Sunday, June 13, 2010

Night Flight 5K Race Report

Pre-Race Friday
The way things came together for me on race day were important in my dealing with the very slow time psychologically. This was, in fact, the slowest 5K I've run in a few years. There may be good reasons for that, but I'm not looking for excuses.
Lately, in fact, I've felt more like re-naming my blog "SheRunsSlow," or "Building a Slower Me," because I swear, that's what it feels like.
I was running my strongest ever in mid-March, when I had my unfortunate round with the aliens. I haven't been back there since. But, hey, it's been three months now, time to HTFU.
But, in the back of my mind, there was a nagging worry. My passage into running is more about a second chance on life after a devastating illness that should have by all means claimed me. Although I will manage this for the rest of my life with medication and routine testing by my doctor, there is always the chance things can take another really bad turn. It is a real fear that haunts me daily.
Ironically, Friday was also the day of my annual check-up (oh, how happy I am that this is only yearly now.. it used to be weekly--or more often in the beginning).
I thought about Lance Armstrong and what he had to overcome, as he chronicled in It's Not About the bike (which I read a couple of years ago). What if.... I am getting sick again? I wrote this in my review of the book back then:

And for me, he's captured why I run: "But now I knew exactly why I was riding: if I could continue to pedal a bike, somehow I wouldn't be so sick." "As long as I could move, I was healthy." "Move. If you can still move, you aren't sick."
I embrace this thought daily; the fear of being sick again, regressing, somehow letting my illness take hold of me and pull me back down means that I run almost every day. I panic when I don't run for this very reason. If I can still run, everything is OK. If I can run faster than last month, I'm getting better... not sicker.
Quite frankly, going into Friday night's race, I was getting worried. But after several hours of testing, I walked out a free woman. In the battery of tests, it was determined that I was as healthy as I'd ever been. I was not--in fact--getting sicker. Far from it. My results were excellent.

Now onto the race. It was hot. On the way back from my testing, the car thermometer held steady at 98F for most of the drive. It had cooled only to 85F by race start, and I sweated standing still. My two mile warm up at 8:30 PM left me drenched already.

The Start
We lined up, and it was about 400-500 runners--all donning various glow bracelets, necklaces and the like. I had four myself. I picked a spot about six rows in from the front-runners, not really sure what I'd be running. One woman next to me looked me up and down and edged past me quite certain that she belonged further up front than I did. We traded twice, I finally let her have it. I found this particularly amusing, and promised myself to look up her time later. For the record, she ran a 41:01. Glad she got up close.
We took off right on time (9 PM, just after sunset), and began the out and back course. The first quarter mile was a fairly steep downhill, which worried me as I knew what that meant for the last quarter mile (even with my blonde hair, I could do that math). I let my stride relax and lengthen a bit and got a secure position. Then it was uphill a bit, capped with a hairpin turn and then a sharp turn to the right down Douglas Street (where most of the race took place).

Mile 1
I was counting backwards from 24:00 in my head, as that was my best guess as to what I was going to run. But at the 18:00 to go point, and nary a breeze, I was melting. And the second incline of the race began. Not to overstate the hill, but it was there and I was hot. It peaked just past the one mile point. We passed Dairy Queen. I sincerely thought about dropping out and sitting in the deep freezer.
Nearly to the half way, we had two turns through downtown Lees Summit, and they had quite a bit of music and people out cheering us on. That was definitely a highlight for me.
I was pretty sure at this point (having carefully examined the lead pack while they began their trip back down Douglas) that I was the third female overall. Not to say I was running fast, but I decided I really wanted to hang onto that and was willing to suffer a bit to do so. Third sounds worth mentioning. Fourth... well, not so much.

Mile 2
We turned, and just past the third hill (and mile 2) I could hear an adult male speaking to what seemed like a child behind me, "Ok, you ready? We're going to do it now..." And sure enough, a 30-ish male with a young girl in tow surged past me. Hmmm.. I might get kidded [Thanks, Joe, for the perfect term, "kidded!"]. Was I going to let her get third female? No way. I determined above all else, I would not let her get too far in front of me (though she was adorable) and I would outkick her at the end.
Soon, her coach let her go to hold her own and surged up to start talking to another young boy quite a bit far ahead. I slowly reeled her in, and as we began the fourth ascent to the left I surged past her and decided it was just my moment to hang on. I could her her plodding patter behind me.

The Finish
Another hairpin turn and up that last (fifth) hill. I was miserably hot and out of any energy, but I was not going to lose my position, so I didn't let the hill defeat me. At the crest, I sprinted to the finish line. One of the officials called out my bib number as third female, my family was waiting and told me I was third female, so I was pretty confident of this going into the awards ceremony as I had also come to the same conclusion. My final official time was 24:02, not so fast. But hey, I did it.

Final Results and Wrap-Up
As it turns out, I was also not third female overall. Another woman ran a 22:30 for third place, although I never saw her. I saw 1 (19:33 time) and 2 (20:30). Not sure what happened there we all missed her, but oh well. She also didn't show at the awards ceremony (shame on her ;) ).
I did love how I had to push through, the feeling of the race, the excitement building... and the possibility I might do better than I actually did. I resolved to do this more often, as I think good things can be gained from it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and actually feel quite sharpened as a result. I have no regrets, despite the slow time.
We are runners. A runner who doesn't race is like a musician who doesn't perform. I've become more resolved for my 2011 goals as a result of this, and I will be running a lot of races--good or bad--I'm going to have a blast!


  1. I loved reading your report. You've inspired me for so long although I'm nowhere in your league. I will run Boston someday though and hopefully before I'm 60. I chuckled on this posting because the group of ladies that I run with, we ran a 5K this w/e to support a fellow runner who was on the board of the charity that this run benefits. We were tacking this race onto the end of a Saturday morning long run and took the race at a leisurely pace. It wasn't as hot as your race, about 85 and 82% humidity. We walked the hills and all of us, we're between ages 45 and 60, finished just a little over 34 min., our normal finish would be 26ish. Can you believe we swept the medals for our age group? Well, it was a small race. Being able to run is truly a blessing that I thank God for everyday.

  2. 50something, Thanks so much for the visit! I took a peek at your blog and enjoyed the read. Do you have a Boston Qualifier on the plan yet? --Alex

  3. Hi Alex, I was wondering what marathon training schedule do you recommend? The last one I did was run fast run less. The FIRST training institute book. Just looking for some options before I start training for Chicago. Thanks and congratulations on your 5K.

  4. Cami,
    That is a very complex question! I'm training for Chi as well. When was your last marathon? What was your time and what are your goals for Chi? What were your struggles in the last marathon? How much time do you have to devote to training? What was your highest mileage in the past year or so? If you want, you can email me at fongrrl at gmail dot com. --Alex

  5. I love the mile-by-mile adventure of your race. So exciting! Congrats on an excellent race!
    After an Oly Tri and aquathon this week, I have the race experience fresh in my mind, with its hyper-awareness during peak effort. These events leave me with a joy from simply being ABLE!
    A reread of Hawkings "A Brief History of Time" leaves me pondering the intensity of life and memory during race experiences. Hawkings puts forth the theory that as we approach the speed of light, time slows. My theory? Maybe as we race (approaching the speed of light) we slow our consciousness, see life more fully, and approach immortality! Think?

  6. Lorraine, Love the concept.. I definitely know that I feel more awake, alive and hopeful in race effort. It is so exciting.. and missing out on the opportunity to race if you are a runner (or other discipline) means you miss out on this feeling. So glad to hear you are doing well--wonderful to hear from you! Congrats! --Alex

  7. Hello. I don't know how to contact you directly, so I'm hoping you'll read this comment.

    I just wanted to say that I stumbled across a quote you had written awhile back about qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and it was really inspirational to me.

    6. Toughness. I don't really know how to describe this, but I felt it forming in me as I learned to race 5Ks. I referred to it as my "edge" earlier. There were several things I read that motivated me; helped me to understand that I can run through pain and I can keep going when I want to quit. And I don't mean keep going when it gets a little tough; I mean keep going when just about anyone else really would quit or slow down at least. But if you want to achieve your greatest; this is a quality that must be learned; embraced. I kept thinking (during the marathon) about how the runners who ran with Dean in the 50 marathons / 50 states / 50 days would "plan" to drop at the half marathon point, but none of them ever did--not one. Even when they weren't trained. The human body is capable of such a greater effort than we give it credit. You just have to learn how to dig deep and leverage it. And that's what racing is all about. Your fitness will only get you so far to your greatest achievement. It was my grit that brought me to the finish line in 3:38:22, and not 3:50:59... or slower.

    I recently completed the Great Wall Marathon in China (my first marathon) and it was the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life. I got to a point where I was in so much pain I just didn't think I could continue. I'd never run close to that distance before and definitely not anything with those kinds of conditions or level of difficulty.

    I thought of your quote and pushed myself to keep going, repeating "toughness" to myself as I pressed on and refusing to stop despite every part of my body screaming at me that there was no possible way to go any further.

    I just wanted to say thank you for that and for helping me get through the Great Wall Marathon, which was an amazing experience that I'll never forget.


  8. Joe, Your post couldn't have come at a better time. Many times over the past few days, I've reflected on it--and I'm so grateful you wrote! I would love to hear your full race report, please let me know if it's posted somewhere. There are a few marathons on my list, and the Great Wall is one of them--I've heard it's absolutely incredible. Congratulations on finishing! And thank you so much for your kind words. --Alex

  9. I've posted my race report here:

    It was really an incredible experience in so many ways. I hope you get to run it some day.

    Having now completed the Great Wall Marathon, I've decided that one of my next goals will be to qualify for Boston. I used to think it would be impossible for me to ever reach that level (3:10 for my age group), but now, I'm sure that if I want it badly enough, I can get there eventually. So much of what we can achieve in distance running is mental and is dependent on toughness, desire and willpower to stay focused on the goal. Thanks again for helping me realize that.

  10. Great update. you race is very good. i can say that you detailed report is amazing.


  11. Thanks, Amy! And thanks for the spyder link. --AG