Letting Go

A few months ago, one of my colleagues invited me to join her for a 5K race, the Night Nation run. I said yes immediately without much looking into it; all I needed to know was it was within walking distance of my house, and I was sold on it.

I looked at the race information a bit more closely after signing up, and discovered that the race was not timed, they had various fun stations set up along the course, and they seemed to be actively encouraging people to take their time. This is kind of my nightmare set-up.

I’m not fast, so I recognize that some people will look at my times out of context and think I must be goofing around on the course anyway, but of course I’m not. I’m showing up to races to do my best. Of course I want to enjoy myself and show sportwomanship at all times, but beyond that, I’m there to suffer a little. I mean yeah, maybe if I was faster, or once I’ve reached my peak and I’ve started to level off on my performance, then I can show up in jorts or goof off at aid stations or take pictures on the way, but I’m not there yet. It already takes me a longer-than-average amount of time to finish races – I’m not interested in adding to that time with distractions.

With its accommodating and welcoming philosophy, this race forced me out of my comfort zone. I did my best to go with the flow and enjoy the race for what it was.

My friend Samantha decided to do this race with me (actually, when she refused to let me pay her for shoveling the sidewalk at my house when a big snowstorm hit in the interim between closing on our house and moving, I offered to pay for a race entry so we could spend time together and I could ease my guilty conscience over not compensating her for the burdensome task of shoveling the sidewalks of our corner lot), and met me at my house so we could walk down and avoid the parking fiasco. It’s a bit over a mile walk, and it was still sunny and hot, and I was still a bit tired from my afternoon run. I figured since I wasn’t going for a PR at this race, a 10 mile trail run (easy trails) wouldn’t be a problem. It wasn’t, although I finished running at 6 and we started walking to the race at 7:40.

We realized it was going to be a bit of a letdown because it wouldn’t be that dark, so we didn’t even bother to wear the light-up glasses we got with our “premium” registration. We got bags to put our stuff in, as well, and it turned out we had to carry them during the race, so that was irritating. Sam chose to wear hers and just endure the bouncing, and I chose to carry it in one hand.

Since the race is untimed, they release people in waves about 2 minutes apart. Since the race had a lot of participants and was partially run on the bike paths of the Mississippi River Trail, it made sense to do limit the number of people pouring onto the trail, although it turned out not to matter.

Because it seemed like every single participant was walking. Or stopping. Or wandering aimlessly. Seemingly unaware of their surroundings. This happens to some extent at all races, but it was much more prevalent here. Sam and I spent most of the race weaving and dodging through the crowds; the race never opened up and gave us a chance to set our own pace. In a way, this was good, because we stayed together the whole race, but it was so frustrating. At the first station along the way (a DJ), we ended up at a standstill as people bunched up to take selfies, or dance, or whatever. At other times, we were stuck running through grass on the side of the trail to try to get around people.

There were parts I enjoyed. People were dressed up in amazing outfits – tutus, butterfly wings, light-up shoes, glow paint in intricate patterns on faces and bodies. I liked the DJ music along the way. And I liked spending time with my good friend. But this confirmed to me these races are not for me. Maybe I’m too uptight about running, or maybe if I want to go to a dance party, I’ll go to a club, and leave the races for when I want to run.

I finished in approximately 44:20 (of course I wore my watch! I am getting credit for these miles!), which is about 15 minutes slower than my last 5K. I knew going in that this race would be slower, but I didn’t think it would be such a drastic difference. It doesn’t matter that much – the time is what it is and I’m not ashamed of it. This race was a learning experience for me, and I can say that I went in with an open mind, enjoyed the atmosphere (though I didn’t truly take in all that the race had to offer, as I didn’t stay to dance at one of the DJ stages and I didn’t wait in line for a selfie at one of the selfie stations), and made the best of it.

And now I don’t have to run one of these ever again!

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Race Report: Be the Match 5K 2018

Official Results:
Time: 29:00
Pace: 9:21
Placing:
Overall: 75/211 (this is a walk/run so take that with a grain of salt)
F30-39: 7/37

Watch Results:
Time: 28:30
Pace: 8:51
Distance: 3.22 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 29:20
B: 29:42
C: 29:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: pizza
What I ate on race day: bagel and cream cheese
What I carried with me: nothing

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: Yay! A PR! After I sandbagged like crazy in my race goals post. Not really, I just had a lot of self-doubt and very little evidence to suggest any improvement in my speed. I’m an engineer. I like evidence. Anyway I’m also annoyed because they listed the final result as my gun time, rather than chip time. What is the point of having an elaborate timing setup if you’re only going to have gun times? Yesterday they had an even slower time on there, for some odd reason. The timing company has some issues!

I’m super excited, regardless. I finally ran a decent 5K! I don’t mean time-wise, I mean execution-wise. I am pretty happy about everything, from pre-race (I had enough to eat and drink) to the finish. The race started off as it usually does, with all kinds of people in my way, but I stayed within myself instead of getting frustrated and trying to weave and dodge. Once things opened up a little more, I sped up as I always to, to try to “make up” for the slow start, and then I was able to hang on. I’d check my watch every once in awhile, expecting to see a slower pace – I often think I’m running faster than I am. But this time, nope, I was still holding steady in the low 9s/high 8s. When I felt tempted to back off the pace, I didn’t. At least, not until the final mile. At that point I did let myself get a little lazy – a few times, I thought “well, you’re in good shape for a PR, even if you back off a little!” which was kind of stupid, but I didn’t let it last long. I looked at my watch results and even then, I don’t think I slowed that much for that long, so that was good. I had enough at the end to really push toward the finish, maybe too much left, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

I find the 5K harder than 50K. That might seem a little backward, but the margin for error is so slim in the 5K. Maybe if I pushed harder in 50K races, I’d think differently, but at the same time, how hard can I sustainably run for 8 hours? It’s a balance. In the 5K, it’s over so quickly that there’s no excuse for giving less than a hard effort – but the slower I am, the longer I have to give that hard effort. I admit that part of the reason I don’t train specifically for middle-distance races like 5Ks and 10Ks is because it feels sort of stupid and futile to train specifically for a race I’m so pathetically slow at, compared to the general public. (Yes, whatever, comparison is the thief of joy and everything, blah blah. I’m human.) Maybe someday I’ll give it a shot again, but maybe I’ll just do 5Ks for kicks and leave all my long-term goals for the longer races.

Be the Match 5K 2018 Race Goals

This will be the fourth Be the Match 5K I’ve participated in! I enjoy running it every year, even if it does seem to be less of an “event” each year for my extended family. We used to have a fairly large group (10-15 people) walking or running the race, but now it’s down to my immediate family. It does make logistics a lot easier, though.

I haven’t run a 5K since December, and that race really sucked. I would like to think that I ran a much slower than expected 5K at Jingle Bell Run (and at the Gobble Gallop) because I was worn out, and that I can bounce back now with a better time, closer to where I was last spring/summer. I haven’t done much to ensure that, doing very little speed work and continuing my training without any time off after running the Chippewa Moraine 50K a couple weeks ago. I did lose a little bit of weight, but eh, I’m not convinced that’s going to be a difference maker.

I haven’t felt “fast” since July, when I ran the Park Point 5 Miler. I have been focusing on running longer distances, but I thought with my inexperience and general lack of fitness prior to 2015 (approximately), I could still make some gains with shorter distances. It’s just not the same thing, though. A lot of what I train for in ultras/marathons is the opposite of what I would need to do for a 5K. I don’t push enough, and that shows in my race results.

I will say that I’m fortunate to have been relatively injury-free over my short running “career,” and that’s probably in part because I am not doing a ton of speed work. So there’s some benefit to staying slow and doing a lot of “easy” running. (Running up the Ohio Street hill is not easy.) So there’s an upside here.

My goals for tomorrow’s race are:

A Standard: 29:20
B Standard: 29:42
C Standard: 29:59

Lol. What is the difference, even? It’s quibbling over seconds, really. But in a 5K, seconds matter. In a marathon or 50K, minutes matter. And in longer races, hours matter. It’s such a perspective change! The A standard is a PR, B standard is a course PR (is that even a thing in a road 5K?), and the C standard is just to get myself below 30 minutes again.

Anything worse and I’ll quit running. Ok, just kidding. Middle-distance speed is just not a priority for me right now, but I’d like to stop regressing.

Race Report: Jingle Bell Run 5K 2017

Official Results:
Time: 31:41 (2:20 slower than my 2016 race)
Pace: 10:12
Placing:
Overall: 62/148

Watch Results:
Time: 31:47
Pace: 9:53
Distance: 3.21 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 29:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: Qdoba burrito bowl
What I ate on race day: nothing (I had the burrito bowl at like 10 PM so I wasn’t hungry)
What I carried with me: Nothing

Gear:
What I wore: hoodie, t-shirt, arm warmers, tights, buff (as headband)
Gadgets: GPS watch

Discussion: This race is confirmation that I need a break. It was even slower than last week! I do have some suspicions that the course was a bit long. Well, either the course was long, or the course last year was short. Either way, the turnaround was at the top of the first hill into Leif Erickson park, rather than at the base of the hill as it was last year. I really hope this course was long because otherwise my PR is invalid. Who cares, it’s not a world record. I’ll stick with it.

I didn’t run the day before the race (well, except for like 0.3 mi on a treadmill at my local running store – I bought a new pair of road shoes yesterday and tested them out with a quick run on the treadmill), but I had gone through a streak of running 10 days in a row. It wasn’t hard running, but I normally do not go that long without a rest day. I doubt it made a huge difference, although my hips were a bit sore by Wednesday or Thursday.

This morning I woke up and really didn’t want to get out of bed. I did manage to arrive in Canal Park in time to run just over a mile to warm up. The warm-up felt slow and my stride didn’t feel effortless. So, bad sign.

After I finished my warm-up, I met up with friends inside the Sports Garden. This is one of the nice perks of the event – an indoor place to gather beforehand. It was already like 32 F so I had decided to forgo gloves (last week my hands got really warm about 2 miles in), and I actually felt a little TOO warm even with only lighter layers on, after just a warm-up.

We were busy taking a picture when the race started – we thought we had more time, but as we were trying to move up in the starting line, we realized the race had already begun. I ended up being walkers again for the first 0.08 (by my watch) miles. Oh well.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of running hard, but not too hard. This was my first time on this section of the Lakewalk since it was heavily damaged during a storm in October. It’s sad to see there’s still so much work to be done to restore parts of it. The path did have some rocks (and broken glass!) on it in spots, although I can’t say it affected my race trying to avoid the detritus. I just sucked.

I really thought I gave a more even, more sustained effort, but I guess I didn’t. I am tired, but last year I set my PR even though I had a cold (a cold that ended up knocking me for a loop the next couple of days, causing me to have to go home sick from an all-week work training in Edina). I’m frustrated that I’ve backslid so much on my speed, but it’s a learning experience. If I want to race middle distance races, I either have to do some occasional speedwork, or adopt a different attitude toward races.

I’m taking 2 weeks off from running now, starting tomorrow. Hooray!

Race Report: Gobble Gallop 2017

Official Results:
Time: 31:29 (1:02 faster than my 2015 race)
Pace: 10:08
Placing:
Overall: 962/1937
Sex: 509/1214
Age Group (F35-39): 54/146

Watch Results:
Time: 31:33
Pace: 10:04
Distance: 3.13 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 28:59
B: 29:20

Food:
What I ate the night before: Qdoba burrito bowl
What I ate on race day: Triscuits (I didn’t plan ahead for food)
What I carried with me: Nothing

Gear:
What I wore: hoodie, long sleeved tech shirt, tights, buff (as headband), gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch

Discussion: LOLOLOL. I stink at 5Ks.

I arrived early enough to warm up for about a mile. I didn’t get a good sense of how my legs felt because I had to be cautious in my warm-up. It snowed just a little bit overnight and some spots on the sidewalk and roads seemed slippery. When I finished my warm-up (just over a mile, so a real one!), I ran into my friend, her daughter, and her parents, which was the highlight of the race, I have to say.

A lot of what happened in this race can be attributed to where I lined up. It is really a challenge to gauge where I should line up for 5Ks when there aren’t pace groups. It usually involves a lot of sizing people up. I want to stay out of the way of faster runners, but not get into the groups. When I ran the race in 2015, everyone had to go through the blow-up archway in order to go over the timing mat. They did not do that this year, and I have to say, the other way was better. While it took forever to get through the arch, it was significantly less congested once we got through. This year, they moved the arch out of the way and extended the timing mats. This meant that people got through the start faster, but it was so congested.

I respect that people have different ideas about the purpose of a Thanksgiving 5K. Some people want to win, some people want to wear crazy costumes (one person ran the entire Tough Turkey mile wearing an Angry Birds head), some people want to run with family and friends, some people are running their first race. However, people need to have some situational awareness regardless of their goals. I lined up too far to the back and ended up behind people who were walking from the start, people who brought their dogs (not allowed), people who started with strollers (there was a designated stroller wave, but I guess this person was too good to follow the rules), people who were walking with young children, people who were in a group and running 5 abreast, people who were texting/otherwise on their phones, people having conversations, etc. And it didn’t let up until I was probably halfway through the race. I wasted a lot of mental energy getting frustrated by that, and decided I’d rather act like a big baby and “quit” (I was still running, but not pushing it hard) than try to make up time in the second half once the congestion let up.

This was one of the most crowded 5Ks I’ve ever run, and I think if I run it in the future, I’m going to have to line up a lot closer to the start than I am comfortable with. Of course, if I’m not going to run hard and put in an effort the whole race, there’s probably no point to lining up closer to the start, but that’s not supposed to happen every race.

I’m doing the Jingle Bell Run next weekend and I’m hoping that will be a better experience. I will certainly try to prepare better for the race. After that, I plan to take a full two weeks off from running before beginning training for a big spring ultra, so it’ll be my last “hurrah” for the season.

‘Twas the Night Before a Thanksgiving 5K

Ugh why do I run these stupid things? I am not good at them. I decided to “sabotage” my race by running almost 7 miles today. I say “sabotage” because for all I know, it’ll help.

I’m not getting any better at 5Ks, which is not surprising because I am putting zero effort into improving at them. It turns out running trail ultramarathons is not great for speed. Who knew? Well, I knew.

Sometimes I think about putting serious effort into my 5K time. It never happens because I always find some shiny new trail race to occupy my training. Also I feel really stupid about putting a lot of effort into 5K training, when the average semi-fit person could amble up to the start wearing basketball shorts and Chuck Taylors and knock out a better time than I can with a full training cycle. I realize that’s kind of pathetic and I should just run my own race and get on with my bad self, but it’s unlikely.

5Ks are really hard for me to do well at. I wonder about this. I am running at a very hard effort for 30 minutes. A faster person is running very hard for like 25 minutes, or 22 minutes, or 18 minutes (we’re talking local 5Ks here, people, not the Olympic trials). That’s way easier! Says me, the person with no experience running anywhere near that pace. Hey, if people can make obnoxious generalizations about how a 10:00 pace is “not really running” or make snide remarks about people who participate in Thanksgiving Day 5Ks like it’s some kind of offense to the sport of running itself, I can say it’s easier to run hard for a shorter period of time.

Why yes, I do feel very defensive. I don’t care.

I’m still going to go into this with hope of a PR (current PR is 29:21 and is now almost a year old) even though I have no reason to believe I have the leg speed to do so. Which, let’s be real, “believing” is the actual problem. My mental game is weak.

A Standard: 28:59
B Standard: 29:20

Okay, gauntlet thrown down. Time for me to also pick it up.

Race Report: Run Like An Animal 5K

No, not a Phish 5K. A zoo 5K!

Official Results:
Time: 31:44
Pace: 10:13
Placing:
Overall: 44/87
Gender: 19/40

Watch Results:
Time: 31:46
Pace: 10:43
Distance: 2.96
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals: 
A: 29:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: Tandoori chicken, saffron rice, roasted cauliflower, and a German chocolate cupcake (fancy dinner for my husband’s birthday)
What I ate on race morning: Clif bar
What I carried with me: nothing

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, trucker hat
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: If you would like to PR, this is not the race.

zoo5kalt

LOL.

I saw this race pop through my Facebook feed a few days ago. My brother and sister-in-law and my nephew were in town this past weekend, and I figured this would be a fun event. We ran the 5K, my nephew ran the kids’ race, and then we got free admission to the zoo, where there was cake and a bouncy house.

I slept kind of crappy the night before the race, although still way better than I sleep before my longer races. I woke up due to a power outage (something about the absence of sound wakes me up) and it took awhile to fall back asleep, and then my cats bugged me before my alarm went off. Oh well. I was worried about getting to the race too late to get a parking spot, or there being a big line to check in. That was not an issue as there were 87 total runners. I got a spot up close and the only reason I had to wait in line to check in was the people ahead of me were asking a bunch of questions. There is an animal costume contest as well, but since we didn’t sign up til the last minute, we didn’t have costumes. There were some nice flamingos. It wasn’t required, as the race website said “Dress up as your favorite animal and participate in our costume contest or come as your beautiful self.” It’s nice to get an affirmation from a race website.

The race starts in the zoo parking lot, and wraps around the grounds of the zoo. There are actual sections that go through exhibits at the beginning. This is both good and bad. It is good because animals are awesome. It is bad because there are a lot of twists and turns. I’ll take that trade. We ran by the barnyard and had the llamas and goats out cheering for us, and then we ran by the lynx exhibit. The lynx was going nuts and running back and forth, clearly wishing to join in.

There were three big hills, as you can see from the altitude graph above, and I’m not too proud to say I walked 2/3 of them. Good for me. I ran 7.5 miles the day before, my legs were tired. Also I have no grit. We left the zoo and ran through the park where the race ended. My nephew was there with my dad and stepmother, and he was hollering encouragement at all the runners. It was very uplifting! I ran by and complained that the race was hard. We ended up on a dirt trail after than and then a short out and back on the Kingsbury Creek trail, which I’ve run several times, and then the race turned into the home stretch. All the twists and turns messed up my GPS and I actually wasn’t expecting the end so soon. We ran through a short grassy section in the park for the finish. My sister in law finished a bit ahead of me, and my brother a bit behind me, and we headed to the food tent to get some grub. The weather had heated up pretty quickly from when I left the house to when the race began – it was sunny and humid.

The food at the race was fabulous – they had glazed donuts! And goldfish crackers, which I love. My nephew was pretty pumped to get half a donut, a banana, and some of my crackers. He needed to carb up for the kids run. The kids run was fairly long – it started in the parking lot, then went around the perimeter of the park until it reached the finish line flag chute and they got to run through that. The race had various mascots on hand (UMD’s Champ, UWS’s Buzz, the Marcus Theaters popcorn box, and the tiki guy from the Edgewater resort) to lead the way, and our family spread out along the course to cheer our little dude on. He ran the whole way! And still had energy at the finish!

After the race festivities were over, we all went into the zoo. Before we could even get to the exhibits, we had to stop at the bouncy house, strategically placed right at the bottom of the stairs from the main building. Fortunately there was also cake, so we were able to eat cake while my nephew bounced around, and then we finally dragged him away to see the animals. He didn’t seem to see why it wasn’t fun for us to all stand around while he bounced in the bouncy house forever.

This race was really fun! I’ve never done a trail 5K before, and I’m not used to running fast on trails, but I enjoyed it. Obviously if I’d known what the course was going to be like, I wouldn’t have hoped to get under 30 minutes. I look forward to improving on this time next year though!