A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Westchester VeteRUN 10K

Yesterday I braved the cold, the clouds and the occasional snow flake to run the Westchester VeteRUN 10K. All the proceeds from this race to go the Wounded Heroes Foundation to help with the financial needs and support of wounded veterans. This race has been going on for years and it's always been in support of veterans.

On the advice of Lindsay I decided to wear my running tights with a pair of shorts over them, a short-sleeved shirt, and my long-sleeved fleece jacket. I accessorized with a trademark bandanna and a pair of gloves. When Jason and I arrived at the race venue just a little before 8:15 AM the temperature was hovering around 35oF. I immediately headed to the chip pick up tent to grab my chip (which ended up being one of those triathlon chips that velcro around your ankle) and then we ducked inside the larger tent the race organizers had set up to keep us out of the cold while waiting for the start. We ventured out of the tent briefly so that Jason could visit the Saturn booth and register to win a car. He also picked up one of the cowbells they were giving away. For those of you that have never attended a race with lots of spectators, cowbells are a common form of cheering. And now Jason has one he can bring with him to all my races! I also grabbed another sign from the Adidas truck and wrote my name on it. Then it was back to the tent to try and stay warm.

Trying to stay warm and look like I'm having fun

I felt bad for the race organizers because they were attempting to have a flag raising and dedication ceremony outside the tent but no one wanted to leave the warmth! In fact, it wasn't until shortly before the start of the race that most people ventured outside. We walked briskly over to the start line and I queued up towards the back of the pack. My goal time was anything under an hour and I planned to start off slow so I knew I didn't want to be at the front of the pack. About 9 AM a pitiful sounding start gun went off and we shuffled towards the timing mats.

The first three miles were nice. I warmed up quickly and part of the first half was on the bike path that I usually do my long runs on. It was a little crowded at first but people slowly began spreading out along the path and I didn't have to dodge very many people after a few minutes. I felt strong just before the three mile mark. Strong enough to wave like a fool at Jason when I passed him. Sadly, he didn't get a picture of that.

Me just before the mile 3 marker

You can see that my sleeves are still down, my gloves are still on, and my bandanna is still over my ears. Also, I tried my darnedest to pace that woman in the fuchsia and purple and did pretty well until the last 1.2 miles.

They had clocks at each mile marker and I saw that I was running about a ten minute mile. I knew I had to speed up some if I wanted to make my time goal. However, the stretch between mile three and mile four was brutal and when I got to the four mile marker I felt spent. I don't know if I was dehydrated, if it was the cold, if I was just worn out from racing so hard the previous Sunday or what. But after mile four I started to go downhill and, sadly, not literally. I was warm enough to wish I hadn't put my race number on over the zipper on my jacket so instead I just pushed up the sleeves, took off my gloves, and moved the bandanna off my ears.

I grabbed water at the mile four marker, swished it around in my mouth, and spit it out. I didn't want to take any chances of aggravating the side cramp that had started to fade in and out. But at mile five I decided to walk part of the water station and drink a few sips of water. I could feel my energy level fading fast. I wished I had remembered to grab some of those sport beans at Target the day before. The English muffin with peanut butter I'd eaten at 7:15 AM just wasn't working any more. But after a very short walk and water break, I picked up running again. I tried to up my pace but could only manage to speed up for a few hundred yards.

Between mile five and six I got a spirit boost from an elderly couple standing at the end of their driveway with a card table full of drinks and a boombox playing Sousa marches. At this point I was literally just putting one foot in front of the other and it was nice to have a little distraction.

I saw Jason again and I could see the mile 6 marker, too. I knew I only had a quarter of a mile left to go. But the clock said 58:something. Could I do a quarter mile in less than 2 minutes? I was so tired. I was almost crying. I'd long since lost the woman in fuchsia and the man running in front of me was loudly grunting with every step. I tried my hardest to speed up and I think I did sprint some of the final distance.

But I don't remember if that's a smile or a grimace on my face

I had no idea what the time was when I crossed the finish line. All I could do was stagger to end of the chute and stare helplessly at the guys holding the chip collection basket. One of them was kind enough to squat down and remove my chip from my ankle. I was afraid if I bent over I would pass out. I wandered around in a daze until Jason found me. We grabbed bagels and chicken noodle soup from the food tent and went back to the big tent to stand in the warmth so that I could stretch.

They were posting some of the final times after the race but mine wasn't listed. They only had the top twelve women in my age group and, well, I wasn't in the top twelve. This particular race is not only on the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) circuit it also gets rated very highly by CARA members each year. I knew the field would be fairly fast. And, you know, I didn't have a very good feeling about how well I would do in this race. In fact, I'd had nightmares the night before about chip difficulties and other assorted running fears. I haven't been running many long distances (as in, longer than 10K) for awhile now and I just didn't feel like I was at my best. So, yeah, while I had a feeling I wouldn't beat an hour I was still hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

This morning the official times were finally posted online. My final time? Well, they gave us both gun time and chip time.

Gun time: 1:00:36.4

Chip time: 1:00:08.8

Pace: 9:46/mile

14 out of 15 in Age Group

331 out of 411 Overall

So close to under an hour but not quite there. Part of me thinks that if I hadn't stopped for water I would have made it. But another part thinks that maybe I would have been slower if I hadn't taken those breaks. I'll never know.

Regardless, I know I have a lot of work to do this winter if I want to finish strong at my first half-marathon in April.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Golden Apple 5K

For the past few weeks I had been seeing signs around town for the Golden Apple 5K race on November 2nd. My plan had been to run one race a month but I had to skip October due to various issues. So, I thought about doing this race as my October race. Two days into November is close enough to October, right? Anyway, I forgot all about it until Friday afternoon. After I found out that my mom wanted to visit, I emailed her to see if she was okay with cheering me on on Sunday morning. She was more than okay with it and on Saturday I went and registered to race.

I was a little apprehensive because I skipped almost an entire week of exercising with my Vegas trip and then almost another entire week due to being sick and work commitments. The only runs I had done were one 45 minute treadmill run after Vegas but before sickness and a 4 mile outside run with Trinka Deu this Saturday. Plus I'd only been to my Ultimate Sculpt class once in the past two weeks. But, I knew I could run 3.1 miles no problem and could possibly PR if I pushed myself.

Aside: I can't believe I am now the type of person who can say "I could run 3.1 miles with no problem." Still experiencing shock and awe.

Plus, when I realized that the start line for the race was less than a mile from my house and the race course went through my neighborhood, well, there was no way I could skip it. So, on Sunday morning I hopped out of bed (which was much easier to do than normal due to the time change), ate breakfast, and gathered my mom, Jason, and Trinka Deu and walked to the start line.

Another aside: I LOVE that I could walk to the start line. How cool is that??

The morning started out a little chillier than I would like but I knew that with the sun and the exertion I would soon wish I was wearing a tank top and shorts instead of a capris and a short-sleeved top.

Once at the start line I got my timing chip (yet another aside: I LOVE that all the races here use timing chips) and Jason took some "before" pictures.

I wore my brightest shirt so that my mom and Jason would be able to pick me out of the crowd.

See the start line in the distance?

With about five minutes until the gun I made my way to the starting line. I started much further up in the chute than I normally do. I was feeling fast and it didn't look like the crowd was all that big or hardcore. My mom asked me what my goal time was. "Anything under 28 minutes," I said. My mom and Jason went off to stand at the side and wait for the race to start. I decided to stay close to the edge of the crowd so that they could see me.

The gun went off with very little fan fair and, for the first time in my life, I was across the start line before I knew it. I saw Jason with the camera and I hear my mom cheering. And I waved.

(The start line and the finish line were in the same place which is why the sign above my head says "Finish". It's the back side of the Start sign.)

I started out super fast in that first mile. That's the hazard of starting so close to the start line; you get caught up with the faster runners. But I knew that if I wanted to meet my goal of 28 or less I had to keep to a 9 min/mile or less pace. That's really pushing it for me so I tried to pace myself off some of the faster runners. For awhile I was running behind a woman with neon green soles on her shoes. I tried to pace her but lost her after the first mile. That first mile, by the way, I ran in something like 8:45! This race was great in that they had clocks at both miles 1 and 2.

I was thankful that the hill in mile 1 is something I've run numerous times before so it didn't wipe me out. But I admit that I paid zero attention to my surroundings during miles 2 and 3. I felt myself slowing down after the first mile but I knew I had to push it if I wanted to meet my time goal. I also admit that there were a few times that I really did feel like walking. That's how I knew I was running harder than normal. Plus, a good section of miles 2 and 3 was run on old brick streets so a lot of my attention was diverted to making sure I didn't twist my ankle. The trade off for running on old brick streets through residential neighborhoods, though, is that the people who live in those neighborhoods cheer from their porches. My mom asked me after the race if having random strangers yell encouragement really helps. "Yes! It most certainly does!" I told her. In fact, the guy running in front of me for awhile was so grateful for the encouragement that he yelled back "Thank you!" to the people cheering from the sidelines.

Mile 3 was the same as mile 1 but in reverse. I honestly had no idea if I was on target time-wise or not. I ended up starting my watch late and I was running so hard that the time on the clock at mile 2 didn't even register. Once we finally got in site of that blasted hill I knew we were close; I run that part of the route all the time so I had a good idea of how much longer it was. I pushed through the hill and cruised through the downhill portion. At the bottom of the hill is the local dog park. As I came near I looked over at all the dogs. There was a line of them running full speed through the park. "Now that's some inspiration," I thought. And then I realized that the last dog in the line was Trinka Deu! Then I saw my mom and Jason. As I ran past my mom cheered me on.

Here's what Jason, Trinka Deu and my mom were doing while I was running.

And here's my mom (in the white sweater) cheering me on:

As I rounded the corner to the finish line I was once again hit by the desire to walk. But with the finish line so close I dug deep and sprinted the last 200 meters. Again, the time on the clock didn't even register. 28 something? Who knew.

The lovely volunteers removed my timing chip, I grabbed some water, and walked around while waiting for Jason and my mom to return. When they got back, my mom grabbed one of the signs they were giving out. She's going to use it again when it comes time for my half marathons.

While we were standing around waiting for the post-race festivities, a man came up to me and said, "I was about 30 feet behind you the entire race and was trying to catch you the entire time. I never did!" That made me feel fabulous.

After a muffin and a raffle drawing where I didn't win anything (but a nine year old did win a night at the Hyatt!) we walked back home where I showered and then we headed back out for brunch.

And my time? I looked it up later Sunday evening.


And 7th out of 31 in my age group! 122 out of 323 overall.

By the way, that time means I averaged 8:49 min/mile.

I kicked my time goal's ass. I shaved 50 seconds off my last 5K time. You think I can get that time under 27 minutes?

Yeah, so do I.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Run for Their Lives 8K

Sunday morning (the 28th) found me being awakened by my alarm blaring at 6:30 AM. Why? Because at 9:00 AM I was running the PAWS Chicago Run for Their Lives 8K.

PAWS Chicago is Chicago's largest no-kill humane society. Read more about them on their website. Humane societies and pet rescues are near and dear to my heart so I felt that this was the perfect event for me. And thanks to my friends and family I raised $165 dollars, all of which goes directly to PAWS Chicago.

The event consisted of either a 4K walk (that you could do with your dog) or an 8K (4.97 miles) race (that you were supposed to do sans dog). They also had quite the set-up at Montrose Harbor. A doggie agility course you could try, quite a few sponsor tents giving away free goodies (we scored a bandanna and a portable foldable water bowl), dog and human massage stations, and a well-stocked beverage and food tent. The grassy area just north of the harbor was humming with people and dogs.

Jason and I decided to bring Trinka Deu with us as a treat. She had quite the time looking at all the people and greeting other dogs. She was perfectly well-behaved and posed for a few pictures.

The race day packet pick-up was incredibly well-organized. Such a change from the Nike+ Human Race! The goody bag was even better, too. Two-week pass to Bally Fitness, a package of doggie-doo clean up bags, dog treats, and a magazine. And I think the t-shirt might be my favorite shirt of any race I've ever done.

Shortly after I grabbed my packet and timing chip it was time to do a quick warm-up with the girls from Bally Fitness. They lead the crowd in a few stretches and mild aerobic exercises. Well, I should say they attempted to lead the crowd. It looked like there were a lot of people signing up or doing packet pick-up last minute. In addition, they did the warm-up at 8:15 even though the race didn't start until 9:00. So participation was a bit sparse.

After the human warm-up it was time for doggy yoga. We decided to skip that :-) Instead I hit the port-a-potty and then we wandered over to the edge of the grassy area to look out at the lake. Once again Trinka was kind enough to pose.

I hit the port-a-potty one more time (look, I drank a lot of water before the race) and then it was time to head over the start line. I left Trinka Deu and Jason and joined a large group of people waiting to run. I ended up pretty far at the back of the pack. So far back, in fact, that I couldn't even see the start line. Apparently there were approximately 3000 runners signed up. Anyway, we ended up standing there for a while. The woman in front of me was talking to her companion about how she was hoping to run a 9:15/mile pace. Hmm, I thought, I'm hoping to run a 9:30/mile pace. I should try and keep this woman in my sights. Thankfully she was wearing a bright pink shirt.

Now, I should mention that this was the first race I've ever gone into with an idea of what pace I wanted to run. Usually I just run my hardest and hope I beat my previous time. But for this race I used a pace calculator to figure out what time my watch should say when I hit each mile. I decided my goal time was going to be 47:30. I wanted to run under a 10 minute mile but I wasn't entirely sure how much under I was capable of. I chose 9:30/mile as my goal. I really had no idea if it was reasonable or not. The calculator spit out my split times and before I left for the race I wrote them down on the back of my hand, hoping that my sweat wouldn't wash them away.

After a slight delay to the start time, the gun finally went off and we shuffle/walked towards the start line. After a minute or two it was time to cross the starting line. I clicked the start button on my $5 sports watch's stopwatch function as we passed over the timing mat. However, a few feet past the start line the course narrowed to a small walking path and we literally had to slow down to a walk. Thankfully it cleared quickly and we were off.

It was a great day for running. In the mid-60s, overcast, and a slight breeze. The sky seemed to be threatening rain but none ever materialized. For the first mile of the course I dodged in and around people running in gravel, sand, and grass at various points. I managed to keep the lady in pink in my sight for the entire first mile. However, when we hit the first mile marker she sped up. I looked down at my watch and it said 9:50! I honestly felt as though I had gone out too fast but apparently I was going too slow! Maybe all that dodging and weaving had taken it's toll.

I picked up my pace. On my way through the second mile I looked up to see the lead runner headed back our way. That's the problem with an out-and-back race course: while you're excited to see the speed at which some people can run, those of us that are slower can feel a little disheartened that the leaders are over halfway done before we have even hit the halfway point. But, as I always try to tell myself, speed doesn't matter. The fact that I am out there at all is what matters.

I hit the two mile marker and the turn around point feeling strong. I was remembering to keep my shoulders relaxed and trying to focus on my form. Nothing hurt and I wasn't feeling too tired. Also, it helped that I was only a few seconds off of my goal time for that point (at least according to my watch). Between miles two and three we ran closer to the harbor. It's so cool for me to go from running through residential neighborhoods and university buildings to passing sailboats and beaches. When I hit mile three I was pleased to see that I was right on target time-wise.

Between miles three and four my energy started to lag. I felt as though it was getting harder and harder to maintain my pace. It didn't look like the 4 mile marker was ever going to appear. I admit I was sorely tempted to walk but I didn't. I knew I could run this entire distance. I run 4 miles at least twice a week! I've done two 10Ks! Finally the mile marker appeared and as we passed it we could see the parking lot and the race vendor tents in the distance. It also helped that when I looked at my watch I was ahead of my goal time! That must be why this mile felt so much harder. Oops.

The final almost-mile dragged at first but then I got a second wind and it started flying by. As I got closer and closer to the finish I heard the jingling of a dog collar behind me. A woman and her husky were on my right. The husky was going strong. Stupid as it sounds, I didn't want to get beaten by a girl and her dog. So, I sped up just a little bit. Then I was in the final straightway to the finish. I pushed myself harder and passed a few more people. As I crossed the timing mats I remembered to hit the stop button on my watch (that may be a first for me) and slowed to a walk. I looked down at my watch to see that it said 46:50! Yes!

I found Jason who, sadly, missed getting a picture of me coming through the finish line. However, he was sweet enough to have grabbed me an energy bar and to regale me with funny stories of what happened when he took Trinka Deu down on the beach. I decided that I had to see what she thought of the sand and water for myself.

We walked down to the sand and then out towards the water. Trinka Deu didn't seem to excited about either. The first time a wave touched her foot she skittered backwards. I guess the first time you experience that it can be unnerving. She was kind enough to oblige us with a few photos, though.

After torturing Trinka I decided that I needed more sustenance than a mini energy bar. The English muffin with peanut butter I ate at 7 AM wasn't cutting it any longer. At the food tent we discovered they had boxes and boxes and boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts. I don't normally like donuts but for some reason they sounded really good right about then. I grabbed one for myself and one for Jason and we chowed down. I followed that up with half a bagel. Our food eaten we made the decision to head home. I knew that I wouldn't be winning any awards and Trinka was experiencing some dog fatigue. That is to say, she was tired of other dogs.

Once we got home my cheering section zonked out. I guess all that excitement just wore them out.

And me? What did I do? I mowed the lawn. I guess running 8K in 46:49 (official chip time) gives you energy to spare.

By the way, I came in 79th out of 216 women in my age group and 339th out of 769 overall. And since this is my first race at the 8K distance, it's technically a new personal record!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Nike+ Human Race 10K - Chicago

Yesterday evening at 6:30 PM I joined approximately 14,000 other people to run the Nike+ Human Race 10K in Chicago. About two and a half hours before the start time, I got ready, packed my bag, put on my race shirt, put on my timing chip (my first ever!) and headed out the door to catch the train.

At first I was a little annoyed that I would haven't a separate race bib number to put in my race scrapbook, but I have to admit it was nice not to have to worry about pinning anything to my shirt.

After taking a train and a very slow-moving bus and chatting with a couple people who drove in from Iowa City, I found myself at Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears and lots of history-making events. It was amazing to look around and see so many red shirts.

This is the starting line:

And the outside of the stadium:

By the time I got there it was still an hour to race time. I checked my bag at the bag check which was surprisingly not as crazy as I had anticipated. I then headed out to wander around. I realized after a few minutes that I had left my free Powerbar and granola in my bag along with my signature bandanna. I didn't feel like going back and getting them. Luckily they were handing out lots more free Powerbars and granola. I grabbed a packet of granola and a bottled water and fueled myself up. Then I found a spot in the grass to do some light stretching.

About 6:00 the announcers asked us to start lining up at the start line according to our project minute per mile pace. They had placed signs along the sides of the corral indicating sub-8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 minutes miles. What they failed to account for were the large numbers of people who, well, don't run a sub-8 mile. Those of us in the 10 minute mile area were so squashed together. When the first gun went off at around 6:45 (15 minutes late) they asked just the sub-8 mile people to start and the rest of us to wait. Well, you can't put 14,000 eager runners at a start line and ask them to shuffle slowly to the mats. Haven't these people ever run a race? So, those of us towards the back slowly inched up to the actual start line. This meant my start was horrible. More like one of those tiny, tip-of-the-toes comical jogs that you do when you're trying not to step on the person in front of you.

The people never really thinned out. I felt as if I was dodging walkers and slower runners the entire race. I couldn't find anyone to pace off of, either. I really got the impression that there were a TON of people for whom this was their first racing experience. Lots of walkers in the middle of the road, lots of people starting out too fast. People changing speeds all the time. Perhaps this is always the case at such a large race (this was the largest race I've ever run. Prior to this my largest race was about 600 people) but either way I found it incredibly annoying. And it was really difficult to pass people because our running path kept getting narrower and narrower.

We started out with about four traffic lanes to ourself. Sadly, these four lanes were underneath the McCormick Place convention center where the air was still and it was hot as blazes. However, people were making the best of it by whooping and hollering to hear their voices bounce off all the concrete surrounding us. Once we exited the convention center our running space dwindled down to two traffic lanes. This two lanes thing continued the entire way down Lake Shore Drive. Once we crossed over Lake Shore Drive and head back north it got worse. Suddenly we were on a bike path. A bike path for 14,000 people? Ridiculous!

I had made it to the half-way point in just over 30 minutes and felt good. I was planning on amping it up for the second half but there were just so many people to dodge. Every time I'd find a good pace I'd come up against a wall of people and have to slow down while I waited for a chance to go around them. I skipped all the water and Gatorade stations because the crush of people was insane and since my goal was a sub-60 minute time I didn't want to waste it on fighting a crush of people for water. In addition, I've yet to have a good experience with drinking anything while racing. It usually just makes my stomach cramp up.

There were a few bands and a DJ along the course playing music to keep us motivated. We ran past several pre-Labor Day picnics and lots of those people cheered us on. Little kids and adults alike stood by the side of the bike path with their hands out-stretched to give us five. One group of kids I passed was keeping track of how many people actually slapped their hands. The crowds were definitely encouraging.

Night started to fall and it became very dark on the bike path. I couldn't see my watch anymore and I had no idea how much further we had to go after awhile. Finally we hit the 5 mile mark and I tried my darnedest to ramp up my speed. I passed a woman who was talking to herself saying "You can do it. You can finish strong. You can finish in under an hour." I looked over at her and said, "I think you're reading my mind." "Then let's do it!" she said. Sadly, I lost her in the darkness and the throngs of people. Once again, as hard as I tried to push it I felt as though I was being thwarted by slower-moving people at every step. Mile 5 felt like the longest mile of my life. I had managed to keep my shoulders from aching until then but during that last mile they became very painful. Suddenly there was the mile 6 marker and I knew we only had .2 to go. I sped up just a little bit. I still couldn't see my watch so I had no idea how close I was to my goal time. Finally I could see the finish line. I sprinted around several people as I ran for my life towards that timing mat. I think the clock said 1:15 and I prayed that it had taken me more than 15 minutes to make it across the start line.

As always, they were telling us to keep moving and not to block the finishing chute, but it was still packed with people. Volunteers were handing out finishers bracelets in what looked like cardboard relay batons. We were herded through a narrow walkway to a chip-removal station. It was hot, I was tired, I was thirsty and, honestly, I felt like I was going to pass out. I'm not typically claustrophobic but at that moment I had to squelch the urge to scream at the top of my lungs that I wanted out. The chip removal women were very nice and I felt sorry for them that they were working in essentially pitch blackness (um, hello, it's night! You might want to get these people some flashlights or something). But, really, all I wanted was water. The guy next to me expressed that sentiment out loud and we were told to keep moving. After what felt like an eternity we found the water station. It wasn't cold but I didn't care. I downed that thing and then wandered zombie-like over to the free food stations. Our choices? Yogurt, granola, or Powerbars. I grabbed a fruit smoothie Powerbar and ate it while I wandered around in a daze. I called my husband and my mom to let them know I finished. We chatted for a little bit. I picked up my bag from the bag check. Then I asked someone to take my picture.

The post-race entertainment was a concert by Fall Out Boy but I really had no idea what time it started. Around 8:30 I wandered into Soldier Field and lo and behold they had already started. I hung out on the floor for awhile, got my picture taken at professional photo booth (I have no idea when those will be available), and decided I'd better get something more than a Powerbar to eat. I debated buying a beer but for $7.00 and on a mostly empty stomach I decided that would be a bad idea. What I really wanted was a big soft pretzels but I didn't see any. Nachos I saw. Hot dogs I saw. Finally I saw someone with pizza and that sounded fabulous. I finally found the pizza stand only to discover that they were running really behind on making them. I didn't feel like waiting. I figured my Powerbar would do until I could get home.

Fall Out Boy was okay. I'm not a huge fan of concerts in general and especially not when I'm there by myself. However, seeing the sea of red on in the seats and on the floor of the field was certainly impressive.

Also, I'm not even a big football fan but to stand in the middle of the arena and look up and realize that this is what professional football players see was pretty cool.

Around 9:30 Fall Out Boy called it a day and I headed out to find my way home. I chatted with two guys from Vegas who were combining a vacation to Chicago with running the race. I told them that my goal had been to run a sub-60 race. One of the guy's goals was to run it in 1:15 and the other one just wanted to finish. It was his first race. I lost them at some point because I think they were more wiped out than I was. That's hard to believe, though, because the 1.5 mile hike to the train station felt like the Bataan Death March. My feet hurt, I was tired and achy, and craving pizza. Also, I don't think my stomach really enjoyed that Powerbar because it felt kind of crampy.

After the trudge to the train station I waited what was an interminably long time for the first train. Then, once that one took me to where I wanted to be, I waited for my train home. On the train I stupidly decided to eat my second Powerbar. All that did was make my stomach feel even more strange. I finally made it home around 10:30 PM. I debated ordering pizza or just going to bed. I ended up ordering pizza. I collapsed on the couch and found A Knight's Tale on the free movie channel. I was too exhausted to pay much attention, though. My pizza finally arrived around 11:30. I scarfed it down and then collapsed into bed.

This morning I looked up my time. I have to admit, I'm disappointed. My official time is 1:02.18. Sigh. I think this is a combination of lots of things. Moving and changing jobs took up a lot of my time and energy in June, July and August. It took until last week to get into a strength training class when before I had been taking a combination yoga/pilates/weight lifting class twice a week since the previous fall. I'd lost out on two days of cross-training cardio for almost all of July and August. And my running in June and much of July was sporadic at best. My training before my 59:59 10K was much better. However, there are also the race factors themselves to consider. My first race was done in April on a strangely cold, snowy and drizzly day. It was a much, much smaller race and it wasn't chip-timed. So, fewer people to dodge combined with human error on the timing could account for the time differences. The Nike+ race was much, much larger, I felt like I was dodging people the entire time, my start was crappy, and it was chip-timed. So, who knows? So, yes, I'm disappointed that my official time was not sub-60 but at least now I have a goal to work towards. Get it back under an hour!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Freedom 5K

Earlier today I ran my fourth 5K race and my fifth race overall. It was the Freedom 5K and we went along the Fourth of July Parade route for my town. Sans parade, of course.

The day started out cool and rainy but, of course, a few minutes before the race was to start the sun came out and the temperature warmed up considerably. I had been hoping for cloudy and rainy since I haven't been doing much running in the heat and sun but I guess it wasn't to be. When I was getting dressed this morning I opted for short-sleeves as opposed to a tank top. As the sun came out I wished I had worn the tank top but it was too late to change. I pinned on my number (1111!), hit the port-a-potty before the line got too long and was ready to run.


I started out at the back of the pack. I'm certainly not the slowest runner out there but we have people who can run these races in 15 minutes! I let those people hang out at the front. It was a large group for our area. I'm really bad at guessing how many people were there, but last year there were over 400 participants. I'm guessing this year was similar? Anyway, the siren went off and out we went.

It was an out-and-back course so I knew that the faster people would pass us on the way back. Luckily they had closed both the four-lane streets we were running on so there was plenty of room for everyone. I was struggling during this race. More so than usual. I don't know if this was due to the fact that my running really suffered during the months of May and June or if it's just that I'm still not re-acclimated to running in the sun and heat. A weird stomach cramp started up almost as soon as I started but I just kept running through it. I was tempted to stop and walk but I never did. I just kept trudging along.

I didn't pass a lot of people but I also didn't get passed very much either. I did, however, end up passing that girl in the dark pink in the previous photo. I think the worst mistake I made (other than not training enough) was to accept water at the last aid station. I grabbed the cup and took two swigs and poured the rest down my front. I normally don't drink when I run but I was so hot and sweaty that I thought it would help. It didn't. In fact, when I got within sight of the finish I tried to sprint only to feel the water I had just drank bouncing and sloshing around in my stomach. I tried to sprint the last .1 miles only to slow back to my trudge just before the finishing chute. It made me sad since I love to sprint to the finish. But at least I got to sprint a little bit.

It occurs to me after looking at the pictures of me running, I really need to work on my form. I'm sure that will help my times, too. Speaking of times, I had started my watch when I went past the start line and stopped it when I got to the end of the finishing chute. My watch tells me I ran this 5K in 28:41. The photographic evidence indicates something else.

That's me with my arms raised trying not to puke. I know that if I had sprinted all of the last .1 miles I would have thrown up. So, I sacrificed some time for my stomach contents.

Official results are not posted yet. Hopefully they will be by the end of the weekend. But I know I finished with a time of 28:something. I was seriously hoping for a time of 27:something but I'll take the 28:something time. I'm very curious to see the official time. If it's what it said on the finishing clock than it may be a PR (by only a few hundredths of a second, but still). If it's what it said on my watch then it's slightly slower than my PR. Regardless, I suppose I should be proud of that when I take my lack of training for the past two months and the sun and heat into account.

Let's review my previous 5K race times -

First 5K ever: In September, shady, perfect temperature: 33:23
Second 5K: In November, great temperatures, included some trail running: 29:27.44
Third 5: In March, 15oF: 28:23

Overall it felt like the most difficult race I've ever run. It even felt harder than the 10K I ran in April. I suppose that's what a lack of training for two months will do to you!

EDIT: Times are posted! My official race time was 28:14.1. That's a personal record! I guess even though the race felt difficult I did my best ever anyway. Yay!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Run for the Health of It 10K

This morning I ran the Christie Clinic Run for the Health of It 10K race. This was my first 10K race. I've certainly run that distance before during my long weekend runs, but I had no idea how I'd do actually racing it.

The weather was horrible today. High 30s (Fahrenheit), windy, and doing that thing where it's sort of raining and sort of snowing at the same time. I don't own a wind breaker or a rain jacket of any kind so I was resigned to getting rather wet.

I did not really prepare everything ahead like I usually do. This meant that I was rushing out the door at 7:40 AM. I didn't realize until I got to the race that I had forgotten to put on my watch. I was a little ticked at myself but quickly got over it. I was actually more ticked that I hadn't thought to bring gloves. My hands were freezing! I'm glad I only got to the race starting point about 15 minutes before the race actually started. I don't think I could have stood outside for much longer than that. They did, however, have a tent set up with those standing patio heaters in it. I was tempted to hide in there but I knew I needed to walk around to get my leg muscles warmed up.

When it came time to head for the starting line, I took my place near the back of the pack. Behind most of the 10K runners but in front of the 5K runners. None of the races in my area are large enough to use corrals or even chip timing. Today made me yearn for a chip-timed race but I'll get to that later.

Someone sang the national anthem and there was a short speech about the charity all the proceeds were going to support (at least, I think that's what the speech was about. I couldn't actually hear whoever was speaking). The women standing next to me were chanting "Warm Shower, Cold Beer" and hopping up and down trying to get warm. A couple on the other side of me was huddle hugging each other back to front and joking that they were going to run like that. To be perfectly honest, I think today might have even felt colder than the 5K race I ran on the 150F day. I blame it on the wind and the rain/snow. At least the sub-freezing race was on a clear, sunny day.

The horn blew at 8:15ish and off we went. I really began to regret my lack of watch when we passed the first mile marker and there was no clock and no one telling us our times. Consequently, I have no idea what my splits were like. All I know is that the first mile was hard. I was cold, my hands felt like blocks of ice, and I was having difficulty finding a pace. The second mile was also difficult but I could tell it was getting easier. At least the second mile took us through a residential area of town that I'd never been to and that had interesting houses to look at. About mile three I starting getting a horrible pain in my left collarbone. I knew that I was too tense. When I'm cold I tend to hunch my shoulders up around my ears. I spent most of this mile reminding myself to relax my shoulders. Thankfully my hands had warmed up so I didn't have to fight that, too. Miles four and five were surprisingly easy. They felt really, really good. I passed quite a few people during those miles. The last mile was a little bit harder. I was getting tired and the mile was on a straight, flat road so I could see all the way to the turn to the finish. Normally I like that, but this time I was wet and cold and just wanted to be done. I felt like the stop light just before the final turn was taunting me.

Finally, I made it to the turn to the finish. As I turned the corner I looked up at the clock and saw that it said 59:35. Less than a hour! I full on sprinted to the finish and I believe that the clock said 59:55 as I went into the chute. This is where I really wished that the race had been chip timed. I know that if the race had been chip timed I would easily have a 59:something finish time. But now I have to hope that the person doing the recording at the finish got my time written down correctly. I'll have to wait until I get the official results in the mail (they mail you your results on a pre-addressed postcard) but right now I'm thinking that I ran my first 10K in under an hour! I did not go into this race with a time goal in mind. But when I turned that corner and saw that the clock hadn't broken the one hour mark yet? My goal became to finish in under an hour.

This race is super-flat (of course, I live in central Illinois. We are not known for our hills.) and sticks almost entirely to residential areas. The race coordinators did an excellent job of putting mile markers at each and every mile. The course was clearly marked and there were tons of volunteers giving encouragement and making sure we stayed on the correct streets. There were at least two water stations but I skipped both of them. I don't drink while I'm doing my regular training runs and I didn't feel particularly thirsty during the race what with the cold and the wet weather. The finish chutes were nicely placed and they were kind enough to have a volunteer reminding everyone which chute to head for. Post-race there were a ton of bagels and Gatorade and water. In the same tent where they had placed the space heaters there was a (good!) local 80s cover band playing music. The local Coach's Cooking Team was scheduled to start barbecuing around 10:30. And I'm sure there was going to be an awards ceremony of some kind but, seeing as how I was wet, cold, tired and craving a hot shower I decided to head home.

Sadly, there are no pictures of me actually running the race. But, my husband did get one of me after the finish. Smile on my face, wind in my bandanna, and post-race cinnamon crunch bagel in my hand.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Earth, Wind and Fire 5K

Thanks everyone for all the encouragement to get out of bed and race in the 15oF weather! You're right, now I can say that I ran in sub-freezing temperatures!

I think the most fascinating thing about running when it's that cold outside is that you're sweating but you don't realize it until you're standing in a warm place and suddenly your clothes feel damp. Ick.

Anyway, the race was well organized (cones and volunteers at every turn), but the race director felt the need to explain the course to us via a megaphone while we all stood outside at the starting line. Everyone was shivering and jumping up and down trying to stay warm.

Every race I've done has been small (fewer than 200 people) and the races in this area don't tend to bother with chips or timing mats or corrals or any of that stuff. So, you just sort of guess what part of the group at the start line to stand in. "Runners in front, walkers in back" tends to be the only direction given. I sort of envy all of you with your chips and your mats :-)

Although the weather predicted wind and snow thankfully there were neither. There were a few spots that were sort of windy but most of the course wound through the academic center of the University of Illinois and I guess the wind must have been held off by the buildings. The course was super flat (of course, being in Central Illinois it's difficult to find otherwise) and, I have to admit, kind of dull. It was two loops of the same course and didn't even take us through the Engineering section campus which I happen to think is the prettiest and most interesting part. Or perhaps I was just so focused on running that I didn't notice any of the "points of interest" the race directors thought they were including.

This was my first race of 2008 and only my third race ever. I was really hoping to come in under 28 minutes but my "unofficial" time was 28:37. Which is 50 seconds faster than my last official 5K time. I haven't been doing any speed work; I've only been working on increasing distance. I think I went out too fast considering I ran the first mile in 9:05! That's the fastest I've ever run a mile I think. Oops. I couldn't keep that pace up for the whole race, sadly. I think part of the issue is that since my lungs are not accustomed to breathing frozen air I started having a little difficulty breathing during the middle part of the race.

Overall, it was a nice, easy race. 28:37 is a race PR for me so that's nice, too. And, like many of you said, I can now tell people that I'm super hardcore because I ran a race in sub-freezing temperatures.