Sunday, May 02, 2010

Heart of a Spartan 5k RR - May 2, 2010

Since I graduated from Michigan State back in 1992, it was quite appropriate for me to run this as my first race. My brother, Mike, signed me up in January, paid my race fees, and got me started with running. He and his girlfriend, Margaret, were signed up for the 10k. Once my dad found out I was running, he decided to run the 5k too. He used to run a lot of races when I was a kid, but once he got into soccer he stopped. With two ACL replacements, he plays soccer on just one league and stays fit with other forms of exercise. (He is awesome and I wish I had his level of fitness!) A couple of my friends also decided to run the 5k. Very cool!

3 months ago, I had never run a step. I started the RW beginner's program and built up to running 30 minutes at a time. I've built up my mileage so that my long runs are now from 5-6 miles. 4 days a week of running, outside in Michigan all winter long, to get ready for this race! I couldn't believe it was finally here!

All along, just the thought of the race has made me nervous. Last week, I was on edge and nervous constantly. I wish I had addressed those nerves but I wasn’t thinking clearly. The night before the race, we drove to East Lansing to pick up our race packets. SO exciting! The morning of the race, I woke up early - way too early than I needed to. I had a bit of toast and some coffee. My stuff was packed and I was ready with an hour to just be nervous.

Rain was predicted all along, and we were just hoping that no thunder would delay the race. Sure enough, it was either pouring or drizzling the whole time. The 10k runners got soaked. Margaret, who was an All-American athlete when she went to Michigan State, won 2nd place in her age group. She is awesome and so modest she tucked her medal into her shirt.

The 5k runners – 2300 of them – were waiting in this parking garage near the start to stay dry. It was wild to be surrounded by so many people who were all waiting to run. I was glad that my dad and my friends were there. I couldn’t really warm up because we were so cramped. Looking back, I should have left my group and run up the garage ramps or something. I know that I don’t run well on cold legs!

We lined up in our pace groups. The slowest running pace group was 10 minutes, so I lined up at the back of that, in front of the walkers. My dad runs about a 10mm so that was good for him. My friend Denise was there too, although she ended up running an 8:20 pace and getting 5th in her age group! The race started on time and we all set out in this huge pack of people, but not before my dad gave me a big hug and told me how proud he is of me. I know my lack of fitness has been a concern of his, but he would never say so. His way is to support the positive things his kids do, not criticize the negatives. I know that is why he joined this race with me and so I was really choked up when he acknowledged it.

It took 3:37 just to cross the starting line. My brother was along the street early on and he jumped in and ran with me for a bit. He was so happy to see us! I ran a bit fast with him and when he went back to the street, everything hit me. My nerves swallowed me up and I started having a panic attack, I suddenly felt like throwing up and started mentally attacking myself. My inner running dialogue is usually positive, when I'm not totally zoned out. So to be suddenly thinking that I couldn’t run this, had to throw up, what am I doing… it was not a good way to start the first mile. I wasn’t thinking straight but I just kept going. I knew my legs were not right but I couldn’t figure out why. I couldn’t focus on my stride or find my strength. I knew there was a water stop after the first mile, so I told myself just to get there.

The rain was bad and it was hard to see. I couldn’t see mile markers and didn’t know how far I had gone. I realize now how important those mile markers are to me on my regular runs. I mentally challenge myself to get to each one. Without those, I really struggled to pace myself and motivate myself. I finally reached the first water station and stopped to take a drink. I couldn’t get myself to calm down and choked on the water. I felt so confused and really, had I been operating heavy machinery, it would have been unsafe. My nerves were eating me alive!

I ran again and still had no idea how far I had left. There were people and strollers everywhere and people would just stop right in front of me. I was never able to find my stride and never had the chance to just run! Even if I found someone to pace myself with, they would stop and walk and then I had to pass them and I just didn’t have a good feel for my pace. I know that my legs felt weak from lack of food, lack of sleep, and lack of confidence.

As we rounded the turn onto campus that takes us past the Sparty statue, I knew we had ¾ of a mile to go, and I tried to pick up my pace at that point. I was able to fight myself then to run hard and run through the weakness I was feeling. Once the stadium was in sight, I felt so relieved that the race was almost over. We approached the tunnel into the stadium and I knew we’d be on the Jumbo-tron as we crossed the finish line. Just as I started my sprint, some dude crossed right in front me of me to high-five a guy in an animal costume. I came so close to slamming into him and OH! It made me so angry. He was the 50th person to get in my way on a race I was already struggling with. It was hard to get going again after going around him, as the tunnel incline began there, but I picked it up and ran onto the football field of the stadium to cross the finish line on the 50-yard line.

I didn’t get much past the finish before I saw my dad. He was waiting there for me and hugged me and handed me a water bottle and I just started to cry. My emotions and nerves and the relief of finishing engulfed me. My dad was beaming at me. I am a 40-year-old mother of two and still thrilled to be making my dad proud. We saw my brother who was also beaming, then my husband, another perma-grin. Their happiness really picked me up. My kids saw me on the Jumbo-tron and it was very cool to be finished with the race and have all their support. We found our other people, got some water – they had a lot of food there but I could not eat. When I checked my time on my iPod, I thought I had beat my goal of sub-40 with a 38:40. The times posted were only the gun time of 43:37, so that was a bummer as I wanted to see how I had done.

We stayed in Spartan Stadium until it was time for the kids 1-mile. We ran out the stadium, along the Red Cedar River, across a bridge and back, through the tunnel and onto the field. We all ran together – my dad, my husband (not a runner!), my brother, Margaret, and my boys. I had this backpack on that DH had brought, full of water bottles and umbrellas – I swear it weighed 10 pounds. But we all did the mile and my 4-year-old and 7-year-old finished in about 12:50. I think that was the fastest I had run all day. The kids got medals and they were so proud of themselves. I was so proud of them. Definitely, this was the highlight of the day for me.

The final race times were posted last night, and my official chip time is 40:00.5. This is about my training pace (12:53) and not really impressive. A few small things could have gone differently for me to make my goal, but it didn’t happen. I am still happy that I ran the race, that I finished, that I got it these first-race-jitters out of my system. I have another 5k this Saturday, a very small local race, so I will hope for a PR.

I have an image in my head of who I am. A runner, a mom, a strong woman, a fit person. I feel good about what I have done so far. I saw a couple of pictures of myself from the race and all I see is an overweight barely-moving person. This does not match who I think I am! I am extremely motivated to get my body where my mind is. I know I need to lose weight and beef up the cross and strength training. I can be a stronger runner. I know that I am doing good things for myself, and that there is more for me to do. When I am my dad’s age, I want to be racing with my kids, and maybe winning, too.

Thanks, if you made it this far. It took me longer to write this than to run the 5k =)

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