myself up for this one.  Why I decided to race both the 5K AND 10K is beyond me... perhaps the Asian in me responded to "for just a few bucks more..."  I originally only registered for this event because my friend wanted to run it, and we all kind of jumped on the bandwagon.  This race was also one that I spectated back before I started running when my older sisters ran together.

The day before, I was timing my teenage sister's mile time, running behind her, right after drinking a spinach and flax smoothie.<-- don't try that  

Then, my friends and I took the Metro to Chinatown to pick up our race packets.  

My newly-bald bud, above.
And a few of these buns... memories from my childhood at Family Pastry.  No, I didn't care how much sugar, MSG, or other things were in these... they were heavenly!!  I basically have a ton of memories of Chinatown... smelly, crowded, and full of hagglers.  Oh, and I was born there, too... just a block from the start line of these races.

Finished my mini-carbo-loading with some sushi with "The Ukrainian."  Thinking back, that was a poor choice with all the raw fish, but oh well.


The next morning, "The Ukrainian" graciously drove all of us to the race site.  He was our cheerleader for the day, and he was wonderful (that's why I'm marrying him, duh!).  The 5K and 10K were supposed to start 30 minutes apart.  However, as I reached the starting line, I heard the announcer say that the 5K was delayed for five minutes but the 10K would start on time.  Aghhhh!!  That's a 25-minute gap (and my previous 5K time is over that).

The 5K was hilly... the first mile basically went uphill to Dodger Stadium, and I was trying to run fast to make it to the next race.  "WTF was I thinking when signing up for both?!" went through my head.  Before the first mile ended, I had this weird feeling below my stomach.  I can best describe it as my uterus falling out... it was so weird.  So I walked a bit and continued as soon as my Garmin hit the mile marker.  

The second half of the course was mostly flat/down, so I was able to sprint through the end.  However, I don't have splits here because the course wasn't well-defined, and I think it was a smidgen short.  So although this is kind of a PR for me (5th place in my age group 25-29!), I think I need to truly earn it at the next 5K I run.  However, given that I have yet to finish a 5K without walking some of it, I'd say there is much room for improvement!


I found out that as I was running the 5K, the announcer said that the 10K would also be delayed by 5 minutes as well, so I guess I busted my gut for nothing.  I had just enough time to find "The Ukrainian" and my friends, who were doing the 10K, and change my timing chip and bib.

I ran the whole race with my friend, advising him to go at his pace, and I'd follow.  The first couple of miles were SO packed, so this was definitely not a racing course.  My thighs were shot from the 5K, so I was worried that I'd feel really crappy the entire time, but things started to improve after these first couple.

The hills of Elysian park, which made up most of the first half, just piled on top of each other... kind of like La Jolla Half-Marathon.  Definitely was among the toughest courses I've run, but when we got to the top, the view of Downtown LA was almost mystical (wish I had my camera!).  I was sooo proud of my friend for running it all (save a couple of water stops), in spite of all those hills.  In fact, due to me being worn out from earlier, I even had to walk part of one and told him to go ahead so I could catch up later.

I reminded him of the pace every mile that my Garmin registered:

Mile 1 - 10:07 
Mile 2 - 10:27 - water stop
Mile 3 - 10:14 (he was freaking out as I called these times, as this was much behind his goal pace of 9:00-9:30)
Mile 4 - 8:52 - downnnnhill
Mile 5 - 9:05
Mile 6 - 8:39
.21 - 7:41 (pace)
Overall: 9:31 pace!

So that last mile or so, I pushed the pace a bit because I saw that in spite of the slow start, we were on pace for under an hour.  Knowing how big of a deal that is to new 10K runners, I started telling him, "Less than a mile," "Do you have anything left?"  "If you've got it, time to sprint."  I purposefully stayed a touch ahead so he'd keep going, but not so far ahead that he'd give up.  Although we were going at a fast pace, my legs felt light.  I was giving the thumbs-up to volunteers, spectators, and waving my arms around, mostly to encourage my friend that we were nearing the end of this... and I had energy for some reason at that point.

We finished together in pretty much exactly 59 minutes, according to my Garmin.  I praised his run and told him that we made it under the hour.  He said he appreciated my pacing and the psychological triumph of "sub 1."  The finish area was crowded beyond belief, with the public grabbing all of our freebies, but we did manage to see my other friend finish around 20 minutes later.  I'm am SO proud of both of my friends for greatly improving their last 10k times!

Overall, the race was light-hearted, definitely not for PRs, and somewhat plagued with crowd-control issues.  Lots of elderly Asians were coming in, wondering what was going on, and probably exclaiming stuff like in these "s*it Asian moms say"/"dads say" videos.

So over brunch (which admittedly included bottomless mimosas), the suggestion came up that we make this a yearly tradition so we can collect all 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.  That's 12 years... yikes.

My knee strangely didn't hurt during either race, but as we were walking back to the car, I felt it loosening(?).  I also still have another half-marathon next weekend... the last one in my streak of races until the dreaded LA Marathon in March.

Near the 10K finish.

Near the 5K finish.


  1. Great times! Those hills around Chinatown and Dodger Stadium are no joke. I did my first 5K in Eylsian Park on trails. It was so hard.

    At least you got in some good hill training. My coach says hill training is speed training in disguise.

  2. I was reading the posts on their FB page and someone did the bike ride, 5K & 10K! Reminds me of the All Day 25K in Carlsbad (which I'm thinking about doing). Yeah, I don't see how people can run the 5K and have so little rest before the 10K. I do like how the course profile was similar to the 10K though.

    This was my 2nd time running this race, so only 10 more years for me!

  3. I need those buns in my life.... They look amazing. Congrats on 2 solid races, you are a running machine!

  4. Wow! What a shirt! I've done this 10K a few times. Always one of my favs. Especially dim sum afterwards!