Saturday, October 17, 2009

5 Miles 'Til Empty...

That's the title of the only song I listen to from Brownstone's second album, and also what I was feeling like during today's race.

I woke up this morning around 5:15. My alarm was set to go off at 5:35, but I woke up earlier than that. I got up and kind of walked around for a little bit, trying to make sure I was truly awake. Updated my FB status, of course. And as it has been for the past few weeks, my Achilles' were achy. I'll really be glad when this injury is resolved.

I jumped in the shower and then got myself dressed. I found a great track suit at Walmart - $13 for the top and $13 for the bottoms, and it made it's debut for today's race, along with a new sports bra. I checked my gear - fuel belt, one bottle filled with water, the other empty and ready for me to get some Propel, my 2 Gu's, my iPod, an extra t-shirt, gloves - I was ready. I gave Bogey some treats, turned on the cable box for her (yes, she's spoiled with background noise while mommy is gone), and rolled out.

I ran to the Teeter around 6:20 or so. I needed Propel water and some Gatorade as my stomach was feeling iffy. I think it was just nerves. This was going to be my first road race. Would I finish it? Would I embarrass myself? Why the hell did I agree to do this in the first place??

It was rainy and about 47 degrees. Yeah. Sucky weather to run in. Not so much the temperature, but the rain. I'm not a fan of running in the rain. But there was no turning back now! I met up with the crew at Harvest (a church about 15 minutes from my apartment), and we carpooled up to the race location in Lake Norman. When we got there, people and cars were EVERYWHERE. We had a hard time finding some place to park. I really didn't know what kind of chaos to expect, given that this was my first official road race. A smart person would have just started with a 5K!

You could tell the serious runners, from the newbies. By this time it's a sweltering 49 degrees, and some of these folks have shorts on! Some of the men had on sleeveless tops. We had the heat nice and toasty in Cheryl's SUV, and when I opened that door, I officially confirmed that these people were crazy with their wardrobe choices. One of the girls in the running group asked me if I was going to run with my jacket on. Um, yeah! And my gloves, too! It's 49 degrees!

I did my best to stretch and then we headed over to the registration tables to pick up our "chips." The chips are what they use to keep track of your time. Which I love, because you can't really go by the clock you see at the end, unless you were first at the line and started at the front of the race. The great thing about the chip is that it doesn't start counting until you actually cross the start line. Genius, right? You can either thread it through your shoe laces, or you can attach it with these little plastic ties they provide. Janelle - whom we affectionately call "Coach" - advised me to use the ties, because if I put it through my shoe laces, I was not going to feel like unlacing my shoes at the end of that race.

The initial plan was to start the runners and walkers at different times, but they decided they were going to start everyone at once. As we walked up to the line we decided to take our first Gu. I had Vanilla Bean and Chocolate, so I chose Vanilla Bean to start with. Blech! Way too sweet and just nasty. I had to force myself to take the whole gel, and then chase it with some water. I looked around and saw folks from all walks of life. Black, white, male, female...wheelchair racers, walkers, runners, young and old. All with one thing in common - we are crazy enough to want to run/walk either 5K or 15K at 7:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning, when most folks are still asleep.

The race started and the crowd moved up the hill towards the starting line. A smart person would have previewed the course online, but I did not. One of the girls at Run For Your Life told me there would be one big hill at the beginning, but then after that it was pretty "straight forward." OK, cool. Me no likey the hills. I'm all for getting the big hill out of the way.

What she NEGLECTED to tell me, was that this entire course was like a big ol' yo-yo - constant up and down, up and down. "Little" hills. Hills that if you were driving, you really wouldn't think of them as hills. After that first big hill, the course took us into a park. Aside from the slickly painted speed bumps, not too much going on in there. There were some slight inclines, but nothing major. I was thinking that if the whole course was like this, I'd be perfectly fine. They placed a timer clock at the 1 mile mark. I was feeling great! Fresh air, beautiful fall surroundings...Janelle - whom I have now nicknamed Happy Sprite after today - chatting with Cheryl and I about the race itself, and what our pace should be. Life was good!

At mile two, we were almost out of the park. We reached our first water table, so we stopped to walk for about 20 seconds or so. Cheryl had forgotten her fuel belt, so she was going to have to stop at the tables periodically to hydrate. I was still feeling great at this point. Laughing to myself at this woman with red hair and a pink outfit. While we were plugging along at a steady pace, she had chosen to do walk/run intervals. However, she was walking so slowly, she had to really run on the run intervals. So she would pass us, then stop to walk...pass us, then stop to walk. I kept thinking, "chick - just run with us. You are doing way too much."

Then I had to stop thinking about her, because the hills became a little bit harder. They were steeper and longer, with less of a break in between. Most of or chatting ceased. I turned up the volume on my 80s pop playlist. Somewhere between miles 1 and 2, I had taken off my jacketamd gloves because I was starting to heat up. Now I'm running with a short sleeved t-shirt on. I'm one of the crazy ones now! The wind is picking up, but I'm still sweating. At this point I'm thinking, I just need to get halfway between mile markers 4 and 5, because then we're halfway done with this race! I Jedi mind tricked myself to not think about the torture I was going through, and paid more attention to my surroundings.

Halfway through mile 3, we turned into Lifestyes of the Rich and Famous. These houses were NIIIIIIICE and near the water. It was nice that the course took us through some neighborhoods, but I was still tired of all the hills. Did I mention the hills? Constantly ongoing. We passed mile marker 4. Still going! Cheryl was a few paces behind us, but still hanging. I was starting to get tired, and thinking that Janelle was way too happy about this situation. I asked her if we'd stop at mile marker 5 to have our 2nd Gu, and she said that we would.

MIle 5 was a welcomed break. This was the longest walking break we took. Lemme tell you - chocolate Gu tastes like Godiva after you've run 5 miles. While we were lamenting about our dislike of some of the Gu flavors, the Speedwalker Twins went by and one of them told me to try the Espresso flavor. Duly noted!

We started back up after about a minute or so of walking. This was the turning point in the race for me; my body started fighting me. I think it was also mental, too. I was so sick of the damn hills! Pressing on...pressing on. My mind started wandering and wondering. Thinking it was taking entirely too long for us to travel between these mile markers. Janelle was worried about us making it back in less than 2 hours. I was simply worried about making it back, period.

Mile marker 6 - 3.3 miles to go. At this point I just wanted to be done, yet lacked the energy to really pick up the pace. I was starting to struggle to keep up with Janelle, but I did my best. Perky teenagers were working the water tables, yelling things like, "good job, ladies!" and "you can do it, almost there!" Almost there? The greatest was the sign that said "Hills build character." I woulda kicked it down, but I didn't have the energy. My character was being torn down, not built up!

Once we got 7 miles in, we were actually back on the same road we had run on when we exited the park. However, I was delirious and did not realize this until we were almost back to the finish line. Scenery looks mighty different when you're running more uphill than downhill. At this point I've had to take a couple of 30 second walk breaks, because the inclines are becoming longer in distance. Janelle is pressing on. I feel bad 'cause I'm 34 and she's 50. That's my logic I use to catch back up to her, somewhere between miles 7 and 8. Never mind that they've been training longer than me. I'm the youngin' of the group, as they often remind me. I need to get back to it! The other problem that's plaguing me at this point, is that my left ankle is starting to hurt. Not on the sides, but at the top of the foot. I can't think of anything else but this, each time my left foot strikes the pavement. I felt like crying, but I didn't want to waste the energy, so I pressed on.

Mile marker 8! God bless you, mile marker 8. Janelle is excited. We have 1.3 miles to go and will make it just shy of 2 hours. I'm trying to do math - again, anything for a distraction - and I'm guessing that we're on par with a 13 minute per mile pace. I think. Did I carry the 1? Long division doesn't pair well with running.

If this course had been more flat, I would have been burning rubber at this point. I really wanted to be DONE. But mile marker 8 was in the middle of another stupid hill. Ugh! Wait, no. Think positive - you just ran 8 miles! I try to focus on this as we get to the top of what I thought was the last hill. We make our left turn and get to go down the big hill that was at the beginning of the race. Two ladies jog by us and tell us we're doing a great job and we're almost done! Happy Sprites 2 and 3! Janelle - look at your cousins! Can one of y'all carry me the rest of the way?

At the bottom of the hill, one of the race volunteers tells us we look great and are doing great, only .5 to go! I told him that I felt like crap but Janelle felt great! He laughed and we laughed. I was feeling a little bit happier. .5? I got this! Then, I had to go up yet another hill. I pushed it because I thought this was truly the last hill, like for real, for real. All we had to do was get to the top of this hill, make a right at the stop sign, and it would be smooth sailing, right?

WRONG! While it wasn't a "hill" per se, it was another incline. I don't know what Janelle had on her playlist, but it had motivated her, because she got a second wind. That, and she saw Jay ahead and I think she wanted to try and beat him (Jay runs with us as well). I let Happy Sprite carry on, because I just could not do it. Matter of fact, this is where I took my last 20 - 30 second walk break. I just needed to get past that incline.

One of my old co-workers was on the sidelines, apparently helping to work the event. I heard him say, 2 left turns to go! Best thing I'd heard all morning. I saw Janelle and Jay round the first turn. Then I saw this little old man shuffling along, and realized this is the man they've been telling me about for 2 weeks now. He is 76 years old, and seems to run in just about all the road races around here. He will talk to you the entire time if he's running with you. Simply amazing. I hope I can still run when I'm 76. But at this moment in the race, my brain said, "I'ma need you to pick up the pace 'cause you're about to get beat by a 76 year old!"

I passed him at the 2nd left turn, and the finish line was maybe 60 yards away. I found the energy to kick it in. The clock said 1:58 and some change when I passed under it. I was too tired to even reach down and rip the chip off of my shoe, so thankfully one of the volunteers did it for me. Thanks, sir! I don't even know your name, you're the greatest. I don't even know if I can reach my foot right now. I walked around for about 15 seconds before I remembered that Janelle said we'd go back and find Cheryl and run back in with her. Thankfully, she wasn't too far behind, so we caught her just as she rounded the 2nd left turn. Everyone crossed the finish line! And we're still alive.

We met up at one of the benches to stretch and have an injury recap. Jay, who hadn't run in 2 weeks, kept catching cramps in his calves. That explains why we caught up with him, because he runs much faster than we do. Cheryl's toes/foot were hurting. Heather was just simply cold...but she had just run the freakin' marathon the week before in Chicago, so I don't even know how she was out there with us. I think Janelle was the only one who really didn't have an injury. My right hip was hurting a bit, and of course that left foot thing. But overall, not too shabby for my first road race!

Tomorrow, we have a 3 mile recovery run. I think it's going to be more of a walk. I frankly don't want to go, but I know I have to. My body hurts all over, but I am truly glad they talked me into running the race. I look forward to beating my time next year! And even if I don't run that far again, I can officially say I finished a 15K, and add it to my list of "firsts."

Oh - my official pace turned out to be 12:45/mile, and I finished in 1:57:57. Slow, but I'll take it!


Tazzee said...

CONGRATULATIONS! I don't know if this post inspired me to run or discouraged me, LOL. Just kidding - I really want to do a 5k, straight running, no walking. That's my goal for now.

Marilie said...

Thanks! It should inspire you to run the 5K, but discourage you from moving up in distance too soon. Tomorrow is my first PT visit for my Achilles, and now I gotta ask him about this new ankle injury. Booooo! LOL