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I DID IT! (Hook Mountain 5K, April 21, 2013)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

31:55. I can't stop smiling. I seriously wasn't even daring to hope that I'd break 35 minutes -- to break 32? That's crazy-sauce, people! And it feels SO good.

It is a gorgeous April day today. A little chilly, and a whole lot windy, but beautiful sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. We haven't seen a lot of that lately, so it was welcome.

I arrived at the race course (at a local state park) rather late, after a hectic morning. My husband is away, so I had to get up at 6 in order to get my son to my friend's house by 7:30. (I made it in and out by 7:35. This is good for me.) I hadn't pre-registered due to uncertainty over my leg and the baby-sitting thing, but the park is less than 10 miles from there, and check-in was supposed to be open until 8:15, so I figured I was good. Not so. First, this is a classic case of "you can't get there from here" -- all back roads, lots of stop lights, and so on. Second, the race (which shared a start time and most of its course with a half-marathon) was a LOT bigger than I thought it was, at least 1000 people. By the time I got there, the state park was collecting parking fees for the day, and there was a string of cars lined up at the entrance that must have been at least 15 minutes long. I didn't have 15 minutes! I wound up driving around to another lot and jogging the half mile or so to the start.

Then when I got there (around 8:10), they told me registration was already closed! I don't think I could have convinced them to just take my money and give me a number if another late-comer who arrived just behind me hadn't quoted the 8:15 time on the website and held up his cell phone with a big honkin' "8:12" flashing on the front of it. I don't know if I'll make it into the computer list as it is; it doesn't much matter. But I got in!

The course was WAY congested. As I mentioned, it turns out that it was a pretty big race, and for almost all of the 5K and the first 2.75 miles of the half marathon, it's on a ten foot wide path around a lake. I'd put myself way near the back for the start, and so things moved slowly at first (probably took me 10-15 seconds just to cross the start line). This suited me to a T, as I was worried about going out too fast and running out of gas later -- especially since I knew that the course, although dead flat, was going to run into a strong headwind on the more-exposed second half of the race.

I hit the first mile mark at 10:50 (time since start line maybe 10:35-10:40), a bit faster than I thought I would go -- or WAS going, for that matter. It didn't feel fast, though I assumed I wouldn't be able to keep it up the whole way. I'd timed myself for a few shorter runs on roads and trails near my house, and I really thought that 35 minutes might be too ambitious of a goal for the 5K. 10:50 (much less 10:35) is a lot faster pace than that. But I felt fine, so I just kept going.

The second mile time was 20:57 (10:07 since mile 1) -- um, OK? I don't think I've run a 10 minute mile in ten years, but I'm not arguing! I really thought I'd need to do a few serious slow-downs in the last mile, but it didn't turn out that way. I did back off a bit two or three times, but it was more in the nature of "take it easy here" than "I'm gonna die if I don't slow down". My legs just kept wanting to move faster, I guess.

The headwind was pretty brutal in spots, and between that and the slowdowns I assumed the last mile would be a lot slower again, but once I approached the finish line and saw the time was under 32 still I was just amazed. It turns out the last 1.1 miles I ran at a 9:54 pace!

My kind of aspirational goal all along has been to run a 5K under 30 minutes -- to me, and FOR me, personally, that's sort of my definition of "reasonably fit", and it's something I have not been in probably 20 years. About ten years ago, after a period of running 1 or 2 miles at a time for a few months, I managed a 5K in 30:54 (it about killed me), and so beating that is my immediate goal, but for the first time I can really believe I'll beat the big one too some time. That makes me feel good.

About a half mile into today's race, I took a look around me. The runners were all strung out on the path ahead of me and behind me. I was surrounded by people. The sky was blue and the lake was blue and the gone-wild forsythia was bright yellow, and the trees were just beginning to shade green. I felt like I belonged, like I was revisiting my self again after a long time away. I'm very happy.
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