Saturday, May 3, 2014

Recap: First 5K Race Ever!

Today is a big day!  This morning I finished my very first 5K: the Upper Valley Serves 5/10K walk/run.  My goal was to finish the race in less than 45 minutes with minimal walking.  Well, at least I met one of my goals today~

The day before.

Totally unprepared.  The race was at 9am and we agreed to get there at 8:25 to get our bibs and T-shirt (the sign-in desk allegedly closes at 8:30).  At almost 2 in the morning I finally googled "what to do before a 5K", and of course most of the advices were too little too late for me.  Some called for two good nights of sleep before the race (not gonna happen), others had more sensible advices such as laying out everything you want to bring the next day so you don't scramble on the morning of.  And lots of random things on eating and drinking that made me think they were writing about prepping for a marathon rather than a 5K.  Maybe I should've included "first 5K for beginners" when I performed my search.  In the end I decided to stop wasting time and go to bed.  It's just a 5K and I wasn't trying to make a world record or anything.

The morning of.

Naturally I didn't get a lot of sleep.  I set my alarm at 6:30, to give me an hour of snooze-button hitting, and an hour to get ready.  I think I didn't get out of my bed until almost 8 and had to scram to get out of the door by 8:20.  My friend called at 8 and told me she was going to leave at 8:05, but I think it was her gentle way of trying to see if I was up yet.

I decided to don a short sleeve since the temperature was going to be around mid-50s (and I was going to be running).  The sun was shining which was really pretty and made it warmer.  There was almost no one on the street this early in the morning.  I brought my camera.  And I was running late.  Apparently it took more than 5 minutes to get to the Business School, where registration and start line was.  It ended up taking me almost 12 minutes and I had to jog twice along the way so I don't panic.  There was a long drive way that connects the college green/main street to the business school, and as I turned onto it I could see people and hear music and I thought, oh no, I'm late, and started to jog.  I stopped about mid way and decided it was too much work and I was going to safely get my bib.  At that point I was kind of in despair, I thought I could never complete a 5K in a sensible time if I was already tired running down half a drive way.

Before the race.

Got my bib, got my T-shirt, checked my T-shirt at the bag check.  I didn't realize that the sensor chip was embedded in the bib and it was tiny.  Got to marvel at the technology these days.  Everything could be so crude and simplified and yet so effective.

This was it, couldn't see nothing, and it weighed nothing.  

All the volunteers are really nice and friendly, and were wearing a red "volunteer" version of the race T-shirt.  Good color for recognition.

My friend actually didn't get here until after I checked in.  Way past 8:30 but whatever.  After she checked in and checked her bag, we went to the side to stretch.  That's when I realized that we actually have owl window art on the side of the business school building.  I must explore the campus more often.

I have a thing for owls.  So I always keep a lookout for them.

Everything was running late today.  There was supposed to be an opening remark and national anthem playing at 8:45 and the race was supposed to start at 9.  But they didn't begin remarking until 9 and the race was at 9:15.  Our former governor was here giving a few words.  It wasn't until today that I learned he's now the former governor.  He was actually at my naturalization ceremony a few years ago.  I even shook hands and got my picture taken with him.  Now I think he just really loves to go around and giving speeches.  What a weird man.

But from him I learned that there were quite a number of people in the race today who are veterans.  There was even one guy who was in the Vietnam War!  And when the national anthem was playing many of the veterans, instead of putting their right arm across the chest, were doing this military stance where they pointed their elbows straight back, which makes your chest stick straight out.  It's not a comfortable pose for me with all the fat on my back but it looked really cool watching them doing it.  I thought it was total bullshit when the former governor said that these veterans are vital for protecting our freedom as they go overseas to fight (all wars are pointless to me), but see all of them here today, realizing what they must've given up for their beliefs in serving their country, made me respect them for what they were willing to do.  I don't object to supporting and helping the troops and veterans, but I don't think that has to conflict with me not caring about any wars.

Anyway, enough of that babble.  We shuffled to the start line.  I turned on my iTouch to set up my Nike+ tracer.  Unfortunately before I could stuff the iTouch back into my SPIbelt the starting beep (which was really loud) went of, and we had to shuffle with the rest of the crowd.

The race. (not many pictures here)

So off we went.  We were never really fast over all, but I was especially not keen on going fast in the beginning.  Hoards of people passed us, and I didn't mind very much.  We went around the library, pass the health center, to turn onto the med school.  There was a hill.  More like an incline, but it was rough.  I panted so much after we were up the hill.  I had the privilege to pass a girl (she later passed me and left me eating her dust) and had this really smug feeling.  Most of us sprinted across the intersection so the cars wouldn't have to wait too long.  I hate sprinting.  The turnaround was at the end of a residential street, with the 5K people turning back for the pond, while the 10K people shuffled on.  That was mile 1.

Mile 1 and I are mortal enemies.  I don't know why.  Right now I don't even need to know that I was at exactly mile 1 to feel this urge to just stop running.  It happens all the time during my workouts, whether I'm running on the treadmill or outside.  I just get unbelievably tired for some reason, with an overwhelming urge to stop and walk.  It's pathetic.

So I did walk for a bit, taking the chance to stuff my iTouch back into my belt, which I had been holding this entire time.  As we turned back for the med school, most of the crowd had already gone so far ahead that they couldn't be seen anymore.  We were alone.

We sprinted across the intersection again and my left shin was mad at me.  Like it splintered or something.  As we turned back toward the health center before going onto the pond loop (the one I always run on), we were passed by two undergrad looking girls who were shuffling behind us the whole time.  As we turn onto the pond loop my friend asked me what I was thinking at that point and the only thing I could think of was, "we just got passed by everybody."  I think I sounded bitter but I was merely trying to state the fact.  I always imagined that I would be the last but when it was really happening I felt... cold and detached and just... you know, fuck it.  My friend tried to cheer me up by pointing at a girl at a distance and told me that we were not the last, and there were some walkers in the back (which in my mind didn't count).  I stopped for a bit to walk again.  There was a water stop.

A father-son volunteer pair was manning the station and they offered encouraging words.  I told them they were saviors with the water but I'm not sure if they heard me.  I later found out that most of the 10K people were heading back, so I didn't feel too bad for them.  They were stationed at this lonely corner flanked by big mansions and a golf course.  Not the most exciting place to be when there were no runners coming by.  But I was so happy to seen them and so grateful.

A water break was followed by a nice downhill and the last stretch around the pond.  That stretch was mostly flat and the middle of the road was even.  I tried my best to shuffle.  The real blow came when a 10K runner in white blue top shorts passed us.  I think he finished his 10K in just over 35 minutes, and we didn't get passed by any other 10K people after that.  But while I was saying "that's so not fair" I thought it was pretty cool that he was running so fast.  He was panting a lot louder than i was but he pushed himself on.

At some pointed we passed mile two and my iTouch was telling me that we only had one more mile to go.  I think that past 1.2 mile was the most painful and discouraging run, both physically and mentally.  It's usually my worst part of the workout anyway, walking way too much and having the most trouble to keep going.  And realizing that we were the last of the runners really didn't make it any better.  

The beginning of the last mile was a long slow incline.  Normally it wasn't bad but by that point I was just annoyed at it.  We saw some finisher going home.  We ran past the president's house and some frat houses.  The library loomed into view.  We were almost done!  And I stopped to walk again, pathetic.  

As we turned back onto he long driveway leading back to the finish line, we began to sprint, or, running faster than we've ever run this whole race.  The pair that passed us before had already crossed the finishing line as we began on the driveway, so we were the only pair of runner that the spectators (mostly red shirt volunteers) were cheering at.  I tried to push down my cynicism that they were only cheering me because I was one of those fat girls finally getting to the finish line.  Then I saw that we had finished in a bit over 41 minutes, well below my goal time, and the cheering was so loud, and I was sprinting so fast, that I couldn't help but smile.  All the way past the finish line, right at the guy snapping my picture.  I later realized that my friend purposefully ran behind me so on the results list she finished after I did.  She was clapping for me and cheering for me too.  And I felt bad.  I felt bad that I didn't do the same for her.  I felt bad that I had resented her for most of the way because she kept telling me to stop walking and kept jogging in place to wait for me.  I felt bad that I was offended that she wouldn't run ahead when I was clearly falling behind, when in reality her running next to me was probably the biggest comfort and encouragement I had.  I realized that my own insecurity was making me ungrateful of all others who were genuinely being supportive.  I believe that I will get better and faster the more I run, but I really hope that as I improve myself I would also learn to enjoy my surrounding, to truly feel that I deserve whatever support and cheers I receive, and to reciprocate the same generosity.  

But I was mostly surprised at how different the two jogs down this driveway were.  This morning when I first arrived I couldn't barely push myself forward, knowing that I was late and risking not getting my bib.  But after the most excruciating run I felt like I was sprinting down the road, pick up speed with no desire to stop.  My shins weren't hurting like they normally would when I run too fast, they didn't hurt afterwards.  I could fell my feet lifting and being pushed back, my elbows pointing back, and I could hear the wind.  And I felt great.  I didn't feel like I was flying, which apparently you feel when you find your perfect form, but I was given limitless energy, a much bigger lung, and a pair of someone else's legs.  It was this most wonderful feeling.  I assume this is what happens as you sprint past the finish line (if the race is timed, which my next will not be) until I run another that proves me wrong.  And I like it~

First official race photo.  Me on the right with my ever-supportive friend/colleague next to me.  The smile was genuine, so is my out-of-shape-ness I now see. 

After the race.

Nothing really exciting here.  We walk slowly away from the finish line.  We walked slowly to retrieve my friend's bag, I walked slowly to get a bottle of water.  Then I saw this.

A girl was writing encouraging things on the bananas!  I grabbed one that said "Rock n' Roll".  We decided to get back to the finish line to watch the 10K people coming back.

Apparently we weren't the last ones to finished the 5K.  But we could always tell which ones were back from which distance.  I really need to work on getting into shape.  Literally!  Everything helps with better running.

Then I remembered that I forgot my T-shirt in the bag check area, so we walked slowly back to get that.  It was about half past 10 by that point and the sun retired back behind the clouds and my body cooled down as well.  I began to sneeze like a mad woman and we decided to go back.  I promised that I would look for more races in the future.  This is probably a good thing since I have nothing real planed beyond May except for some lofty half marathon goal in October.  

It was so nice to get home again.  The after party at the local pub didn't start until 11.  Not that I really knew anyone else at the race and my friend wasn't going.  But they didn't have race specials and I was eager to have their $5 burger+fries.  They had a beer special too but I don't like beer and I don't get the point of drinking beer after running.  Why ice-cream isn't a better choice is beyond me.  

Anyway, the burger was awesome.  I especially love the fries because it is one of the places where they sensibly sprinkled an appropriate amount of salt on the fries.  And I was reading Born to Run while eating.  Heaven.  

Yummmm.  I had ginger ale with my burger and I just love the mason jar that the soda came with!  Still don't know why they gave me a steak knife and I ate my burger the normal messy way.

Went home afterwards and took a looong nap.  Perfect Saturday.

Interesting people/things at the race:
  • Guy with stroller.  A young father was pushing a running stroller during the whole 5K.  Only one with a stroller too.  Afterwards I saw the baby, the cutest baby girl ever!
  • 10K dude who passed us.  I realized after the race that he was much older than I expected.  I thought he was a young man or something.  But he's definitely middle-aged.  Later learned on the results page that he's 44.  Crazy people.
  • Tutu girls.  Only people at the race who you can call "dressed up".  One had black tutu and the other purple.  I think they had some Mardi Gras beads too.
  • Veterans with an American flag.  As we first turned away from the driveway I looked back and thought I saw someone carrying an American flag on a pole.  I thought I just went temporarily crazy and mixed the street light pole and some other flag together.  After the turn around we saw them coming our way and I said my loudest and longest sentence during the race: "I knew I wasn't crazy when I saw the flag earlier!"  There were three men in camouflage uniform carrying those 50lb camouflage military bags, one carrying a pole with the flag.  Two red shirt volunteers were walking with them, one sipping coffee.  We saw them again as I was leaving the race.  They were jogging back for the finish line.  The two volunteers were gone, so it was just the three of them.  They looked like they were running the same speed as me but man, they looked awesome.
  • "For Sale by Owner."  There were numerous signs, arrows, people holding signs, and chalk drawings that guide the runners along the course.  One of which was a little sign that had a print out of the race logo and an arrow taped on.  But from the back it was a generic "For Sale by Owner" sign you can probably buy anywhere.  You could only see the arrow as you are coming back from the course, which wasn't the normal way we take to go home.  So twice today all we saw was "For Sale by Owner" and we had no idea what it was, until we realized what was on the other side.  Still didn't stop us from joking that that college was going to be for sale.
  • Parents!  Apparently this is our school's First Year parents weekend.  I don't understand why schools like to schedule parents weekends so closed to events when parents and students are going to unite anyway.  Our graduation was about a month way.  In college our parents weekend was a week before fall break.  Silly.  But there were a ton of adults on campus today, most were wearing name tags, which was why I was wondering if there was a conference going on (which there are quite a few during the summer).  And all the adults look very hoity-toity, like they are way too important to be on this campus right now.  Whatever.  Many were staring because I was still in my gym cloths, orange running cap, carrying another T-shirt and holding my bib.  Who knows what they were thinking when these were combined with a fat girl who was wearing a "everybody loves an asian..." T-shirt.
  • Dinosaur boy.  There's this one guy, an undergrad I assume (although I've seen him for a few years now, so you never know), who likes to run around campus.  He wasn't in the race today, but I saw him again today when I was walking him.  He looks very fit and he runs regularly and fast, but instead of pulling his elbows back like so many people tell you to do in order to run well, his elbows swings from in front of him to right by his side.  His forearms are bent 90 degrees, and his hands drop naturally.  So when he runs his arms look like the arms of a T-rex.  And that amuses me to no end.  

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