City: Raleigh, NC Date: 9/11/2011
Weather: Warm, pretty day, just like 10 years before…
Course: rolling hills through parts of Raleigh around the RBC Center
Summary: My first 5k in 3 months… and worth the wait.
Exactly 3 months since my last race, I was a little anxious about how I’d do – I tied my PR, which was almost my goal…
I only discovered this race after I became a “runner”, but I’ve done it all three years and I look forward to it each year, so I’m going to say that this is also an annual race for me. Like the Komen and Triangle Run for Autism, I also have a personal reason for running this race – a friend of mine beat Lymphoma a couple of years ago and he’s been a pretty influential person to me (more than he probably knows), so it means a lot to me that the benefactor is the Lukemia Lymphoma society.
Additionally, some of the Hurricanes players also run in the event, so I often joke that I’m “chasin’ hockey players”. haha.
I wanted a PR in this race. I had spent a lot of time on the treadmill this summer and suffered a lot of nasty, lead-legs runs. I did intervals, though, not as much as I wanted, more than last year. I tied my PR (24:30) the last time I ran this course in the NHL All-Stars 5k in January, so I knew it was possible. I wanted a good test of my speed so I could see if I could do a sub-8 5k that I can eventually incorporate into a Half. One day.
As I mentioned above, I love this race. I found it for the first time two years ago – my first year of racing (2009) and wanted to do it because I’m a pretty big fan of the Carolina Hurricanes (I don’t really seem like a hockey fan, but I do love it – long story for a different blog maybe). Like baseball players, hockey players are just (sigh)… enough said. That’s why I originally started doing this race. Once I found out why they did it, for the Lukemia Lymphoma Society, I plan around it now. Because I’m such a fan of it, though, I encourage people to do it. In the past two years, it has grown, but it is still a pretty small race, they have *real* bathrooms, and they serve pancakes. As if a great cause and being around real, live hockey players isn’t enough of an incentive.
I talked a co-worker into registering for this race as his first 5k (side note – he did awesome and I think he’s addicted to running/racing now) and suggested it to another friend of mine who is training for her first half marathon so it is the first time in a while I have run a race with friends also in it. I had looked forward to it for weeks because of that fact.
The morning of the race, I had to alter my routine a bit. Before going gluten free, I would eat toast with Peanut Butter. That’s not an option for me any more. I had a big bowl of rice and chicken (bland, I know) the night before, so I wasn’t really hungry. Counter to my usual habit, I skipped breakfast. I got dressed, got a cup of coffee (which I have found I run better, generally, after a little bit), grabbed my water, and got on the road.
I got there and realized I didn’t have my coconut water (sigh). I’m always missing *one* thing. Hopefully, I can get my act together for the half so I have EVERYTHING at the time of the race! No matter – it is a 5k and I drank quite a bit of Propel before I left, so I should be OK (turns out – I wasn’t… I needed the extra nutrition in the coconut water).
The race was scheduled to start at 9, and it was about 8:15 when I parked, so I had plenty of time to get my chip, take a bio break (or two) and stretch… maybe even get a few pictures of hockey players. As I mentioned before, this race is getting bigger each year. They don’t really publicize it much, but I think word-of-mouth is really working because I was surprised to see so many people there so early. Once I found the chip table (it was a little hard to find) and got it fastened on securely (one of my anxieties, by the way, is the chip falling off during a race… I should take a picture of what I do to fasten it on… the folks at the end of the race who have to collect them are probably kind of annoyed with me…) I decided it was a good time to stand in a long line for a potty break. Once I was all done with my “pre-game routine” I came back outside ready to snap a few shots – I had about 15 minutes (I thought) – only to hear an announcement “ok, runners, go ahead and start making your way to the start line…” huh? But, like cattle, I followed the herd and positioned myself in the corral to what I thought was a decent starting position – on the right, in the front 1/3 of the group. Every minute or so, they would make an announcement that the race was about to start, pointing to a start time of 8:50. Good for me, but sucks for the guys coming in late thinking they had 10 more minutes.
The start of the race was pretty uneventful – as was most of the race itself. I started out with music because of a discussion I had with the co-worker I convinced to do the race – music makes it better. Because I was playing music through Runkeeper, though, I had the audio cues going to tell me how fast I was going and what my pace was – I didn’t want to hear that and freak out because I wasn’t going fast enough, so I took the buds out and was happier for it. I had a lot to think about. For starters, it was the 10th anniversary of September 11th, and I spent a lot of time thinking about that day – all the thoughts and feelings about it that I’ve tucked quietly away for the last year were just under the surface and made it easy to just not think about the miles ticking away. Between those thoughts came the thoughts about my form (was I running goofy again?), thinking about the great long run I had in San Francisco the week before (first in a long while) and how to factor in faster pace segments into my half (which was getting close), wondering if I really bit off more than I could chew with the 50-states thing (I still think I can do it, as long as I can shake out all the change in the couch cushions) all the way down to borderline OCD-ish anxieties like “did I leave the garage door open? Did I remember to let the dog in?” (I did… on both counts). I thought about my kids, I thought about my pending divorce. I thought about friends. I thought about how precious life is and how grateful I was to have the opportunities to live it. Races such as this one – celebrating the short life of a little girl lost to cancer – tend to make me grateful for my own and very introspective. It is good for resetting the Humble Meter.
Because I was so deep in thought, the run itself really didn’t seem that hard until the last .75 mile or so when it was clear to me that I was burning out physically and wishing I had at least had a banana and brought some of my coconut water. The last .25 I was really starting to slow down when a woman behind me shouted “you’ve been ahead of me all race – you can’t let me beat you now!” – I thought that was very cool of her. That was incentive for me to push a little more, but I just didn’t have the energy and started to gag a little so I had to slow down. She did beat me, but not by much.
I finished with an official tie of my personal record: 24:30. Third time at that pace, second time at that pace (as it turns out) on this exact course. Although I didn’t beat my PR, tying it was acceptable. But… my goal for 2012 is now to beat the 24:30 PR. It’s time. I’ve had this same PR for over a year now, and it is time to beat that and defy Father Time.
Or… maybe chasin’ hot Hockey players is just the incentive I need to break the PR. hmm…
I should always eat before a race – even when I don’t feel like it – and I don’t rely on music quite as much as I thought as a “performance enhancer”. Intervals do work, but if I’m ever going to come close to beating my PR, I need to do them every week and I need to push them farther and faster.