Friday, August 12, 2011

Illinois State Fair Parade Run - 2 miles

This short, fast race is a favorite of many local and not-so-local racers.  It's a 2-mile out and back starting from the main drag of the state fair, out the fair, down the parade route with tons of spectators lining the road waiting for the parade to pass.  It's relatively flat, so you see some fast times.

I had never run this race or anything less than 3.1 miles.  So, I was trying to come up with the right goal pace for myself.  I have decided to never run a race without a goal pace again.  I tend to sell myself short if I don't set a goal.  My last 5K back in May, I paced around 8:09 per mile.  Even though I have not put in quality training since that race, I decided that I wanted to beat 8:00 per mile, a total goal of finishing in less than 16 minutes.  It's totally doable, right?  Maybe, I'm certainly not confident.

As the race time got close, the pre-race butterflies kick in.  It feels very similar to the way I feel right before I have to do public speaking.  I take deep breaths and hope that they are just helping with adrenaline that I'll need for the race.

We get to the fair and see runners everywhere warming up.  We walk through the Ethnic Village to see if we know anyone since we are a little early.  About 20 minutes before the race start, we take a warm-up jog down the road and back.  My achilles are stiff and tight.  I'm hoping that works itself out before the race.  We return to the starting line area and the crowds are getting thick now.  We find some water and stretch a little.  All of a sudden, it seems, the announcer says "Ready. Set. Go." and we're off!

The crowd of runners surges toward the main gate of the fairgrounds and out to the streets.  I see Shane ahead of me for the first quarter or half a mile.  I'm constantly checking my GPS to try to keep my pace under control.  At one point I look down and see 6:23.  I back down.  Shane moves ahead.  The pace actually feels comfortable, but I know my mind, adrenaline and the crowd is tricking me.  I spend nearly the first three-quarters of a mile trying to find my pace.  Sometimes I look and I'm going faster than my goal.  Other times, I see a pace over 9:00.  Either the watch or I am jumping all over the place!

It's warm out (about 81 degrees), but about as nice of weather we could ask for at 5:30 p.m. on an August afternoon!  Last year, it was about 20 degrees hotter during the race.  We approach the turn-around and my throat is about as dry as it can be!  Thankfully they are handing out water.  I take one, even though I know it will slow me down a bit.  I drink about as much as I drip down the front of my shirt, but I don't mind.

The GPS rings out, I look at my first mile pace, and I finished in 7:48.  Wow, faster than I thought and faster than my goal.  However, I can't slow down now.  I have to keep a decent pace, but now I know that I have a 12 second wiggle room in my second mile.  I seem like I am running in my own little world.  It might be the music from my iPod or I'm just zoning out.  I'm not sure which one.

I don't see the crowd lining the roads, but I know they are there.  Some people are cheering for runners as they go by, especially the teenage boys in superhero capes.  Mostly I know because of the cigarette smoke we are running through.  Even as an ex-smoker, this is totally disgusting and so hard to deal with while running.  I am pushing myself to the edge of my abilities including my heart, lungs and legs.  My lungs need clean air to process at its peak capacity!  I feel sick trying to breathe.  My lungs are definitely feeling it.

We turn the corner to head back on to the straight-away that leads into the fair.  I am starting to feel my legs protest the pace.  I look at my watch and we are at 1.58 miles.  A little less than a half mile to go.  I can do this!  I can maintain this pace!  (I'm trying to convince myself, so please bare with me.)  I pray for the main gates to miraculously get closer.  The time and distance is creeping by.

I see them!  We approach the main gate.  My legs just want to give up, but I don't let them.  There's a slight down and up a hill before the finish line.  I try to lengthen my stride to speed up and finish strong.  My efforts feel useless!  I don't notice any difference in my pace.  However, I pass a couple of people heading up the hill.  As I get close to the milkshake stand that I'm supposed to meet Carrie after the race with Jocelyn, I see them sitting on the side of the road.  I yell for Jocelyn and wave to her.  She sees me!  They all wave back, and I feel so proud to be a healthy example for my daughter!

The blue finish line mats are in my sights!  I give it everything I have left through the last couple hundred feet.
I see the timing clock as I cross the finish line and it says 15:45.  I push the stop button on my GPS and it says the same.  I did it!!  I am totally wasted and spent, and I can barely catch my breath as I stop to get my timing chip cut off.  I walk out of the chute trying to get my breath under control.  That was rough!

I stand there are try to recover while feeling nauseous.  If I thought about it too long, I would hurl.  For real.  This was probably the race that I best gauged my physical abilities and then met them.  There have been so many races that I had so much left in the tank when the race was over.  Today, I left it all out on the road.  Every little bit of it.  And I feel good (except for that pesky pukey feeling).

Official time:  15:45.69.  156th overall.  36th female. 4th place in my division.  Ah, just missed a bronze award finish!  There's always next year. 

2012 goal = 14:59 or less.

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