October 19, 2011

Fifth Avenue Mile Race Recap

Is it probably too late to write a race recap for a race that took place almost a month ago? Probably. Am I ok with that? Totally. I wasn't going to write this recap because so much time has passed by and I figured, why bother. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it deserves to be posted. Not only because it was my first race back after injury, but also because I kicked ass and learned some lessons doing so.

I first aspired to run this race during the AHA 3 Mile Run back in May, when I finally broke the 9 minute mile barrier for a race and realized just how fast I could possibly run. At points during those 3 miles, I glanced at my garmin and saw 8:10's and even a sub 8 pace and I was psyched. Then injury struck and I had to re-assess my running plans and goals for the season. With PT, patience, and lots of hard work, I gradually improved enough to make it to the start line of my first race in months. On September 24th,  the plan was to meet up with Jess and Melissa, both of whom were also nursing injuries and making their comebacks, and to take it easy. While everyone else was out there running to race their fastest mile, we were hoping to just run our strongest and safest. My physical therapist suggested I aim for a 9:30 mile and that's exactly what I intended to do that day.

I woke up race morning and realized I was a bit confused: how much prep is actually needed for a one mile race. Carb loading? Warm up? So many questions... I ate a light breakfast, drank a cup of coffee, and hit the bathroom 3 times. Um, 3 times??? For a one mile race? Why can't my intestines be that effective for the longer ones?!? Some other thoughts that went through my head:
  • Am I ready for this?
  • What if my hamstring or hip starts hurting during the race? What if I know I shoud stop but can't bring myself to make the right decision?
  • Why are all of my sports bras too small?
  • What if I'm so out of shape and everyone blows me away?
I did my best to ignore those voices in my head, and headed out for my first race back. I met up with Melissa, we crossed Central Park and found Jess. We cheered on some friends, headed to the start line and it hit me: I was nervous as hell. I'm not sure I've ever been that nervous for a race before. It was a bit crazy. My mouth got dry and I felt butterflies in my stomach. My nerves were eased for a few seconds when I saw Kai's, aka Idiot Runner, tall head poking out above the crowds, called his name and got a big hello & cheer from him. But that only calmed me down for a brief moment and then the nerves came back. Thinking back about that moment, I think I was more nervous about not knowing how to handle the race than about finishing it. I knew I could run a mile but didn't know at what point or pace, running the mile might do me harm and send me back into injury land. I felt like I had something to prove to myself, but at at the same time heard Glenn's and my best friend Michelle's voices reminding me to take it slow and easy, not to let my ego take control, to remember that the goal is to stay healthy so I can run for the rest of my life.

When the race finally began, Melissa was the only one of us wearing a Garmin and if I remember correctly, it first showed a pace right on plan of about 9:30-9:40 ish. It felt easy and comfortable and I was relieved. But then Melissa called out that her Garmin caught up with the satellite and we were actually running an 8:10. An 8:10?!? I didn't know what to do. It felt good but I knew I was supposed to slow down, so I told the ladies we needed to chill a bit. But when we did, my hammie felt weird, as if I was putting on the breaks and I worried that by slowing down I was risking injury. In all, my brain was a confused mess so I listened to my body and just ran, and ran, and ran. Running down 5th Avenue was pretty cool, passing the stoplights but no traffic. And since it's a straight path, running with the finish line in site the entire time was a pretty cool feeling. My legs continued to feel great and then with just over a quarter of a mile left to go, I saw my friend Katie, waved and heard her cheer for me. It gave me that extra boost I needed to just go and finish strong.

I completed the race with an 8:12 minute mile and was both ecstatic that I could run that fast after coming back, but disappointed in myself for not following the directions I knew I should. And then of course, I wondered how fast I might've run had I been healthy and actually been able to push it. That damn ego getting in the way and egging me on again! Melissa, Jess and I made our way to pick up baggage, bumped into our friends Sharon and Robin and then headed up 5th Ave to cheer on some of the other age groups. I bumped into Katie and thanked her for cheering, met some of her runner friends, and then headed to the gym to finish my workout with 30 minutes on the elliptical and some core work.
Giant (only slightly goofy) smiles on Katie & I!
The Recovering Crew: Me, Jess & Melissa, post race & glowing (aka sweaty)
When I woke up the next day, I was relieved that I still felt good and pain-free; my hammie and hip were okay and I was grateful. Still, I learned a lot that weekend about who I am as a runner, how my running brain works, and what I need to work on both physically and mentally. My next race is the Race to Deliver on November 20th and I'll be thinking a lot about those lessons during the next few weeks.
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