Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vern's No Frills 5K - #24 Race Report

A few weeks ago, I learned about a series of 5K races that takes place monthly in Georgetown, TX (about a 40-minute drive from where we live in Austin). The series is called Vern's No Frills 5K and takes place on the 3rd Saturday of each month. As the race name suggests, it is a "no frills" event (no awards, no shirts, no timing mats/chips, no clocks on course, etc.) . . . but hey, considering it only costs $1 for adults to run (students K-12 run free), I figured it was worth a shot!

After having stayed up WAY too late last night watching March Madness, Wilson and I woke up to the alarm blaring at 5:30 this morning. Ouch. It had certainly been quite some time since either of us had seen that hour! But I, for one, was definitely pretty giddy to be getting back to racing after a 6-month hiatus (9 months for Wilson!).

We sipped on our coffee and ate some plain grits, which seemed like an okay idea at the time; but soon I realized that my tummy was pretty darn unhappy with me. Meh. I've eaten grits as a pre-long run meal and have never had any problems; so I'm not sure if it was nerves or what. But let's just say that my gut was making some pretty crazy noises at me. I got dressed and took care of business, which made the tummy feel a little bit better (temporarily). Before I knew it, it was 6:45 and past time to hit the road!

Luckily, there was no traffic at all and we managed to arrive at the race site (Berry Springs Park & Preserve) ahead of schedule. Finding our way around was a piece of cake, as was parking and registration.* We had a good 25 minutes or so until go-time and my tummy was still a little pissy, so we hit the bathrooms (REAL bathrooms, yeah!!) then went for a quick warm up jog, including some strides. Not gonna lie, my legs were definitely all "WTF, chick?!" when I started the strides. I mean, it HAD been nearly six months since I'd done any speed training, so I wasn't at all surprised . . . but still, I started to get a little bit nervous.

Now, before I go any further, I should mention that I didn't really have a time goal going into this race. Having done nothing but easy runs since some time in early October, I knew a PR was almost definitely out of the question (current PR = 24:47). I think my biggest goal was just to get out there and leave everything I had on the course, so as to get as accurate a sense of my current running fitness as possible.

The start was casual. I wasn't sure where exactly the "start line" was, but I tried to line myself up in an appropriate area judging by the runners around me. When we were all lined up, the race director gave some last minute instructions and a description of the course; then made all of us raise our right hands and repeat, "I promise . . . to be safe". After wishing us good luck, the air-horn sounded and we were off!!

Right away, I realized I probably should have lined up closer to the front than I did . . . I was trapped behind a bunch of slower runners. I ended up going off the path and running around a number of them to get ahead. This seemed to be going well until I rolled my ankle a little on a divet in the grass. Ow. Luckily, by that point, I had gotten around enough people that the path seemed to open up for me. I glanced down at Gertie Garmin and was shocked to see that I was running at a 7:40 pace . . . oops! That was WAY faster than I should have been running, given the circumstances, but it really didn't feel that difficult. Still, I knew continuing at such a pace would likely lead to disaster somewhere down the road. I eased my pace a bit and decided to stick behind the tall dude in front of me. Soon, we hit the 1-mile marker, ran around a cone and headed back in the direction from which we'd just come.

Mile 1: 7:57

After we turned back around, we hit a quick uphill that wasn't particularly difficult; but as I crested the hill, I started to gasp for air. It was at this point that I really began to notice the humidity. Although it was only 64 degrees out, the 92%(!) humidity was making things a tad bit uncomfortable! On top of that, a nagging little ankle/achilles/calf injury I've been dealing with started to rear its ugly head, thanks to the pounding my legs were taking on the concrete path. I knew I had no choice but to pull back a bit more. As I watched my pace fade, negative thoughts crept into my mind; thoughts that would have, in the past, consumed me. "I'm so far off of a PR; what's the point?!" "My time is going to be SO humiliating!" "Wouldn't it be nice to just slow down and jog the rest of the race?" "Hell, maybe I should just drop out." I fought against the nasty voices in my head and pushed as hard as my body would allow. By this time, though, I was starting to fade . . .

Mile 2: 8:27

At some point in the previous mile, I'd noticed a small child--maybe 9 or 10 years old--who kept trading places with me. Now, at first, I thought this was adorable--I was just thrilled to see him out there racing and having a good time. But then, during the 3rd mile (as I began to struggle more and more), I started to get a little frustrated. The kid would sprint up ahead of me and run for a minute, only to sit down on one of the many park benches lining the course. There, he would wait for his dad (who was somewhere not too far behind me) to catch up with him. Then, of course, he would start running hard once his dad finally caught up to him . . . and pass me again. This went on for the remainder of the race. Looking back, I actually think it was pretty funny. I am positive I wouldn't have been so frustrated with it had I not been hurting so badly at that point. But, BOY, was I ever hurting. I looked down at Gertie at some point and noticed my pace had dropped to an awful 9:07. Ouch. I forced myself to pick it up a bit and pushed myself with everything I had left in me, praying for the finish to come soon. Finally, I could see it up ahead. Unfortunately, so could everyone else around me. Almost immediately, I got passed by another girl. I tried my hardest to catch back up with her, but I was running on empty. On top of that, I could feel myself quickly approaching the puke threshold. I wanted so, so badly to catch this girl, but it became apparent that I just didn't have it in me. I gave it one last hard push and FINALLY reached the finish line.

Mile 3: 8:51
Last .1 (or .19, according to Gertie): 7:37 pace

I was SO glad to be done. But still, I felt like vomit was imminent. I took a moment to compose myself. Finally, after a couple minutes, I felt like the contents of my stomach were safe. I walked over to the nearby pavilion where water and Gatorade were available** and met up with Wilson (who had finished in 22:16; a little over a minute slower than his PR). We animatedly traded race stories and splits for a while before heading back to the car (and then on to Round Rock Donuts for a post-race treat--YUM!). Even if this race wasn't the best race ever for us, I think it's safe to say that we're both glad to be back to racing! :)

Final Stats (according to Gertie): 26:17; 3.19 miles; 8:23 pace
Official Time: 26:19; 3.1 miles; 8:29 pace

Some Final Thoughts:

1. I LOVE this race series. Everything was run really well and everyone there (both runners and volunteers from the Georgetown Running Club) was nice as can be. I think it will be really cool to get to run a 5K on the same course every month, and a great way to judge my progress once I mix speed work back into my routine.

2. As horrible and inconsistent as my splits were, I kind of expected it. While I am bummed at how badly I faded as the race went on, I think I am more depressed that running a 26-ish minute 5K caused me to approach the puke threshold. That's just sad. I knew going into this that I wasn't in 5K racing shape, but c'mon!! My ego definitely took a hit there.

3. At the same time, I am in shock that I managed to push myself hard enough to actually approach the puke threshold. I'm sure my icky stomach could be partially to blame for this phenomenon, but I definitely DID leave everything I had in me out on the course this morning. I didn't have an ounce of energy left in me after I crossed that finish line. Considering how badly I wanted to give up throughout much of the race, I'm extremely proud that I sucked it up and found a way to hold on.

4. Somehow--and I don't even know how this is possible--I ended up finishing 9th place female. SAY WHAAAAA? I cracked the Top-10, baby! Now, as I mentioned before, this is a "no frills" race and there are no awards (nor age groups). But according to the standings, I finished 9th out of 90 women and 57th overall (out of 194 runners). Um, looks like all of the fast ladies must have stayed in bed this morning . . . but hey, I'll take it!! Sure beats those races back in NYC where I would inevitably finish in something like 394th place in my gender!

5. I can't wait to smoke today's time and earn myself a course record at next month's race! ;)

Thanks for reading, y'all! Hope you are enjoying the weekend!

*Having never been to the park before, we were a little bit worried about figuring out where to go; but everything was super easy and clearly marked. There was even a really friendly man out directing the parking. He asked us whether we'd been there before and welcomed us when we said we were new. He pointed out where everything was, from registration, to restrooms, to the start area. It was such a nice touch. We felt like VIPs!!

**I was pretty shocked that a race that cost $1 to enter--and aims to raise money for the park it is run in--offered Gatorade at the end. How could they afford to do so on $1 a head?! Well, apparently the Austin Marathon--which was run back in February--donated their leftover Gatorade and cups to this race series. How cool is that?! By the end of the race, the thought of Gatorade made me want to vomit; but still, it was a very cool surprise!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Memory Lane . . .

You guys! Guess what Wilson and I just found?! Well, remember back over a year ago when I said there was a video that went along with my Goofy Challenge Race Report? Yup. That is what we found. Ah, memories! It makes me want to go back and do it all over again (but maybe without falling on my face this time around)! At any rate, here is my post-Goofy interview. Enjoy! :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Two Black Cats . . .


Wilson and I were out for a blissful 5.5-mile run the other night, when two--yes, TWO--black cats crossed our very path. Now, I know there are cultures that consider black cats to be harbingers of good luck . . . but everything I've ever seen/heard has suggested otherwise. When I somehow managed to dump a huge glass of seltzer water all over my laptop later on that night, I began to get worried. After all, I WAS still waiting to hear back about a job I had been through three long interviews for. The last thing I needed was (double?) bad luck on my side!

Well, the bad news is that my laptop's keyboard is totally FRIED despite our best efforts to salvage it. The good news, though, is that I will soon be able to replace said laptop using my very own shiny, new paychecks! Yes, that's right. The nightmare that was our never-ending unemployment saga is finally over. I was offered the job I've been up for yesterday and I accepted it without hesitation. It's a techie job, which I find hilarious . . . I guess I just never thought I'd find myself in a tech position. But hey, it's a job, it pays (decently), and I'll make it work! The semi-bad news is that it's a night/weekend gig, so I'm still trying to work out what that will mean for my running schedule*. But hey, if I managed to figure it out at the old law firm job--where I essentially worked both the "day shift" AND the "night shift" (and more often than not, the "weekend shift" too)--I can't help but feel like figuring this one out should be a cinch! ;)

Speaking of which, running has been going just swimmingly! Wilson and I have been running regularly and even threw in an 8-mile long run last weekend. It was ah-mazing! I felt strong enough to really push it through the last mile, so I was definitely very pleased. At this point, we're still working on building our mileage back up, but I am definitely getting VERY excited about the prospect of adding speed-work back into our routine sometime soon. Have I lost my mind?! Perhaps . . . but whatever the case, I am seriously jonesing for some speed!!

Well, that and apparently some ultra fun. Hehe, I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I am highly considering tackling El Scorcho 50K on July 17. Because what could possibly be more fun than running from midnight until sun up? In July? In the Texas heat? We shall see whether the new job will allow for time off, but if so, I'm pretty sure I'll be toeing the line at my first ultra-marathon come July!

Alright, well I'm going to wrap this up now so I can get right to work catching up on what y'all have been up to . . . but thank you so, so much for your kind and encouraging words. They've helped more than you can imagine! I'm sure I'll have some deep thoughts about this whole experience at some point in the not too distant future; but for now, let me just say that I think I've decided that black cats really ARE good luck :)

*You know you're a running nerd when: you don't worry AT ALL about how your social life will suffer as a result of working the night/weekend shift, but DO worry constantly about how you are going to figure out your training/racing schedule!