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.