The race wasn't set to go off until 9:30am which, given that I tend to get up around 5:30, gave me a whole lot of time to stretch, roll and just chill out. Kirsten and I have done this race a few times and we tend to see everything from elite runners to jokesters dressed in reindeer costumes. I didn't have it in me to sport a pair of elf ears or an ugly sweater, but I did try to get in the holiday spirit with a red and green outfit. At one point I thought I might sport a race singlet but when I felt the temperature I quickly put the kibosh on that plan. I ended up going with red pants and a green shirt, which you'll see later on. Despite my lack of stress, I did try to get in the zone just a bit by laying out my gear out and playing some good tunes.
Around 8:00am, I scooped Kirsten up and we made our way over to Cambridge which, on Sunday morning, tends to be a quick and easy ride. Added bonus? It's also pretty easy to find a parking spot and we slid right in across from Flour, our post-race brunch spot with coffee and egg sandwiches already on the brain. Mmmm.....coffee. Sorry. Focus, Rebecca. We walked over to the race start, grabbed our bibs and shirts, dropped everything back in the car and headed out for a warm-up, which we definitely needed given the temp. We chatted strategy as we cruised along, agreeing that it made sense to start off easy, then to see what the legs had in them in the second mile and finally to go for it at the end. We share the same coach and he had reminded both of us that this would just be a rust buster and a good test for the legs but that we'd both be pretty wiped from marathon training and that was okay. It's hard to get on the line of a race and not set the bar too high, even when it's not your goal race, so we needed this reminder. After shedding some layers, we ran over to the start and tried to keep moving to stay warm as we waited. This race series is a popular one and the organizers are super dialed in, so without incident, they were ready to rock right on time at 9:30. Kirsten and I hugged, took our team pic and then we were off.
Given that my marathon pace tends to hover around 6:45, I felt that starting off at 6:20 pace was reasonable and aimed for that as I settled into the first mile. Well, I guess you don't really 'settle in' to a 5K, but you get my drift. A lot of fasties run this race and many of them flew by me. I worked hard to reign it in and told myself not to follow them. As a marathoner, I don't have a lot of speed in my legs and, as you can sense by now, the 5K is basically torture for me. I've been known to crash and burn by mile 2 often, so given that I was trying to "have fun" I really wanted to keep my cool if possible. I rolled through the first mile in 6:13, which was a bit fast, but my breathing was controlled and my body felt good so I didn't panic.
The beauty of this race is that the course is flat and fast. If you're going for a PR, this is the place to do it. Not that I had a personal best on the brain, but you know, I'm just saying. I was still feeling pretty solid at this point and decided to crank it up just a hair to see if my legs would respond. As you can see, I didn't push too much, just enough to reach the next group of runners and then I worked to settle back in and get my heart rate back down. Don't get me wrong, I was starting to feel the inevitable 5K pain. My breathing was getting louder and because it was cold out I started to feel it in my lungs. But, that said, I had less than 2 miles left and found myself saying, Come on, Rebecca. It's two freaking miles. Suck it up. I might have said it out loud.
Okay, so now I'm on the pain train. Everything hurt from head to toe. I was no longer looking at my watch as I didn't want to add that pressure in during this last mile. I just did my best to focus on the runners ahead of me. I thought for sure I was slowing down as it was taking so much effort to hold on. But then I saw the 3 mile marker and looked at my watch which said 18:18. HOLY SHITE. My 5K PR up until this point was 19:02 and I was sharp enough at that moment to realize that a new one, even if only by a second or two, was within reach. Pressure back on. I was hurting so bad but when I turned the corner and saw how little I had left to go, I just went into overdrive and let her rip. When I crossed and stopped my watch I knew I was close to 19 minutes flat but wasn't 100% sure and didn't want to get too excited until I saw official results. In the end, I got it, sliding in just under 19 minutes, but I went a long time before realizing this, so I'll keep telling my story.
Okay, so back to the pain train. Thankfully the ride was over but, man, was it rough. I stood and caught my breath for a few minutes; legs throbbing and lungs burning. I'm pretty sure I said that I would never do another 5K again unless I was forced. I say this a lot. I grabbed water and continued to walk it off. Very shortly thereafter, I saw both Kirsten along with several of my Oiselle teammates rolling in and ran over to congratulate them as I knew they'd rocked it. As usual, it was an instant love fest because runners in general are ridiculously supportive of each other. Add the team element and the positive energy is almost tangible. We chatted and hung out for a bit before breaking off for a cool down, agreeing to meet up again at Flour for our hard-earned breakfast.
Kirsten and I slowly made our way down the street, continuing to discuss our races and noting the fact that we really didn't want to be cooling down at all as our friends who were already enjoying their coffee. Fortunately, as I mentioned, we both have the same coach and with the whole accountability thing we couldn't, or I should say, didn't bail. Kudos to us. Finally, we got over to Flour and ordered coffee and breakfast, which, to be honest, was the main reason I went to this rodeo in the first place. I should note that I still didn't know my official time at this point. My watch had said 19:03 when I'd stopped it, but I knew I hadn't gotten it right on the nose at the finish. As we waited in line our race results were texted to us from Racewire. I looked. Then I looked again. I may have even looked a third time. Why? Because the results said 18:59 and I didn't believe it. I've been working to come in under 19 minutes for at least 5 years. I haven't been able to focus on it too much because of my marathon training. But I have been chipping away at it as I've been trying to get faster in the longer distances. So, every time I've lined up for the 5K, I've had that sub-19 on the brain. And there it was. After running 2 fall marathons and having done more mileage leading up to those races than ever before, at the ripe old age of 42, I ran my 5K PR. If there was a better way to close out this year from a running standpoint, I don't know what it is. I've made 5 attempts, 3 of them in this year alone, to break the 3 hour barrier in the marathon. Twice I've ran 3:00:XX. I mean, talk about madness. While my time for this race was only a 3 second PR, breaking that 19 minute barrier was still pretty exciting for me and good sign that, while I don't always feel it, I am getting a little faster. Icing on the cake, really; a cake that I'm still baking as I train for my next marathon. But, still, it's nice to have a taste of the sweet stuff ahead of time.
For the most part, I love running and racing. Some days are hard. Actually, most days are hard. But, we runners tend take pleasure in the challenge. It's a weird kind of high, but when things go right, it never fails to lift us up and ultimately keeps us going after it. The beauty, though, is that regardless of the outcome on race day, hanging with friends post-race...processing, unwinding, celebrating or maybe even forgetting....just being together; there's nothing better. That is a key part of the package and keeps me coming back for more. There is an individual component to running, but the community and the love and support that we get from and give to friends and teammates, it's priceless. We do what we love. For me, this is it.
Listen to this:
Live In The Moment - Portugal the Man
*** NOTE: WINNER OF THE RWM 2017 HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY is JESS MILIUS.