2011 Race Reports: Triangle Run/Walk for Autism 5k

Race: Triangle Run/Walk for Autism 5k

City: Raleigh, NC   Date: 10/08/2011

Distance:5k/3.1 mi

Weather: Warm, pretty day

Course:  rolling hills through parts of downtown Raleigh

Summary: a 5k that I “didn’t take seriously” that I somehow managed to come close to tying my PR for this distance. again.

Pre-Race

I have three 5k races that I never miss each year: the Susan Komen Race for the Cure 5k, the Friesen Run with the ‘Canes 5k, and this one, the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism 5k. I have a personal reasons for running each of them, but race in particular is special because I have a son with autism. To be blunt, autism is not the handicap it was presented to me to be – I find how his mind works to be absolutely fascinating. It can be frustrating at times trying desperately to communicate with someone that just doesn’t communicate the same way I do, but we are both learning how to communicate with each other and get better at it each day. The benefactor for this race is the Autism Society of NC, a group that does a lot of work in advocacy, education and support of families with autistic members – on all parts of the spectrum.

So… knowing that I had a half marathon the week before (Disney Wine and Dine) and knowing that I *never* miss this race, I did not go into this race expecting anything under 26:00. I did this one time before when I entered the 2010 Friesen Run with the ‘Canes 5k a week after finishing the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon and was surprised at my results then, too. All I wanted to do was to complete the race without falling down. I really didn’t care too much about my time.

Race Day

The boys were with their dad, and, usually, this had been a family event. Not this year. My dad considered running it, but hadn’t prepared for it – maybe next year – so I did it semi-solo this year. I did have one friend from work (not my usual run buddy, though since this race I’ve run with him a couple of times) who also ran it as his second official 5k (he smoked my PR just three weeks after this race, by the way).

My usual routine for 5k races has become someone mundane now… I still get nervous, but there is nothing flashy or exciting about the routine any more. I get up. I check my gear (usually several times – OCD tends to kick in just before the race). I eat my (now Gluten Free) oatmeal. I drink my coffee. I drink water… and more water. I go to the bathroom. I drink more water. I go to the bathroom again… until it is time to go to the race. I usually don’t even remember to pick up race packets in advance of the race anymore, so I usually just leave myself enough time to get the packet and take it back to my car. That’s what I did this particular morning.

Since I work downtown and have access to a parking space, albeit about 4 blocks in 2 directions, I usually park there and walk to the event. It is a good warm up for me, anyway. I got my packet, returned to my car, stopped at the bathroom in the hotel both times (not so dumb after all, if I avoid the port-a-johns) and made my way back to the event. I was meeting, for the first time, a high school friend of my usual training partner – who also has a son with Autism. We chatted on Facebook a few times, but I met him and his wife in person for the first time this day. We talked about running and, since I had just finished the Disney Wine and Dine, I talked about the wall I hit at mile 10 when I was just *done*. He talked about that wall for him in the full marathon he did earlier in the year. I was running and he and his wife were walking it, so I wished them luck and lined up.

Because I like to start in the front and because I wasn’t really trying for time, I had my music with me at this race. I was treating it as a training run. With my usual training partner, I had run this route a few times before my half, so I felt pretty comfortable with the route itself – and the hills that went with it. In 2010, this route felt like a challenge for me, though, looking back at my time, I did pretty good (24:59). Nevertheless, I’d been working hard in 2011 to get back to where I was at the end of 2009 (due to depression and scheduling challenges, I had a hard time making all my training runs in 2010) and this route was starting to feel easier to me, finally. I picked a spot, and as I usually tend to do, I moved up through the ranks to fill in any blank spots until I was in my happy place to start: first third, off to the right. I plugged in my songs and turned it up. I was ready to go.

I don’t know if it was that I was just zoned into the race or that I just didn’t care, but I did feel like I was going fast. I didn’t really check pace at first, but I wasn’t being passed as much as I usually am at that spot and I felt like I was a lot farther a lot faster than I expected to be. I also noticed that I was out of breath and having a hard time catching it, usually an indicator that I’m going too fast so I took a look at my pace – I was sub 7! what! I think I’ve done that maybe a couple of other times, but that I can’t really remember ever going that fast. I took it down a bit because I didn’t want to hit a wall in a 5k and ended up at a far more comfortable 7:50-something.

The remainder of the race was more or less like any of the other times I’d run the route – I took the hills without much effort, and every 5 minutes, was reminded by RunKeeper that I was keeping my pace under an 8 minute mile. I didn’t think I would set a new PR, but I was pretty happy with my results and cruised through the finish line happy and exhausted.

Learnings

I really don’t know what got into me that day – it was a great race and I felt good the whole race through. I’ve gone on to feel terrible in a couple since then, so I’m always grateful for the ones that feel good and it makes me appreciate them that much more. I went on that day to swim a mile for the first time… I guess I had a little extra pent up energy. I’m looking forward to doing this one again next year – maybe I will break that PR after all in 2012.

2010 Race Reports: Susan Komen Race for the Curek 5k

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Raleigh  NC 5K (June 12, 2010)

This race is very meaningful to me in many, many  ways. On a personal note, my grandmother beat Breast Cancer in the 1970s  when it was almost unheard of, only to succumb to colon cancer about 15  years later. Incidentally, this is the grandmother that always inspired  me to be active – because she was so athletic and active, even up to  the end – and I think she’d be very proud of me for running now, and  especially in this race. I’ve participated in this event for years as a  walker, but at the last minute last year, I decided to “unofficially”  (unchipped) run it and I wasn’t happy with what I did because I had to  stop a few times. However, it was that race that gave me the inspiration  that has lasted this whole year because it was that race that I  discovered that Grandma, in fact, did pass the competitive gene on to me. After last year’s Komen race, I immediately  registered for my first officially chip timed race, The Great Raleigh  Road Race (I run the anniversary of this race 3 weeks) and I have had at least one race a month since  then and have no plans to really stop now. I thought it fitting that I  close out the first official year of racing with Komen, and my goal was  to PR it. When asked by WRAL who I’m running for, it was for my Grandmother (Video – and, that is Jen and Cary beside me!!). Love  you and miss you, Grandma.

Pre-Race

I ran as part of a team at work – another  tradition. There were a few of us running competitive, but they were all  coming from different directions, and the rest of our team was walking,  so I was pretty much by myself. One little wrinkle in the plan was that  some how, my husband’s name was associated with my email address –  annoying for so many reasons… most of which surround all the “personal  issues” I’ve alluded to through the year so far. I absolutely had to  get that fixed because I didn’t want my hard work to go with his name  (not like he would claim it, but still). The race folks were good about  it and it took only a minute to fix (once I got through the line!!) Holy  Cow – so many people! It was also my first D-Tag race and I was all  paranoid that I was going to put it on wrong – ha ha. I also took extra  care this time to ensure that I didn’t do anything crazy with the eating  – I learned that pretty painful (both literally and figuratively)  lesson during the Capital City Classic and I didn’t want to make that  mistake again, so it was bland veggies, bland chicken and bland rice for  both lunch and dinner, chased by plenty of water and then time to pink  up! Pink nails, pink toes, pink shirt, black skirt chaser skirt… with a  pink skort. Laid out my  (pink) socks, my (ok, I don’t have pink shoes) shoes and all the other  gear, and then went to bed. I did have dreams about putting the chip on  wrong (I knew I would), but otherwise, got a great night’s sleep!

I  set my alarms (4, in fact) for shortly before 5AM and finally got up  around 5:10 or so, made my coffee, and ate my non-combative (with my  stomach at least) breakfast: 1/2 bagle with peanut butter and oatmeal. I  had asked my friend if I could park at his house (rather than taking  the shuttle) but he never got back to me and has a dog that I didn’t  want to freak out and wake him up at that hour, so I decided to park at  the Art Museum. There is a trail (Raleigh Greenway) that leads from the  Art Museum to Meredith College. I got there and parked a little after 6  and I thought I saw two girls in tutus several feet ahead of me… I  thought it might be Jen and Cary (turns out it was), but they were far  enough ahead of me that they couldn’t hear me call them, so I thought,  if that is them, I’d just catch up after the race. I noticed right away,  though, that it was already very sticky outside and I was thankful for  having had that extra bottle of water, but hoping like crazy I made it  to the port-a-potty in time. I started on the greenway, which was part  of my HM in March, so it was very nostaligic for me as I was walking it:  “here’s where my brain let go and the body took over”, “here’s  that nasty-@$$ hill where I starting passing folks right and left”, “here’s  where I knew I might actually finish it” etc. I looked down at my watch  and started to get nervous that it was 6:30 and it seemed like I had  farther to go than I thought, so I started to jog a little. As I was  jogging, I approached a guy who was doing some strange warm up thing –  he’d take short steps then a couple of long ones then a bouncy jog, then  jump a little, then walk, and then do it all over again… it was kind  of entertaining. I look at my watch: 6:40 and I still wasn’t there. I  finally get to the port-a-potties around 6:45 – just enough time to go  and put my D-tag on (I wanted to see how everyone else had it on so I  didn’t do it wrong, especially since I had some anxiety about it). 6:50 –  time to line up.

Race:

I couldn’t believe how many folks were there! I weaved my way up toward the  front, though not on the front line. I stopped when I saw EC – he was something else. I  thought “ok, he’ll keep me on pace!!” – haha. He was very tall – like 6’7″  and about 5 1/2 feet of that was his legs! I had no chance of keeping up  with him!!! They got us started and, honestly, it was fun to see  EVERYBODY in front of me looking down and starting their watches – what a  sight! As a photographer, I thought that would have been the *perfect*  photo, especially from that perspective. I was farther back than I  thought (as I found out after the race), but I finally got out of the  gate and took off. As expected, EC and his long legs were long gone and I never got to use him as a pacer.  Oh well. As crowded as it was, though, I only had one incident where I  found it tough to pass – there were a string of 13 – 15 year old girls  (like 10 of them) that were running together. I was so proud of them for  running at that age, I forgave the infraction – haha. I ended up getting around  them and look up and dang if this girl ahead of me isn’t wearing the  EXACT same outfit I was wearing, including the skirt chaser skirt! LOL – that was too awesome. In a  total move that is mostly my Dad’s personality, I had to run beside her  and tell her I loved her outfit – very nerdy, I know!!

The first mile went great – I was sub-7 for part  of it (a small part of it) and kept it sub-8 for the remainder. Then… I  hit mile 2. I think I went out of the gate a little too fast – still –  for the humidity and started drinking my water (brought the Nathan  Handheld with me). This is also around the point that the hills started –  oh, those hills. Now, having run this route a lot, I remembered the  hills as being rolling – up a little, down a little, up a lot, down a  little, etc. so I expected to slow a little bit, but the heat really  started to kick in around this time and I was curious how I was doing,  pace-wise. I was dripping with sweat by this time so either it was  really getting hot and thick out there, my heart was about to explode or  I was running too fast. I was shocked to discover that I had slowed my  pace to a 9:30! What??!?!! Oh, come on! No freakin’ way I’m getting PR now –  ugh. I was so disappointed. I tried to pick it up a little to at least a  9 or 8:45 so I still had a chance, but I just couldn’t do it. I was so  annoyed with myself that I just stopped looking at that point. So what –  it is hot. wha wha wha. At that point, I felt like I was NEVER going to  acclimate to the heat and humidity and that it was going to be a  reeeaaaaalllllyyyy long summer.

I don’t even know how long I was at that pace, but  it felt like an eternity. Judging from my final finish time, though, it  couldn’t have been long and I think I gave up on myself a little too  early. Getting irritated with my music, I started fumbling around with  my iPod until I finally found a song that helped me push through the  toughest part of the hills and some how, found a second wind. I remember  the sprinklers and the folks at the church singning, but I don’t  remember much else from Clark Ave…  Once found my second wind (and I’d like to thank Ben Folds for the part  he played in that) I started feeling good again, and am sure I got back  down to a sub-8 for at least a little while… that is, until I got to  the end of Clark Ave – and the nastiest hill. I think it is just mean to  put a long hill with a really nasty steep jaunt at the end of a 5K…  just sayin’. That was where I  had to stop and walk last year and I was determined that I WAS NOT  walking that part this year, dang it. So I didn’t – I took a swig of  water from the Nathan and I pushed it through – and it was getting  really hot at this point – and I kept thinking… almost there, almost  there… then I look up and I see the balloons! Hallelujah! Less than  .25mi now! I push harder – still can’t see the time though… what’s the  time? why can’t I see the time? too many damn balloons in the way –  where’s the time? Now, I know what you are all thinking – why didn’t you  just look at your watch? I can’t explain it, but I get a full-on  lobotomy when I run, and I think more was missing that day than usual –  maybe I got extra endorphins that day or whatever… dunno. Normal,  simple things like looking at my watch does not register at the end of 3  miles, and I usually start it before the gun, which means I have to  subtract, and well… I can’t do math when I’m lucid, so forget about  doing it while running. It felt like forever (and was probably only a  few seconds) but – finally the clock! it was 24:40 – woah! Just missed the PR! Dang  it!! I crossed at 24:50.  Oh well, can’t win them all….

…or  can you?


Post-Race:

Apparently,  I was over :20 back from the start line. I guess I was too busy looking  at EC that I wasn’t paying  attention to the time on the clock when I crossed the start line – haha. Amazing that I still act  like a giggly 12-year old in the presence of a good looking man. All  day, I had been telling everyone I did 24:50, and while I was hoping for  a PR, I was still happy with that because it is hard work and I shaved a  full minute off my previous race, so I’ll take it. However, later in  the day, someone asked me what my official time was so I looked up my stats and discovered to my utter surprise  that I DID finish with a PR!!! Yay!  By 3 seconds, but a PR is a PR is a PR! Woo hoo! I still felt great about the  24:50 – that’s no small feat, but I was even happier to have reached my  goal! Officially, that is 24:30, making me 22/249 in AG, 421 overall. I  will say this: my behind is very sore. I have talked to a few other  people who ran it and everyone has said their behinds and legs are very  sore after that race – I’m almost NEVER sore after a race. I did a  little stretching last night and felt better, but wooo…. not used to  that!

After the race, I  ended up meeting up with Jen and Cary – and seeing their adorable tutus! We were interviewed by WRAL and then we walked around…  took some photos of some of the shirts and then headed back to our  cars. We all agreed that a second lap in that humidity was not going to  happen! Overall, a really good day and a great event that I am proud to  participate in every year

2011 Race Report: NHL All Stars 5K

NHL All-Stars  5k, Raleigh NC (RBC Center), January 29, 2011

This was a fun race … oh, and I matched my existing PR. Win-win!

Pre-Race:

I was really excited about this race for a few reasons… First, it is really exciting to have the NHL All Star game here in Raleighwood. Second, I love Hockey. Not the biggest fan in the world, but I love the game and I go as often as I can. The Hurricanes have been a huge boost to the area and I love almost every event I’ve been to where they were involved, so I was pretty excited to get involved with one that had the entire NHL on the title. Third, it has been almost 2 months since my last race and I was starting to have withdrawals. Finally, I have been working on speed lately, and wanted to test it. My only disappointment is that there were no hockey players at the race. Oh well… there will be for the Friesen’s race in September, and you bet your booty I’ll be at that one.

This week has been particularly stressful and I’ve had a lot going on at work that made me miss a few runs, so I had a lot of pent up energy that ended up in 44 miles in the 90-minute spin class on Wednesday… which made me sore and miss more runs. Not to mention that my legs were pure jelly the rest of the week. Not sure what got into me on Wednesday, but mentally, I felt better – haha. So, Friday comes around and I’m stressed to the max… so much so that I cried at work 3 times and got short with the kids *sigh*. I also promised a friend I’d come see a band with him… a band that started at 10. I’m usually in bed and mostly asleep by 10, but a promise is a promise, so I went (the band was pretty good by the way).

So… my attitude going into this race was: this is a ‘for fun’ race – something that I’m doing because it is for a good cause and it supports the NHL coming here, which, in and of itself, is a good cause to me. Plus, it’ll give me practice at getting a sub-8 mile – all I need is one sub-8 mile to make me feel like the speed work is working. I can do that. In bed by 1 am, up at 6:30, getting the kids ready (they did the little guy 100 yard dash) and put gas in my car. I was on fire with getting ready that morning… why can’t I do that Monday – Friday?!?!? usually my pre-race routine takes a couple of hours, but I was on it that morning. Out the door by 8 and on-site by 8:30 in time for the 9:00 race.

Race:

The main thing I noticed about this race was the number of younger men in it. An observation I’ve made in the past to my Dad is that the vast majority of these events are women around my age and older men (later 40s through their 50s – masters). I was surprised as I looked around how many men my age there were. I don’t recall many races where the men in my age group exceeded the women in my age group, but this race has 10 more men in the 35-39 ag. Nice! So… all that to say, great EC in this race – haha. Another observation I made was that, for a “fun run/walk” sort of event, everybody seemed to be a pretty serious runner. All kinds of Garmins and Timex pieces, lots of serious gear, not many wearing the shirt. Usually, events advertised as a “fun run/walk” are pretty split and there are few “serious” runners in it and almost everybody is wearing the event shirt. This observation will come up a couple of times as I talk about it…

It was a pretty easy course around the RBC Center – I’ve run other races with a similar course around the RBC Center, and the elevation is pretty flat – according to my Runkeeper, it was only a 177 climb – I usually do about 270 – 300 ft in downtown Raleigh, so this was a welcome flat course. The best thing, I think, about this course is that the first mile is just the loop around the arena – after you get past that, you’re almost 1/3 of the way done! The other things I really like about doing races here:

  • Plenty of great parking!!
  • Easy to get in and out
  • Real bathrooms with running water – I know!!
  • Lots of room for spectators, even for little guys to burn off some energy while the big folks are running their race

The weather has been pretty brutally cold (for here) all winter, but luckily warmed up quite a bit this weekend. It was probably in the upper 40s when the race started, which was a nice change of pace from some of my more recent outdoors runs (still take that over 100 degrees any day… just sayin’). They had one long, narrow chute for all of us to line up in and almost 2,000 runners. I was a little surprised they didn’t try to line folks up by pace with that many, but I didn’t see the signs for paces, so I just filed in and filled up space as much as I could. I ended up about 3/4 of the way back – not my most ideal starting place, but I wasn’t taking it as a serious race, so I kind of didn’t push the issue… I just adjusted the earphones and enjoyed the relative quiet of the moment. I usually play my music at this point, but was trying the RunKeeper app on my phone with the battery booster as a practice run for the Rock & Roll Mardi Gras HM in 2 weeks and the audio is tied to the activity so I had to wait.

They started a few minutes late, and, even as far back as I was, I saw that image of everybody setting their watches (the one I so badly want to take a photo of… should have done it this race!) which you usually only see from people who are pretty serious about it and are setting their Garmins or Timex – haha. I did the same with my phone, and was off. The cool thing about the newer RunKeeper app I’ve been using is that I can set audio cues to play at certain intervals so I can manage my pace better. I really liked that and it helped stay focused on my pace on regular intervals rather than whenever I thought to look at it. The course took us around the RBC Center and then along 2 of the side streets, and then back into another street that ended in front of the RBC Center. The first mile – the loop around the RBC center – seemed a little too easy. I was running with (yes, I said with) a boy who seemed to be about 14 or 15. what the what? Boys that age usually smoke me (and he did later) but it did a lot for my confidence to keep up with him. My first audio cue comes up: 7:44mm pace. What the what? wait… what? I was stunned. I haven’t had that kind of pace in ANY of my training runs, even intervals! I was so happy, but it was only about .67 mile in – still a lot to go. I kept on.

The turn off after the first mile was different for this race than some of the others, which tripped me up, but it was also a nice change – I got to see slightly different scenery At the end of the 10 minute marker, my 2nd audio cue came on: 7:53 pace. Whoah. At this point, I thought, “well, it would be nice to beat the Friesen time, since that’s the same course…” that was 8:12mm pace over all – not too shabby, but not really close to my PR, either. I got my 3rd cue at 15 minutes: 8:00mm. Oh well… at least with the first mile under 8, that’ll make me feel better about it. Then, I noticed the girl in front of me – she was decked out from head to toe in light pink (I liked her outfit, I must say) and she must have just bought her sweatshirt because she forgot to take the size sticker off of it… for some reason, I got focused on that for what seemed like forever, particularly because I wanted to tell her, but couldn’t ever catch up to her (she was a lot younger than me). Even if I had been able to get close, I’m doubtful anything other than “ahhhuuugggghhh” would have come out – haha. Then, I saw my 14-year old friend again (as he passed me for the last time) and kept him in sight until he turned a corner… then I saw the lady that looked like me, only in head-to-toe purple (even had her hair done same as me). Then, the father-son duo. The visiting team jerseys (a *LOT* of hockey jerseys). All this people watching took my mind of my pace until my 4th cue: 7:54mm – WOO HOO! If you look at my splits, it is very funny – mile 1 is 7:46, mile 2 is 8:11 and mile 3 was 7:42, the last .1 mile was 7:33…. When I got that cue, I was just about at 2.6 mi, and started to think “hey… I might get close to my PR?!!?!?” I didn’t want to get too excited or too cocky about it, but this was the first (and really only) point when I took this race any bit seriously. At this point, we were making our way back into the arena complex (the NCSU football stadium shares a parking lot with RBC Center) and winding down the road into the finish and I knew it, which just added to my excitement about finishing faster than I planned. I could feel everybody around me pulling ahead, but I just didn’t think my legs would take me there – although they felt stronger than they had all week, I always have this paralyzing fear that I’ll wipe out hard (like I did back in November) in the last seconds of the race in/around the finish line. I’m not worried so much about breaking anything, embarrassing myself, being all bloodied as I crawl across the finish line… no… I’m worried that the fall will screw up my time – haha. see where my priorities are…  Nevertheless, I really couldn’t afford a fall now with the HM just 2 weeks away, so I played it safe and came in with a strong finish, albeit not as fast as I wanted.

Post-Race:

RunKeeper had me at 24:32 and clock time was almost 26:00 – I think that was wrong because that is too large of a difference. When I checked the “unofficial times” on site, they had my chip time at 25:30, which I knew wasn’t right. I followed this company (On the Mark Sports) on Facebook and they posted a link to the official time a few hours later (which is what I LOVE about their races!). They had my Chip Time at 24:30 and my pace at 8:10, which I think was actually my gun time (25:10). Boo! Oh well – I know I got a sub-8mm average and that’s all that counts to me

I had my boys enrolled in the kid’s 100 yard dash, so we stuck around for the awards. I was taken by the times! In my age group, I’m usually pretty high up – I was 8 of 72. Not at all complaining, but usually I’m higher up – like top 5 – unless it is a huge, huge race like Komen. In almost every age group, top 3 finishers were sub-20 minutes or right at it! Yes, all age groups – even the 70 year old guy beat my time! Very, very impressive, and really gave me hope – and incentive – that it is possible to keep this up for that long if I take care of myself.

Learning:

I hesitated signing up for this race because it was so close to my HM, but I’m sooo glad I did it now. Not because of the tied-PR – I would have been happy with anything I did less than 25:30. It has been about 2 months since my last event, and I had been a little burned out on them, I think. I feel a renewed sense of motivation about them now and I’m really looking forward to my 3rd HM in 2 weeks, my first ever (official) 10-miler (haha – long story for those who weren’t here last year) and a Warrior Dash event. So, I guess the learning is: even your mind needs a break from time to time. Also… intervals really do work. I got lazy about doing them because I hate them, but they do work. Now that I’ve choked down a little humble pie, it’ll be a little easier to suck it up and TM speed intervals for at least one day a week.

Happy racing, friends!

T