Unlike my first 5K in June, I went into this race with some serious goals. I was hoping to finish in 32 minutes. I was also hoping to make my final mile my fastest. Knowing that there’d be things I couldn’t control or predict in the race, I also made a more modest fallback goal: to at least beat my June 5k time of 34:32.
I was thrilled to be running this race with our 13 and 16 year old daughters. John dropped the three of us off two blocks from the starting line, then drove off with the other kids to find parking and get situated to cheer at the finish line. The starting line was right in front of the capitol building, and when we got there, the streets were already filling with women and girls. We had signed up for the red wave (runners hoping to finish in <35 minutes) so we found our group and settled ourselves about 30 feet behind the front of the line. Our wave would be released right after the elite runners and wheelchair racers.
The temp was in the 60′s and we’d left our jackets with John. So we bounced around a bit trying to stay warm before the race. Balloons, rock music and thousands of people filled the space and made for a festive atmosphere. Soon we spotted John’s sister and her daughters and waved for them to join us. We visited, people-watched, and stretched a bit to warm up. I was really pleased that our daughters were as excited to do this as I was.
The race was to begin at 9. Elite wheelchair racers were released first, around 8:50. My girls moved further forward in the waiting pack because they were hoping to finish in 27 minutes or so. I set my Garmin to find satellites, and started my mp3 player, thinking we’d still be waiting til 9 to start. The elite runners were released a couple minutes later, and almost immediately the rest of us began to move forward.
Somehow I didn’t quite believe that this was our start-gun too. I thought we were still five minutes ahead of race time and two blocks behind the start line. But in reality we were starting early, and not only that, the starting line was a block earlier than I thought as well. Because of my confusion, I wasn’t even running when I hit the start pad. Then my stopwatch wandered off into lala land, which meant I had to wait for it to find satellites again before I could even turn it on. Not an auspicious beginning.
I was flustered, but started running at what felt like a pretty easy pace. My girls were already far ahead of me, and I guessed that my sister in law and nieces were close behind me, but I didn’t look back to check. After a minute or so I looked down at the Garmin and saw an 8:30 pace. Yikes, too much adrenaline. I’d be burned out in a mile at that rate. I slowed down a little and tried to stay relaxed and easy. The first mile was pretty much flat, and my watch read 10:30 when I finished it. Good, that was pretty much on target with what I’d hoped to do.
The second mile began with a pretty decent hill up towards the train depot with a water station around the 1.5 mile mark. I powered up the hill trying to keep up my speed, encouraging myself along with the thought that I’d let myself walk through the water station. Between the hill and the walk through the water station, that half-mile was slower than 11 minutes/mile.
Once past the water station I ran again, fighting to keep my pace up. The asphalt was really feeling hard (I usually run on gravel) and I knew I still had a long way to go. I was encouraged to still be keeping up with a couple of fit-looking younger gals– actually, everyone around me looked pretty in-shape– and far in the distance I occasionally spotted my 16yo daughter. I was gaining on her.
But I was getting tired. I made the goal of getting to the 2-mile mark, promising myself a 30-second walk break when I got there. But by the time I got there, my left foot (the one with plantar fasciitis) was seriously tightening up. It felt bad enough that I feared it would seriously cramp on the final stretch, which included a lovely downhill that I was hoping to really speed down. I decided to stop briefly to stretch it. I hated to do it, but I wanted to run, not hobble, that last mile.
As I was finishing stretching, I spotted my daughter Erika. She’d positioned herself along the edge to cheer us on– it was a really good time to see a familiar face, have someone cheering me on, and to hear that the girls ahead of me were doing well too. A few minutes later, I hit that final down hill I’d been so looking forward to. I was tired enough that even running downhill still felt like a big effort, but the pause to stretch had been just what my foot needed. I gave it all gas and no brake and was seeing 9:30′s on my Garmin down the hill. Very encouraging.
After the downhill there was only 2/10 of a mile left. But without the momentum of the downhill, I felt like I had zero speed in me. I was sure I had to be running a 12-minute pace or slower, but I couldn’t bear to look at my watch to find out how bad it was. I couldn’t even smile as I passed my cheering family– all I managed was a side-armed wave. I wanted SO badly to stop, but I couldn’t, not this close to the finish. When I finally reached the finish, I was totally spent. Not a bit left for a final kick. I just trundled in at the same pace, glad to finally be done. Afterward my Garmin told me that I’d actually been running a 9:56 pace during that last 3/4 mile. No wonder I felt like I couldn’t go one mite faster.
Past the finish line, I was greeted by my family, where I promptly sat down on a curb to pant with my head between my knees. My foot was in utter misery, it was SO unhappy. My final time was 33:55– about two minutes slower than my goal pace, which was disappointing to me. My Garmin recorded my actual moving time as 32:55 with a distance of 3.15 miles. I think if I’d gotten out there quicker at the start and hadn’t needed that minute to stretch my foot, I’d have been closer to my goal time. I ended up 45th out of 80 people in my age group who wore timing chips. Not awesome, but not terrible either.
Our 16yo daughter finished a minute ahead of me and was 17th in her age group. Not bad for having a rip-roaring cold at the time. And our 13yo daughter finished in 26:05 which put her 6th in her age group, and 89th overall. She is one speedy girl.
Looking back a couple days later (and still feeling my sore quads) I know I gave it my best, especially considering my misbehaving foot. I’d like to have run faster. But I have to keep things in perspective. A year ago I couldn’t run between two telephone poles without stopping. Last Christmas I ran 2.5 miles in 33:35. Saturday I ran 3.1 miles in 33:55. I did my last mile in under 10 minutes, and I beat my June race time by more than half a minute. I’m not speedy by any stretch, but I’m improving.
And really— do you know what was the best thing about this race? Getting to run it with my girls. We all enjoyed the challenge and the fun of doing something out of the ordinary. It was a fun experience to share, so much that we’re already scheming our next race!