Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving has come and gone! I'm probably at least several pounds heavier from all the delicious food, but it's so worth it. This is my favorite holiday! There's no hustle and bustle of shopping and wrapping gifts, just spending quality time with family and eating some of my favorite foods (unfortunately, I have so many!).

I had so much to be thankful for this year: my fun-loving and hard-working husband, my beautiful children, my parents (the best grandparents in the world!), my health, the best running buddies, and especially for my sister and her family. Our prayers were answered when my brother-in-law got transferred here and their house finally sold (nothing short of a miracle in this economy).

The two-day feast/holiday started early on Thursday morning with Eladio, the kids, and I running the Sprint Thanksgiving day 5K. I had planned to race it while Eladio was going to jog pushing the kids in the stroller. We woke up to temps in the low 30's. Maybe it was going to get in the 40's by mid-morning, but probably not until after the race was over. Start time was 9:00, so to ensure a good warm up and to pick up our stuff, we got there by 8:00. While Eladio and the kids stayed warm in the car, I started my warm up at 8:30. I jogged around the Sprint campus for about 20 minutes, then with 10 minutes to go, I did 5 striders. These were supposed to help prepare my legs and lungs for the faster running I was about to do, but I just wasn't feeling it. Even the short 20 second sprints were making me tired. I was really doubting my ability to race hard that morning. I saw Eladio waiting on the sidelines near the start right before I got ready to line up. I took one last drink of water, bid my kids and husband a farewell, and took my place at the start. Taking Eladio's advice, I lined up at the 7 minute mile pace sign. I expected I would run somewhere in the 7 minute range for my first mile and I didn't want to have to worry about passing a bunch of people when, or if, I was ready to take off. With just minutes before the start, I still wasn't feeling pumped about pushing my body to its limits. Good thing I had already taken some pressure off by choosing not to wear my Garmin. I decided to not really worry about my pace and just run, going by feel alone. That's very unlike my normal racing strategy, but since I hadn't really trained for this and have no upcoming big races on the calendar, I felt free to try something different.

Promptly at 9:00, the race began. My legs began a fast turnover, but still not fast enough to keep up with most of the runners around me. I was getting passed by most of the field it seemed. Did I mention the race had just over 5000 participants?! I listened to my body and just let it run whatever pace felt good. We had some gradual uphills during the first mile and I knew there was a pretty decent size hill in the second mile, so I still held back a little. As we headed up the first real hill, we passed mile one. My watch read 7:35. I knew if I wanted to have a chance at breaking or even finishing anywhere in the 23 minute range, I would have to pick it up. I had picked 23 as my goal since that's generally been the time I could finish my 5K's with very little training in the past. The last (and only) time I ran this 5K several years ago, I had finished in 23:30. And that was even with me being 3 weeks pregnant! I HAD to beat that time. Surely, I had to be in better shape now and would be able to breathe easier without a baby growing in my belly and sucking all my reserve energy! (or so I thought when I signed up for this).

The second mile had even more uphills, but as we turned back into the Sprint campus we were treated to a nice downhill. At mile two, my watch read 14:54. I didn't have much umph in me to start kicking it in during the last mile, so I just held the same pace. My legs were starting to disagree with my mind's pace and my breathing started becoming more labored in the final mile. The song "Defying Gravity" popped in my mind, but I wasn't feeling much like flying. I had passed some runners on the uphills during mile two and normally I would have given all I had in that last mile to pass as many runners as possible, but I just didn't have it in me that morning. I simply kept the pace and did my best to not get passed. I think I accomplished that at least.

As we headed around the last few curves and I could hear the DJ at the finish line, I looked around and saw I was finishing mostly around men. I didn't see any females in my immediate line of sight to help push me in at the end (that's my competitive streak coming out). It wasn't until I made the final turn and saw the finish line that I started opening up my stride. I had no idea what the clock read. I had started my watch when the race officially started, so I knew my actual time was probably about 5 seconds faster. This wasn't really a timed race for the 5000+ runners since only the first 15 male and female finishers would have a recorded time. For some crazy reason, I thought I might have a chance at that, but in the first mile, when I saw I wasn't able to keep up with so many of the front runners (at least a couple hundred men and women), I figured I wouldn't make the cut. With about 20 feet to go, I glanced at the finish line clock, but I could only see the seconds, not the minutes. I saw :38, :39, :40. I figured the minute side was at 23, so I sprinted as hard as I could to make it under 24. I crossed the line and fumbled to stop my watch. It took a couple of seconds after I crossed to find the button. I looked down and to my surprise, my watch read 22:51. I was amazed!! No way did I just run under 23! Especially, with the way I felt and having run with no strategy. This definitely was a first for me. I don't remember ever running that fast without following a prescribed pace and constantly looking at my watch. This may be my new strategy. I really liked it! It was a hard race, but I'm so glad I did it. It's yet one more thing to be thankful for on the most thankful of days! Good thing I got to celebrate two days with dinner at my in-laws on Thanksgiving and then with my family on Friday.

By the way, Eladio finished not too far after me. He believes he was the first baby stroller runner to finish, even finishing well ahead of another jogger who started 10 minutes before the race! His time...somewhere around 27 minutes. His last mile was in the 7's! Not bad for a pushing and being dragged by an extra 50 pounds and still recovering from knee surgery a few months ago. Good job, honey!

Now it's time to take a couple of weeks off of intense running and put my focus back on doing some quality cross-training. My abs and hips need it badly, especially after all that stuffing and pie! Hope your Thanksgiving was filled with lots of love and joy!

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