Monday, April 9, 2018

The Fast & the Furriest 5k 2018

Saturday's race. Oh boy. Where to start?
I didn't realize until after the race that my nerves came not from a place of doubt, but from a place of fear. I think I knew I could hold the paces I wanted to meet my A goal, but I haven't pushed that hard in so long that I was afraid something would happen. I'd hurt myself or burn out. I'd discover that my legs aren't 100% fixed and/or healed.
Much-appreciated encouragement from Elizabeth the day before the race.
(We had our championship track meet last Thursday and our 800m runner came in 3rd overall. She told me, as she exited the track: "I didn't know I could run that fast! It scared me!" After Saturday's race, that moment resonated with me a lot.)

I got up at 6am and had half a bagel with peanut butter and honey, a clementine, and a small cup of coffee. The weather for the morning looked perfect. I stopped running this race when it moved to its new venue, the spring training stadium for the Minnesota Twins, but they've since built a parkway that cuts the drive down to 6 minutes, so I'm sure this will become a yearly race for me now.
I mentioned that I'd convinced a couple colleagues to sign up to run, and we planned to meet at the start. Allison had picked up my bib on Friday, so she met me at my car when I arrived at 7am. I stretched, put on sunscreen, and did some lunges. Then, as we made our way to the bathrooms, we ran into Shelagh. I jogged up the stadium stairs on the way to the bathroom as a means of warming up because I didn't want to actually run a lap or anything like that. Around 7:25 the three of us headed to the start.
Pre-race excitement!
The start line didn't have a timing mat, which worried me. I didn't want to start too close to the front but I wanted an official and accurate time. We ended up about five rows back from the very front, and because this race isn't huge and begins in a parking lot, there was plenty of space in the beginning and this ended up being perfect. I caught sight of Sean as announcements were made and we waved; he was starting right up front because he's competitive like that. (Spoiler alert: he took 3rd in his AG.)
Allison, me, and Shelagh at the starting line.
Allison's goal was to run without taking any walk breaks, and she said she runs a 10-minute mile. I've run races with Shelagh before and knew she'd be out of my range. We started on a "Ready, go!" command. For the first half mile or so, I was running around an 8:55 pace, but I knew that wouldn't last. I purposely eased up, but couldn't quite bring myself to slow down as much as I wanted. There were lots of dogs running with us, but I didn't have any problems having to dodge them or anything; they were leashed and well-controlled.

The first turn-around was .75 miles in. I still felt really good, and was keeping an eye out for Allison on the other side when I felt a tap on my shoulder. She had caught up to me! We ran side-by-side for the majority of the race after that; I had eased into a 9:15 pace by mile 1 and that felt hard but doable.
Actually my legs felt fantastic the entire time. They felt strong. They didn't ache or tighten at all; in fact, they probably could have gone faster if my lungs had been up to it. But around mile 2.5 I just couldn't keep pushing the pace I was at. I couldn't catch my breath (I might have a cold/allergies going on, but really I think I just don't have that cardio-fitness at the moment). I knew I was well within reach of my A goal, so I decided to take a quick walk to get my breathing back in check. Allison kept moving ahead.
I'm really impressed with how steady my pace looks overall.
By mile 2.6 I was ready to run the remainder. I didn't regret having to walk, but I look forward to the day I can bust out a 5k without breaks.

I let myself keep a much slower pace and easier effort, hovering around 9:30. I kept an eye on my Garmin as I turned the final corner. The finish line was in sight, but my Garmin said I had .2 to go; I didn't want to sprint too early. I started cranking it up as I came into the final straightaway. I saw Sean on the sidelines cheering for me.

I crossed in 28:39. I felt like I was going to puke. And I was ecstatic. I placed 9/22 in my AG and 90/279 overall.
Garmin measured the race a touch short but I'm still counting it.
I felt confident and freaked out the entire time. Like, I realized my body could do it, but it had been so long, I didn't feel ready for this kind of race. My mind was in shock.

I quickly found Allison and Shelagh. We took a photo and then they both had to take off. I found Sean and we caught up some; I haven't seen him since the Sanibel 10k in fall 2016.
To say I'm happy with the outcome of this race would be a major understatement. I didn't realize how much was riding on this mentally and emotionally, but now that I've done it, I can see what a pivotal moment in my recovery it is.
At this point, maybe there is no need to hold back. Maybe I am ready to introduce speedwork and longer runs. Maybe I'm ready to run more than two days a week. Maybe I no longer need to be as conservative as I have been. This is a freeing and scary thought.

My next 5k is tentatively scheduled for early May, and I'm going to need to rethink some of the goals I have set for that one based on Saturday's stellar performance.



  1. That's so freaking awesome, Ali! I'm glad you had such a good race. You crushed your A goal. Did you go get bfast at that special place to celebrate??

    1. No, after this race I went home and napped! It's hard to justify a huge breakfast after a 5k. We did make waffles Sunday though ;)

  2. Interesting how a long-term, serious injury messes with our minds as well as our bodies. Must be some kind of mine-body connection--who knew ;) This was the race that got you through the last vestiges of the injury, and proved that you are whole again. Now you can restart training without fear.

    1. This entire process has really made me appreciate how much my mental well-being and tied to my physical well-being. And recovery is absolutely as much a mental thing as physical! I felt like my body betrayed me, and now I'm re-finding trust.

  3. CONGRATS ALI! I teared up reading this because I know this moment must have felt so good and freeing. Plus what a confidence booster!

    I feel like we are simultaneously in the same but different places in our recovery. I know I could not even attempt to race a 5K since pushing the pace on 1 mile feels tough for me (and I haven't run more than 2.5 miles yet hah), but I have been running 3 days a week for a while and just last week started incorporating speedwork again under the guidance of a coach.

    If you feel more excited than apprehensive about upping your training then I think you are ready because you know your body best. My coach has only given me beginner speedwork so far and while she gives me paces she thinks I can hit based off of how fast I can run a mile at the moment, she reminds me to go by feel a lot because I know my body best and I'll know if something doesn't feel right vs. if something is just hard because I haven't done this in a while.

    Overall I feel like we're in such exciting phases of our recovery. You raced a 5K and smashed it and last night I looked at my legs and realized they were swollen. I swear for a long time I thought they would just be perpetually swollen for the rest of my life!!! I wish I had smashed a 5K, but honestly I'm very happy with the non-swelling victory too haha!

    1. I am so torn about where I want to go next with recovery. On the one hand, I know now that I'm ready for more; on the other hand, I'm really enjoying just running again, without a plan or set goals. But at the same time, I WANT to set some goals and work toward them...I just can't decide! Right now things are so fresh and new still. It's nice. I haven't run without direction like this in years.

      We have to take our victories as they come. No more swelling is definitely an important step in the right direction! I think I still swell up after a day on my feet!

      We are definitely in a really exciting, fun phase...where things feel new again but also familiar and welcome!

  4. Congratulations ! I am so happy for you!

  5. Awesome job! I know what you mean about being tentative about pushing it. I still have pain in my stress fractures every now and then so I don't push as much as I probably should. I am excited for you and to see what you have in store this racing season! Go Ali!!!!

    1. It's so hard to find the right balance, mentally more than physically in some ways! Injury is totally a mental thing.

  6. Well done. You deserve EARNED it! Keep up the great work, Ali.

  7. I am so happy for you - and I completely related to your fears and your thinking as you went into this and then during the race as well - may this be the first of many new attempts.

    1. Thank you! It's nice to know I'm not the only one who's experienced that kind of doubt and fear.

  8. Yes, this was definitely a confidence booster!