I'm going to try and compose this post thoughtfully, as I'm still on a runner's high over here. Yes, that's why we do it, for the endorphins and natural high that comes with running, not to be confused with "Oh my god, I might puke feeling as you cross the finish line".
This race was a big deal for me. Earlier this week I started thinking about what I wanted to do. My original plan was that this would be a training race, meaning that I would not be attempting a PR. Since I have been nursing an injury and running intervals while increasing my weekly mileage to try and stay injury free, I actually didn't think a PR would even be possible. I also thought that there would be plenty of time in the season to get that 5k PR. I started rethinking this plan when Tuesday's run turned out to be my fastest 4 mile ever. Thursday rolled around and I shaved another 37 seconds off that 4 mile run, and I swear I wasn't trying. After some discussion with Molly and my husband, they convinced me to go for it!
Fast forward to Saturday, holy shit was my stomach a ball of nerves all day. This was ridiculous, I wasn't even this nervous before my first 1/2 Marathon. The difference was I had a goal, and I had to find a way to achieve that goal. Every other race that I have done has been a "just cross the finish line" goal, and if I happen to see that I'm close to a PR, I push it at the end. I spent all day Saturday reviewing my previous pace times and doing the math to figure out where I needed to be to PR today, This is all fine and good, but what I struggled with was how to execute it. Do I just maintain an average pace for the entire distance to PR or do I continue with my run/walk intervals. I've been really successful with the interval approach and planing that walk rest allows me to run much faster during the run intervals then if I just ran the whole distance at a slower pace. Running with intervals would be much trickier because I would need to compensate for those walk intervals. I spent way too much time thinking about all of this yesterday to the point that I couldn't even eat lunch. Finally in the late afternoon I was able to just put it aside and eventually eat my pre-race meal.
I woke up this morning feeling good, it was just simply a matter of getting it done. I arrived in Oakland shortly after 6:30am and found a parking spot on the street. I have to take a moment and give accolades to the folks at the Oakland Running Festival this was an extremely well organized event. There was a huge amount of communication prior to race day, a race booklet that was sent out that detailed every little piece if information you might need. It was really a seamless process with no surprises. We all know how much I love a well planed event, and I also know how difficult it is to pull one off at that level. The great part about running the 5k, was that I got to see the Marathon start before my run and the 1/2 start after I was done. It was really smart to stagger the race stars the way they did. In case you are interested there were about 1900 Marathoner's, 1400 5k runners and 4000 1/2 Marathoner's. That's a whole of folks running.
I was so excited to run into a former co-worker Curtissa and her running buddy Mary. They've been doing a lot of running and have been hitting up a lot of the local races, so it was fun to say hi before we headed out. I lined up at the 10 min/mile pace sign. A woman next to me said "Is this you first race?" then she glimpsed me fiddling with my Garmin and said "Oh, you have a watch!" I'm kind of giggling over this, I guess having a Garmin makes me serious, I told her it wasn't my first race that I was training for a 1/2 Marathon and this was part of my training. She wished me luck and headed off to line up next to someone who wasn't so serious, I guess. Before I knew it we were off and I had a lot of people to pass. For a moment I really thought I'm never going to PR if I can't get through this crowd. As I passed a bunch of folks walking I overheard a woman say to her friend "I didn't know this was a run, I thought it was a walk!", I found this hilarious and if I wasn't focused on being so serious I would have laughed out loud.
I was pleased that after we made our first turn the crowd opened up and I was able to run at a more acceptable pace. I was passing lots of folks which felt great, but I also knew I would get passed when I hit my first walk interval. There was a lot of leapfrog going on the first mile which I'm sure people thought was weird, but I had an overall goal, and this is what I needed to do to accomplish that goal. Shortly after we passed the 1 mile marker, we passed the 2 mile marker. Um, not sure who's 2 mile marker that was but it was most certainly not ours, good thing I was serious and had that Garmin on. As we came through the aide station it was not my intention to take water, but I was on a walk interval and decided, why not. I was feeling like I had maybe come out of the gate too fast and I knew I had to dial it back a little to be sure I didn't crash and burn before the finish line. Watching my average pace time I knew I was going to be okay with my interval strategy. The problem was that I didn't just want to PR by a few seconds, I really wanted it to count. As we rounded the corner I realized we were really close to the finish line which meant I wouldn't be taking my last walk interval, I would be digging deep to get it done. That's when I saw the hill, really? The entire course has been flat and when you're ready to sprint into the finish you give us a hill. I only logged 35 feet of elevation gain and I'm pretty sure it was all that hill. I fully expected that I might feel the need to puke at the finish line today, I did not expect to feel the need to puke .15 miles from the finish line, let's just say I tacked that hill at a low 9 minute pace, that hill was not going to ruin my day. I used what was left to sprint to the finish line with a time of 31:26 - a 30 second 5k PR.
I made my way through the food area in a fog, I had a reflective blanket, a bottle of water, consumed a banana and grabbed a granola bar. As I exited the food area I saw the massage tent, um yeah, I'm all over that. I was still in a bit of fog when I reached the massage table, but Christi was great and made sure I stayed alert while she worked my muscles. The other great surprise was champagne! We had beer tickets attached to our bibs, and I have no interest in beer, but a Mimosa, I'm all over that! I'm not picky, I'll drink one out of a paper cup.
Hoping to have some photos soon, but I know some of you were anxious for the details. I've met 1/2 of my 2012 goals, it's shaping up to be a great year!
Many thanks to Trisports.com for supporting me this race season!