Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Next 5K

Just three weeks after the Halloween 5K, it was time for the Jingle Bell Run.  I was much more excited than nervous about this one.  Since I already had one race under my belt, I knew a little more what to expect.  I liked that this race would be on a flatter course.  I also knew that no matter how much I burned myself out by going faster than normal, I would not have to walk.  This was a huge fear and something that held me back at the previous race.  I knew that I could recover by slowing my run, but I didn't need to walk.

This race was a little more serious, but not entirely.  How serious can you be with bells on, really?  However, there were timing chips to attach to our shoes, and there was a heck of a lot more people there.  This would be the first race where I knew some of the people running it.  I wondered how I would stack up against them.

The weather was cool but not uncomfortable that morning.  The pre-race atmosphere was different than the previous race.  There were more people in "real" running attire (as opposed to t-shirts and costumes) than the last race.  There were more people warming up by running around the parking lot.  There were more people, period.  Everywhere you looked, there were people. 

Shane and I sought out the bathrooms inside the building.  No matter how many times you pee before a race, you always feel like you have to go again!  We walked through crowds of people waiting for the race to begin. It was a little intimidating I'll have to admit.  However, all the jingle bells, some Santa hats, and the occasional costume certainly lessened the effects. 

With about 15 minutes to race time, Shane and I took a lap around the parking lot.  My legs felt good, not great, but good enough.  I remember thinking that I wanted to keep up with Shane better this time.  He had found a running group for his lunchtime runs.  Of course it wasn't just ANY running group, but some of the best and fastest runners in the area.  Shane had pushed himself to keep up with them and had paced some miles around 7:30.  That was a conversational pace for most of the group!  Meanwhile, he's giving all he's got to stay with them.  With each run, he said it seemed a little easier, and he seemed to keep up with them for a little longer.  I knew those runs would help him tremendously for this race. 

For me, I was running alone during the week.  No one was pushing me to improve or change my ways.  On occasion, I would push myself to do a faster mile.  I think my fastest mile by that time was around 8:30, but I wasn't sure what I could sustain for three miles.  On my evening runs, I would commonly run between 27 and 28 minutes for three miles.  I knew I would be able to beat my previous 5K time (28:58:02). 

As race time approached, we lined up by the starting line.  It seemed so crowded!  Much more so than the previous race.  We did a few stretches and then we were off!  Once again, the immediate rush from the starting line filled me.  I followed Shane closely, trying to not trip up on all the people that I was running elbow-to-elbow with.  There were little kids running around us.  You know that little kid all-out run?  They stomp their feet so hard, and there is so much motion and energy.  Oh, to have some of that energy!  The stampede of people all headed out the main drag of Lincoln Land and turned out onto the road ahead.

This time, looking down that the GPS, I was not surprised to see that we were pacing close to a seven minute mile.  The crowds were beginning to thin a little after the first quarter mile.  We passed some kids that had gone all out, already burned themselves out, and were now walking and looking for their parents behind them.  Shane and I ran next to each other, not allowing the pace to scare me, I settled into what was comfortable.  Fast was fairly comfortable that day.

We hit the first mile, they called out our time which was right around eight minutes.  I felt amazing.  My legs and lungs felt good.  We pushed on.  I think it was around the halfway point when Shane started pulling away.  I didn't mind.  I was surprised I kept up this long considering the training he was doing lately.  I kept pushing though.  I was constantly surprised to see my pace hovering around the nine minute mark.  I had run faster before, but not for a sustained amount of time. 

As I complete mile two, I feel myself slowing a little more.  Some runners were starting to pass me.  I needed to keep going!  There was less than a mile left now.  Then I got passed by a guy pushing a stroller.  Okay, so he was going really fast even though he was pushing a stroller, but he didn't have to show off, right?  As we're coming into the final stretch back toward the entrance to the college parking lot, I hear runners closing the gap behind me.  I push a little faster.  I get passed by a teenage girl around 15 years old. I push harder to stay right behind her.  At the turn into the parking lot, I pass her.  I am thrilled to be getting so close to the finish line, and I am using that energy to the fullest!

I look ahead to find the route and a little wind comes out of my sails when I realize that we have run around the median and turn back before it's over.  I push on, running neck and neck with the teenager as we trade off being in the lead.  We pass a group of the girl's friends who yell for her to give it everything she's got, and she really kicks it in.  She starts pulling away from me.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot will my legs to carry me any faster.  There's nothing more that I can do.

I round the corner, and the finish line is literally steps away.  I run hard all the way across the finish.  Immediately, I see Shane looking at his GPS, so I think to hit the stop button.  We get our timing chips taken off and walk out of the finish line area.  I look at my watch and it says 26:48!  I beat my 5K time just three weeks earlier by two minutes and ten seconds!  This is my new PR!

After the race, I am just exhilarated!  It was a great run!  I felt good and strong the whole way through.  I was happy with my time and my performance.  I could safely say it was the best I had ever ran.  We head into the building for the post-race refreshments, and I'm still glowing!  I'm sure I was smiling from ear to ear.  I felt amazing! 

We hang out for a while before they finally bring in the official times and tape them to a nearby table.  Shane and I go over, find our names, and I was even more amazed to find out my official time was 26:40:37.  I finished 100th overall, but there were a lot of participants in this race. 

As they began handing out prizes, I notice that some of the women in the 20's age groups getting awards had finished behind me.  Could it be possible?  Could I get an award?  I return to the list and start scrolling through looking for 35-39 year old women.  I count several of them finishing before me and was a little disappointed that my initial idea of winning some hardware dissolves in front of me.  I told Shane that I originally thought I might have won something, but I didn't.  He asks me how I could tell.  I told him he could look at the gender and ages on the list.

Shane heads back over to the list and runs his finger along the finishers ahead of him.  He looks at me and looks at the list again.  He walks back over and says he just might have a chance.  We wait as they go through the names of the top three finishers in each age/gender class.  I continue to be amazed that many of the women and some of the men winning medals finished behind me.  Finally, they get to the 40-44 class for men and they call out Shane for his third place finish!! 

He's so excited, and I'm excited for him!!  All the hard work he has put in over the past year has been rewarded by this small token that means so much. 

We had stayed much later than we had anticipated, and later than I told my friend who was watching Jocelyn.  We had to hurry, so we took off as soon as Shane received his medal.  We practically skipped out of the building, bouncing on Cloud 9, smiling, and rejoicing in his win.  Could this day get any better?  I don't think so!
11/20/2010 - After finishing the Jingle Bell 5K

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