My goal for the Panicking Poultry was simply to run faster than I did at the last 5k I did. Considering how horrible I felt and how hot it was for the last one, I knew that unless many things were to go wrong, I was almost guaranteed to have a better race. And if I didn’t, the course was mostly on a dirt path, as opposed to pavement, so I could always blame the terrain.
The weather was perfect, if a bit fickle. I was a bit chilly in shorts and a long sleeve during my warm up, which is just how I like it. My legs felt snappy and light, and I knew that it was going to be a good race. In the ten minutes between the completion of my warm up and the start of the race, the sun burned through the cloud cover, increasing the temperature to the point where I wished I was wearing a tank top. I pushed my sleeves up to my elbows and pretended I was in short sleeves.
I started out with my friend/training buddy, but within seconds, she pulled ahead and I decided not to try to stay with her. I was committed to running my own race and to running no faster than 7:45/mile for the first mile. I succeeded on the former, but not the latter. I tried really hard to pay attention to my body and not my Garmin, but I’ve gone out too fast in a 5k way too many times before. Few things are more demoralizing than having to walk in the last mile of a race that’s about as short as an episode of Arrested Development.
I glanced down at my watch intermittently during the first mile, and it consistently told me I was running (much) faster than 7:30 pace. I was sure that this was too fast and definitely not sustainable. But my legs felt so good. If I slowed down, it would barely feel harder than a tempo run, and a 5k is too short not to go all out the entire time. So I ignored my Garmin and did what felt right, remaining in the neighborhood of a 7:20 pace.
Within the first half mile, I was able to tuck in right behind a guy in a black shirt. I stayed right behind black shirt, probably annoying the heck out of him for almost the whole race. It was so nice to let him set the pace and block the wind for me. I just focused on his back and tried not to think too much.
Just before I hit the turnaround, I saw my friend. She was not too far ahead of me, but definitely too far for me to try to catch her. I continued to stay in black shirt’s draft on the way back, as the runners behind me ran toward me on my left, with a gorgeous view of the Boulder Reservoir and the Flatirons on my right. The effort had moved from very uncomfortable to painful, and was verging on nauseating. I was right where I needed to be with a little over a mile until the finish.
As we neared the two mile mark, black shirt pulled away from me, and I could not respond. I kept him as close as I could, but he was gradually creating more and more distance between us. I focused on a girl in a mint green top who was directly in front of me. Gradually, I reeled her in. I ran shoulder to shoulder with her for a while, and was relieved to find her breathing sounded just as labored as mine. I tried to keep my face and shoulders relaxed as I scanned the horizon for the inflatable arch over the finish line.
I looked down at my watch. I had about .6 mile left. I knew I had slowed down but I still felt fairly strong. I told myself I only had to do the equivalent of one 800 on the track or two 400’s. I would find an orange cone or a tree in the distance and tell myself I only had to worry about getting to it, and then once I did, I would pick a new landmark to focus on. I passed mint green girl on a downhill, but she passed me back just before we took a sharp right turn to the finish chute. I could hear people cheering near the finish line but I couldn’t muster the extra energy to make eye contact, let alone wave or smile in gratitude. Even the people scurrying around the course, dressed up as scared turkeys, couldn’t get me to smile at that point. I just wanted to be done.
I crossed the line, exhausted and gasping for air. I wanted to die. I knew I couldn’t have run any faster. I was satisfied.
My final time was 23:59, and while it is by no means a PR, it was a win, considering my time at the 5k I ran less than a month ago was 24:41. My time was also nearly a minute faster than it was when I did this race on the same exact course in 2009.
On my way home from the race, my friend texted me that she picked up my prize. PRIZE!? WHAT PRIZE!? (I was very excited about the news but I did not text her back while I was driving because I never do that and you shouldn’t either). Apparently I won 2nd in my age group and I got a beer glass for my effort. I was not expecting an award of any kind, so this was a sweet bonus.
I love how it feels to have my fitness coming back to me. I have a few more races on the calendar for the winter season, and I am excited to see where my running goes.
I am especially happy to be where I am right now, given the fact that my sleep is beyond horrible (thanks to the baby) and I am still hanging onto about ten extra pounds (again, credit goes to the baby). If she would cut back on her night wakings and the extra weight would finally fall off- which it should any day now, given the fact that I have eliminated both wheat and dairy (again, thanks to the baby)- I think I could really run fast. A girl can dream, right?