I'm currently in my bed typing this, recovering from the ice bath and then a nice warm shower. With my race goal achieved beyond my expectations, my only goal for the remainder of this day involves figuring out what to eat for dinner!
Today was the Home Run 5 Miler at Bernheim Forest. If you've read my other blog entries, you'd know that Bernheim is probably my single most favorite place to spend my time! That being said, this race was my most anticipated race of the year, with the exception of my first race ever back in March, the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic. Coincidentally, I first learned about the Home Run 5 Mile race from a postcard that was placed INSIDE of my Anthem 5K Fitness Classic packet! From that day, I planned to run this race. Funny, looking back, I remember doubting myself because I didn't think I'd be able to run 5 miles and that I'd have to put in so much training to be able to even complete it!
My mom's been bitten by the race bug since we did the American Heart Walk together. Since, she's completed two races, including today's Home Run 5K (they held a 5 mile race AND a 5K, simultaneously). DBF has run a couple of 5Ks with me this year (his first was the Anthem 5K as well) and at the last minute, he decided to register and run the 5K as well. It was great to have them there, especially before the race for the company and after the race to cheer me in--they were both finished with the 5K by the time I finished my 5 miles, so they were waiting for me at the end!
The start was casual and this was not a chip timed event, but most people running it seemed happy and a lot of the runners I spoke to have been running this for a couple of years or more. It's just one of those races that you love to do because of the beautiful scenery and the overal feeling of the event. It's a great cause--benefitting the Home of the Innocents, a non-profit organization that helps children in severe need of assistance with just about any crisis--from pregnant teens to autistic children, and even abused and displaced children. The course was lined with signs stating figures and facts related to the Home of the Innocents and their causes, which was a GREAT thing! It was a great way to inform us and help keep us focused on why we were there!
The 5K and 5 Mile course started at the same location but split off at two points--once around the 1.5 mile mark and meeting again less than a mile after; and then splitting off again near the 5K finish to have the 5 milers run an uphill/downhill section before finishing our race.
I definitely wasn't in the mood to run today, just didn't feel in the "zone" at all. Plus, it was a little chilly and I just couldn't get into it. I started pretty far back, just to hang out with my mom and DBF before the race and as I said, it was a pretty laid back start so I wasn't too worried. My goal was to be very conservative for the first 2 miles and then run an all out 5K, because I knew I could do that without any problems and I'd still get in at a respectable time for me. I was hoping for 55:00 but expected to come in around 1:00:00, especially since I wasn't feeling like putting in the effort!
During the first mile, I was just focusing on running a smooth, easy pace and then I felt a tap on my shoulder--I looked over and it was DBF running with me! What a nice surprise! We ran together for about a mile, and I multi tasked, focusing both on my pace but also on his, trying to keep him focused and strong so that he wouldn't burn out before the end of his race. At the first mile marker, my watch (which I had synced with my start line cross, not the race start time) showed 11:39. I worried I might have been going too fast for me for 5 miles but I was feeling good so tried to maintain the pace through mile 2. Eventually, the first course split appeared where the 5 milers had to veer off to take another course, the volunteer yelled, "Ohh c'mon, don't let HER be the bigger woman!" DBF didn't even hear her! He ended up with a respectable finish for his 5K and I'm really proud (and happy) that he ran it! I know he had fun and I'm glad he did well!
After running around Ten Toms Hollow, which consisted of gently rolling hills that weren't too challenging, the 5 mile course merged again with the 5K course. This proved to be both exciting and a little annoying! My mom spotted me (she was looking behind her to find me I think) so I focused on steadily approaching her. It was a rush of adrenaline to run beside the 5K participants because some of them were genuinely impressed (even by little ol' slow me) with those of us running the 5 miles. I heard comments like "I don't know how they do it..." and my favorite, "Move over honey, let the more serious runners through!" :) Of course, there were the annoying ones, but there were definitely less of those than at any other race! I had to maneuver through quite a few people walking, but 99% of the time, when I yelled out "On your right/left" they moved quickly and without problem.
At mile 3, my watch showed 31:xx, which for me, was great. I was happy that I was going at a decent pace but again, worried that I was going to burn out so I kept telling myself to slow down a little. After mile 3, I really started to push my pace and felt that I was working harder than normal--which was fine, this IS a race, after all! By the time I reached the second course split for the 5 milers (where the 5K finished) I realized where they were taking us and I was NOT happy. I'm familiar enough with the course to know that they only road they had left to dedicate to us 5 milers was Fire Tower Road. This displeased me. Why, you ask? Because it's one long road that goes completely uphill on the way to the Fire Tower. Sure enough, that's where we ran the last leg of our race--a constant uphill battle! I was so happy (and sad) to see a fellow forumite pass me (he was running downhill while I was running up)--happy because I saw him and it feels good to see SOMETHING familiar or fun when you're tired of running, and sad because I know he's a faster runner than me and if he was going downhill at that point, I knew I had a LOT left! LOL
I found a couple of ladies to pace myself with, they looked pretty strong so I just stayed with them for the duration of the uphill. Once we turned around to start the descent (and the stretch that would lead us to the finish) I figured everyone would glide down. However, my "pacers" stayed steady at their current pace. I felt good enough that I decided I wanted to push this downhill and take advantage of the forward motion for the final 3/4 mile or so that remained. I pushed past the ladies and quite a few others and when I got near the finish, it was AMAZING! There were so many people cheering and clapping and it was just an awesome experience. DBF walked over to me and cheered me on (and told me to sprint, which I declined!), and I saw mom clapping and happy on the side, cheering me in too! She finished her 5K well, too, and had a blast. I'm so glad she has such a good time doing something so good for her!
At the finish, which I somehow totally missed...I almost missed the chute and was still running full pace because I never saw the finish line! At the end of the chute, I finally stopped running and realized that the finishers in front of me also had no idea where the finish was, so I felt better! My watch had me finishing at 53:20, which was over a minute faster than my WISH time! That made my pace for this race 10:40, which is just such an amazing improvement for me. It's just so great to see the improvements--not just in time but in overall fitness DURING these events. I don't find myself gasping or panting, and my muscles all feel stronger. My endurance is greater and my speed is coming and I'm so happy that my hard work pays off!
On the flip, though, I'm going to have to figure out my "push point." I had SO much more energy left after this race, it was unbelievable. I was running for a cool down, I was running to the car to get my pants and pullover, I was running wherever I found the chance--AFTER THE FREAKING RACE! Mom, DBF and I went to Denny's after the award ceremony and I couldn't sit still, my legs were constantly moving. So when we got home, I actually went out and ran around my neighborhood. So, if I was able to run and feel comfortable doing so AFTER the race, I think it's fair to assume that I didn't give ENOUGH during the race.
I guess my goal now is to determine what amount of "push" is just enough.
Next races--I have nothing concrete plannned but I will probably be registering for the Polar Bear Grand Prix to get me through the winter. More on that later.