Try Not to Suck

Two years ago, I ran my first 5K with my friend Nina with the goal of ‘not walking.’  I had a mild injury at the time, so Nina was a HUGE help, somehow managing to simultaneously keep me focused and distracted.  Because of her, I still hear, “Think about your TOES.  Your toes are pushing you up this hill,” when I run up hill.  I finished the race, without walking, with a time of 35:44.

Nina & I, Pre-Race for the Cure, 2011

Nina & I, Pre-Race for the Cure, 2011

Last year’s goal for the same race was to finish in under 30 minutes. (My best 5K time at that point was 31:11 – on a much flatter course.)  Once again with Nina’s help, I managed to meet my goal, finishing in 29 minutes flat.  For one, I hadn’t yet purchased my Garmin, so I needed someone to keep track of the pace for me.  But aside from the pace itself, I don’t think I would have managed it without Nina saying reassuring things like, “You can wait to throw up until we’re done!”  (I didn’t throw up, despite feeling like it was inevitable.)



This year, I didn’t even decide to register until two days ago.  Since I’d been injured, and I didn’t even have my follow-up appointment with the doctor until three days before the race, I just figured I wouldn’t go this year.  But then I wanted to.

Between this race being the one for me that started it all and missing last week’s half marathon, I think I was just itching to be in a race environment.  I could have run 3.1 miles here at home, but I couldn’t have raced them.  I also wanted to race so that I could get an idea of where my fitness level actually is right now – so then I can figure out what I need to do to improve and to meet my race goals for later in the year.

Since I wasn’t expected to run, Nina registered with her family.  Her almost-seven-year-old daughter Mia decided that she wanted to run it with her parents this year.  (And she did!  Ran the whole time!)  So although I met up with Nina before and after the race, I didn’t get to run with my secret weapon this year.  So I needed a goal, but I was on my own this time.

Hastily taken pre-race pic, 2013

Hastily taken pre-race pic, 2013

My goal became try not to suck.

"I'm going to try not to suck!"

At the starting corral: “I’m going to try not to suck!”

I told myself that as long as I felt like I was doing my best, that if I really didn’t wimp out in any way, I’d be happy with myself.  I also told myself that I’d be okay with it if it took me longer than 30 minutes, but that if I finished in under 30 minutes, that would convince me I was in pretty good shape for rebounding from injury.  Here is the break down of my race:

Mile 1 / Split = 9:50
We went to the start at the last minute, plus Nina and Todd were pushing Mia’s little sister Sophia in the jogging stroller, which was more than a little bit tricky to navigate through the crowd.  Therefore, we weren’t lined up as close to the starting line as last year, giving me quite a few more people to run around.

The race starts uphill.  Between that and dodging people, I noticed that my Garmin pace at one point was 10:30+.  Also, I didn’t have the opportunity to run a real warm up, so my lungs felt on the verge of collapse like they do at the start of a run.  My thoughts:

  • I’ll never make it.  Must go faster or I’ll never make up this minute later.
  • We should be allowed to knock the walkers who started with the runners out of our way.
  • Ditto for runners who appear to be 20 years younger than me.

Mile 2 / Split = 9:54
Just after the one mile mark, I walked about 20 yards, trying to rub out a tightness in my left thigh.  A short while later, I actually stopped behind a water station to give that kink another rub.  At this point, I was thinking that if I was stopping for breaks already, I was doomed to have a lousy time.

I took one more, tiny walk break after that.  I think it was during this second mile.  There’s a point in the race where you’re running up hill and the course zigs a little to the left and then quickly zags back to the right.  Before the zigzag, you are running uphill toward the steeper hill you have to zag up. It looks far worse than it is, which is exactly why it’s the most hideous point on the route.  I walked a smidgen of that zig before ramping up again to get up that zag.  I wanted to get up that zag as quickly as possible.

I was upset that my splits were so close to ten minutes, yet somewhat surprised they weren’t more than ten minutes.

Mile 3 / Split 8:34
Yay for being warmed up!  Yay for running downhill!  Well, it’s not that the last mile is all down hill, but the steepest parts are pretty much behind at this point.  I knew I needed to try to make up some time.  Plus, by the time you only have a mile left, you are fairly certain that you’re not, in fact, going to die.  I managed to push it some.  There was a lot of very audible groaning, not to mention cursing during this leg of the race.

Last .1 / Pace = 7:52
It’s funny how I can feel like I’m going to die – or at least collapse – in the middle of a race and then manage to pick it up to get across the finish.  I see that line and I’m all Let’s get this over with.  I could see on my watch that I wasn’t going to best last year’s time of 29:00, but that I somehow wasn’t going to be ridiculously far off and just ran in as fast as I could.   Or as fast as I could without running over the stupidheads who cross the finish mat and come to a dead stop.  I clocked myself at 29:21. (My online chip time confirmed that as accurate later).

So I was 21 seconds slower than I was on the same course last year.  And that’s at least two minutes off my best 5K times.  BUT….

  • It was the first time I ran three consecutive miles in over a month. (I’m not counting my walk breaks because they were so short.)
  • I finished only 21 seconds slower in spite of short walks and stop!
  • I DID feel like I was working hard, but I also felt pretty strong the whole time.  I didn’t hit a point in the race where I wanted to just flat stop and be done with it, like I often do.  In other words, while trying not to suck, I found that the experience didn’t suck.
  • I managed to do that all by my own-self, without Nina or anyone else to push me and hold me accountable.

I’m very glad I decided to go to that race today.  It gave me a shot of confidence that I think that I needed – I got confirmation that I can still do this, that I didn’t lose that much fitness while I was injured.

I have two weeks before my next 5K.  I’m hoping that, also like last year, I will be able to run that one a little faster.


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