Running on gluten-free carbs…

Step 4 Life 5K – Brighton, CO (April 21, 2012)

Me crossing the finish line at the Step 4 Life 5K - Brighton, Colorado

Me crossing the finish line at the Step 4 Life 5K - Brighton, Colorado

Race: Step 4 Life 5K/10K Race

Place: Brighton, CO

Date: April 21, 2012

Time: 27:16

To quote U2: “EL-E-VATION!”

So…here it is.  I live in a river valley.  The Ohio River Valley here in Southern Indiana.  I’m so close to Louisville, Kentucky, I can see it from my apartment.  Yeah.  New Albany, Indiana sits at an elevation of 449 feet.

Now picture for a moment doing your first run ever in Colorado at 5,063 feet.  Yeah.  Elevation indeed!

Every April, I fly out to Denver, Colorado for a science fiction convention.  No, really…I do.  I love visiting Colorado.  It’s such a beautiful state and every time I go out there, I hate leaving.  I long for the next time I’ll be back.  That’s how much I love it.  This year, since I have taken up running and am pursuing a goal of running a race in all 50 states at some point, I thought why not run a race and cross Colorado off the list.  My roommate found one…the Step 4 Life 5K/10K race that benefited lung cancer research.  Awesome.

I really, really wanted to do the 10K, but after much thought and evaluation, decided it would probably be best when going from river valley to mountains to do a test run on the 5K.  So, that’s what I signed up for.  And, believe me, I had a lot of people concerned about how I would do at it.  For me…I was just going to take it easy and do what I felt my body could do.

So, race morning came around.  A beautiful 52 degree, sunny morning.  I got up, ate a light breakfast of some gluten-free cereal and got dressed for the race.  The drive from Denver to Brighton took about 25 minutes overall, and we got there right about the time we hoped to.  I went to pick up my packet…and unfortunately…they couldn’t find my name on the list.  YIKES!

But, they were very professional about it and simply handed me a number, had me write down my information, and let me enter.  I had the receipt showing I paid for it, but they didn’t even ask to see it.  Awesome.  So, now that I was officially part of the race with my t-shirt and all, I went to pick up my timing chip.

This was apparently the first year that they used chip timing.  So, this was going to be a new experience for anyone who had run this before.  As I am getting pinned up and put, what I like to call the “house arrest timing chip” around my ankle, I’m noticing the other runners in the race.  They are all super fit.  No surprise.  Colorado is the home of the two healthiest cities in the entire United States (Boulder and Fort Collins).  So, there were people who had run the Boston Marathon that year, and people who were just all muscle.  Lean, mean running machines.  I consider myself to be in decent shape (although I admit that I do love my ice cream and chocolate too much for my own running good, but it never stops me!), but I was really intimidated by these other runners.

First race at elevation...done!

First race at elevation...done!

I guess that’s just natural.  I usually try not to compare myself to others that are running with me, because no matter how fit someone is (or not fit) you don’t know how well they perform when running.  I have been bested by people I thought I would leave behind in the dust, and likewise I have blasted past people I thought I’d never even have a chance of passing.  It’s just one of those weird running quirks.

Well, race time was upon us and I was stretched out and as prepared as I was going to be.  I booted up my iPod Nano and went to line up.  In my head I was just reminding myself to breathe (which is what my headband for this race said, btw!).  The announcer said that the 10K people were to line up first as they would kick off the race.  Then the 5K people.  Most of us didn’t hear him say they would have a separate start, but thankfully he said this before too many of the 5K people set out with the 10K people.  After a two minute gap, they turned us loose on the course.

I did start off slower than I usually do.  I really just wanted to see how I would do with the change in elevation and the thinner air.  But, I felt good as I headed out and found myself running at a decent, though not normal, pace.  That was a good thing.  If I felt good, that meant I could push it a little more.  After my first mile, I decided to do just that.  And here is where we hit some minor inclines.  No big deal now.  I run on hills in my practice runs, easy and hard, so I pushed past them without any problem.  And hey…I was passing people.  Me!  The lowlander from Indiana.  The one not used to running at this sort of elevation.  Yeah…I was passing and pressing onward.

The race course had a turn around point and as I passed a water station, the first of the 10K racers were heading back in our direction.  Except they missed the turn, and when someone shouted after them, the guy in the lead just darted across my path, almost knocking right into me and pushing me over.  I don’t think he would have stopped if that had actually occurred.  But thankfully I was paying attention, pulled up to a quick stop and then continued onward.  The turn-around point was a bit of a choke point.  I was catching up to people as we were reaching the cone to run around and there was no room to maneuver past them, so I had to simply run their pace for a moment until the breakaway.

And breakaway I did.  Down the hill I had run up, and then toward the water stop.  Carefully I crossed against the people still coming the other way and made my way into the final leg of the race.  One mile to go.  The course was a mix of gravel, concrete, and then…grass.  Yes…grass.  I love running on grass, but I wasn’t expecting it.  By now, I could see the finish line.  It still felt miles away and I was starting to feel the effects of the elevation.  I was more tired than usual, but I wasn’t about to stop.  This race was so much fun and I was having a great time and not really worrying about what time I came in.  Just finishing it would be amazing and awesome.  And that was my goal.

Over a wooden footbridge and down the straightaway to the finish  line.  I was heading into the last stretch.  Here is where I normally put on the speed and dash all out for the finish, but I didn’t hear.  I couldn’t.  Not this time.  But I did put a little more speed into it…but only a little.  I was tired.  I admit that I was tired.

And I finished.  My GPS watch stated at 27:10, but the official race results says 27:16.  So, either way…a respectable time.

Here is where the Step 4 Life 5K stands.  I finished, as I said, in 27:16.  I was the I was 24/87 5K finishers overall and 6/41 women.  And, of course, I finished 3/19 in my division.  Being that this was my first race ever at altitude, I think that’s pretty rockstar.  Yeah…I’m proud of that.  And in the end, I felt great.  I had an amazing race.  And if it runs again next year, you better believe I’ll be a part of it.

Maybe I’ll even attempt the 10K.  Maybe.

(On a side note, the second song to come up on my shuffled running mix on my iPod that day was U2’s “Elevation.”  Perfection!)


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