Sunday, June 15, 2008


After more than a week of hot, steamy, and stormy weather, Saturday turned out to be a perfect day weatherwise. The Friday night rain came and went, and with it the humidity as well, and we were left with clear blue skies and a dry day.

This is another race I've always been meaning to do but never was able to fit into my schedule. And with all the long distance training necessary right now, there is hardly a place in my schedule for a 5k. But, it was a free, prepaid registration, and I just decided to make it a short run day for a change. I had a graduation party that day anyway, and was bringing food and helping out, so this actually worked out better timewise than I would have hoped.

Brian Diemer is a local guy who was also an Olympic Bronze Medalist in 1984 and placed in the 3000 meter steeplechase event again in 1988 and qualified in 1992 and has been lending his name to this race now for many years. He now coaches a winning cross country team at a local private college and from what I know is a genuinely nice guy all around.

I got to the race a little early just because I'm used to doing that with triathlons, and the first thing I thought about while walking to pick up my packet was how easy it was to just show up at a local 5k: no leaving in the dark to get a decent spot in transition; no lugging a bike, wetsuit, helmet, extra shoes, gear bag, etc., no setting everything up ahead of time, then getting body marked, or standing around for hours wondering how cold/warm the water was, how hilly the bike course would be, or waiting for the race to start. Not today. Today it was get dressed, hop in the car, drive the few miles to the race, park, get packet, return to car to drop off packet, and then head out for a warmup and bam, the race starts.

At packet pickup, I ran into Harold, an older guy (70?) who looks about 55 and is still quite a fast runner. We both joked this was just a training run today: "Aren't they all?" he says. The shirts were dark brown. Eww. How about bright green or even white? Who wears dark brown shirts??

So the first person I ran into after getting my packet was Maria, my massage therapist, and an age group runner I've known for at least 18 years now. Unlike me, who sort of fell to the wayside with my competitive running, Maria has remained a force to be reckoned with competitively, and you would never know it to look at her that she had 6 kids and at least 1 grandchild. She is very petite (probably size 2) and looks at least 15 years younger than she is.

Looking around, I could see this was going to be a big race and there were all kinds of people here, since it was also a walk and family race. I warmed up a little, fearing my legs would be totally worthless after the hard miles I had put in this week, and it was still too early to tell what I would be able to do this day. My goal was just to beat my last time. I did stretch quite a bit to keep loose, since the hip thing was flaring up a little again this week, reminding me I needed to get a massage again.

While it was cool in the shade, standing in the sun under the clear skies, I was getting warm and was glad I had decided to change earlier to a singlet, and I waited to line up until the last few minutes, keeping cool in a spot in the shade. The race was starting on one of the busier streets they had blocked off totally, and it looked like there were about 1000 people lining up. I think just about anywhere you go, if you put on a 5k race, people will come. This one in particular had prize money, so it also drew some of the best runners around.

Finally it was time to start and I jumped into the crowd and moved up and away from the strollers and little kids with their moms. I figured I'd be going slow enough and didn't want to have to get bogged down by all of them too.

I found it odd and amusing that the two younger women I chatted with before the race, like me, had never run this one before, and also, like me, were training for longer events. But here we all were.

And now we were off. I was glad it was a chip start because then it didn't matter where you started, but again, I didn't want to run father than I had to. There wasn't much of a delay in getting to the start mat, and this is where I started my watch.

The course took us first east, and we were running facing right into the sun. I just tried to keep my breathing under control, which also helps keep my stomach under control, something that bothers me running harder. Its all a matter of conditioning, I know that. I had looked at the course map ahead of time but was not familiar with the streets, just had a general idea of the layout of the race. Still, it seemed a long time before we turned away from the east and out of the direct sun. It was after the first mile in fact, and finally turning into the neighborhoods, we hit some shade and a nice slight breeze. The temperature was about 75, but fortunately with the low humidity, it wasn't oppressive, just warm. The shade was a nice relief, however. I was surprised to see my first mile at 10:24, and while I know that isn't a fast mile for most or all of you, for me it has been a major struggle to get to this point, so I was quite pleased, especially when I didn't feel like I was going this pace.

So now the trick was to concentrate and focus entirely, to not lose that pace. Here is where Ihe trick I have always used--focusing on the feet of someone in front of you until you come alongside of or pass--starts working, and I found myself passing one person after another, not going any faster, just keeping a steady pace. There was a younger woman/older girl hard for me to tell her age who sort of latched on to me before the first mile but then got ahead of me shortly after that, and when I stoppd to grab water, she got farther ahead. I was steadily gaining on people though and kept her as my main focus, to see if I could catch back up with her. She would actually stop, walk a few paces, and then continue on, and yet I could never get up to her before she would take off again. It made me realize really just how slow I was. But still I was passing people, and not too many were passing me.

I think when you are in the back of the pack, once you get settled into a pace, people just generally either continue along in bunches or start dropping back. I am always in the middle of the back of the pack, so I'm often running completely by myself.

Mile 2 came up and I was still about on the same pace and was pleasantly surprised, but also looking forward to getting this thing done. If nothing more over the last few races and hard training weeks, I have developed more endurance for holding on longer so I wasn't feeling fatigued or anything, just wanting to take a break, which you really don't get to do in a 5k.

I was coming into a new crowd of back of the pack people now and had to find some new feet to focus on to pull me along. I still had the younger woman I had as my distant focus but needed to find someone closer. Right after mile 2, people always seem to pick up the pace, and those who were struggling suddenly come alive, so it sometimes is harder to find a focus with a steady pace too, but I just kept my eyes on the feet in front of me until I was able to pass someone and then went on to another. It was like a game: reel them in, pick them off, repeat. Sort of like a lion stalking their prey.

With about 1/2 mile to go, you could now see the finish banner ahead, so now it was time to not falter and get serious. There were a couple of women ahead who I wanted to try to pass, and who seemed to be going at a snail's pace, yet it was taking me longer than I had hoped to close in on them. Slowly, slowly, I gained. Here too, I was catching that younger woman, who now was stopping and starting constantly. It was just a matter of time. My breathing was just starting to get a little catchy here, and I could feel that start affecting my stomach, but I just focused, focused, focused and when we hit the 3 mile mark, I picked it up, passed those two women finally, passed the younger woman, finally, and actually sprinted (for me) into the finish. Oh thank God I was done! My immediate urge was to throw up, but I managed to contain that.

32:23, 21 out of 39 in the age group. Apparently, all the old ladies came out to run today. 42 seconds faster than my last 5k three weeks before. I was happy that I seeing progress finally. Every second counts!


chia said...

Positive progress is always welcome... especially after all you've been through!

Yup, I'll be doing the Seaway on the 28th. Are you still doing Reeds Lake?

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Good progress on your 5K time. YAY!!!

I'm one of those back of the packers who has to fight for a 10:something pace. I know what you're talking about.

Sunshine said...

Oh good for you!!
You are inspiration for us, you know!

What is it with shirts in the last 3 years or so?? Nearly every race, I say, "Oh look! Another ugly shirt!!"

Glad the storms are mostly missing you.

Lily on the Road said...

Way to GO!

After putting in all of the long mileage it is always harder (for me anyway) to straight out run a 5K. It uusally takes me 5K to warm up!

Good job, great time, glad you had fun and that you weren't sick!!

jahowie said...

Awesome job on the run!! 42 seconds is a huge improvement!! I'm very proud of you!!

Anonymous said...

Nice 5K! Way to finish strong!!

42 seconds is a lot to take off a of 3.1 miles. You were steady and strong the whole way, and to finish with a sprint...awesome!

Cindy Jo said...

Great job! Brown race shirts? That is just WRONG.

Are you going to be at Johan's this weekend?