Monday, April 18, 2011

The running chronicles - "You aer a star"

"You aer a star"
This is a long entry.  There are some cute pictures from my daughter included.  Beware.  I wrote this in two evenings.  I change tenses a few times.  Deal.
I had no idea how today was going to go.  Being only my second 5 mile race, I really don't have a good idea of how I perform at this distance.

Let me back track a little and just make it clear that I am by no stretch of the imagination an accomplished runner.  I don't know if that was ever more obvious to me than it was today.  I think I got a little too high on my high horse after last week's race. Today's race, while a nice race, was much different than last week's race.  It was cold, the event was smaller, and there were three distance races being run: 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles), 5 miles, and 2 miles.  I did the 5 miles.

I listened to the pod casts in the car, rather than during the run.  I am so glad I did, too, because I laughed so much while I listened!!  Two Gomers is a humor-filled pod cast by two guys who set out to run, and they start from scratch.  I am already hooked, and can't wait to listen to more of their episodes.

Anyway,the location of the race was great.  A large forest preserve area with a lake dropped right in the middle, surrounded by trees and trails.  The trails which we would soon invade.  The lane leading to the race was a long, slow, winding road.

Normally, this would have been a great sight to see at this hour, not long after sun up, life just beginning to emerge as day breaks.  But today, there were two things keeping things from being as beautiful as they could be.  One was the cold.  With temps in the upper 30's, maybe 40, it wasn't anywhere near the beautiful temps of last weekend.  And it was windy.  I mean gusting windy, not just "cool breeze" kind of windy.  Lastly, my intestines seemed to be experiencing their own anxiety over the upcoming race.  Let's all admit, there are times when you just know you need to get to the potty (yes, I still have young kids and that's what it's called) before you seriously pull the car over and don't care who sees what you have to show.  And any mom who has sneezed, laughed, coughed, walked, run, or just sat down, knows that any delay could mean disaster.  All I had was a small cup of coffee and a couple pieces of toast before leaving the house, but my body was begging for mercy by the time I got off the tollway.  I lucked out and was one of the first to get to the parking lot (just after some of the volunteers), and first to get to the facilities.

Do you remember that I mentioned it was cold and windy?  Ya, it was.  And at 6:35AM, there's nothing more eye opening than using the County facilities which aren't heated, and are barely protected from the elements.  While my bowels thanked me, my hind end sure didn't.  Well, that was 'behind' me now.  {snicker, snicker}

As I left the facilities, another woman was walking out with me, and as we talked she said, "...the two halfs I ran were in Florida, so the weather was much different".  Um, two halfs?  Ya, I'm doing the 5, and it's kind of a stretch.  Confidence, remember, confidence.

you aer a sun
I sat in my car with the Gomers until it was time to head to the start line.  I proceeded to put my head band on, sliding it gently over my forehead as I positioned it in place over my ears, realizing that my forehead was actually peeling!  Last week at this time it was at least 65 degrees, and by the end of the race I swear it was at least 80 (well, it was by at least noon), and the sun was warmer than I've felt it in months.  I spent most of the day outside, resulting in sunburn on, among other spots, my forehead.  Today it was peeling.  And it was barely 40 degrees.  Really?  Dude.

At the start line, I scanned the field to see if, by chance, I might know or recognize someone.  Nope.  Still, I made friendly pre-race chit-chat with a few ladies near me.  I found myself amidst what were obviously running clubs.  Matching shirts, water bottle belts, standing close together as if for fear that someone might get between them or something.  Anyway, the field looked like some pretty serious runners, and I was feeling a bit novice.

The race wasn't a huge one.  If I'd had to guesstimate at the time, I'd have said under 400 runners between the two races at this start (1/2 and 5 mi).  I didn't look around too closely, though, but I could tell it was a smaller race.  We were all gathered near a white flag with green lettering reading "START", which was about as formal as the start was.  After hearing a thanks from the woman who runs the beneficiary of this race, we heard the count down, and finally - the starting gun.

It was a good start.  With a small field, there wasn't a huge rush to trample and stampede.  Instead it was a nice, controlled start where everyone found their pace and it wasn't long before the front two packs were evident.  Before I knew it, I realized I was in the second pack, and we weren't killing ourselves.  Soon I also realized that I was probably in a pack of runners who would go on to do the 1/2, so they were obviously not starting out with great intensity and speed.  Very cool.

I felt good at the start and for the first couple of miles.  Honestly, it did feel and look more like a brisk October day than a bright, springy April day, but the scenery was still pleasant and calming.  Calm, that's what this race was, it was calm.  In contrast to last week's event, the world's largest 8K, this was nice and small and calm.  The runners were excited, but, serious - and cold.

My legs felt good and I wasn't winded at all, but around the two mile mark my IT bands began to flare up a bit.  I had found a couple different runners along the way and kept pace with them, but around mile 3 I couldn't take the pain any more.  At this point, I stopped trying to push through the pain as I'd been doing, and I remembered that I was here for fun, for a charity, and to get another 5 mile race under my belt.  I also reminded myself that this course is a hilly one.  Oh, was it hilly.

you aer my mommy
Now, before you start to think, "Big deal, some hills", let me remind you that I live in Illinois.  My driveway is a hill.  This is the flat lands, we don't do hills.  So this wasn't San Francisco steep, but the course had lots of inclines and elevation changes, which I am not used to.  Along with these inclines we got wind.  Oh did we have wind!  As we rounded the body of water that rests in the middle of the beautiful trails we were navigating, the water was being blown by the strong winds to the point where there were actually waves with white peaks bashing the rocks at the edge of the water!  Peaks!  Another thing we don't get here in Illinois, waves.  It would have been a nice distraction if the wind shaping the waves wasn't also trying to main line right to my lungs with each breath I took.

So back to the running.  I walked.  I gave in right around mile three and walked.  I would get passed by one of those groups of women from a running club, and in my humiliation I would get to trotting again and pass them up easily.  My IT bands didn't like that very much and I'd be forced to walk again about 1/4 mile down.  Oddly, those same women didn't pass me again when I walked.  I don't like getting passed after the first mile, so it was redeeming when I didn't get passed twice by the same group.

So while I walked, I decided not to beat myself up but to focus on the scenery and feeling my legs and keeping my mind on getting running again.  I didn't swear (OK, I did once), I listened to my music, and just looked around to see where the rest of the field was at.  A couple times I thought I was closer to the finish than I was, so my increase in speed at those points was met with great aggravation from my IT bands, and I'd have to walk a little again.  Soon, the balls of my feet were hurting on top of all this, and even walking didn't ease the trouble, so I just ran the rest of the way.

The 1/2 marathoners split off from the 5 milers just before our finish.  It was interesting to see the runners moving on to the longer race, as I'd started at the gun near many of them.  I felt pretty good about that.  Kind of gave me fleeting hope that I can probably pull off a half before I give myself credit for.  Something to consider.

You aer my kids {me w/Fred & Ethel}
I got to the finish line and saw those big huge numbers on the digital clock on the table next to the finish line.  Not being chip timed, finishers were herded into a small lane roped off by bright tape and some very cheery volunteers claiming that each finisher had done a great job, despite what those big numbers actually said.  After the overly cheery man took my bib strip, I stopped the Garmin and realized that I'd missed my goal time.  Missed by a good margin.  This was craptastic.  Sure, I finished, and sure I was having some pain that slowed me down a bit, but, I missed my goal.  Crap.

I was the only finisher in sight at that point, and right then I assumed that I must have been one of the last 5 mile finishers.  This was really depressing.  I knew it was a small event, this wasn't last week's race.  I just couldn't help, though, but to be disappointed with my finishing time.  Garmin told me 49:21, a full five minutes slower than last week.  Not good.

I made my way to the finish line barbeque, where my Godmother and all the volunteers had laid out a generous spread of bagels, chips, pretzels, sport drinks, water, and best of all - coffee.  Especially in this cold, I could not wait to have a nice, hot cup of coffee.  They even had real half and half instead of powdered creamer, oh heaven.  After finishing my finish line water, I dove in for some nice hot Caribou.  Yum.

I did what I don't normally do and I stretched while I tried to warm myself in the sun.  It felt so good to stretch, and I know that's something that should be as part of my routine as wearing my sports bra is, but it's one step in the process that I usually leave out.  Note to self: must stretch after every run.  Good thing I did, because a couple other runners joined me and we all kept each other company until the half finishers filtered in, and they began the awards.

I don't *always* stay for the awards, but this time I did.  We were all there for a good cause, and it's always nice to hear a round of applause when each name is called.  I like to support the other runners, and most of all, I like to see who they are, what they look like, and hear their times.  Come on, like you don't think the same thing, just admit it.

It was hard to hear the announcements, so a few of us moved forward closer to the "stage".  By this time, the crowd was kind of small, so I figured it was for one of three reasons.
A) It was cold so people had gone home
B) The race was smaller than my original estimate
C) There were still lots of runners on the last leg of the half

Speculation aside, we listened and watched as runners of all ages collected their prize for their accomplishments an hour or two earlier.  The young couple I was standing with, a physical therapist and her boyfriend, giggled as they heard their names as winners in their age bracket for male and female finishers in the two mile race.  We agreed that the fact that they were the only runners in their age group didn't matter, they won fair and square.  Then the 5 mile awards began.  First award was to the woman who won the 70+ age division.  You'd never know by looking at her that she was over 70, that was really exciting.

you aer a star!
So then I heard my age bracket announced, and I listened closely.  I had to see who my competition was, who had beat me to the finish, who she was and what she looked like, and what her time was.  The announcer stumbled over the name (as if it included all 26 letters of the alphabet in two syllables), and before I knew it, it hit me - IT WAS ME!!  Shit, she just called MY name!  I WON my age bracket!!  Are you kidding me????

I hurried to the front to accept my pint glass emblazoned with the emblem representing Equestrian Connection, and heard the cheers from the other runners.  I had no idea if she said any other names for that age bracket, I barely knew my own name had been called!

That made me feel a bit better about my disappointing performance.  Again, I reassured myself that it was cold, windy, hilly, and it was only my 2nd 5 mile race, and kept hearing a little voice in the back of my head saying, "GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!!"  Yes, it was saying it in all caps.

Still, I couldn't help but feel that this race really showed me that I'm not as good a runner as I had started to believe I was.  I mean, really, all I do is run a few times a week and race whenever I get the chance, and the money to cover myself.  It's not like I "train" or go to the gym or belong to a running club.  This really kind of took me down from the high I was still on from last week's race.  So, time to move on, start really training, and cross train like I know I should.  Notes to self tallied, and I headed home.

After a hot shower, I found a trail of pictures drawn by Ethel, which really brightened my day and my mood.  There's nothing more heart warming than pictures from your children with supportive, loving, or otherwise non-whining sentiments on them.  You'll find the first of them at the top of this entry, and no, that's not a typo, she really spelled "are" as "aer".  So friggin' cute. 

Later that night, I looked for official times to be posted.  Nada.  It wasn't until today that I found the official times, and can I tell you - I was so wrong about my performance!!!!!!!!  I finished 31st out of 69 runners in the 5 mile race, and did I tell you - I won my age bracket!!  I didn't just win it, I SMOKED it!  I took the second place girl in my bracket by 11 minutes!!  Woo hoo!!

Now that I'm out of my own head and seeing the bigger picture, I see that for my 2nd 5 miler, I did pretty damn well.  Now I just need to work on getting my IT bands up to 5 miles, and before I know it I'll be a 10K runner.  I can easily do that in the next month, especially if I can get back to my yoga and do some cross training.  I now feel so much better about yesterday's race, and am so excited about my reward.

I love you