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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The second most epic 5k that I've ever run

   The most epic 5k of my life will always be our conference meet my final year of collegiate cross country, when a foot of melted October snow followed by two consecutive weeks of nonstop rain left Beaver Island a complete, total swamp/mudpit/continuation of the Niagara River.  I've run over 23 minutes in a 5k twice in my life.  Once was my very first 5k ever.  The other time was there.  (Note: club nationals in Spokane a few years ago, when it was 15 degrees with a windchill of -381 might have made this list, but that was a 6k.  It just deserved a shout out.)  Anyways, my training schedule called for a 5k this weekend, mostly for HR zone testing purposes.  I selected the Post Christmas Blues 5k, a fun little race in Canandaigua that I ran a couple of years ago, and enjoyed for the cheery atmosphere and Christmas-themed race shirt (I love anything festive holiday, as I've previously stated).  However, I'd been feeling sort of off all week, I hadn't run a single sub-7 mile in well over a month, I'm admittedly not in race mentality mode, I'm just flat-out out of shape (there's been a lot of chocolate involved in my Christmas season), and I hadn't run a 5k in over a year...so needless to say, it wasn't going to be a PR-quality race.  While brushing my teeth last night, I figured that a sub-20 performance would be adequate.  It briefly occurred to me that this would mean that I'd be running my 70.3 half marathon pace-stellar.  I then became thankful for two things-1. The course had been changed, so I wouldn't have to compare myself to the 18:2x surprise performance from a couple of years ago (it was the one freak 50 degree day that winter), and 2. it might snow, giving me a fantastic excuse for a slow time.

   Fast forward to this morning.  I dragged Dave out of bed nice and early, as he complained and tried to weasel his way out of joining me, saying that the best things for the cold he's had this week would be sleeping all day and continuing his self-pity party.  I'd have been more sympathetic, but he went to bed before seven last night, and, most importantly, he'd backed out of running this race a couple of years ago, costing us the husband/wife prize.  I wasn't willing to let that happen again, after all.  When we left Irondequoit (later than I wanted to, of course), light flakes were falling, but nothing was sticking to the road.  Naturally, I packed my ancient flats with negative traction.  I thought maybe it'd stay clear enough until we were through the race.  Wrong.  As I drove further and further south, the roads became snowier and snowier.  I remembered the whole "excuse to run slow" thing, though, and didn't panic.  By the time I was warming up, a good 1-2 inches of fresh powder were on the ground.  My race goals shifted from "hopefully break 19, at the very least 20" to "don't fall, or completely embarrass yourself".  By the time I got to the starting line, I decided to at least try to enjoy the craziness of it all-after all, if I'd wanted perfect conditions, I'd have gone to the upstate indoor track meet.  But, the thought of running a 5k on an indoor track sounded less appealing than navigating a snowy wonderland, so there I was!

   When the race started, I was about as ready to go as I was going to be.  I settled in behind former Canandaigua standout/current collegian Meghan McCormick, and basically just stayed there the entire race. Occasionally, I'd try to see if I could close the gap a bit, but it wasn't going to happen.  I knew that she had been one of the best high school runners in the state last year, and had pr's that put mine to shame, so I didn't worry too much about it, and concentrated on a. staying upright, b. trying not to let the gap get too huge, and c. trying to smile at the high school volunteers directing us at intersections (it had to be COLD for them just standing there, after all-I was uncharacteristically easily distracted during the race, which was nice). The footing during the first mile actually wasn't too bad, and I felt pretty decent, running it around 6:15.  During the second mile, I tried to keep the same intensity, and entertained myself by trying to find the best route through the snow, alternating between the tire tracks (less snow but more slipping in the slipper-flats) and the undisturbed snow (less slipping but olf-like running through sand).  The garmin flashed a 6:37 for that mile.  I justified it as the second fastest mile I'd run in the past month (to the first mile of that race), and continued on.

   The final mile consisted of me trying to stay a respectable distance behind Meghan (I was thankful she was there, otherwise I probably would have started sandbagging things entirely) and counting down the distance left.  As expected after months of zone 1, I wasn't in a ton of pain, I just had no other gear in my arsenal.  Plus, the snow kept getting deeper (tends to do that as it falls, I suppose).  By this point, my HR monitor had slid down my chest and was reading in ventricular fibrillation range, too.  The slight uphill towards the final turns passed in slow motion, and the garmin beeped with a 7:04-or, slower than any mile I'd run in any 70.3 all season.  Oh well.  I made the final turn and finished up in 21:09.  While this may have been slower than the first 5k of my marathon during IM Florida, it still fell within a good range-slow enough to indicate that something other than my (lack of) fitness had caused (at least part of) the deviation from my normal times, yet faster than my epic condition 23 minute cutoff.  Dave finished shortly thereafter, thus locking up our husband/wife title (and drawing far more sympathy from Joe Williams and Curbeau as he stumbled through the finish chute with the cold of the century).

   Afterwards, we enjoyed what I miss the most about running road races-post-race socializing while eating (Chobanis and hot chocolate=awesomeness).  We caught up a bit with Joe and Matt, and got our husband/wife swag, selecting a new sweet flashlight from the offerings.  This may not seem very exciting, but as I learned when I was slightly concerned about power outages before Sandy, we actually didn't own an adequate flashlight.  Plus, it gave me another opportunity to make fun of Dave for the time that he bought some $1.99 "lantern" from his favorite website, slickdeals.net, and bragged incessantly about what a fantastic deal he'd gotten on this amazing light source, until it arrived and was all of 3 inches tall.  I don't think that one should be lived down.  Ever.  Overall, though, although the last time I ran a 5k, I ran over 3 minutes faster, I still enjoyed the race (it remains pretty high on my list of personal favorite 5ks), and we accomplished the goal of getting some HR data (until it fell down around my stomach).  Plus, I just love snow, so I'll never fault it for anything (we even went out and bought some new xc skies right afterwards, taking them for a spin later on).  With the new year will come some harder training-and I'm more than ready to tackle it!

Dave and our flashlight.  He loves me for getting him out of bed this morning.

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