It’s been exactly one year since I went from Loop lurker to contributing Loopster!
I think of my running life in 2 parts: before baby and after. As a quick recap, I spent my 20’s running a few 5K’s each year with a 10K sprinkled here or there. I didn’t run in high school or college (at least not deliberately) but got in the habit with a group of ladies in grad school when we all needed the stress relief and break from the grueling program. Every time I ran with the girls or in a race, I just ran. This was before GPS watches and before I had heard the words fartlek or tempo. Just run. Most of my 5Ks fell in the 27 min range so certainly not speedy…I viewed myself as “slow, but determined”. My PR came in the New Haven Road Race, which is well known as the 20K USA Championships. I ran the 5K a few years in a row and dipped into the 26’s just once. That was what I viewed as the peak of my running for years!
Fast forward almost 10 years and I started my return to running after baby. DS turned 2 before I felt like I could balance working full-time, family time and adequate sleep with getting back in shape. My first 5K after baby was a slow 31:59. Yikes! Since then, I’ve focused on running consistently, first 3 days a week, then 4 and now 5, as well as following training plans that my friend/coworker/coach writes up for me. In April last year, I ran 25:5X and was thrilled. I beat 20-something year old me! This seems like too much back story…I know, this is supposed to be a race report! but bear with me because it puts today’s race in perspective.
I started training for my first marathon in August. Race is in January and since it’s my first, I have no time goal. My bigger goal is to finally run a sub2 Half in the build up, at hopefully a race in November. My Coach wanted me to run a 5K end of Sept/early Oct just to see how training is going and it was shockingly hard to find one that fit the bill. I live in San Diego which has an active running community and almost perfect running weather year round so there’s no lack of races. However, most of the races were either charity runs without timing or races done on the beach. Umm, no thanks. So I stumbled across the Grape Day 5K in Escondido, CA. It's allso the first 5K that I’ve done in a long time that costs < $50 (just $45 plus processing fees, grrrrr!). It’s a smaller race, with just under 1000 people and is about 30 min away.
DH decided he wanted to run and would push DS in the stroller. At 4.5 years old now, this isn’t the easiest task but is still doable. We arrived an hour before the start so DH would have time to do same-day registration which would turn out to be fortunate for us, as we almost always register ahead of time. We easily parked a block from the start line. Shout out to races that begin next to a mall or movie theater and therefore have plenty of parking! DH gets the stroller out of the trunk and we see this:
Oh crap. That won’t work. I did a 5 mile stroller run with DS the previous weekend and must have run over something. We had no Plan B. We’ve had DS run a mile race before but a 5K? Just not possible for his little legs yet. DH was pretty bummed and honestly pretty crabby about this most of the morning but what can you do?
I ran the prescribed 15 min warm up and then lined up at the start. As a local family-friendly race, there were a million kids and strollers and after a disastrous Turkey Trot last year, I’ve learned that I need to start closer to the front in these types of races. I was maybe 4 rows from the line, behind the local high school football team which I anticipated (correctly) would be easily passed around the half mile mark. Coach wanted me to run the race blind, wearing my watch but not seeing pace. Riiiight, I’ll try. My goal was just to run hard. I had a successful 5 x 1K workout 10 days prior to the race at right around PR pace so it seemed reasonable that I could beat it. Even though Santa Ana winds are blowing through the area, the morning was cool but I knew it would be 95 degrees in the blink of an eye.
First mile is flat and mostly straight. I started in perfect position so didn’t have to do too much weaving aside from the first minute or so. Buildings along the main street provided welcome shade and the temperature surprisingly wouldn’t be an issue throughout the race. I don’t look at my watch at all during the first mile and feel like I’m pushing it hard. At the one mile watch beep, I look down out of habit and see 8:22. Eek, felt a bit faster than that. The only elevation on the course comes in Mile 2 and I only knew this because I Strava-stalked some people that ran it in previous years about a week ago. I wish more race organizers would include elevation but it seems even a course map is sometimes too much to ask for. The hilly section is a half mile long but some very steep parts.
Not too crazy but enough that my pace slows considerably. When I see 8:56 for mile 2, I know a PR isn’t possible. This is probably why Coach didn’t want me to look at my watch at all…but I compromised and only saw the mile splits whereas usually I’d be looking much more often. After seeing how slow the second mile was, I wavered between slowing down because 5K pace is pain, and still trying to push through to run my hardest. Coach wasn’t expecting a PR, and it’s not what we are training for, she really just wants to gauge where I’m at.
So I tried to hang on the best I could, appreciating flat Mile 3 and running it in 8:10 with the last 0.12 in 7:24 for 26:21. I crossed the finish line and once I found DH and DS, I started whining about how I’m just not built to be fast. You know the spiel: “I’m running so consistently and doing all the workouts and fighting just to get 26:XX. Why is everyone else so fast? Some people hardly run at all and just jump into a race and Bam! It’s not fair! Maybe I finally need to lose these last 10 pounds! Or start running 50 mpw! Blah Blah Blah”. DH, still slightly annoyed that he just watched everyone run and couldn’t due to the stroller flat tire, just simply told me it was still a good time. What else could he do?
I grumbled a bit more and then ran another 15-20 min for a cool down. As I thought about the race and put things into perspective, I realized that I honestly haven’t run around this pace for a race very many times. Sure, I ran 30 seconds faster on a completely flat course in April, but this isn’t too far off. I’m running consistently, and importantly, WITHOUT INJURY! My paces in training are getting faster and I feel stronger. I just seem to have a bit of issue with coming through on race days.
The morning wasn’t all moping, DS got to meet the Grapes which made him ridiculously excited. It didn’t hit 95 degrees until an hour or so later which convinced us to spend the afternoon at the beach.
Texting with Coach afterwards provided more perspective. She basically said: “Sorry it wasn’t the race you wanted but it’s still a hard speed workout that will help you. Enjoy your long run tomorrow!” Haha
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