Monday, June 16, 2014

Superheroes 5K - Race Report!

I ran a 5K yesterday!  What?  That doesn't sound like a big deal to you?  I agree, it's not exactly stop the presses material, except for the fact that I really don't run a lot of 5Ks.  In fact, yesterday was the first time since September 2011 that I've toed the line at that distance, and only the seventh 5K I've done, ever.  Weird, right?  I find the 5K distance to be incredibly difficult.  You really have to run at puke-threshold and that is not something I'm great at.

Why so long since my last one?  Well, here's the thing:  I don't like to lose and I don't race for fun.  When I race, I train hard and I race to beat my previous times.  After that last 5K almost three years ago, I truly knew in my heart that I was never, ever going to run faster than that.  It was everything I had to give.  So I stopped running 5Ks and started running longer distances, because hello automatic PRs!

Of course, that ended up slowing my paces way, way, waaaaaaaaaaay down and further convincing me that I would never run a fast 5K ever again.  But time has a strange way of humbling you (*ahem*, me) and showing you (again, I'm talking about me) the error of your way of thinking.  This year has been all about re-framing my goals and seeing things in a different light.  (Let's call this "maturity," rather than "getting old," shall we?)  I'm not running anything shorter than a 50-miler at PR speeds these days, but I have found most of this year's races to be incredibly satisfying and/or terrific learning experiences.  Case in point, yesterday's not-my-fastest race, which was one of the happiest finishes I've ever had!

You might have already guessed from the name of the race that the theme was Superheroes!  No, I did not run in the cape, but it did provide a nice little photo opp at home.
I got to the race venue in plenty of time to score good parking, so I sat in my car for a bit to stay warm.  It was a totally balmy 60-ish degrees, but I was a little nervous and therefore cold.  Eventually it was time to get moving and find the port-o-potties, and as I was walking there, I started chatting with a nice woman who was also racing.  She looked about my size and my age, so I sort of took a mental note to see if I could keep up with her on the course.

I honestly had no idea what sort of a time I should even set as a goal.  My previous 5Ks have run the gamut from around 30 minutes down to 23:34, so my pretty-sure-I-can-do-it goal was under 27 minutes.  My hope-I-can-do-it goal was 26, and my damn-I'm-faster-than-I-thought-I-would-be goal was 25.  I really, really hoped I could hit 25, but the idea of running an 8-minute pace seemed a little outside my current reach.  I haven't run 8 minute miles since the last time I ran a 5K!

I did a really nice, thorough warm up, which is something that has become increasingly important the older I get.  I used to just give it a little half-hearted walkaround, but now I make sure to run for a good ten minutes or more, plus a handful of dynamic stretches.  By the time I finished warming up, it was time to line up and run - perfect timing!

The nice woman from the walk over lined up a little ahead of me, as though she knew I wanted to try and keep pace with her.  She was wearing a racing jersey, so I sort of figured my chances of staying with her were somewhere between slim and none.  The announcer counted down and we were off!

I went out on the conservative side of hard.  I didn't know how my legs or lungs were going to feel and I didn't want to die at Mile 1, so I didn't push it too much.  Less than a quarter mile in, though, I knew it was going to be a great day.  I felt amazing!!  My legs were turning over effortlessly and my breathing settled into a rhythm very easily.  Wow!

As we rounded the first corner and everybody was finding their paces, I got passed by a few people.  I didn't worry about it.  I had my eye on Port-o-Potty girl and she wasn't too far ahead of me.  I focused on relaxing and running hard.  I reeled in a kid who had gone out too fast.  Next up was Hot Pants girl.  I felt good and this effort wasn't too much to sustain.  I refused to look at my Garmin just in case I was actually going very, very slow, but I felt like I was flying.

At Mile 1 there was a balloon arch and timing clock - nicely done, RD, I totally appreciated knowing my split! - but I couldn't quite make sense of the number I was seeing.  I was apparently running a pace in the high 7s and frankly, that didn't compute.  I haven't run that fast in years and I certainly wasn't expecting to do it now!  I checked my Garmin and the number was the same.  Holy cats, this was exciting!

I felt competitive and it felt good.  I reeled in more people who had gone out too fast.  I was gaining on Port-o-Potty girl.  I wondered if maybe there wasn't going to be a mile marker at Mile 2 because it was taking a really, really long time to get there.  But, no, that was just my perception.  There was another timing clock at Mile 2.  I couldn't really do the math, but it was somewhere in the 15s, which meant that I was still somehow miraculously holding a sub-8 pace.

I passed Port-o-Potty girl.  I passed Green Skirt girl.  I passed Comic Book Shirt girl.  I found myself at the head of a small pack with a big gap between me and the next group of people and I heard my son's Track coach in my head, "Catch up to them!  Make them do the work!"  I caught up.  I picked off two teenage girls.  I felt 100% certain that I was going to vomit.  This was too hard, and I really wanted to slow down.  But you know what I wanted more?  To not slow down, so I kept hammering it.

The Mile 3 clock came into view.  I was so close I could taste it!  A woman who had been on the back of my hip caught up and moved ahead.  I looked at her and wondered if she would be the difference between third place in my AG and fourth place.  I joke all the time about being the Queen of Fourth Place, but it wasn't good enough for me just then.  I had more in the tank.  I pulled ahead as we rounded the final corner into the finisher's chute and gave it everything I had.  One of the teenage girls went flying past me.  I choked back happy tears when I saw the clock because I had not even let myself think of a number this low, but there it was anyway:

Official Finish Time - 24:19Overall - 63/692AG - 2/70

What a happy and exciting day!  I honestly didn't think I had a run like that in me, but what the hell do I know?

Have you ever completely surprised yourself in a race?