Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Run for Hungry Children - 5K

I've been waiting for this race for a while.  I haven't done a 5K since May--the Fat Ass 5K--and that one was just a mess!  It was too laid back, too weird of a course, we didn't know where the start or finish was, and I didn't have my GPS.  I wanted a new PR--a good PR--and one that I didn't have any doubt that I gave it my all.

The Run for Hungry Children was a race that I signed up for in May of 2009.  It was supposed to motivate me to run again and to be my first 5K race ever.  Jocelyn was 10 months old.  I signed up, then I failed miserably at even attempting to train for it.  I ending up walking the 3K and pushing Jocey in a stroller. 

I signed up for the race again in the spring of 2010, only to find out the the Springfield location race site was not happening.  So that year, I was a fundraiser only.  I don't know if I would have ran the 5K then either.  If I remember correctly, really thought I would "try" to run it, but I didn't even seriously attempt running until August of 2010.

Then comes 2011.  They announced the race at church, and I was excited.  Excited because this race had alluded me for two years.  Excited because this is such a worthwhile cause.  Excited because my church is hosting and a lot of people I knew would be running it with me.  Excited because I am actually ready to race it for once!

The morning of the race, I am feeling good.  I haven't ran all week though.  My last run was the five mile race  last weekend.  I'm hoping that the recovery time will just help my pace today.  I had no question in my mind about my race goal today.  This is probably the most clear I have ever been with a race goal:  goal pace will be 7:40 with a goal time to finish under 24 minutes.  My last race was 25:15.  I know it's a big jump, but I've been running well this year.  Every race has felt great, and I've pretty much hit or exceeded my goals each time.  I'm going to stretch myself today. 

We arrive at the church, and it's pretty cold and windy.  I forgot my gloves at home.  Boo!  I can't decide if I want to keep the fleece on or not.  Shane and I take a warm-up run around the park and head up the hill at Centennial Park.  It's a beautiful day, but just so chilly!  We get into the starting line crowd and listen to a few announcements.  There's 10 minutes to race time, and that is when I realize that I've left my iPod in the car which is parked more than a quarter mile away.  Bummer.  Do I run back to the car and get it?  Do I run without it?  I know I CAN run without it, but I love my music.  I want perfect conditions for a perfect race, so I run back to the car.  The whole time I wonder if this run might help or hurt me in the race .  I peek down at my pace and I'm not over doing it.  I'm keeping it reasonable, but worried I won't make it back in time for the start.

I get back to the starting line in the middle of the national anthem.  Just in time!  I check my watch and there is less than two minutes to start time.  Now I am warm.  I take my fleece off and look around for someone, anyone, that I can hand it to.  The race is about to begin.  Yikes.  There's Jeff!  I hand it off to him and 3-2-1 go!  The race has started!

We race down to the road, turn the corner and get on the Sangamon Valley Trail.  This will be a straight, flat course; great for a PR run.  I'm following the group of fast lead runners while trying to keep some semblance of my goal pace.  As always, fast off the line.  I can't help it!  I force myself to slow down.  I check my GPS, and force myself to slow down again.  I hate being passed, but I know it's early in the race.

I settle into my goal pace range fairly easy today.  If I can remember correctly, there's only one female in front of me.  She is fast though.  She's running with the big boys.  I won't be able to catch her.  If I can just stay in front of the rest of them, that would be awesome.  I check myself before mile one, and I'm feeling good.  Breathing is steady and strong.  Legs feel great.  Pace is good.

Mile 1:  7:30, ten seconds faster than goal pace.

I start to analyze my pace on mile one.  I think the first quarter of a mile made that a fast mile for me, so I'm going to try to stay at my current pace.  So far, it feels okay.  I will just stay here, hovering between 7:30 and 7:40.  During this mile, I pass a few of the guys who started ahead of me.  As I get closer to the turn-around, I see the leader coming back at me.  I am seeing all the pack leaders heading back the other way including Shane.  He looks like he's doing good!  Go Shane!

As I round the cone to head back, I evaluate who is right behind me.  There are two females that are right there behind me, they are the next two runners.  I will really have to keep at it if I want to stay in second place.  As I get closer to the two mile mark, I am starting to feel the effects of the pace.  I feel like I'm starting to run low on energy.  My legs are feeling a heavier. 

Mile 2:  7:35, still good for my goal pace. Even if I slow down now, I'm probably still going to make it.

This last mile and a tenth is going to be a challenge for me.  I know it already.  As I'm pushing through my slowly setting fatigue, I hear footsteps behind me getting closer.  Then I see her in my peripheral vision.  It's the girl running right behind me.  Then she's next to me.  Then she's in front of me.  She looks about 13--darn you, with your young legs!!  I urge my legs to keep up with her.  I think if I can stay behind her, I could catch her at the end straight-away to the finish line.  Unfortunately, that plan crumbles quickly before my eyes as she gets further and further ahead of me.  I get passed again by a guy who was just behind me at the turn around as well.  I'm begging my legs to go faster, but they aren't cooperating.  I think this might be all I have to give. 

I forget about the other runners and start thinking about my goal pace again.  I look down and see that I'm all over the place with my pace.  I'm starting to hear my breathing sound a bit labored--more so than I've really ever heard it before.  I focus on steady breathing.  I focus on my form.  I relax my shoulders and arms.  I thank God for the beautiful day, and I just keep running. 

The end of the trail, and the final quarter of a mile is in my sights.  I am careful to not get too excited because I still have a ways to go before I can empty the tank.  I check my GPS, and I see my time is 22 minutes and some change.  The GPS chimes out that mile three is done. 

Mile 3: 7:50, I'm not surprised at all.  I just couldn't maintain it.  I know I'm on the edge of my abilities.  I'm just glad that I have room for the slow down.

Almost to the finish line!
I realize that I am just over 23 minutes now and have less than a 10th of a mile to go.  It looks like I can reach my overall time goal.  At least, I think so (I'm always so bad with calculating this stuff while running).  I make the final turn onto the short stretch before the finish line.  The girl and guy who passed me earlier are too far ahead to catch again, so I don't worry too much about them, but I am going to make sure I get my time goal.  I push hard and slowly increase my pace.  My legs just don't want to shift gears any faster, but I get up to a decent sprint at the end.  I see Shane cheering me on near the finish line.  I run all the way through, get handed a bottle of water, and I stop my watch a few seconds later. 

I look down and I see that my GPS says 23:45!  I did it!  I got my goal of under 24 minutes for a 5K!  I am so happy that I exceeded my goal.  I walk away from the finish line taking deep breaths, trying to get it under control.  I am done with the race, and I feel awesome!  I get so many encouraging words from friends and fellow runners, that I'm just on a total high.

Final 0.12 miles:  6:49 pace.  That helped my overall time a bit.  I guess I still had a little something left at the end.

At this point, I know that I am third overall female.  The first place female might be in my age group, so I don't know if I got first in my division.  I know the second place girl is way younger than me.  I'm sure she's young enough to be my daughter (if I was a VERY young mother!  Ha!). 

I am watching my other friends finish.  I am so proud of many of my friends who ran this race today.  Chenoa started the Couch to 5K program not too long ago.  Rick is running with her and coaching her through it.  Rachel has been running on and off for a while, but today is her first "official" 5K.  Dustie is running her first 5K in more than a year due to pregnancy and giving birth five months ago.  Shannon started running again after time off and has been training hard and losing weight for the past couple of months.  They are all crossing that finish line with their heads held high today!

I see Shannon, Rachel and Dustie finish, and I cheer them on!  I walk back to the trail to find Chenoa on the way to the finish line.  Shane and Rick are running with her.  She's got just about a quarter of a mile left.  We all run together offering her encouraging words.  She's about to complete her first 5K, and I'm blessed to be able to witness it!

Chenoa crosses the finish line, and she's so emotional about it she makes me want to cry too!  Awesome.  There is great stuff happened here today.  Not only the money raised for Bright Hope, but the sense of accomplishment that is going on in all these individuals.  The power of positive is just surrounding us!

We head back to the church after the race for snacks and to see the kids' races.  Let me tell you, that is about the cutest thing I've ever seen!  The little girl who won the 50 yard dash was so determined to win.  You could see it all over her face, and she was pretty fast!  I can't wait for Jocelyn to run in one of these.  Seriously adorable.

I look at the results posted and see my official time was 23:41.  I am so happy with that.  I feel great, and I'm sure I'm smiling from ear to ear.  Dustie comes by me and asks me if I saw that I won my division.  I didn't even realize that it was on the results, somehow I missed that.  We head into the auditorium for the awards ceremony, and I'm excited and nervous at the same time.  Even though Dustie just told me that I won my division, I don't really believe it.  Why I don't believe it, I don't know.  I was the third female overall.  What is so unbelieveable about being first in my division? 

They are annoucing the awards, and they actually call my name!  First place in the 30-39 female category.  I'm just amazed!  Wow!  This is my first medal, and it's a first place medal.  This has been the perfect race day for me.  Words can't even convey how I feel right now.  It's pretty awesome though.

I get a lot of congratulations from people, and it's overwhelming for me.  I love the accomplishment, but I am not as comfortable with the attention.  I guess I shouldn't have posted it on Facebook if I didn't want the attention, right?  My fault.  That's my dilemma sometimes.  I feel so good that I want to shout it from the mountaintops, but I don't necessarily want people to respond back.  My dumb social anxiety!!  I'm okay with the Facebook comments.  I guess I just have to deal with the repercussions of posting it for the world to see. 

It has been a year since my first 5K race in 2010.  It was also on Halloween weekend.  I clearly remember my goal from a year ago was to finish under 29 minutes, and I did it in 28:58.  I have increased that goal time now by more than five minutes.  Things can happen when you set your mind to something and put in the work to achieve it.  Seriously, never stop reaching for something you previously never imagined you could get.  There is nothing that a whole bunch of determination and a little bit of skills or knowledge can't overcome!

Until next time, signing off from Cloud 9.

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