Tuesday, April 22, 2008

P.S. Happy Birthday

Long Boring Race Report
Clean Air 5K, 4/19/08

One year ago, I started this blog as an outlet for venting about an under-measured 5K in which I had just set a personal record. The organizers of that race, the Run for Clean Air 2007 weren’t so understanding of their screw up at the time, but this year, they got the course re-certified and promised that they’ll get things right. So, I decided to give Clean Air a second chance and signed up for the race last Saturday.

The awkward phase. At the sight of a bunch of happy, skinny runners doing striders, I felt intimidated, tired, and needed to pee. I told myself just to make the best of the race, not worry about what other people are doing, and go for time. I seeded myself behind four rows of taller people and nervously listened to the pre-race announcements.

The gun went off. I went out hard, but everyone else started faster. In front of me were a whole bunch of guys, two fast women in green Bryn Mawr uniforms, a women in short shorts, and Kevin. I was able to grunt a “hello” to him, and to my horror, he responded in several full sentences. At the Mile 1 marker, the clock read 5:50. The pace felt a little out of control.

Regret. I gazed longingly at the turnaround cone, placed much farther down this year, and tried to hang on to Kevin because he seemed to be going steady. In doing so, I passed two women, and I could see a green uniform about 10 yards ahead of me. At this point, my breathing was much more labored and my legs were turning over furiously. I told myself two things: “Focus on moving” and “I am not doing another 5K ever again.” I finally reached the turnaround cone… 1.6 more to go. This was going to hurt.

Drama. Something is wrong -- no one around me is slowing down. There wasn’t a clock at mile 2, so I glanced down at my watch (not sure why I didn’t just hit the split button) and I think it said 11:something. I was on personal record pace, but when will I fade? The last mile of the course is slightly uphill and the surface is slanted. I was digging deep. I noticed that I am picking up ground on the green shirt, at whom spectators are yelling “first woman”. That put me second, and I’d be happy with that. I tucked behind her and let her pull me forward. And then for no reason other than for some clean air, I pulled up next to her. We ran side by side for a minute. It must’ve been exciting to watch, as people were cheering for us. That gave me extra energy. Somehow, either she dropped back or I took some big strides, but I broke away. What next? We weren’t near the finish at all. I couldn’t look back, but I was scared to death of being outkicked at the finish line. Especially as I don’t have much reserved in the tank. And my lungs were burning. I looked ahead and spotted Kevin, but he’s clearly gone. When I passed the 3 mile marker, I shifted to my highest gear for the longest 0.1 mile of my life.

Déjà vu. Some guy blew pass me as I stepped on the chip mat. The clock read 18:40. Just earlier in the week, after doing 15x400s at 1:30 on the track, I was wondering out loud about whether it’s possible to run 6 minute pace in a 5K. I thought that I could do it -- with fresh legs, in the Fall, if I work on it over the summer. Somehow I did just that here. Yet, given last year’s fiasco, it wasn’t until I overheard a guy saying that the course is long according to his Garmin that I was able to accept that this time is legit. What a race! I shook hands with some familiar faces, cheered for other runners (also directed them to the real finish line, which was after the fake finish line), and jogged to the potty at Lloyd Hall as warm down.

Happily Ever After. My net time was 18:37.60, and I placed 23rd overall out of 1,400 people and 1st female. I couldn’t believe I broke 19 just like that (previous PR was 19:30). Since this is THE Earth Day race in the city, Mayor Nutter and Hurricane Schwartz attended the awards ceremony. I won a hand-made medal and gift cards to Philadelphia Runner, Metropolitan Bakery, and REI. I kinda feel guilty about the prizes. When I walked into Philadelphia Runner yesterday to exchange the gift card for new running shoes (Asics 2130!), the store manager recognized me from the race. He won the race outright and was so humble about it that I had to say “didn’t you win the race?!” He apparently didn’t accept the gift card because he works there. So, I got to have it. Let the record show that I am very very very appreciative of it all.

(I know this is the longest race report ever written for a 5K, but it's not like I break a personal record every time.)


noah said...

amazing time. to think you almost didn't give it a second chance!

Flo said...

You are my hero! Congratulations on such a zoomy victory.

I also raced the Clean Air last year (my first race, actually) so will evermore decorate the time with an asterisk as well. Annoying.

I'm enjoying your blog bigtime: sense of humor + great runner = inspirational fun. Looking forward to more!