Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In Which I Tell the Story of My No Good, Terrible, Very Bad 5k

So I participated in my first 5k event this past Sunday.

A quick backstory on my running history: I ran track in high school, didn't run at all during college, started running again about 2 years ago, quit, and from then on kept yo-yo'ing between running and not running. This past March, my grandmother passed away from cancer, and I decided that I done half-assing anything to do with my health and wellness, so the next day (March 19) I started to run. I could run 1 mile and that's it, and at the end of that 1 mile, I felt like I was dying. But I trained 4 days a week, slowly inching up my time and distance.

So. Race day comes. I know that I am mentally and physically capable of running 3.1 miles--just a couple weeks earlier, I'd run 6.5 miles of trails with a friend. I'd only heard good things about what a race was like, how the crow'd energy was infectious and adrenaline would speed you through the end. I was ready.

Hubby and me before the race. Excited and confident!

There was one little thing about the race that I hadn't truly taken into account: the time. All these weeks, I'd been training early in the morning, between 6:30-7:30 AM. Even launched into early spring/summer like we were down here in Georgia, the temperatures were cool enough to be pleasant.

But race day?

Race day was gorgeous--if you weren't about to run 3 miles. Race day was 88 degrees and not a cloud in the sky--which of course means the sun was brutally shooting its death rays onto the the runners.

The race started at 2:35 PM. I knew it would be trouble, but I wasn't prepared for the magnitude. I ate only a small bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, and around 11 AM a slice of whole wheat toast with soy "peanut" butter. By race time, I was starving.

Finally, it was go time. I was already sweating. The email the race organizers had sent out earlier said the course was a 1.5 mile loop, so we'd only have to lap twice. I was prepared to lap twice. Turns out, it was a 1 mile loop, so we had to lap three times. It's not easy to lap three times, knowing exactly what difficulty lies ahead--like the stretch of the course being scorched by the sun.

Gathering at the starting line. That's me in the green visor, starting to feel anxious.
The airhorn blew, and we were off. I'd never run in a crowd before, so it was odd having so many bodies around me. I couldn't immediately settle into my comfortable pace. The first half mile was spent breaking out of the pack and wiggling my way forward to a place where I could go at my training speed, which is around a 10-11 minute/mile. Certainly not fast, but a decent pace that I trained at which would have me finishing the entire race in (I hoped) less than 36:00.

The first mile was good. All my favorite music on the Hair Metal playlist is near the beginning, so I was flying to Def Leppard and AC/DC. The trail was new, so I didn't know what to expect. I was confident.

I'm pretty sure this is about 30 seconds into the race. Ha!
Then came the second mile. At first, I thought I was okay. I made it through the sunny part, had enough energy to speed up the series of hills, and then...then I suddenly realized, "It's freaking hot out here." All it took was that one thought. Suddenly, I felt like I'd been hit by a bus. I started getting wrapped up in how I was feeling and took my attention off my breath--next thing I know, I have a terrible side stitch stabbing me under the right ribs.

At this point, I'm still running, but the word "walk" had started whispering around in my head. Once it shows up, it's really hard to ignore it.

Finally, about half-way through the second mile, the side stitch was so severe that I had to stop running and walking just to lean over and do belly breaths to get rid of it. It went away, and I started jogging again--but it was too late. My body had already felt the sweet glory of not blasting my heart rate up to 165 in 88 degree heat, and it wanted nothing more to do with that whole running business.

I'd declined water on the first lap, but on the second mile I was dying of thirst. When I came near the water station, I slowed for a second, gulped it down, and told myself if I could just make it the next half-mile, I could walk in the shade. At this point, around 2.25 miles, my time was already at 25 minutes. A tiny voice in my head said "you can do the last three-quarters in 10 minutes and still make your goal time."

I didn't. I couldn't even make it across the sunny field before pure exhaustion hit me. The first hill rose up, and I walked it. And the next one. And then I walked all the way into the woods. At one point, I thought I might vomit. More than once I thought I'd pass out from the heat. I felt disconnected from my body, shaky--pretty much everything that is bad.

But then I decided to just run again. I was in the shade, I'd cooled off a little. If I'd just run, the slowest run I could, then I'd finish faster and be able to go home and lie in a tub of ice all that much sooner.

So I turned off the playlist, dialed up one of my favorite songs, and just started running. It was the most pathetic slog you've ever seen. One foot in front of the other and nothing more. But I kept at it, and when the finish line was coming into sight, I managed to pick up my pace just enough that I slid in under the finish line at 39:55.

Before the race, I said my only goals were 1) to finish, and 2) to run the entire time. Obviously I crushed number 2, but at least I did finish. I had plenty of negative self-talk going on, especially around mile 2. During mile 3, my brain was pretty much heat mush.

I staggered to the tree where my husband and in-laws were sitting and collapsed on the ground.

Normally, I would never show this caliber of unflattering picture of myself, but I think it perfectly captures exactly how I felt after the race:

Like dying. Basically.

So that was my first race experience. Absolutely godawful.

But, at least it's behind me now. I'm disappointed in myself, yes--but I'll at least give myself some leeway on the heat. It was brutal, and I hadn't trained for it at all. And now I know that I will never, ever, ever sign up for an afternoon race in the beginning of summer again.

The End.


Old Kitty said...

Oh Summer!! Oh you star! But it's scary to be running in such heat and to feel physically bad! :-(

But you did it!! You did it!! And yes, never again in such conditions!

Hugs, hugs, hugs to you! Take care

Matthew MacNish said...

I think you should be proud of yourself. You didn't give up. You finished. That's what really matters. You can always keep training and getting better.

Linda G. said...

You know what I got out of that? You finished. You overcame unforeseen obstacles, and you powered through. You ROCK! :)

Shain Brown said...

Summer, please. You sucked it up like a hero and finished. That is what you should be proud of.

Next time you can focus on running the entire length. Be proud of yourself you had quite the experience and learned a lot. We are all proud of you.

Luna said...

You are amazing for going out there and doing it! I'm sure you'll kick butt in the next one.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

good for you, Summer! But Egads...who schedules a race for mid afternoon in Georgia?????

Charity Bradford said...

Ditto all of the above, especially the who schedules an afternoon race ANYWHERE?? You shouldn't beat yourself up for listening to your body. In that kind of heat and running on low fuel, you did the right thing. I know that doesn't help the mental talk much, but think of how much better you'll do in a morning race that's cooler.

Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

Oh my gosh, Summer. UGH What an awful experience. I'm so sorry. I totally understand that feeling. I used to run. My first ten miler I LOVED. I did it again a year later and thought I was going to freaking die.

Give yourself LOTS of leeway for the heat. It can play a huge factor.

Joan Crawford said...

Love you times a million! GOOD FOR YOU! You did it! I actually did throw up at soccer try-outs in high school :) Good God, I hate even walking at a leisurely pace at any temp above 82, so hats off to you!

Unknown said...

Now that it's behind you, and you've experienced the myriad emotions from the race, you can celebrate the successes you had. You finished the race, despite everything. That's huge!! And now you have a baseline to compare future race experiences against. You have a better idea how to adjust when fueling and hydrating, both prior to and during a race. And you have a time-to-beat, for next time. I'm so proud of you, Summer. Making your health a priority in your life is so great. Rock on, sister!!

Sarah Ahiers said...

You still did awesome!! 40 min is nothing to be sad about, it's an awesome time! We've only been doing about 45 min (though we always have a few mins of walking, just because i really need something to reward myself with, otherwise that bad voice comes out)
And you proved to me something i only suspected, that morning racing is better. Which is why I signed up for a 10:30 wave of the zombie run. At the very least, it may be less muddy.
You did awesome!! And you'll do even better the next time!

Sarah Ahiers said...

Also that last pic of you is adrobs.
And for some reason you kind of look like my youngest sister in it, which is weird, because you really don't look like her at all

Lola Sharp said...

It pisses me off that you're disappointed in yourself. Summer, it was your first freaking race, and in horrible muggy heat...you should be PROUD of yourself! You finished!!! And you've learned things...all the things Nicole (and you) mentioned. Now you know how to train for heat, and not to do afternoon races, when to hydrate more, etc. Dude, you should only feel proud.

I'm certainly proud of you!
You did all that training while in a demanding nursing program and writing a book.

Erin L. Schneider said...

Believe me, I know exactly how you feel. My first 5k was very similar - but instead of a hot afternoon, it was a freezing 26 degrees at 7am in Seattle, in December. My legs practically broke off from the cold and my time: 42:00 - which was no where near my goal of 34.
It's your first race. It's only up from here, I swear. Keep at it and use it as motivation to do better in the next one. At least you're running again - and that's what matters most!
I'm thinking of doing the Zombie "Run for your Lives" 5k here in Seattle - it sounds like a blast, and well, I think there's definite motivation when a zombie is chasing you! :) If you're interested: http://runforyourlives.com/
Keep it up, Summer!

Hannah said...

I would probably react like you. I'm very hard on myself and when I can't get over something physically, it basically convinces me that I suck.

I have the zombie run on Saturday. It's supposed to be "nice" but we're not running until 3 or so. I'm super nervous as I not only just started running in January, but I have never ran in a "race."

At least, you finished and you're alive to tell the tale...right??