City: Raleigh, NC Date: 10/08/2011
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.
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.
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.
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.