Can you believe it? I hardly can…but it’s all been possible because of the hard work I’ve been pouring into each run I take.
I’m in training. Again. Actually, it seems like I never really stopped training. I went from a half marathon in Indianapolis at the beginning of May to another one, this time in Minneapolis, on Sunday, June 3. It wasn’t the best planning, I know, but it was how the cards were dealt. Imagine my surprise when I plugged the new race info into my iPod app and already was up to having to run 8 miles on a long run. Craziness. But…the life of a runner is never boring.
As my training has progressed to this, the second of four…maybe five, half marathons for the year, I’ve covered a lot of road. I’ve dealt with minor set-backs (injuries) and I’ve struggled with finding things that I can handle eating while running (I still have yet to master that!). On top of that, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet to fit my restrictive dietary needs (I’m a gluten-free vegetarian!) and not dropping pounds has been an even more epic battle. Making sure I get enough protein…an even bigger battle.
But that’s a different story.
Yesterday, I was out on my last easy training run before the half marathon on Sunday. And in those short 2 miles I covered, I rolled over the 450 mile mark. This leaves me with less than 50 more miles to cover until I reach the goal I set in January. Hmmm…I think it’s time to up the mileage! I can’t believe I’ve reached the goal so quickly. Considering that in January I was bummed out for getting a slow start, my training schedule has certainly made up for it. I am so happy my feet can still carry me miles down the road at whatever pace I feel I want to maintain.
Today, I head to the airport to fly to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m running in the Minneapolis Half Marathon on Sunday, June 3. The weather looks like it will be perfect for running. Ideal. And…even better…my grandpa is going to be there. He’s the one who inspired me to put on running shoes and hit the road and the fact that he will be at the race means so much to me. I look forward to crossing that finish line and giving my family and friends hugs and just reveling in the moment that he was there to see it happen.
I’ve been so ready to make this trip. And now that it’s here…I’m ready to get running.
Perhaps that’s the taper talking…but this race on Saturday means the world to me. I’m ready to run it the best I can.
Race: Run for the Berries 5K
Place: Starlight, Indiana
Date: May 26, 2012
I finally managed it. FINALLY! And in heat and on massive rolling hills. My sub-25 minute 5K happened on Saturday.
I actually wasn’t expecting any new records to be set at the Run for the Berries 5K on Saturday. The weather before the sun even came up was in the low 70s. In fact, when I was getting dressed, I checked the weather and at 5:30 a.m., it was 73 degrees out. It was going to be a hot morning which would mean it would be one hot race.
Now, I’ve run in the heat before. I’ve been making myself do it this year instead of hiding in the gym on a treadmill. I am just smart and go out early or head out late. No running in the heat of the day. But I think making myself do it, despite always wilting in the heat, was a major factor in this finish. That being said, I decked myself out in shorts and a sports bra. The less fabric I had on, the cooler I would stay.
I ate a bowl of cereal prior to heading out to the Starlight Strawberry Festival, which this race was kicking off. I packed a Lärabar for the road to eat about 45 minutes before the race so I wouldn’t get hungry while on the run. No need to pack a change of clothes as home was a short drive away and I wanted to run, eat strawberries, and then go shower. That was the plan. So, into the car I went and headed up through the rolling and winding streets of Floyds Knobs towards Starlight, Indiana.
I actually ran this race last year. But it was cold last year. I was decked out in capri pants and a long-sleeve running shirt. Shivering at the start. So, this return was going to be quite different than the year before because running in cold is easier than running in heat. At least when you warm up in the cold, you get warm. When you warm up in the heat…you get even hotter than you already are.
We arrived at the Starlight Strawberry Festival and were directed to a spot to park. Then it was off to packet pick-up. This race always uses left-over race bibs from previous races, so I was decked out in one for The Shamrock 2 Miler. My roommate helped me get pinned up and out the door we went to give me ample time to stretch. As I was finishing that up, Judi, my roommate’s aunt, arrived with a newly decked out sign for me, completely adorned with strawberries in honor of the occasion. Awesome. Two signs (because the sign my roommate brings to every non-rainy race made the journey too). I have the best peeps who support me in my running. Honestly, I do.
Within moments, we were all moving a little ways up the street. I gave hugs to Cathy and Judi and they wished me luck. I prepped the iPod Nano as I made my way through the sea of runners and walkers to the little line across the road marking the start of the race. I was about 3 rows back. Next to me, I had a woman (who ended up taking 2nd for the women overall) who began bitching about running 5Ks. She just went on and on about how she hated this distance and would rather run ultra’s any day. Someone told her to just tack on another 97 miles then. I was just shaking my head. If you don’t like 5K races, don’t sign up to run in them. That easy.
The announcements were made and then…the gun was to send us on our way. But it didn’t fire. Naturally. So, we got a shout of “GO” and off we all went. I wanted to start off slow as I tend to go out fast and then struggle at the end, but I ended up going out fast anyway. Figures. Another reason I wanted to start off at a better pace was the heat. I was hot within moments of taking off on the race and heading up our first hill. But, what better way to accustom yourself to running in the heat than to do it.
Mile 1 was rough. There were quite a few small hills to take on. I was running near one guy and as someone he knew caught up to him, they began having a conversation. The guy who came up to him said that if they just run faster, it will be over sooner. It made me laugh. And then, before I knew it…Mile 1 was gone. I remembered very little about this course from the previous year, but I did remember that the second mile was where a lot of runners dropped off last year to catch their breath near the cornfield. I knew when I saw that cornfield I would be over halfway there.
And so I just kept going. I just wanted to stay on pace. No need to push too hard or drain myself in the heat for no reason. I wanted to be comfortable and not push my body beyond limits it wasn’t ready for…or needed to go. Mile 2 came around along with the only water stop on the route. I pushed on and then…it was there…
A steep-ass hill. No gradual incline here. It looked like a monster just looming out ahead of me. I admit…I was already feeling depleted of energy in the heat, that hill was the last thing I wanted to encounter. But, what can you do? You just run up it as best you can. So, that’s what I did. I won’t like…it totally slowed me down, but I just took it all in stride, pushed through it, and crested the top. It felt good, but damn, it took a lot out of me.
From there on, it was just a series of small rolling hills. As I rounded a corner, I could see the finish line. I picked up the pace a bit. And as I came in toward the finish line, my roommate was screaming at me. Just shouting. I checked the time clock and it was at 24-minutes and some seconds and ticking up. I found whatever power left in my legs to propel me across that finish line in a very surprising sub-25 minute 5K. My first.
It felt…amazing. I couldn’t believe it. Cathy and Judi came over, handed me water. I downed it and went to turn in my card with my time, name and age on it. When I returned, we made our way into the festival area and found a spot to camp out. When the strawberry shortcake booth finally opened we went and got some strawberries. As I can’t eat the shortcake, I just filled my bowl up with heaps of strawberries and dug in.
The awards ceremony began soon after and we cheered for the winners. The overall winners were the team from the University of Cincinnati that always comes down and sweeps this race of the top awards. It happened last year too. Then the divisional awards were handed out. And the craziest thing happened.
I won my division. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I was so surprised when they called my name for taking first place in the 30-34 women’s age group. Cathy and Judi went ballistic and shouted for me as I went up to receive my award from the Strawberry Festival Queen. I’m still in shock, I believe.
The official results for the Run for the Berries 5K haven’t been posted yet, but my official time is 24:50 (WOOHOO!). The card I was handed at the finish had a 13 on it, but I’m not sure if that meant I was the 13th finisher of the 13th woman. And, as I mentioned before, I placed first in my division. If the results ever get posted, I’ll update this to give official standings.
For now…I sit here just really proud of myself for finally pulling off that sub-24 minute 5K. I didn’t think I’d see it this year. And this one…there was no mistaking the time. The course is the right length. The time…officially stands.
I know, it seems a bit weird to mention troubleshooting in a blog about running. But, like most things in life these days, even our running schedules hit snags and need a good system reboot every now and again.
I’m in the homestretch of my half marathon training for my second half marathon of the year. This one is up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and runs on June 3rd.
This race is so important to me. I chose to run this one for one specific reason.
He lives up in Minneapolis and is quite the seasoned veteran of their road races in the area and beyond. I really wanted to run a distance race that he could come out and watch, cheer me on to the finish, and celebrate with me. He understands. He gets it. He used to be a runner. At the age of 90, he can still walk a (surprisingly) hilly 5K in less than an hour. I can listen to his tales of marathons, half marathon’s and shorter races all day. He’s a great story teller. But he was also a great runner.
And while I have been fantastic about making sure I get my runs in according to my training app on my iPhone, this week…I have done very little running. This week and next week are the two most important weeks when it comes to the training program. This week, the mileage is high, and next week…the taper. So getting these runs in and getting those miles in are very important.
And on Monday, when I was to run 5 miles…I did nothing. My legs were tired from running two races over the weekend and doing a 9 mile run on Sunday for my long run. So…I took the day off. Not something I like doing, but rain was moving in so going out to Louisville for my fun run was not looking like an option. Tuesday was three miles and I ticked those off in good fashion. Yesterday was to be my yoga for cross-training. I have started running to and from my class now that it is light out and the weather is awesome. But…I’ve had a bad week…so…I didn’t go. I wasn’t feeling it. I got overheated at the office and just felt drained and under-the-weather. So…I nixed not only a run, but my cross-training as well.
And then I got mad at myself for it. Really angry. I started to cry, and when my roommate asked me what was wrong, I told her I felt like I wasn’t giving my all to this. Here is one of the most important half marathons that I’ve been training for…and I’m failing on my training! It made me really upset. I should be at 13 miles of running by the end of today. I’ll probably have 6 miles. Which leaves me 7 miles short for the week when all is said and done. I don’t like that. I don’t like that sort of deficit.
But…it happens, yes? We all have bad days. And, let’s face it…this has just been a bad, bad week. Am I a failure for not getting in those miles? No. Do I feel like one? Yes.
It’s all mental. It’s all in my head. I just have it in my heart to run the hell out of this race. I just want to do something brilliantly for once. And since I’ve read how hilly this course is…I really want to be prepared to take on this hills and do it without slowing down…too much. I want this…for myself…and for my grandpa.
And I think that’s why I’ve been so hard on myself about this. And that’s why it upsets me to no end that I’ve come short on my training runs this week. Will it affect my run overall? Probably not. But I’ve put a lot of time and energy into training and I just want to do it to the best of my ability.
So…this week I’m coming up a little short. It happens, right? It’s hard to tell a passionate runner that it happens when they look around and see people logging those miles despite what may be going on in their life. I’m not a failure by any sense of the word. I’m just having a hard time dealing with the fact that I’ve become so blasé about training right for this race.
I guess the fact that it has upset me so much doesn’t mean that I don’t care. Crying about missed runs doesn’t solve anything. Getting out there and running does. So…next time I’ll lace up instead of curling up on my bed and having a cry-fest.
The culmination of a horrible week has pretty much been the reason for this. I can pinpoint it. But…damn…it’s hard to bounce back from that. But I’m going to. And in the end, I’m going to run that half marathon strong and make my family proud…no matter when I cross that finish line.
Race: Geist 5K
Place: Fishers, Indiana
Date: May 19, 2012
Tired doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt leading up to this race. I was exhausted. And here’s why…
The night prior I was running in the second race of the Frankfort Trifecta in Frankfort, Kentucky. While I’ve done back-to-back races before, the second race usually suffers in comparison due to tired legs. Races on two mornings leave some time for recovery. A race at night followed by a race in the morning gives me time to sleep.
The apartment below mine, however, is the home of a couple of baseball players in college. And Friday night leading into Saturday morning they decided to be loud, obnoxious, shout, carry on, throw things around, bang around on things, and in general…be a complete nuisance. Unfortunately, their loud antics meant very little sleep was had. I finally stopped trying and just got up, got dressed in my race clothes, and came out to the living room to play on my computer until 4:00 a.m. when my roommate had set her alarm to get up. But soon after I settled in on the couch, her door opened. Yep…they woke her up too.
It was 3:30 a.m. I put in a call to the landlord and we both decided we’d just get ready to get out on the road. I got together some cereal to eat and grabbed a Lärabar for an hour before the actual race. For my roommate, we’d grab something on the go, but just to get something in her stomach, we have granola bars on hand. We grabbed the race gear and our stuff we’d need for the day…and headed out for the 2 hour drive from our apartment to Fishers, Indiana.
That, my friends, felt like an eternity. When you are operating on very little sleep, everything seems to take longer. But, we stuck some music on the iPod and made the drive to Hamilton Southeastern High School for race day packet pick-up (which thank God they have!). We made one brief stop to get something for Cathy to eat for breakfast and as we neared the high school, I was tearing into my Lärabar (Peanut Butter Cookie flavor, FYI) so I wouldn’t find myself starving in the middle of the race.
We parked and headed toward the doors we entered through the day before. However, they were locked with a sign on them that said “Go Around.” The bad thing was, they didn’t indicate which way we needed to go. And we chose unwisely. The packet pickup was being held in the auxiliary gymnasium and we ended up taking the longer path around the school in the end. But, we got there and I went up to the booth and claimed my packet and my t-shirt.
This was the first year that the Geist 5K was going to start in waves. So, there was actually a corral system being used for the 5K as well as the half marathon, which was kicking off before the 5K. I opened up my envelope that held my race bib and timing chip and discovered that I was being corralled in Corral A. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the corral system at races, the faster people are usually put in Corrals A-C. Those at the Geist 5K who were in the first three corrals had a green stripe on their race bibs. Well…I’m not a fast runner, nor do I claim to be. Given my level of exhaustion and the fact that I had tired legs, I was also wearing a Bondiband that said: “What I lack in speed I make up for in cute!” Sort of ironic to be wearing that when you’re being issued one of the more elite spots for the start of the race.
I ducked into the bathroom before I got pinned up and had the timing tag attached to my shoe. From there, we headed outside to catch one of the shuttles (aka: a school bus) to the start point of the race. We got on the first one and took our seats. The drive didn’t even last that long, before we were pulling into a parking lot and being let off. We had just gotten off the bus when some planes flew overhead. I think this was marking the start of the half marathon. As we walked toward the start we could see the last of the bobbing bodies going out of the start gate and up a hill. The half marathon was off and running and now volunteers were readying the start area for the 5K race.
Cathy and I made our way down toward the start gate. When we got close to Corral A, I went ahead and started stretching. Good thing too, because the announcer suddenly said that the corrals were now ready for the 5K racers to begin lining up. I shucked my hoodie, was wished luck by Cathy, and then…I stepped into Corral A.
Despite the fact that the official race site and rules say that headphones are prohibited, almost every runner had them in. I left my iPod at home, because when a race says you can’t use headphones, I believe you should not wear headphones. Rules are rules.
The announcer started calling out all the different teams that were running in the 5K race. And soon, the corrals were moved forward. The race would be started in waves. Corral A would go, then four minutes later, the next wave would be set out. And so on. It made sense. And, in the end, would probably make for a much smoother start to the race.
With all that being said, the announcer prepped us for the start. And as soon as he said, “GO!” we were off…kind of. You see, the ladies in front of me decided that they would rather walk through the start than go. In fact, they might have decided to walk the entire thing. I don’t know. But I was already over the start line, my GPS was going, and I wasn’t running. I literally had to push past them to get out and going, and that’s what I did. I gave a wave to Cathy as I ran by and started up the initial hill that kicks off the Geist 5K.
You wouldn’t think it…but this area of Indianapolis is rather hilly. The race is run through the surrounding neighborhoods, and then the last bit of it is spent running across the Geist Reservoir. It starts and ends in two different spots, which meant Cathy had to dart from the start to a shuttle to get her to the finish line before I made it there. It’s not as easy as it sounds. For the second year in a row, she managed to get to where she needed to be moments before I rounded the corner for the sprint to the finish.
The first file ticked off without much fanfare. As we rounded into the neighborhoods we were being told by a volunteer to watch our step on some pavement. I thanked them as I ran by and headed into the rather hilly neighborhoods around the Geist Reservoir. The people who live out there, however, are awesome. Many of them were out on their driveways and in their yards to cheer on the runners. It was a great atmosphere. I was hoping there would be some music being played along the way, but no such luck. Mile 2 was completed and I was heading into the last one.
I started up a hill and there was a sign indicating that 5K runners should hang left and half marathon runners should go to the right. We were hitting the part where we run across the reservoir. As I was coming up to the split, a volunteer was moving the sign and told me to go right. I shouted, “I’m in the 5K!” He still said I needed to go that way. So…I did as I was told. But I noticed all the other runners were in the other lane, and up ahead was a slow moving bus and some people walking. So, despite what I was told, I hopped the median to join all the other 5K runners and avoided the slow down. The last mile was being ticked off and I could see the bend that would carry me toward the finish line.
So, I decided, despite how tired I was, to go for it. I came around the turn, and Cathy was there just shouting and cheering for me. It was awesome. I heard the finish line announcer say, “The donkey is flying! Go Karen!” It was awesome and funny and…well…awesome! I was nearing the finish line and I heard people yelling, “GO GIRL! RUN!” And then…some walkers were in my way. They were crossing about the time I was…but I just went around them. I bet that makes interesting finish line photos.
Yeah…I was tired. Yeah…my legs were screaming at me. But I was handed one of the finisher medals and made my way through runner services, snagging a banana and some snacks along the way. Then, I got the tag cut off my shoe and waited for a moment before I spotted Cathy heading my way.
We met up and I tucked the snacks away for later, drank down my bottle of water, and went to the results tent to get my official time. It was printed off for me and I was stunned. I walked the ticket over to Cathy and showed her that, currently, I was placed first in my division. I did, however, tell her that was going to change. So, while we waited in the recovery area, I decided to take advantage of the massage booth and got a nice post-race massage. Then, I rejoined Cathy to polish off my bottle of water. I went back over to the results booth, because enough of the 5K runners had come in at this point that the results would be a little more accurate. I was right…my standing changed.
The official results for the Geist 5K have me finishing in 25:47 (not bad for being tired!). I was 245/3063 finishers overall. Sweet! I was 57/1826 women to cross the finish. And I was 2/173 people in my division. Second place for my age division. That’s amazing! I was ecstatic. I was actually quite surprised too. I was running this race on tired legs and was overall just…tired…due to lack of sleep. But I pulled off one hell of a finish. I was very, very pleased with the results. Quite proud of myself too.
I’m contemplating running the Geist Half Marathon next year as one of my half marathon races. It would be a good run to do as I’m working toward my first marathon in 2013. So, we’ll see what happens in the end. But this was yet another race I returned to and bettered myself in. Last year I finished in 28:10. It was nice to see an improvement.
Race: Pro.Active For Life 5K
Place: Frankfort, Kentucky
Date: May 18, 2012
This…was a tough race. Not that I haven’t run this exact route in Frankfort in other 5Ks prior to this one. That wasn’t what made it tough. What made this race a challenge was that I was coming off of only one day off of running (which was Wednesday night). On Thursday morning, I put in a hard run, plus some time on the elliptical and stationary bike at the gym. And prior to that, I had run both Monday and Tuesday…so needless to say, I was operating on very tired legs.
I totally understand now why people take a day off before a race.
That being said, this was a very fun race to participate in. The Pro.Active For Life 5K is the second race of the Frankfort Trifecta, the three-race series that I am entered to run in. The first race ran back in March. And the final one will run a month from now. This is actually quite a popular race as well. It even hands out awards for first timers…you know, those who are taking on their very first 5K. It’s a great motivator and definitely draws a crowd.
Getting to Frankfort was the challenge. My roommate and I put in a full day at the office, sneaking out 30 minutes before we normally leave. We stopped off to grab something to eat on the way and hit the road to Frankfort. The traffic in Louisville was pretty bad, but we got through it and made our way to the state capital.
We parked in our usual parking garage and headed into the historic downtown area. Packet pick-up was currently going on and I slipped inside the building, past the long line of people registering on race day, to get my number, my t-shirt, and a reusable bag to boot. Awesome. I got out of the crowded room and got my number pinned on to the front of my shirt.
It was a hot night and I was already questioning my choice of a t-shirt over a tanktop for the run. But, there wasn’t any time to change out now. I had to get stretching because the race would be starting momentarily. Yes…that is how close we cut it upon arrival. So, I stretched, and moved about, seeing the crowd assembling on the main street where the races usually start in Frankfort. My roommate and I headed that way and we noticed that the starting/finishing gate had been moved across the road. Volunteers were standing around with signs marking pace times. It was already time to start thinking about running.
Talk about being rushed.
So, I took my spot in the 20-30 minute 5K spot, and immediately got overtaken by young children. This often happens in races like this, so I attempted to move aside so I could at least get off to a good start and not worry about trampling a child on accident. This attempt failed, so I just chalked it up to the nature of this sort of race and prepped my Garmin (which I forgot needed some time to find its satellites) and set my iPod.
One of the race officials began making announcements. However, none of the runners could really make them out. They were being done to the side and behind most of us, which meant that it never really reached our ears. Apparently, they were giving instructions about going with the gun. And since none of us could hear it, when a loud gunshot rang out…everyone jumped.
…and we were off…
I zigged and zagged my way through the crowd as we took off down the roads of Frankfort for the first mile. I know exactly how this path winds. I knew that the first mile would be after climbing a steep hill toward the capitol building. About halfway towards it…that’s the mile marker. It’s always marked, but I’ve run Frankfort so many times that I just know where it is. My pace was slower than I normally take it. It wasn’t that I finally learned to pace myself in the first mile. I wish I could say it was. The fact was…it was HOT and I was doing my best just to stay focused on the run and not how much energy the heat was sapping from me.
Up another incline and around the capitol. This is where we finally get a little downhill momentum. But it lasts only for a moment. I was doing my best to keep pace…but it was really, really hard to do that in the heat of the evening. I mean, the race was running at 6:30 p.m. It is still quite hot out at 6:30 p.m. In fact, it was in the mid-80s at this point still. Mile 2 ticked off and I was now in the final mile of the race.
I took the little inclines with stride, and powered with the downhill portions as much as possible. I just felt drained because of the relentless sun and the heat coming up from the pavement. Couple that with the 773 runners sharing the course with you and it’s just a quagmire of heat. I was doing my best to keep to the shadier areas of the streets.
I knew when I rounded that last corner that I was pretty much done. The finish line was in sight, but the thought of even turning on the afterburners and fighting for a fast finish was draining. The heat was just getting me that night. I think I’ve come to realize that races this summer are going to be a shorts and bra-top affair. It might help a little with the heat. I just need to remember to slather on the sunscreen.
That being said, I did pour some energy into the final sprint to the finish. I could hear some runners sneaking up behind me and I was determined not to let one of them pass me. It worked. And I crossed the finish line…with no new PR…but happy to be done. I snagged a very warm bottle of water and moved to the side where my roommate skipped over to congratulate me on another race. As we were standing around, a reporter from Frankfort’s Capital-Journal newspaper came over and told Cathy she had taken a picture of her and wanted to get her name and some information regarding the sign she was holding. I swear to God that sign gets her in more pictures and publications than I end up in…and I’m the runner. Hehehe.
After we parted ways with the reporter, Cathy ducked into the local coffee shop and snagged two cold bottles of water. We debated sticking around, however, I had another race to run in Indianapolis the following morning, which was already constituting an early wake-up call to make the over 2 hour drive to packet pick-up up there. So, we bid Frankfort adieu.
And until today…I had no idea how the race went. No results were posted until early this afternoon. But as it turns out…despite the hot, hot night, I didn’t do too bad. My official time was 26:58. I was the 85/773 finishers overall. And, it surprised me to find out I finished 2/65 in my age division. ROCK ON!
Time to get tough and get used to running in the heat. I have a feeling the more I do it, the less I’ll wilt.
Yep…you read that right. I am 100 miles away from my goal for the year.
I can’t believe how quickly these miles have just ticked off. There hasn’t been a day where I thought…”I just don’t want to run today.” I’ve been very diligent about following my half marathon training schedule. I’ve lightened up runs when my body has suggested it might be the best option to do so. I’ve run hard on hills, pushed myself in races, and sometimes have just had to stop and catch my breath for a moment.
But this is the life of a road runner.
And 500 miles is creeping up fast. The goal is going to have to be expanded. I don’t know what I’ll strive for in the end. Perhaps I’ll just add another 100 miles…and see what comes from it. Or perhaps I’ll add another 500 to the count. I just don’t know. It’s something to think about. The fact of the matter is, on Monday evening, upon arriving late to my group fun run and having to set out on my own…I hit that 400 mile mark.
I didn’t even realize it at the time, but it happened. Probably somewhere when my paced slowed to a crawl as I hit the hardest hill in Cherokee Park over in Louisville, Kentucky. One day I will conquer that hill without feeling like I’ve just pushed myself up a mountain. With each run, with each session at the gym, I am getting stronger. I can feel it in my running. I can feel it every day.
But this is where it stands today…over 400 miles of road covered and quite a bit more already planned as far as future races go.
I’m not burned out on it at all. I crave more of it. And that, my friends, is only a good thing.
Last 100 miles. Let’s make them count!
Race: Throo The Zoo 5K
Place: Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky
Date: May 12, 2012
And so, my friends…I finally managed a new PR for a 5K race. I have yet to achieve my goal of a (real) sub-25 minute 5K…but I’m getting closer. Second-by-second. And, really, it should be taken one second at a time, right?
Apparently, the Throo The Zoo 5K is one of the more popular races in the Louisville area. I was actually surprised by the number of bibs stacked up on the table when I went to Fleet Feet in Louisville on Friday morning to pick up my race packet. For one thing, there was a long line and I was there right when they opened. The volume of t-shirts and bibs was crazy. I’m used to Louisville’s little 5Ks that run through one of the local parks. But Throo The Zoo is a big deal it seems.
With race packet in hand, I returned to work on Friday. But something was different. You see, my office had a nice handful of people who were not only coming out for the race, but some were going to walk it as well. For the first time in…well…ever…I was going to know someone at a local 5K race I was in. This, for some reason, made me incredibly happy. And, my roommate and her aunt, Judi, were coming out to watch, wave signs, scream, shout, and be an awesome cheering section.
Saturday morning came way too soon. I was up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for the race. This meant packing up my race bag with a change of clothes and everything I might need post-race. Eating some cereal. Meeting up with Judi. Getting us all in the car and over to the Louisville Zoo by 7:00 a.m. They recommended on the Web site that we arrive early because roads coming into the zoo were going to be closed at 7:30 a.m. in preparation for the race. That being said, we barely made it there due to the massive amount of traffic heading into the zoo. Seriously. Then the hunt for a parking spot (that we would remember) was on. My roommate was determined to park near a landmark so she chose one of many similar looking trees in a lot and parked. I was eating a Lärabar in the backseat because I hate at 5:45 a.m. and knew I would be starving by the time the race started at 8:00 a.m. if I didn’t eat something I could easily digest in between. So when 7:00 hit…I was making sure I’d have some energy for the race itself.
We grabbed the race stuff from the trunk (bag and signs) and made our way toward where the starting gate was staked. It wasn’t in place yet as traffic was still pouring into the zoo. Too early to stretch, we sort of just hung around and chatted, taking in the sheer volume of people that were arriving for this 5K race. And that’s when my teammate from the office, Kayla, found us. She and her husband, Will, were both participating in the walk. Amazing they even spotted us. So, we conversed and chatted and goofed around. Will inquired as to when I would normally finish one of these races. I said I tend to come in between 25-27 minutes in 5Ks these days, but didn’t know what to expect with it being this big. Oh…and that I always finish fourth in my age division. We all laughed about that…because…I’m usually right on that cusp when it comes to the smaller races. The clock was ticking down toward race time so it was time to do my stretches to get my muscles loose and warm before shucking my hoodie. We took a couple of pictures before we saw a flood of runners and walkers making their way toward the starting gate, which had been moved now across the road. It was 10 minutes before race time. Hugs. Luck. And all that good karma stuff was thrown out among all of us and we took our respective spots.
The wait for the start wasn’t too bad. There was an electricity with this race. No one was being negative at all about anything. People of all ages were around me, from kids to older adults. I love glancing around me at my starting position just to see what kind of people turned out for the race. And it was a mixed bag of everyone for this one.
No sooner had I turned on my iPod, we started moving. I guess the race started and somehow I missed the whistle. Not that it matters. I usually position myself toward the front of the middle of the pack, so I move when everyone else does. I go where everyone else goes. I’m never the fastest at a race, so I don’t ever concern myself with learning the route pre-race. I just go where everyone else does.
That being said, this race being so big and running on tight neighborhood streets, were cars were parked on the side, made this a new kind of a challenge. I had been warned that there were too many people at this race, and it was too big, to attempt any personal goal or record. So, I went into it just planning to run a good race and to keep a good pace. My GPS watch was my guide for that. And as we headed through the neighborhoods, I also discovered how hilly this area was.
Initially, the hills were little mounds that were just a little hindrance to the pace. I powered through them as best as I could, not wanting to expend too much energy too soon because I wanted that strong finish. I didn’t want another Frankfort, KY moment where someone outruns me at the very…last…second. That being said, as we crested another rolling hill, one of the runners in a Fleet Feet shirt stood at the top, high-fiving people as they came up and said, “It’s all downhill from here!” We all pretty much knew better and I laughed at that when I heard it. However, I did find myself passing people though as we moved, and being passed in return. We wound our way past the zoo and down through another neighborhood before turning, heading back toward the zoo for the final portion, which actually took us through the Louisville Zoo (hence the name of the race).
This was actually the part I was looking forward to the most. We entered the zoo and were directed down a hill (FINALLY!). The path we were taking was the one that wound through the outer parameter of the zoo itself. And it also brought about our water stop. I found out from one of the walkers later that when they hit that spot, all the water was gone. You’d think a race that is this big of a deal in this area would come better stocked with water.
That being said, I was winding my way through the different areas of the zoo. There wasn’t too much out to be seen at this point. I did see a polar bear as I ran under one of the walkways in a concession area. The polar bear was up in the pass, sort of watching all of us. Probably thinking breakfast was served. But, that was basically it for me as far as the animals went. The path took another twist and at the 2.5 mile mark…Gorilla Hill. Welcome to the cruelest thing to throw at a runner when they are making their way toward the finish line. A massive, massive hill. Gorilla Hill (near the gorilla exhibit) was a climb. And my legs felt every bit as I pushed my way up it. It slowed me down, for sure, but I’ve been making a point to get out and run on hills, so my legs are starting to get used to that kind of a push. Normally I take hills leisurely, but during races I tend to push a bit more. And I was pushing as much as my body would allow.
As it leveled out, I was down to the final portion of the race. We finished up inside the zoo and were brought out. We turned a corner and the finish line was now in sight. I picked it up as much as I could, really working on that strong finish. That is such a vital part of road racing. With me passing people, people passing me, and the usual runners dance toward the finish, I crossed, stopped my GPS watch and was immediately greeted by Cathy and Judi. And for the first time, I checked my GPS watch. If it was correct, then I had a new PR. Only time would tell.
I meandered over to the recovery area where runners could pick up some post-race goodies. Clif Bars, bananas, barbeque sandwiches, donuts, etc. I grabbed a banana and thanked the people at the booth for having something gluten-free. I walked around the area to see what all there was, then rejoined Cathy and Judi near the finish line.
We had a lot going on that day…plans to hit up a local farmer’s market (opening weekend!), see The Avengers at the theater, do lunch, and grab some ice cream…so as much as we wanted to stay to cheer on the people from our office, we had to depart. We gave a parting glance to the finish line and made our way through the parking lot, searching for the elusive tree we parked near. With the car found, we piled in and headed out to enjoy our day.
It was while the credits were rolling during the film that I pulled up the race results on my iPhone.
And the results were that I finished the Throo The Zoo 5K in 25:10. A new PR! It beat out my time in the Westerville Bunny Hop 5K (my fastest 5K at the time, not counting the Durbin Classic 5K where they said the course might have been shorter than 3.1 miles) by 14 seconds. I was the 210/2153 finishers overall. And yes…I finished 4/169 in my age division. See…always 4th. It made me laugh when I saw that.
This was a great, packed race that had a great atmosphere to it. I would totally run this one again in a heartbeat. So…if I’m here next year…it’s going on the list.