Thursday, May 25, 2017

One Is The Most Anxious Number

In my last post, I mentioned that planning ahead is best for those who like to run races. So, when I saw an advertisement for the Medtronic TC One Mile happening in May, I decided to look into it.

I'm not going to discriminate against a race just because it's only one mile. Especially since the race was on a weekday, and weekday races are best for my schedule. I decided to register for the race, and I had a little over two months to work on my mile pace.

I've heard that improving your running time happens with hill work and speed work. Also, running longer distances helps. If I can get my body used to running a 5K, then I should, theoretically, be able to 'rock' a one mile.

Prior to the race, my best time for one mile was right around nine minutes. I didn't know if I would get much faster for the race. I honestly didn't even expect to. I just did my best to maintain a (mostly) regular running schedule. We have a treadmill, so I couldn't really use weather as an excuse for not running. Life got in the way of a couple of runs, but for the most part, I ran every other weekday for the two months leading up to the race.

The TC One Mile was on a Thursday evening. I don't generally like driving downtown, so I opted to take Metro Transit to the race venue. It just so happened that I could ride the bus for free with a special pass printed from the TC One Mile website. Score! When my family dropped me off at the bus station, I was already a bundle of nerves. I get super nervous before races anyway, but there were a couple of other things that were adding to my anxiety. I was nervous about the little "twinge" I kept feeling in my right quadricep. I was nervous about taking Metro Transit — it's not something I do often, and I rarely do it alone. I was nervous about whether or not my sister, who had agreed to pick me up after the race, would actually show up. Read my last post if you're curious as to why I question her reliability. So, when my bus was thirteen minutes late, I was pacing around the bus stop like a crazy person. I planned my trip so that I would get off of Metro Transit about an hour before the race. I had to walk about a quarter mile to get to the race start from where I got off the Light Rail. With my bus being late, I would miss my connection for the train.

Once I got on the bus, traffic, construction, and detours all added to my anxiety. I checked the time; 6:30. I was supposed to be there by 6:30. Instead, I was barely five minutes away from where I got on the bus. I got on my phone to search for the Light Rail schedule. What did people ever do without smartphones? Thankfully, a train ran every ten minutes. So, regardless of what time my bus got to the stop, I would be able to catch a train relatively quickly.

I made my connection (about thirty minutes after I planned to), and I got to my final destination without further incident. I still had thirty minutes to spare. I jogged to the 'sweats check' so that I could check my personal items. Then, I went down to the riverfront to take a few pictures. I ran into someone else from the Run the Year Facebook group, which was pretty neat considering there are 24,000+ people in the group.

There were several different start times for the race depending upon which wave you wanted to or qualified to run with. I opted to be in the competitive wave, because I was more serious about the race than those running the recreational wave. However, when I lined up for my start time, I started questioning whether or not I belonged in the competitive wave. Many of the racers looked very fit, very active, and much better at running than me. But, I chose to be there, not because I expected to win any prizes, but because I wanted to push myself. My goal was to finish in about nine minutes and to not get injured. Sometimes, the key to running faster—in addition to hill work, speed work, and higher mileage—is simply to run with people faster than you.

My favorite part about the route was that there were official time clocks every quarter mile. Every time I passed a clock, I tried to do the math in my head to figure out what my finish time would be. Even still, when I crossed the finish line at 8:23.6, I was shocked by my time. Regardless of seeing a clock every quarter mile, I still had no idea I was going that fast.

Shortly after finishing, I received a text from my sister. She was at the finish line. Sweet. Not only did the race go better than I could've hoped, but my ride didn't let me down. Her and I went to the race after-party for a bit. They had alcohol samples and other freebies that we took advantage of. We also shared a brownie from a food truck. Overall, it was a great experience. I would sign up again next year in a heart beat. Hopefully next year I won't be so anxious, since I've run the route and I know the drill. And hopefully by then, I'll be able to beat an 8:23 mile.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Forget the PR and Make Some Memories

Sometimes, you plan ahead. This is usually the case for people who run races, because many races require registering before the day of the race. While some races have walk-up registration, it is usually much cheaper to register well ahead of race day. Not to mention that race-day registration is not always guaranteed.

If you're someone like me, who has three kids, planning for a race becomes slightly more involved because a sitter is usually required.

I registered for the Anoka-Ramsey Community College Cambridge Campus 5K Family Fun Run on March 3, 2017, well ahead of the April 22 race day. There was no registration fee, but I wanted to commit to it early. I wanted to plan ahead.

Originally, the plan was that I would run the race alone, while my sister and her girlfriend walked with my three kids. I didn't expect my kids to want to run it, nor did I expect them to be excited about running it. But, I wanted to run it, and it was easier to bring them with. It's usually much easier to convince my family to watch my kids if I'm nearby, even if a 3.1 mile walk is involved.

I suppose that my sister and her girlfriend could've just played with the kids at the race site, rather than signing up to participate. I suppose that may have been less work for the kids. But, hindsight is 20/20.

A month before the race, my daughter found out that she would be participating in a school-related state competition on race day. Oh, well. As long as I could find her transportation, there was no reason why I couldn't still participate in the 5K with my two sons, still running on my own, while my sister and her girlfriend walked the route with them.

A couple of days before the race, my sister had to cancel. She had the opportunity to see an apartment that would hopefully become hers. So, now what was I supposed to do? I had no sitter. I guess it was time to make the decision, and admit to myself the reality that I would not be running this race for a PR. I would have to push my youngest son in the jogging stroller while my oldest son walked and ran beside me.

The idea of just walking 3.1 miles with my oldest son was pretty stressful. He's a particularly sensitive kid, and to be honest, I didn't know if he would make it. He's the kind of kid who whines about walking a few blocks to the park. So, in order to get him more excited about the race, I bought him an MP3 player, which I was going to let him carry in one of my SPIbelts. And, I had plenty of Sports Beans to bribe him with along the course.

Race day came and I dropped my daughter off at her friend's house so that she could be at her competition. Then, my sons and I headed to the college. The weather was picture perfect. We couldn't have paid for a more gorgeous day. We ended up ditching the idea of him using the MP3 player, because we just couldn't get the ear buds to stay in his ears. Not to mention that he's a skinny kid, and my SPIBelt wouldn't stay up on him. We lined up at the start, and when they blew the air horn to signal the start of the race, my son took off in a flash. I wasn't even ready to run yet, but I started trying to catch him. He ran for about 400 meters before I caught him and he said, "I'm tired." I knew that was going to happen with the way that he took off at the start. I gave him some water from the jogging stroller, and we continued on at a very slow pace. From then on, I continued running slowly, and he walked and then sprinted to catch me. Every so often, I would feed him a Sports Bean. Even if they didn't actually help him in any way, they definitely had a placebo effect.

I had to do a fair amount of walking to be with him. Once we got to the two mile mark, there were cones in the road. He came up with a strategy to help himself move forward, telling me that we would walk to a specific cone and then we would run. I basically tried to let him be in charge of the pace, but I also tried to push his limits a bit and encourage him to keep going. I would run ahead a little ways, and then I would walk until he caught up. We probably went through two packages of Sports Beans, because I would reward him with one every time he got to me.

He was exhausted by the time the finish line was in view, but he found enough energy to sprint the last fifty meters. In the end, he finished the race in 43:14. That time completely blew away any expectations I had of him. My time was 43:10 (chip time) and is my worst 5K time. But despite running my worst race, I'm not disappointed. The pride I felt after finishing with my son trumps any pride I may have had if I had run a PR. I think the memories that we created are far better than any PR, too.