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Saturday, October 29, 2011

...then try, try again

   With fall flying by and the marathon rapidly approaching (yikes!), I've been trying to enjoy myself a bit and have found myself actually training more like I used to when I was solely a runner.  This has involved adding a couple run days a week, running without biking beforehand, and road races to my heart's content.  Knowing that my training will revolve around triathlon, well, from a week from Monday on out, I've been enjoying this bit of run-focused down time.  Two Fridays ago, I made a last minute decision to jump into a 5k "just for fun"- Johnny's Run Like Hell.  I've done this race a couple of times in the past, with a year off last year (something about running a marathon the next day), and it's always a great time, as it involves adults running in ridiculous Halloween costumes, neighbors handing out beers on the final stretch, and some good company.  I mean "last minute" in the literal sense of the term, too- Friday night, while browsing around online at 8:45, I saw that the race was close to selling out, so registering on site (aka, at Johnny's Irish Pub) until 9pm was recommended.  I quickly changed from pajama pants into sweatpants, and Dave and I took off to the bar, making it there at 8:58 or so.  At least I looked classy.

   Anyways, I had few expectations for the race- I'd done my last long run and long track workout in the previous week, so I was more concerned with just shaking off some of the rust from those.  As someone who almost exclusively trains in the mornings, the 3pm start time was a bit different for me.  The race course also featured a downhill first mile, which, of course, means a nice uphill at the finish.  My plan was basically just to not run the first downhill mile in 5:20 in order to avoid a 6:30 final mile, akin to two years ago.  Long story short, this sort of worked out.   It probably would have worked out better for my digestive tract had I not eaten a huge pita loaded with peppers and chicken within two hours of the race start, but at least everything stayed inside of me.  I ended up running 18:32; my splits at least were less atrocious than my previous attempts at this race.  I was fine with the time and the effort overall.  Plus, I'd actually tried to enjoy myself somewhat during the run, which equated to sort of smiling for the various picture takers and spectators, something that rarely happens through the contorted mask of pain I wear during 5ks.  I rocked my old Penfield cross country uniform and flame socks (although my mom pointed out that most people probably thought I was just wearing my high school gear, given I still get mistaken for a teenager...ugh), and Dave followed wearing/sweating in a full-on penguin coat/costume, which was pretty epic.  Afterwards, we enjoyed some good times hanging out with some of Rochester's finest.  There's no choice but to love this race.

Shouldn't she be racing with the rest of her high school team today?

Dave running faster than any penguin has before

For whatever reason, this costume made me laugh the did he breathe in that thing?

Post-race festivities!
    So, fast forward a week, and I was ready to get back to business.  After once again finishing just over the 18 minute mark at Hospice, I'd set my sights on the flat, fast Scare Away Brain Cancer 5k as my last ditch attempt at the mythical 17's (I knew that Johnny's wouldn't be the fastest race of my life).  I'd begun my marathon taper, so I figured that the legs would have a bit more life in them; plus, I knew that my pacing had been terrible in my previous attempts.  A cool/bordering on cold morning, but calm morning greeted us- great conditions, as far as I was concerned (plus, it meant that I got to rock the sweet new 3/4 length tights that my friend Carolynne had given my the night before- I was disproportionately excited about this gift). I ran through the race course to warm up, and noted that the last mile seemed to be just slightly gradually downhill, something that I hoped would help offset my recent final mile struggles.

   At the start line, I switched my Garmin into "lap pace" mode, and told myself to keep that number between 5:40-5:45, no matter what, during the first mile.  I kept myself in relative check at the start of the race, which more or less meant that I didn't feel like I was in an all-out sprint.  I went through the mile mark right at 5:40, which was spot-on with what I had hoped to do.  I didn't feel good, but I also didn't feel bad, and I actually began to feel a bit more alive during the second mile.  Keep it at 5:50, I'd told myself, and I'd be in good shape; I hit the 2 mile exactly at 11:30.  Some doubts began to try to creep in at that point, but, at the same time, the "now-or-never" mentality kicked in.  I knew that I was right there, and I knew my body well enough to trust that it wasn't planning on failing me in the next six minutes- defeating the 5k demons was purely a mental quest at that point.  When I hit the final stretch, the clock was in my favor, and I hit the line in 17:5x- at that point, I could have cared less what that final digit was, anyways (officially, 17:52, I'd find out later).  Karen Blodgett, who I'd wisely not tried to take off with, had finished about 50m ahead of me.  Having been there at my previous close calls, she saw my immediate smile and greeted me with an enthusiastic congrats before she even caught her own breath- she's one of the most genuine and selfless competitors I've ever met.  I then happily (and gratefully) sought out my excited-for-me parents, and waited for Dave to finish shortly after.

   This leads me to another "yay, goal achieved" reflection- the women's running field around here is so supportive of each other, I feel, which really makes racing so much more enjoyable; after all, we're all after our own goals and we can appreciate that we're all working hard and pushing ourselves towards them (and, as I've probably mentioned before, I have the utmost respect for those out there that can balance babies/children with training/racing!).  I remember the cutthroat days of high school and college running now, and while I'll always be a competitor, I'm glad that I'm able to judge my races on my own effort and execution, rather than where I finished in regard to others.  My sub-18:00 is someone else's sub-20:00, 17:00, 25:00; times are just times, we all have our own abilities and limiters, and no one's accomplishments or happiness should be disregarded based upon them.  I'll always look at those faster than me with a sense of admiration and respect, but I'll also admire and respect those breaking barriers 3, 7, 10, whatever minutes slower than mine; we all fight our own battles.  After all, I know how many thousands of women can run circles around me (or, at least, I'll be reminded of that next weekend :) ), but I hope that they're not sitting out there right now, thinking to themselves, "seriously?  this chick is all excited over breaking 18:00? pathetic".  With that, with one personal goal accomplished, I'll spend the next week resting up, preparing myself, and, well, trying not to be a tapering fatass, knowing that next Sunday there will be women half an hour ahead of me, women half an hour behind me, but all of us working towards our own goals and winning our own victories.  

Starting line-I'm bending over to adjust my shoe.  Dave's line of sight appears to be directly on my butt.  Good thing we're married.

Early on- not looking too disgusting yet

Just before the final turn- looking disgusting now in effect

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