Ever-Changing Reflection

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding... It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.
~ Kahlil Gibran

Monday, May 23, 2011

YESSSSS... fist pump... high five!

That is what I said and did after sprinting across the finish line of Harpoon Brewery 10th Annual 5-Miler Race yesterday. Yes, I sprinted -- finishing strong. I set a personal record with a pace of 10:42/mile. I was shocked, and I have not felt so happy or so damn proud of myself in a while. If you're looking for a natural high, run a race.

Warning: This is a long post detailing my training and challenges up to the race. Feel free to skip to the bottom if you're not a runner or potential runner who's interested in that kind of stuff. :)

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I started running last summer using the Couch to 5K plan. I was on and off with it, becoming discouraged when I found the running parts hard and the summer heat made it difficult to breathe. I gave up about three weeks in, starting and stopping several times. I ran on and off last fall, and I completely gave up running for the winter since I didn't have anywhere to run inside, and outside the snow and ice made running precarious. In late March, I joined a gym and started running again on the treadmill; not a week later, I signed up for the 5-miler... committed to train properly and finish the race, running the whole thing.

And I trained... three days a week, pushing myself just enough to prevent injury and burnout. Then April came, and with it, awful allergies and a work trip to Orlando -- which caused me to miss almost three weeks of training. I forgave myself (really, what else can you do?), and I got back on the treadmill as soon as I could. And I lost everything I had gained. It was like starting all over again, and I beat myself up for being weak and not training while I didn't feel well.

Then the fear sank in: "Oh my God, I don't know if I can do this? I'm out of shape. I can barely run a mile; I'm never gonna achieve my goal."

Well, I ran my first full mile about three weeks before race day, and it wasn't easy, but it wasn't terrible either. I changed my goal: finish the race and feel good about my run. If I had to take walk breaks, so be it. It is what it is.

I spent those last three weeks running three days a week: 2-2.5 mile runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a 3-4 mile run on Saturday or Sunday. I started running outside when I could to get used to running on pavement. I mapped out runs around my neighborhood, and I kept track of my pace (which scared me even more because I was averaging about a 13-min. mile).

Last Saturday (one week and a day before race day), I did five miles for the first time. On a treadmill. In 70 minutes. I wasn't thrilled, but I knew I could at least finish the race, and I felt good after my run.

Week before race: I hydrated like crazy, drinking six ounces an hour. I ran my 2-2.5 miles on Tuesday (outside) and Thursday (treadmill)... still not beating the 13-min. mile. I went to bed early the night before the race.

I woke up before my alarm Sunday morning, grabbed my pre-laid out race clothes -- checking the weather to make the game-time decision on shorts or pants (pants... it was in the 50's) -- and jumping in the shower to wake myself up. I made myself my normal breakfast of Greek yogurt, granola and blueberries, with a cup of coffee and some water. I filled water bottles to keep in the car and packed a bag of everything I thought I could need (thank you Amber for the Spibelt recommendation; it worked out so well, and everyone was intrigued by it!).

By the time I parked my car in Boston, I was literally shaking. I thought I was going to throw up, my stomach was in knots. Thankfully I knew people running, and after meeting up with everyone, I had calmed down. We walked up to the starting line, and I almost panicked again when I saw the banner, but I held it together and waited around the 12-min. mile pace. I was grateful my running buddies hadn't trained a lot and hung out with me at the start. I knew I wouldn't keep up with them, but it was nice not to wait at the start line alone.

I heard the pistol go off, and I shook out my legs a final time as I walked up to the actual start line. I reached the banner, and I was off! I kept telling myself to keep a steady, slower pace to start to conserve energy; I wanted to see how far I could run/jog without stopping for a walk break. I made it to the one-mile marker, and I allowed myself to slow down for 30 seconds. Mile two was up and down, scattered with walk breaks, especially through the first water station. I jogged most of mile three, and at that point, I could see one of my friends up ahead of me, but not that far ahead, which made me feel great. I was keeping pace! Whenever I felt discouraged, I would look back and see a crowd of people behind me -- reassuring myself that I was doing ok, I wasn't the slowest one.

On mile five, I actually recognized another one of my friends within reach, so I sprinted up to her, and we ran together until the last corner before the finish line. I was extremely thankful to have found her because she kept me running; I didn't want to stop and lose her. Finally I had to walk a few paces, and she wanted to speed up and finish fast. As I rounded the corner to the finish line, I broke into a sprint and pounded pavement as fast as I could until I crossed that line. It's so difficult to describe the feeling of crossing the line and knowing I had completed my first race -- no matter what my time. Those of you who are runners can relate, I'm sure.

I was confident I had kept within my 13-min. pace, but when I walked past the finish line and saw my friend, he told me I did an awesome job and had finished within 55 minutes! An 11-min. mile! WOW! I was sooooo excited. I felt like I had been initiated as a runner; I was legit.

Post-race party: Me, Liz, Mike, Tom, Erica, Amy, Stacy, Andy

Within 30 minutes, I was ready to sign up for my next race, knowing I had a list of summer races at home. The after party was so much fun; Harpoon gave all of the runners a plastic pint glass and two free beers, as well as some lunch.

As we were leaving, I found myself on the results board... I actually had a pace of 10:42! That was an awesome record, and I'm looking forward to building on the momentum from this race. I know I can run faster, and I'm going to push myself during my weekly runs to keep that pace.

I think my next race is going to the be annual Fourth of July race in my town -- four miles. Then I have a 5K in August and another in September I want to run. Next year, I'll up the ante to a 10K.

Do you run? Have you run your first race yet? What was it like? If you're a "seasoned" runner (I consider that being that you've run more than one race, LOL), what advice do you have for me? How can I increase my endurance to be able to run an entire race? How do you get faster?


Christin said...

Congratulations! How exciting! What's up next!? :)

Pam said...

Congrats! What an amazing accomplishment. I took up running a few years ago and then had to quit due to some foot issues. I was so bummed, because I really enjoyed it. I had hoped to run a 5K sometime, though I must admit I was nervous to do so. You must be so proud of yourself!

Holly said...

this is amazing, congrats!! you should be so proud of yourself.

I just did bay to breakers, but it isnt a super serious race, but i ran about 50%. which was a lot for me! i def wanna get more into it.