Saturday, June 21, 2008

1 Race Report: Run For The Roses 5K [Run 2, Week 2 (BOHR)]


I don't have much time this morning to blog about the race, (I have to go to work in a few hours), so I'm just going to briefly summarize my observations & impressions of the race. Maybe I'll add more detail later. Or not. ;-)

Although the official results for Run for the Roses 5K have yet to be posted, (or atleast the last time I checked, which was at 10:14 am this morning), I more or less remember my finishing time & splits. I finished the race in 32:08, or a 10:21:56 minute-mile pace. My splits were as follows: Mile 1 = 9:14, Mile 2 = 20:46 (?), and Mile 3 = 32:08. Considering that I've been running well over an 11-minute mile during the last few weeks, it's a respectable finishing time.

This race is part of the women's distance running festival & is a USATF sanctioned race. There were about 200+ runners or so, (or maybe more?!), & the winner finished in about 19 minutes or so. There was a nine year-old girl who finished in a little over 20 minutes. Or that's what Erik had told me after the race.

But here's what I remember about the race, from start to finish:

When we first pulled into the parking lot this morning, it was a bit after 7:40 am, & still needed to stretch & grab my race packet. Erik & I walked out of the lot, towards the registration area, & then I ran around on the grass to loosen up. During this time, there was a lady with a bullhorn shouting out various bits of information about the race, including a request for someone to move their car!

Erik had the digital camera with him, & snapped a few pre-race pictures for posterity's sake. And then I walked to the registration table & got my race number.

I was hoping against hope that I'd be allowed to run with my iPod, but of course one of the race volunteers at the registration table quickly dashed those hopes when she told me I wasn't allowed to use it, because it could be dangerous to both other runners & myself. I guess I more or less expected to hear this, (as this is the typical road race policy), but was hopeful anyhow, as the music often helps to keep my energy & spirits high! ;-)

The realization that I couldn't use music as a natural stimulant wasn't that big of a deal to me, as I've run without music before. The fact that it was going to be a short race was actually somewhat comforting & a fairly big mental boost. Plus, I knew that based on past racing performances, that I could rely on myself to keep going & gut it out at the end. That wasn't really the issue.

However, about 10 minutes before the race, I began to get slightly nervous (in a slow, percolating, just-underneath-the-surface kind of way) & -- OK, I'll admit it -- began to have some rather unproductive thoughts & feelings about the race & my racing abilities.

It all began when I started to look around at the other runners. I sort of got a bit psyched out upon seeing tall, long-legged "amazons" who looked like they were 10 years younger than me, & in 10-times better shape, with team T-shirts that said things like "Joe's Girls," etc. Looking around me, at that very moment, I just didn't feel like I belonged.

At one point, I even said out loud to Erik, "Wow, all of these ladies look like they're in such great shape. There are some serious athletes here. They really look like runners. And I just feel like a fat, out-of-shape runner, standing next to all of them!"

(OK, so I was working myself into a frenzy. There was no point in making myself feel bad, but nonetheless, I kept going. Whatever. None of us are perfect, or in a perfect state of mind 24/7.)

I continued, telling him, "...I bet I'll finish last. The last time I ran this race, I remember having a lousy finish & just don't want to be the last one bringing up the rear!"

Of course, Erik said nice, supportive things like "You won't finish last. At your pace, you're not going to finish last. There are always people who do 14 & 15 minute miles, so don't worry about it," etc., etc.

OK, I know that's probably not what you expected to hear me to say, but honestly, I was feeling a bit deflated before the start of the race. Thoughts like "Why on earth did I sign up for this?!," & "What am I doing here?!" certainly crossed my mind briefly, as I lined up with the rest of the runners at the starting line.

And even just seconds before the race, I remember thinking thoughts like, "I can't believe I'm doing this, I haven't seriously raced in years! What was I thinking?!" & "Oh no, I really don't want to do this!" (A bit too late for that one, eh!?! ;-) )

Yes, even I, who am typically so upbeat, do have my moments like this. What can I say!

Of course, it all had to do with lack of preparation for the race, & the uneasiness I felt about it. As the readers of this blog well know, I don't like to enter situations unprepared. And now I felt like I was just going to have to "wing it."

Of course, in reality, I wasn't totally winging it, as I'd run near enough to this distance in my weekly runs over the last several weeks, & had also completed another 5K just two weeks ago, but nonetheless, I couldn't shake that nagging feeling that somehow I didn't have "my house in order." Regardless, what I was really dealing with was that feeling a person gets when they step outside of their comfort zone. The first few steps outside that zone are often very challenging, & it usually forces one to step up one's game, both mentally & physically. And frankly, I felt like I'd been battling myself a bit in the beginning. And plus, the adrenaline hadn't kicked in yet. ;-)

Then the realization hit me that this was it, (this wasn't a dress rehearsal!), & that the starting gun was going to go off any moment!

Thankfully, before I lined up with the other runners, I had a moment of clarity (!), & very simply & calmly declared to Erik, "You know what, I've just got to put all of that nonsense aside & get my head in gear to run this thing. I'm just going to do it! I might not be the fastest or the slowest runner out there, but it's time to go out there & do the best that I can do."

Also helpful was being able to step outside of my frenzied head & chat with the other ladies in line. I realized that they were probably also feeling a tad bit nervous & excited, & probably might've even been thinking similar thoughts at one point of another. I'd asked several ladies if they'd done the course before, with varying responses. Some people were from out-of-town, some were local. Others had run this course before, & for some, it was their very first time. For some people it was their very first race, ...ever. Lots of people said it was a really pretty course, very scenic. Good, that's something to look forward to seeing along the way!

Of course, we also chatted about the course. I made mental notes as the ladies informed me about what to expect: Dirt trail at certain points. Watch your footing & be careful not to trip on that section. OK, check. Fairly flat & fast course, with only a few rolling hills for the uphill portions. OK, good. Phew. Water stations & people calling out times at each mile marker..... Great. Here we go..... Time to race!

I stood at the mid-front part of the pack, about a few yards from the starting line. The starting gun went off & we took off!

The first part of the course was shady & flat. Several people passed me. And then several more. And then several more! (At this point, in the back of my head somewhere, I remember thinking something like, "Gee, am I really that slow?!!!" (This was obviously another unrealistic thought, as I'd started towards the beginning of the pack; after all, what could I really expect to happen at my pace?!) Reflexively, I turned back to see where I was in the pack. OK, middle of the pack. "That's OK," I assured myself, & continued to keep my own pace.

I was really surprised when the guy at the first mile marker sounded off, "9:14!" and I remember thinking, "Holy *&$%!" I couldn't believe that I'd started out that fast. Whoah. Not like me. Just way too fast. An amateur mistake! That just wasn't like me to do that!"

Of course, psychologically speaking, that made me want to slow down a bit to pace myself. I looked around. Still lots of people passing me. "OK, don't worry about it. Just do your own thing."

And then: "Hmmm, it's pretty here. Beautiful trees. Cute little houses." I remember observing the house numbers, the roofing, the mailboxes, and a kid's bike parked outside of one of the houses.

Then a bit later we crossed over a small wooden bridge, & there was a small rolling uphill section of the path. It was shaded for the most part, but then as we got closer to Brookside Gardens, it became hotter & sunnier in portions. The Gardens themselves were beautiful, or rather what I could see of them from several yards away (!). I remember seeing some sort of rock garden & an outdoor area which appeared to be a Japanese garden. (Mental note to self: Got to go back & visit/tour the gardens at some point!)

Honestly, looking back on the race, there were large segments of the race that, visually speaking, are just a complete blur to me, mostly because I was so focused on just pacing myself, breathing (!), & just getting through it! ;-) Erik told me later that he saw me running with my head down -- He's even got the photos to prove it! -- I was focusing very intently on the running itself, so everything else around me just narrowed to a small pin! This probably explains the moments of "blur." ;-)

So, to skip ahead a bit: The guy at the 2nd mile marker, called out something like "20:46." Honestly, I don't remember exactly, because after the first water station, I kind of choked back the gatorade & then shortly thereafter, the extra liquid sloshing around in me started to not feel so good. I know I slowed down because of it, but didn't stop altogether. The goal was to keep running no matter what. I'd be damned if I was going to walk it at any portion!

The way I feel about racing is that I never want to give up & walk. I'm not saying there's any shame in walking, but for me, I just have to keep running. It's purely psychological. I just know that the minute I start walking, it's going to be harder to start running again. But that's just me. It's not that I couldn't start running again, but a little piece of me would be disappointed in myself for not trying harder. After all, it's only a 5K, & unless I was physically ill or injured, you'll find me running every race I do. We'll see if I can sustain that philosophy through longer distances, like the marathon; I actually think I'll be able to do that, especially if I train properly for those longer distance races. When I do my first marathon, I want to be able to run the entire thing. Yes, you heard me correctly. I'm going to train until I know I can finish the distance.

"Never say die (or in my case, stop & walk!)" probably would be my motto if I had one. I just don't want to give up. My dad always used to say that I'm not a quitter, & it's true. Challenges & difficulties will certainly come our way in running & in life, but I'm not going to be one to just lay down & quit.

Anyhow, back to the race report: After around the second mile marker, there was a woman who kept running & then stopped to walk. We were tag-teaming each other for a while. She'd walk, then run ahead of me, then fall back, while I more or less kept a steady pace. Towards the end she stopped & walked a very long portion. I shouted out to her, "You can do it. Keep going!" She started to run again for a bit, but then stopped & walked. I'm not sure if she ran the rest of the way to the finish, because by that point, it was nearing the end of the race, & I'd shot off ahead to the finish line.

I could go on about the race, but since it's 12:13 pm & I still need to shower & get ready for work, let me just wrap it up by saying that I began to struggle after about mile 2. Between mile 2 & 3, I slowed considerably.

There was one person somewhere after mile 2 who shouted, "You're almost there! Less than a mile left to go!' And then another person a few hundred yards later yelled the same thing, to which I replied, "Another person just said that a short while back, so how much further exactly?!" He answered, "About a seventh of a mile! Only a few more hairpin turns & you're done!" I thanked him & picked up the pace slightly.

Of course, that was exactly what I wanted to hear! It was at that point that I knew I could kick it up a notch. After all, 0.7 miles was almost the exact length of one lap around the lake. I knew I could do that. No sweat! Although my energy was flagging slightly, I was determined to keep going & pick up the pace as much as possible. This part really felt like an eternity, mostly because I'd heard the crowds cheering around 0.7 miles & thought I was much closer than I actually was, that is, until this last guy announced the distance!

During the final stretch, I could hear the noise of the crowds cheering, & that really motivated me to pick it up. It looked like it was another 0.4 miles or so through the trees.

At around the last 0.2 miles, I could see the finish line. And that was when I really started to pick up the pace & just broke out into a full-blown dash! I could see the numbers on the counter from a distance. I saw that the counter read "31 minutes" and some odd-seconds, & I sped up in an effort to see if I could make it under 32. As I ran past the finish line, I noted that the counter read "32:08." OK, not bad for my first "real" race in a while. And you know what? I didn't finish last. Far from it, in fact. ;-)

They handed out race certificates & roses to all of the participants. I got a yellow rose. We took off around 8:45 am or so & headed back home.

As I mentioned before, I'd run this race before, but it'd been in May (not June), sometime between 1993 & 1997 or so; also, it'd been on a different course (around Kensington, on paved trails near Beach Drive).

I actually kept the race "Certificate of Completion" (or possibly just the flyer from the race itself) from this earlier race -- it's around my house somewhere, possibly in a file drawer or scrapbook (!); I'll have to dig it out to find out the exact details.

OK, as usual, my summary turned into a full-blown report, (more or less!). Yikes! I've really got to go. It's now 12:28 pm! I've got to be at work very soon!

I think I'm going to break my earlier rule about posting race day pictures. Oh what the hell. I'm feeling good about finishing the race & want to share pictures of the day. Maybe just one or two photos, preferably ones where I don't look like I'm huffing & puffing too much. LOL. I'm still not "ready for my closeup, Mr. De Mille." Come to think of it, maybe some blurry photos would be better. ;-)

1 comment:

Blaine Moore said...

I was gonna say, this is a brief overview?!?!

Then I saw that you'd updated the post before I came and saw it and it all makes sense now. Heheh.

Nice work! That's a good starting point for the Summer races, especially given your recent training.

The biggest gains don't come from running fast. They come from running slowly more frequently. Running fast just lets you keep making gains once you start to plateau.

Keep up the good work.

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