First 5K race update
The sun has gone down and the moon has come up,
And long ago somebody left with the cup.
Cake, Going The Distance
I hope nobody thought, for a moment, that I would train for my first 5K race with quiet and steady diligence, and then run it as planned, without incident?
Good. Else, you would be on the wrong website, and I would have to set up an automatic redirect to ThingsRegularPeopleDo.com.
I did train with diligence. As for quiet, well, that ship sailed when I announced my race entry here, and was lost at sea when I accepted Christine Koh’s invitation to be profiled as an Eat, Blog, Run: Rockstar. I figured the spotlight would help me stay motivated, and it did. There were lots of days I wouldn’t have been bothered to lace up and go run, except I had that race on my calendar, my registration fee paid in full, and a whole bunch of friends and kind strangers cheering me on.
As for steady, no. I lost several days of training to stomach flu. A few to weather. A few more to lack of feeling it. Each week, I’d look at my calendar, add up the days, and revise my schedule, until it was ten days to race day, and I had no more rest days or sick days left to cash in. The easy-does-it plan of 3 runs a week became a suck-it-up-soldier daily drill. In the final days leading up to the race, I was having to increase my running time by five minutes a day. Which doesn’t sound like much, but if you put a stethoscope to my heart, you would hear it screaming at my brain in a Scottish brogue. I CANNAE CHANGE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS, CAPTAIN.
Two days before the race, I was up to a 25 minute run, still well short of 3.1 miles, and starting to worry that I might not make it. I decided to go run the actual course, and proved that anxiety justified, when I had to slow down to a walk for about three minutes to recover from a hill. I returned home dejected, and resigned to the likelihood that I might have to walk a portion of the race.
The next day, Friday, should have been a rest day. Heaven knows, I had plenty to do, with six people coming for dinner that night. Yes, in hindsight, I see where my race commitment conflicted with my social plans, but at the time, it just seemed like an excuse to have a double helping of the main course.
But I had to know if I could run the distance, so I set off along my usual practice route. It was a beautiful cool morning, with just a touch of a breeze, and I felt great. One mile, no problem. Two miles, and oxygen to spare. I was so close. I knew I could do it. I had to do it.
I did it. I ran 5K without stopping. What a feeling. The adrenaline carried me all through the day, through the frantic last minute housecleaning and cooking, into a wonderful night.
Naturally, I wore my three-and-a-half-inch Manolo Blahniks for five hours. What? It’s not like you can host a party in your Asics.
Anyway, we bid the last guests goodnight just before midnight, an entirely civilized hour, and went to bed. Launch the next morning couldn’t have been smoother. My alarm woke me up in plenty of time, and Patrick didn’t grumble a bit when I reminded him it was race day.
I felt butterflies as I picked up my race bib.
“I don’t know where it goes,” I said to my husband. “On front of the shirt, or back?”
“Let’s figure it out when we get there,” he suggested. Thank God.
I checked the time as we pulled out of the driveway. It wasn’t even eight-thirty yet. We’d get there a good 30 minutes before the start of the race–plenty of time to park and figure out how it all worked. As I caught sight of the balloons and traffic barriers, the butterflies returned with a wild fluttering. This was it.
As we strolled up the block toward the crowd, I remarked how noisy it was already. There was music blaring, and someone with a DJ voice was making announcements over a loudspeaker. Wow, I thought, they really crank up the pre-race crowd. What’s it going to be like at the finish?
We stood around for a minute, as I got my bearings. There was a large inflatable arch at the end of the block. Obviously, that was both the start and finish line. And funny thing, someone was running toward it. And another someone. And the announcer was calling out names and times.
It’s embarrassing to tell you that it took long seconds for it to dawn on me that this was not some kind of warm-up rally. I looked at the digital display next to the arch. It was blinking 32:00, 32:01, 32:02. And then I realized. We were not half an hour early for the start, but half an hour late. Somehow or another I had the wrong time in my calendar: 9 a.m. instead of eight.
Imagine a cloud of butterflies drowned in bucket of ice water and you have the clumped up mass of emotion in my stomach.
I crumpled my race bib into my fist, hoping I looked like just an another casual onlooker. As soon as I could ditch my timing chip, we were out of there.
“I’m so sorry, honey,” said Patrick. “What do you want to do now?”
“I’ve gotta go run 5K,” I said. But it was a salvage operation at that point, and my heart wasn’t in it.
After a mile, I was feeling a bit better. After all, as of the day before, I could run five kilometers farther than I could two months ago. There would be other races. Then at mile 1.5, I felt something near my knee go sproing. It wasn’t painful, so I kept going.
Don’t you dare.
Damnit, damnit, damnit.
After the third sproing, I slowed to a walk. The next sproing was accompanied by a twinge. Clearly, it wasn’t my day to run 5K.
After consulting with Dr. Twitter and Dr. Google, I determined I had pulled something in my quadriceps, probably my teardrop muscle, and that there might be more to running than tying your shoelaces and heading out the door. Things like pronation, and stretching, and hydration, and stride, and maybe not running with one leg in the gutter of the road day after day. Information that would have overwhelmed and intimidated me in the beginning. I mean, if running was that complicated, homo sapiens wouldn’t have survived to make a sport of it, would we?
It was time to back up and punt, physically and mentally. I didn’t run Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday. And you know something?
I missed it. Maybe that, more than a numbered race bib or a published finish time, is the mark of a real runner.
This morning, I was out the door before 8. I ran just over two miles. No sproing, but no compulsion to push for 5K right away either, and risk missing my next first race day, three weeks away.
Don’t worry, I’ll be checking, and triple-checking the start time (depending on what website you go by, it starts at 8 OR 8:30, which is how I copied the wrong time for the Hillcrest 5K).
I may camp out on the starting line overnight, just in case.