Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The first 5K

With my new perspective on running, we decided it was time to sign up for our first 5k.  Shane had already run Abe's Amble back in August, so it wasn't his first race, but it was mine.  On Halloween weekend, there was a race in Washington Park to benefit independent living homes for developmentally disabled adults.  It was the first race coming up in the Springfield area.  I really didn't mind, and actually preferred, that it wasn't going to be a "serious" race.  They didn't have timing chips.  They welcomed costumes.  The charity was good, and the low-key atmosphere was exactly what we needed.

I hadn't specifically trained for the race.  I was running regularly: three times a week, four mile runs.  I would try to increase my pace some nights, and others I just took it slow and steady.  On average, I was running just under 10 minute miles, sometimes faster, sometimes slower.  My runs were now 75% positive and 25% hated.  I still had moments of cussing in my head, but for the most part, I never had to walk anymore.  Thank goodness, because I was hard on myself when that happened.

My goal was to finish under 29 minutes.  I hadn't pushed myself to run three miles in faster than 9:40 splits, so I thought it was a good goal.  We arrived that morning to a small, but respectable field of runners and walkers.  There was a wide variety of participants, from the girls in 80's costumes a la Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" video (I sure hope they were costumes anyway) to the guys in running tights, compression-everything and the $100+ shoes that looked like they could run by themselves.  Yes, they were serious.  I'm going to stay out of their way.

The nerves going into a race are weird.  I'm sure they affect everyone differently, but for me, I didn't sleep well the night before.  I had a bit of a nervous stomach and felt a little intimidation by putting myself out there to be "measured" in public for the first time.  Once again, my feelings of inadequacy crept in.  Did I prepare well enough?  Did I drink enough?  Did I eat enough?  Are those hills going to matter very much?  Will I be lapped by the eight year old running next to me?  Can the line for the bathroom get any longer?!

We got our numbers pinned on, took a short warm-up trot down to the lagoon and back.  We arrived just in time for announcements right before race time.  We all lined up behind the starting line.  I inched toward the front because I didn't want to have to waste any time getting started.  Without timing chips, it mattered if it took 30 seconds to get across the starting line, and I didn't need that extra time added on.  A few more announcements, and they were ready, set, GO!

That was interesting.  The rush of people and adrenaline at the start of a race is amazing and scary at the same time.  We ran.  Some people passed us, we passed others, but we ran.  After a minute or so, I looked down at the GPS and it said we were pacing around 7:50.  Ha!  It didn't feel like 7:50. 

That actually scared me a bit.  I had recently discovered that if I didn't start by running like a bat out of hell that I typically ended up with a better time overall and feeling better at the end.  I was terrified of burning myself out and having to walk.  That would be a total disaster!  I started slowing down to settle into my comfortable run.  I thought that I would just take it slow and conserve my energy to finish fast at the end like I had been doing in my evening runs. 

I slowed down and Shane pulled out in front of me.  It bothered me a little, but I certainly didn't want him to slow down for me.  I was thinking that I could catch him in the end.  He's going too fast.   He's going to burn out.  When we hit the first mile heading up the hill by the lagoon and play area, the GPS let me know we hit a mile.  I looked my time and it was around 8:50.  I couldn't believe it because I hadn't ran a mile that fast before, but I also could believe it knowing that we were running much faster when the race first started.  It worried me that I couldn't endure running that fast for 3.1 miles, so I began to slow my pace even more.

Shane pulled farther away, and I was left alone with my thoughts.  I was being passed by a lot of people it seemed.  I convinced myself that the fast start was going to ruin me.  My self-doubt started working overtime.  I struggled to keep Shane in my sights as we wound around the park.  I tried to grab a cup of water and ended up putting most of it up my nose.  Then, I felt horrible about throwing the cup on the ground.  Why don't they leave a trash can for people to try to hit at least? 

As the last mile approached, I latched on to a couple who seemed like they were running a bit faster than I was.  I decided to keep with them no matter what.  I can no longer see Shane ahead of me.  I was still occasionally being passed.  There was this one guy who kept passing me and then I would pass him a minute later while he was walking.  Then he would come racing by me again.  Then I would pass him again walking.  He looked miserable.  I was thinking that was definitely NOT a good way to run a 5k.  I much preferred slow and steady over burn-out and recovery. 

As I came down by the lagoon on the north side of the park, I realized that my plan to conserve energy and kick it in at the end had one fatal flaw: nearly the entire last quarter mile of the race was uphill.  Doh!  I knew this when the race started, but I didn't really think it through all the way.  What kind of sick person puts the finish line at the top of a big, long hill anyways?!  I push up the hill the best I can, sticking with the peple I latched onto earlier, knowing that it's almost over.  Here comes the finish line!
I ran through the chute and I was thrilled to be done.  People were clapping and cheering and taking pictures of their friends and family as they finished the race.  I looked around for Shane and didn't see him right away.  I hit my GPS and looked at my time.  It said 29:02 for 3.21 miles.  Was my official time under 29:00?  I didn't know.  I didn't hit the stop button right away.

I was a little disappointed.  Even though I had set my goal low, I felt like I didn't run that much better than my normal non-race pace.  I thought you were supposed to race faster than normal?  I think my head games with myself during the race really handicapped me.  I was over-thinking the situation, and I probably set my bar too low.  I was pacing slower than necessary to avoid something that I didn't know would even happen.  It was a learning opportunity for sure.

I found Shane, and we headed over to the refreshment area, got water and a snack and waited.  Shane and I talked about the run.  We talked about how we felt and finished.  We had someone take our picture and waited some more.  Finally, they brought out the results and posted them on the wall and started the awards.

Shane and I searched for our names on the sheets of paper.  I found my name, and my official time was 28:58:02.  I beat my 29:00 goal!  Not by much, but whatever.  I finished 35th overall, 14th female, and 5th in my gender/age class.  There's something to be said for signing up for a not-so-serious 5k!  Those rankings were great for my first race in my opinion. 

It made me excited to have something improve on it.  I had set my first PR, and I knew it wouldn't be hard to beat.  I thought about how the next race would be so much better.  It left me feeling good about the future.  When's the next race?!

10/30/2010 - after our first 5k

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