Race Report: 2018 Urban 10 Miler

Planning
Remember that time I signed up for a race, trained for the race, and then failed to read my emails (yes I am one of those people who has thousands of unread messages and no this does not keep me awake at night), which caused me to be unaware I could not pick up my race packet on race morning until 12 hours before the race and I didn’t get to pick up the packet? And then I raced anyway and I had a PR for the ten-mile distance but it wasn’t official?  I sure do.

And remember how I love to run and I run for running’s sake but I’m also extremely competitive and no matter what kind of shape I’m in or how my training is going I’m always hoping to run faster than I did before? Well, that’s me in a nutshell, running-wise.

Training (a.k.a. Keep reading to find out if CrossFit helped my running)
I signed up for the Urban 10 Miler, same as I did back in 2013, but things were a little different this time. For one thing, I made it my business to read every single email from the race directors and I picked up my packet, as instructed, the day before.

I also trained a lot differently. In 2013, Sweet Pea was just over a year old and I’d had a fabulous post-baby comeback, ran the Santa Barbara half marathon that fall and had a major PR there. I was in some kind of post-baby/breastfeeding calorie burning bonanza, the likes of which I’ve (sadly) never seen before or since. I also wasn’t plagued with the issues I’ve been managing ever since Ladybug was born. Whether or not my 5’0″ body was meant to birth a 9 lb 6 oz baby is debatable but it seems clear that after nearly four years of attempts at physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and strengthening, nature is telling me I was never meant to carry her, deliver her, and return to running any more than 15-20 miles per week.

My baby (a.k.a. Ladybug) just turned four and I’ve decided to listen to my body’s cues and stop trying to force it to run more than it can handle. That began with a big break from running, beginning last April. With the exception of a summer 5k and any running I did as part of my CrossFit workouts, I did not run at all until January. I just wasn’t in the mood.

Since I started running again, the overwhelming majority of my runs have been easy (e.g. very few tempo runs, track sessions, or hill repeats). I’ve done a few workouts when my body felt good, but I haven’t tried to schedule track workouts, tempo runs, or hill repeats with a real strategy because I’m so burnt out having to change plans to accommodate some new (or old) ache, pain, or strain. Since last summer, I’ve been consistently CrossFitting about twice a week, teaching spin class once a week,  running anywhere from zero to 3 times per week, and maybe biking, swimming, or hiking occasionally. In a typical week, I’d work out five to six times a week. I’ve also been doing core strength work regularly.

In comparison, in 2013 I was running 4-5 times a week, biking once or twice a week, doing some form of strength training approximately never, and working on my core when I felt like it, e.g. rarely.

I wasn’t sure if I had any business trying to run as fast as I did in 2013. On one hand, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I might be the weakest person at my gym but I can help Dan move the chicken coop, which is not something I could say a year ago. I can now do 5 pull-ups (in a row); a year ago I couldn’t even do one. On the other hand, I’ve never heard of a runner who uses pull-ups and deadlifts to gauge her running fitness. I had two data points:
-After three months of doing nothing but biking riding and CrossFit, my 5k speed had declined.
-During a recent track workout, my 800 speed was 10 seconds per 800 slower compared to last year.

Clearly, CrossFit and running are two very different sports… or are they?

In the ways that matter, they are exactly the same. They’re both about showing up and doing the work. They’re both about trying your best. They’re both about being the best version of you that you can be. They’re both about finding your limits and tolerating discomfort.

Would my determination to do pull-ups and pushups and lift heavy things translate into seeing an hour and twenty minutes on the clock at the finish line of a 10-mile road race? There was only one way to find out.

Racing
I slept horribly the night before the race but I took solace in the fact that the night before the night before is the most important night of sleep and I’d slept like a rock the previous night. As usual, I ate my pre-race breakfast of instant oatmeal and instant coffee. I added a scoop of whey protein powder to my oatmeal, which was unusual as a pre-race breakfast, but something I’ve been doing before workouts for a few months. You can read a little more about my nutrition strategy and the reasons behind it here.

I left the house and realized it was not just gray and cloudy, but it was actually raining. Like I could have used a hat with a bill, I was going to be freezing in my shorts, tank, top, and arm warmers, how did I not realize it was raining till now, raining. I was picking up friends on the way and I didn’t have time to go back in the house and get my accouterment so I told myself I can be uncomfortable for ten short miles, just make the best of it.

Because the ten milers were starting the race at the 16-mile mark of the full marathon happening that day, they had us start in waves, three people at a time. After a short warm-up (during which I was pleased to find my legs felt snappy despite), I lined up with my wave. When I registered, I said I thought I’d finish in 1:25. Though I hoped to do 1:20, I said 1:25 because I knew that was achievable and because I much preferred the idea of starting out with people whom I’d eventually pass, rather than get passed when I was already physically spent.

I love the ten-mile distance because it’s so straightforward, and this race was no different; I had a plan and I followed it and it worked. The plan was super simple. I’d go purely by feel (not pace). The last thing I wanted to do was commit to an 8:00/mile pace for the first couple of miles, blow up and hate life for the next eight miles, not to mention having to pay $100 to do it. I wanted the first three miles to feel comfortably hard, the miles three to six or seven to feel pretty hard, and miles seven-ish to nine to feel horrible, and the final mile to feel like death and destruction, and I am proud to say I nailed it. I didn’t let myself look at my watch until exactly six minutes in, at which point my watch read .75 miles and I thought, “If I can just stay right here, I’m good.” And that’s what I did.

I made sure to let my watch display the elapsed time and the mileage, but not the current pace because that’s too distracting for me. I encouraged every single runner I saw, whether we were running opposite directions or if we were passing each other. Because I seeded myself at a slower pace than what I actually ran, the only people I remember passing me were doing the marathon relay. (It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out why some people were running really fast and holding sticks.) At every mile marker, I’d look at my watch, and though my math skills could use some work, it was clear, even to me, that I was killing it as far as pacing.

At the ninth mile marker my watch read 1:11 and change and as miserable as I felt—my legs were like two sticks of lead and my breath was coming out in gasps—I knew that I only had to run a nine-minute mile to make it to the finish line in time to meet my goal of 1:20. As I put one foot in front of the other I thought to myself, “This is what I came for.”

I came to feel this pain, to keep pushing when my body was begging me to stop, to see where the edge of my ability lies, and I was lucky and grateful to do it. Even on this gray miserable day, as my left arm warmer left rubbed against my side, creating a burning red crater where a layer or two of skin was supposed to be, even though I’m supposedly “middle-aged”, there was nowhere I would rather have been, nothing I’d rather have been feeling during that final mile.

I crossed the line in 1:19:01, a 7:54 pace, which was a 34 second PR, earning me fifth in my age group (women 30-39), and 15th woman overall. I was spent and I was happy.

Side note: I am now convinced that, as I wrote about for Colorado Runner Magazine, there’s something to be said for lifting heavy things as a time-efficient way to train to endurance sports when you have experience as an endurance athlete.

 

Colorado Women’s Classic 5k: Race Report

Race morning, Sweet Pea is in my room at 5:45 am.

“Can we snuggle? Open your Mother’s Day present!”

She’s standing an inch from my face. I mentally berate myself for convincing her to wait until Mother’s Day to give me the present she was dying to give me the day before. My alarm is set only fifteen minutes from now but sleep is delicious and I want more. Through half open eyes, with the gray light peeking through the cracks in the curtains, I tear off the wrapping paper, revealing a picture of my big girl in a bedazzled frame.

“I love it!” I exclaim.

“Turn on the light so you can really see it!” she implores.

“I can totally see it! Let’s leave the light off. It’s great.”

It’s sparkly and full of personality, just like my girl. She made me a mom five years ago and now she’s ready for kindergarten. I ran the same race I’m about to run today when she was three months old. I nursed her in a booth at Panera right before the start.

When I’m actually awake, I open the blinds so I can fully appreciate my present and I invite her back into my bed for a snuggle.

*     *     *

En route to the race, we listen to one track from a Strawberry Fairy CD the girls insisted on but that’s all Dan and I can handle. After that we rock out to one of my spin class playlists on Spotify. Please remind me to visualize my kids dancing in their car seats to Vibin‘ and the sound of Lady Bug’s little almost three-year-old voice imploring Dan, “Dada, move!” (e.g. “Dad, get your groove on already!”), the next time I get burnt out on being their mom.

Dan drops me off and then goes to park the car, and after I do the normal pre-race things (get my bib and find a bathroom), I warm up. Ten minutes easy, five minutes build to a moderately hard pace, then five twenty second strides, followed by 40 seconds to recovery. My legs feel fresh. This race will be an fitness experiment, considering since the Horsetooth Half Marathon I did in late April, I’ve run a handful of times, taught or taken a few spin classes, and did three yoga classes (which is more yoga than I’ve  done over the past year). I know my mind remembers how to run fast but I’m not sure if my heart and lungs are up to the task, given they’ve been out of practice for a few weeks.

I snake my way up to the front of the sea of women waiting to start. We begin and immediately a young woman with a long, swaying brown ponytail establishes herself as the leader. Behind her are a pair of girls. I’m hoping I can follow closely behind them, letting them break up some of the wind, but I can see by their loping,  almost playful-looking gait that I won’t be behind them for long. Within the first minute or so, I pass them. Ponytail is far enough ahead of me that it doesn’t make any sense to try to reel her in.

Instead, I focus on myself. I’m breathing hard but I am supposed to be. This will be over in less than 23 minutes. All I have to do is get in the zone and do my best to stay there until the finish. My legs aren’t tired. I tell myself that when they are, I won’t back off. I don’t look at my watch. I don’t want to worry about my pace. I just want to go by feel. I also just want to know how long I’ve been running. I look down and see 5:39. I’m over halfway to ten minutes. At ten minutes, I will be within spitting distance of eleven minutes, and by then I will be at or very near the finish line. I tell myself I only need to sustain this pace for five minutes and 39 seconds four more times.

A slim, muscular lady passes me like I’m standing still. Her breathing is relaxed and her form is efficient. I don’t even try to stay with her. I wonder if she’s doing the 5k or the 10k and decide probably the latter because of how chill she appears. I end up being right.

I pass the first mile mark and my watch reads 7:00. I’ve probably gone out too fast but the course is slightly downhill on the way out. My legs aren’t tired yet but I’m breathing hard and there’s no one around me, just an empty paved trail ahead and open space and big blue sky all around me as I head east.

I can’t see the first place women and the lead biker is just a neon yellow speck, and then they vanish from my line of sight. I turn around at the halfway point and my watch reads 11:07. I’m hoping to run under 22:30 and I just might, but what I really want to do is finish knowing I gave everything.

I’m halfway from the finish and 1.55 miles has never felt so intimidating. Just keep going. Don’t back off. I see practically the whole race stretched out behind me as I pass them going the opposite direction. They’re moms and daughters and sisters and friends and grandmas and they’re all beautiful and I want to yell “GREAT JOB, LADIES!” but I don’t have the energy so I smile when I remember and give a thumbs up to all the women who cheer for me.

I’m nearly at the two mile mark and I feel vaguely nauseated. I wonder why I eschewed brunch at a restaurant with my family and chose this as my preferred activity. I think of a blueberry scone and a mimosa and then my nausea intensifies. Instead, I think of a glass of ice water. I feel a little better.

I think I hear breathing behind me but I’m not sure until I pass a few spectators who yell “Great job!” and a few seconds later, they yell it again. Her breathing is becoming increasingly louder. I force myself to run faster, just to that pole, to the next tree, to that bend in the bike path, but I hear her getting closer all the time. I imagine her giving up, getting discouraged, realizing she surged a bit too early and that she cannot in fact catch me before we run out of pavement, but she overtakes me just before the three mile mark anyway. I look at my watch, which reads 2.92 miles. I have less 400 meters, one lap around the track, to go and it feels like forever.

When my competitor passed me, she took second place along with a heaping cup full of my energy and I don’t have to glance at my watch to be sure my pace has slowed. I see the final turn for the finish chute and I glimpse Lady Bug’s neon orange hoodie on the sidelines. Dan is cheering for me and I muster all my energy to finish strong though my body is begging me to quit.

My time is 22:56, a 7:23/mi pace, good for third overall. It’s not a PR but I wasn’t expecting that. All I wanted was to run as hard as I could, which I definitely did.Co Womens Classic 5k

Prairie Dog 10k Race Report

When I found out I was pregnant with Sweet Pea in June 2011, my first thought was “Yay!” My second thought was, “Shit, this is not going to be the summer I break 47 minutes in the 10k.” I was right. I spent that summer being bloated and nauseated as a little human began to grow inside me. I didn’t know then that I would eventually break 47 minutes, five and a half years later. It turns out, that’s not as long of a time as it sounds like. How is my baby starting kindergarten in the fall??? (A blog post for another time).

I did the Prairie Dog 10k this morning. I wasn’t sure what to expect, considering I’ve been injured (or maybe injured-ish is the right word?) for a while now, and not running as consistently as I’d like to be. Based on a few recent 5k’s I assumed I was fit enough to run between a 7:30 and 7:40 pace, but by the same token, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve run more than 5 miles at once over the past eight weeks. So I didn’t know if I could maintain a good pace for an entire 6.2 miles. And even though my physical therapist gave me the green light to race, I knew that if a friend or a client were in my shoes, I’d have advised against racing at this point.

But I love racing, I’d already convinced three friends to do the race and I was excited about it (not compelling reasons to race if your body can’t handle it), so I went for it.

I wake up and immediately do my 12 minute Foundation exercise program (I’ve skipped one day since Jan 2 and I’m a big fan, so far) and my ten minute meditation, which I back down to eight minutes in the interest in getting out the door on time. Normally, my meditation consists of sitting with my eyes closed and focusing on my breath but today I think about how I’m going to feel while I’m running. I visualize myself feeling horrible, my legs begging me to stop but continuing anyway, not backing off one single bit, knowing that a minute or ten minutes or even 47ish minutes is not a long time to suffer. Breakfast is the same as always before a race, a glass of water, instant oatmeal and instant coffee (don’t judge). It’s freezing, and not in a Colorado, dry, amazing way, but in the moist New England way that chills your bones. The sky is gray and thick with moisture and I kind of love it. I wear only a thin tank top under a medium weight top with capris and I know I’m underdressed but I also know I’ll be happy about my outfit a mile into the race, and it turns out, I’m right.

My friends turn down my invitation to warm up before the gun goes off (actually they laugh at me) and of course I want to keep chatting with them, so my warm-up is closer to 1.5 miles than two miles that’s ok because I haven’t run more than eight miles, period, in months. (Like, many, many months.) I jump into the start area with about a minute to go and line up toward the very front. The gun goes off and my breathing is controlled but I am asking myself Can I sustain this for six miles? Maybe. Probably not. Better slow down. No, hold it here. No slow down a hair. It’s a downhill, not holding back here. Ok catch your breath. Regroup. Seriously, is this pace do-able for six point two miles?

I futz with my watch, peeking at the pace, scrolling to check on my heart rate, although I haven’t trained with a heart rate monitor in so long, I’m not sure whether to be alarmed or encouraged by the numbers. I see a cluster of women ahead and I feel like I’m eventually going to catch them but I need to focus. I set my watch to display the time elapsed and resolve to stop messing with it. I don’t need distractions. I need to focus on my breathing, my form, the ground under my feet. I get into a rhythm and the chatter in my head gets softer and softer until I can barely hear it.

I am disappointed when I see the women I thought I was going to catch pass me in the other direction. It turns out they are doing the 5k. Just ahead I see a guy in a baggy sweatshirt and I pass him easily. Now there is no one I can see. I wonder if I can keep pushing the pace despite the lack of competition. All I see is a dirt/gravel path ahead. I’m thankful the course is extremely well marked. I get to the second mile mark and my watch reads 14:33. I do some math in my head and decide this race could turn out alright but I remind myself not to get ahead of myself and also not to waste energy on math. I can’t help it though.

The third mile comes at 22:00 and I do some quick calculations and I wonder if I could actually do this thing in under 47 minutes. Finally I see runners coming at me after the turn-around. They’re men. They’re flying. They’re smiling and saying “good job” and I wonder how they can even talk. I realize after I turn around myself, that it’s downhill at this point. I smile and wave or give a thumbs up to the runners coming the other direction. I wish there was another woman, another person anywhere near me but there’s not so I look on the bright side; I’m running my own race. I’m following my own plan: Miles 0-2 should feel hard, 2-4 should be extremely hard, and 4-6.2 should feel like death and destruction. I forgot how much I love this distance. It’s been a while since I did a 10k.

I get to the fourth mile and my watch reads 30ish minutes and I wish I had been doing the kind of workouts I have been longing to do.. 3 by two mile repeats with 2 minutes recovery, 4 mile repeats with one minute recovery, 60 minute runs with 20 minutes at tempo, 8 x 800 on the track. Then I would feel like I could run two miles hard in my sleep, like it’s nothing. But I haven’t been doing those workouts. I’ve only done what I can do so I let my mind drift to other things I’ve done; like grinding up to Ward under the blazing summer sun on my bike. Every painful thing is a deposit in my bank but the beauty, as I’ve discovered over all my years of endurance sports, is that you can make a withdrawal whenever you want, but the balance never decreases. You can always remember what it felt like to suffer without using up the memory or the knowledge that yes, you’ve done it before and you can do this again.

The course winds around a pond, under an underpass, then up from the crushed gravel trail onto the road, and now we are back to the point where the 5k runners turned around, what felt like a lifetime ago. I see a lady plodding in front of me, and I wonder where she has been this whole time, did she start out way too fast and then die? I pass her easily, giving her a thumbs up as I do. I’m in a neighborhood and I’m on pavement and I love it and I’m not supposed to love pavement, living as close as I do to the Rocky Mountains, but you run faster on pavement with less effort, so I am thankful for this gift. I’m charging up a hill, that same hill I didn’t think too much about on the way down, past a bunch of generic looking new golf course houses, and I have no idea what my pace is but I know I can’t go any harder than this. My breathing is doing that embarrassing thing where I’m making this kind of “huh” noise when I exhale but there’s no one around to hear me anyway, except the volunteers. I give a wave and grunt “thanks” as I pass.

As I turn the final corner, I see the sweet finish and I have less than 800  yards to go. It’s a straight shot to the chute and I stay focused, running as hard as I can until I cross the timing mat. I look at my watch. 47:00 flat. I’m exhausted. I’m happy.

Prairie Dog 10k Race Report

Turns out, my official time was 46:55, a 7:33/mi pace, I won first female overall and fifth person (it was a very small race). Of course I was thrilled to win a race (a first for me) but more than that, I was thrilled to race well, particularly with no one in my line of sight, and on low mileage. I was really proud that I stayed focused throughout. I have zero doubt that I gave it everything I had, which is huge. For the past eight weeks, I ran about 20-25 miles per week (plus cross training, including the spin class I teach every Monday, and the occasional swim or elliptical session), with some weeks far less mileage, due to injury stuff. Meanwhile, I had been strength training consistently (one to two times a week, which is not something I normally do) and I think that helped a lot. Meanwhile, my ever growing bank of experience had to have counted for something. There is a lot to be said for just getting used to a certain distance, and getting comfortable with discomfort. My time was not only an altitude PR but a PR, period, by 25 seconds! Also, the aches and pains that have been annoying me kept quiet throughout the race.

Prairie Dog 10k

Stats for my fellow running geeks.

 

 

Coffee Date January 2017

Can we do coffee again? (I don’t know about you but I had a lot of fun last time).

Are you on Instagram? I’m on Instagram. We should follow each other if we’re not already following each other. Or we shouldn’t… depends if you want to see all my fitness posts… My plan is for my posts to be 80-90% fitness-related and the other 10-20% for randomness. Let’s face it, randomness probably means the hilarity and craziness of having kids. Also, I’m going to try really hard not to let it become an obsession.

I have poor boundaries when it comes to most social media, which is why I don’t have the Facebook app on my phone anymore. I also don’t allow my phone to come into my bedroom. It always charges in the kitchen. Otherwise I can’t control myself and I’m up waaaay too late scrolling through ways to make sure your husband is happy, saving crafts I will never make, and pinning pies I will never bake. For some reason, Pinterest calls to me after about 9pm if my phone is in arm’s reach. Do you have strategies that keep you from falling too deep down the rabbit hole? What are they? Seriously. I need to know.

Speaking of social media, you might have noticed I announced on Facebook that I’m available as a personal running coach. I love running. I’ve been doing it for my entire adult life. I’ve run six marathons, I’ve done two Ironman triathlons, I have been teaching spin class for over 15 years, and I could talk about running and fitness for hours. I had a night alone in my house last night, and since I could do whatever I wanted… I got cozy with a webinar on half marathon training.  Yahoo! For all the details on how I can help you reach your running goals (whether you live near or far) click here.

And I got an actual gig as a run coach! Rev Running brought me on board as a coach for their beginner program. I’m going to coach newbie runners from 0 to 5k over nine weeks and I’m pumped for that. There were so many questions I didn’t even know I should have been asking as a beginning runner. Hopefully I can help some folks. If nothing else, it’s a chance to meet great people. And no, my expectations are not inflated. Runners are great people.

Did you know one of my best friends is someone I met in a parking lot after a run? We were running with totally separate groups but somehow caught wind of the fact that we both needed to get in another four miles. We ran together that day and we’ve probably logged four hundred miles together since then. Speaking of, there was another friend I used to run with back when I lived in Rhode Island. That was over ten years ago. We haven’t talked in years and last week she called me like no time had passed and we plowed through some baby sleep issues. Which is ironic because my 2.5 year old still doesn’t sleep the whole night through every night. And extra ironic because my advice seems to be working for my friend (fingers crossed). I’m hard core into cry it out style sleep training. Don’t ask me for baby sleep advice if you  think that turns babies into sociopaths.

But back to running, I continue to have little niggling injuries that have kept me from running as consistently as I’d like to, but a few people I’ve run into lately swear by these Foundation Exercises developed by Dr. Eric Goodman. I’ve been doing them every morning and/or before I run. Today was my seventh consecutive day. Between the exercises and a PT session, I ran 4 pain free miles yesterday and 6 pain-free miles today, which I’m thrilled about. I am hopeful I can stay healthy enough to do a half marathon this spring. Since I’ve been running less, I’ve been lifting more; partly because it’s something I can do that doesn’t hurt, partly because I know I need to do it, and partly because it’s really fun and gets me sweaty. I’m surprised by how much I enjoy strength training.

On another topic… Ugh so many topics, so little time! We’re going to have to schedule another coffee date or maybe a glass of wine before we leave. Speaking of, I gave up alcohol for January. Between my birthday, Dan’s birthday, and all the holidays, November and December were hard on my liver. More accurately, the beverages I chose to drink were hard on my liver. Also, I make bad decisions about food (specifically desserts or anything in the pantry) when I’ve had a few drinks. I’ve been to a few social gatherings since the dawn of 2017 and said no thanks to alcohol, which,  a) was not nearly as hard as I’d imagined it would be and b) did not interfere with the fun factor whatsoever.

I’m speaking at the DU Women’s Conference again this year! It’s Friday Feb 10th on the University of Denver campus and it’s free and open to the public (woot!) and I get to talk about Impostor Syndrome again. I put so much time and effort into that presentation last year, (like, so, so, so much) and I am happy to use the material again.

And I don’t know why I waited till now to tell you but I finally got what I’ve been wanting for over a year now— a regular writing gig(!!!!). I get to write a weekly post for Parent.co, a website I find verrrry sticky. (The latest piece I wrote for them, on waiting to live with Dan until right before we got married is here).  I don’t know if “sticky” is a word everyone uses… I found it in one of those “How to Make Your Blog Amazing in Three Easy Steps!” articles that pops up in my Pinterest feed but in case you didn’t know, it means once you’re there, you feel compelled to keep clicking and reading more articles. So don’t say I didn’t warn you. I warned you. But it’s quality writing, and I’m thrilled to be part of it. And obv. to get paid. I have struggled a lot with being primarily a SAHM and not contributing financially to our household and I don’t want to care about money but the truth is, I do. Do you? That’s a conversation for that glass of wine. Or a long run.

Gah, one last thing before we both have to go. I know, there’s never enough time… For my birthday gift, I spent this weekend at a two day writing retreat this weekend and it was mind-blowing. The teacher called it an excavation, and that was exactly what it was. There were things I wrote that I didn’t even know I felt or thought. There were tears, there were tissues. There were coffee, chocolate (bacon chocolate!), mixed nuts, herbal tea, gorgeous Flatiron views and visits from a family of deer and an owl. Oh yeah, and words. Pages and pages of words. And truth. And truthiness (because, we determined, truth is overrated, especially when it comes to processing your own experiences through writing). I can’t recommend the teacher (Lisa Jones) highly enough. This is not a sponsored post!

Ok girl, I know you’e busy. Till next time. Also, I know I’m going to text you some crucial thing I forgot to mention about 20 minutes from now.

Race Report: Wobble Gobble 5k

The morning started like any other race morning, with two packets; a square packet of Quaker Instant Oatmeal and a rectangular, tube-like packet of Starbucks Via. Unlike a usual morning, I Instagrammed my breakfast. I spent a moment wondering if I was a loser or a cliche or both because really? Choosing a cool filter for a photo of prepackaged food? But I went ahead and did it anyway, wrote a caption, slapped on a few hashtags, and boom, there was my first ever Instagram post.

I got out the door, drove to the Y down the street from my sister’s house, in Attleboro, MA, the one I’ve been to several times, made a few u-turns in the very confusing office park where it’s located, then gave up and parked in some biotech company’s parking lot. I tried my best to follow the markings on the road to get to the race start but missed a crucial point, which sent me way out of my way… So I got my warm-up in. If you saw an idiot in a pink Lole hat (the kind with a little slit just for your ponytail) running around pretending to be doing a relaxed warm-up while her eyes were darting around, searching for any sign of the YMCA, that was me.

I got to the packet pick-up area, where I ran into one of the friends I planned to meet, about 30 minutes before the start. We warmed up together, then ran into our other friend right before the start. When the second friend and I spotted each other in a sea of people, we screamed like teenagers, which was fitting, considering we are high school friends.

The first friend and I decided to run together once we figured out that our PR’s were eerily similar. Within a minute, I was in front of her. I wished I’d had her next to me, but it just didn’t happen. Right away, I noticed a woman in an orange neon top and a long blonde ponytail. I made it my mission to keep her in my sights. The scenery was unimpressive, but I didn’t mind. I was staring at that bobbing, blonde ponytail, anyway.  The course was very flat, weaving through the empty streets of an office park, down wide, sidewalk-less, curving roads, past office buildings, and through deserted parking lots. Through the first mile, I kept asking myself “Is this the right pace?” It had been a while since I did a 5k. I realize, having done a bunch of Stroke and Strides this summer (a 750 meter swim, followed by a 5k run), there is a huge benefit of doing a 5k over and over and over; it’s not just that you gain fitness (although that is great). It’s that you hone your sense of what the distance feels like and how to gauge your effort. Three months since my last 5k, my gauge was a bit rusty.

I looked at my watch as we passed the first mile mark and saw 6 something and thought to myself, either I went out way too fast, I’m a fucking machine, or my watch is wrong. When we passed the second mile mark, I was having trouble focusing on the itty bitty numbers on my watch because, well, I had been running at 5k race pace for two miles. The watch is a hand-me-down from my mother in law, and I had used it maybe once before, so I was not used to it. My (not so) trusty Tom Tom has been malfunctioning, which is why I was relying on a watch with numbers so small I could barely understand them. To TomTom’s credit, my GPS watch is no longer under warranty, but they are in the process of issuing me a  new one. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t worn a watch at all.

Just after the second mile mark, I began to feel like I was on the verge of puking. On one hand, I was thrilled because, regardless of my pace, this meant I was doing something right. On the other hand, I really didn’t want to puke, so I was doing my best to find the sweet spot of running as fast as I could while keeping my oatmeal down. I wanted to run faster than my body was letting me. I still had my eye on ponytail girl when I started passing people. First a high school boy with a wonky, out of control gait. He reminded me of a really tall five-year-old, all enthusiasm and flailing limbs. Then there was a dude I passed on a hill. A chick in a Rhode Runner shirt passed me, and though I had every intention of passing her back, I never did. As we approached the 3 mile mark, I looked at my watch, which read 20 minutes and some seconds, and I felt sure that if I could just keep moving forward, I’d run my goal time of 21: 45.

As it turned out, I wasn’t a fucking machine and I had not necessarily gone out too fast… My watch was messed up. I crossed the finish line, absent of a finish clock (??), and looked down at my watch, which read 20:35. I was incredulous.. for good reason. It wasn’t true. I found ponytail girl, who’d finished just ahead of me. After I thanked her for motivating me, I asked her what her time was. She said twenty one twenty something, so I knew my 20:35 was completely wrong. How you mess up pressing a start button on a digital watch, I do not know, but obviously it is possible, because I did it.

As it turned out, I did PR by one second, with a time of 21:58, which made me the fifth female and first in my age group. I was happy with that, but I had to wonder if I could have found another gear if the stupid watch hadn’t given me a false sense of speed. Live and learn, right?

The best part of the race was not my time or my place, but the fact that I got to catch up with my old friends. It turned out the friend I started with was right behind me the whole time. We enjoyed a nice cool-down jog together, and then met up with the third friend. I promised myself I would not spend more time on this race report than it took me to actually run it. My timer is counting down and I have 13 seconds left… Till next time:)

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