What a great morning! Like the other two races I have run so far, I set several goals for today. The first goal was to run the entire race and the second goal was to improve my time from the my last race. These are pretty much the same goals I have had since I started racing. Before today, I haven’t been able to run an entire 5K in a race setting. As much as I have trained in the last few months, I was really hoping that today would be the day for me to run the entire race. I am really excited to say that I actually completed both of my goals. I felt like I was going to die at some points but I did it and that is what matters the most.
I woke up this morning at 5:15. I didn’t get moving right away though. When I finally got out of bed, I fixed up my breakfast of yogurt and granola. Last night I took the time to get my running clothes ready so that I wouldn’t have to go fishing around for them this morning. After I finished my breakfast, I changed into my outfit and finished getting ready. I chose not to take one of my water bottles because there was going to be a water stop around the halfway point. I also chose not to bring my headphones with me mostly because I wasn’t sure what the rules were and I have found that I actually enjoy running without the sound of music. I left my place at 6 and started heading to the race location.
According the email I received on Friday, the packet pick up was going to start at 6:30 and the race was going to start at 7:30. I like to show up early to races as early as possible so I made sure to leave my place in plenty of time. I arrived at the parking location right 6:30 and headed over to packet pick up. Of the three races that I have done, this is only one that didn’t have a goody bag and wasn’t chip timed. To be completely honest with you, I was actually really disappointed by that. I know that some people don’t like getting the goody bags because they are usually full of advertisements. I actually really like getting them because of the samples and coupons inside. I think I was more disappointed that it wasn’t chip timed though. That means that while the results are official, they aren’t accurate. I was actually hoping to use my time from the 10K next month to change corrals at the Disney race. Oh well. The one one thing we did get was a really nice tech shirt although the logo and colors don’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
Once I got my number (#425) and shirt, I quickly went back to my car to throw my shirt inside. I had plenty of time before the start and I didn’t want to run with my shirt. Then I headed back over to the starting area. A little while later, my friend (the one who convinced me to run this with her) sent me a text message asking where I was. We met up by the “packet” pick up area and talked while we waited for the race to start. As we stood there waiting, I started stretching my legs that were starting to feel really tight. I started thinking that running 10+ miles yesterday wasn’t the best idea. I figured I would deal with it later if it started to affect my running. I also realized that this morning was not going to have any hints of Fall whatsoever. At 7, it was already so humid that I was covered in a nice sheen of moisture and I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Before I knew it the race director told us to line up at the starting line. He also told us about a few last minutes items of importance. (1) There was slippery area on the course … (WHAT!!) (2) The course map shown online is actually backwards … (REALLY!?!) Right before the start of the race a trumpet played the national anthem, then the gun went off and the running began.
Mile 1: Going into this race, I knew that the race opened with a hill, which what I assumed classified the course as hilly. Boy was I wrong on that assumption. First, we headed up a pedestrian bridge that crosses a major road. My friend is much faster than I am so she was already out of site by the time I was off the bridge. I decided to take it easy and try to keep up with my friend. After that we followed a paved trail through a wooded area. As we came around one of the first turns, I saw it. There was a sign warning bicyclists about a 10% downgrade! That’s two hills in the first quarter mile. After we got through the wooded area, we found ourselves on a boardwalk over a pond. More mosquitoes! After the boardwalk, I saw the Mile 1 marker. I was very happy with myself so far because I was still running and was starting to hit my stride.
Mile 2: I think that mile 2 was definitely the flattest part of the course. It was also not shaded for most of it. It was the paved trail that went around the pond we just crossed. The glare from the sun off the water was pretty bad in stops but I didn’t let that stop me. I was a woman on a mission. I did learn something though. I need to invest in a pair of sunglasses that I can run with. Less than a quarter mile past the Mile 1 marker, we hit a little switchback that took us to the other side of the loop. Right after that, I spotted the race director (or at least the guy making all of the announcements) standing next to the trail telling everyone that this was the slippery portion of the course. It looked like a stream was crossing the road. I carefully watched my footing and made it through unscathed. The hills started to appear just as I spotted the Mile 2 marker and the water stop. I can’t help but smile as I remember the two guys manning the water stop yelling “Get your Bud Light here!” Hearing that made me laugh and I responded to them with “I wish!” I grabbed a water cup and attempted to drink it while running, managing to get most of it in my mouth. Unfortunately, water was not what my body wanted at that moment. I felt the water hit the bottom of my stomach and knew that I had burned off my breakfast and was running out of expendable calories. I reminded myself that there was food at the finish line. And then the hills came …
Mile 3: Shortly after passing the Mile 2 marker. My side started to cramp. Not again! During my last two races, I got a cramp in my side so bad that I stopped running in hopes of walking it out. Just breath Rachel. Don’t stop running. You are almost there. I was approaching the really bad hills at this point. You did this once already so you can do it again. I kept running and eventually the cramp in my side went away. I continued to focus on my pace and breathing trying to maintain my level of effort. Finally, I could see the start of the pedestrian bridge. As I started the approach, my stomach began to revolt. I was running out of stuff to give and my stomach was letting me know it. I refused to stop running though. I had made it this far and I could see the end in sight. After I crested the bridge, I could see the stop clock and I was doing great. I was on pace to knock almost a full minute off of my previous time. As soon as I got off of the bridge and made the final turn into the finish shoot, I stepped on the gas giving it everything I had. I felt like I was flying towards the finish line. My friend and her fiancé were waving and cheering me on. As I ran past the stop clock, it read 38:07, a full minute faster than my last time!
After finishing the race, I headed straight for the water tent. I grabbed a water bottle and a protein shake. I was thirsty, hungry and completely drenched with sweat. What a glorious way to start the day! I found my friend after that and she showed me where to fill out my time card. Then we got in line for breakfast. I must say that this breakfast is definitely tried with the Tampa May Classic 5K for yumminess. They were serving whole wheat english muffins, fruit salad, fresh fruit (bananas, oranges, and apples), and scrambled eggs. I grabbed a little of everything but ended up only eating the fruit and a bite of the muffin. All in all, I thought it was a good race. I learned that I really can run a 5K race and on a course with crazy hills. I also learned that I should probably bring an energy gel with me if I am going to more than 2 hours before a race.