Friday evening Troy and I traveled to Anniston, Alabama in hopes of securing a coveted Woodstock Bobblehead award...okay, so my real goal was just to run the 5k...in a respectable time...and have fun.
At least I got the fun part right.
Let me preface this post by saying that if anyone knows how to put on a 5k, it's the Anniston Running Club! Holy moly, they got EVERYTHING right! From the pasta dinner the night before (that was REAL food, served on REAL plates), to the post-race spread of Mellow Mushroom pizza, popsicles, watermelon, bananas, cookies, oranges and even Waffle House hashbrowns cooked on site...they really couldn't have done a better job! I've never seen such a well organized start and finish line, the race distance was spot-on, and the city streets were lined with spectators and volunteers. Even the play area they set up for the kiddos was impressive. The race director mentioned that the community "really supports this race"....and wow, do they ever!
As usual* we were late to the packet pick-up/pasta dinner. RC and crew were kind enough to pick up my packet, hold a table for us, and even secure a spot in line for us at the pasta dinner. After dinner RC took us over to the course to set-up our tent, and give us a sneak preview of the course. With the preview done, we headed back to our hotel to prep for the 5am wake up call.
*"Usual" in this context refers to the time period spanning the last 4 years. Prior to meeting Troy, I really used to be on time for things. Really, I did....
5am came too early (and so did 1am and 3am as I spent most of the night tossing and turning). For some reason, I really hadn't been nervous about this race. I'm not sure why. Maybe I really had convinced myself that running only 20 miles over the last two weeks would in fact be great race preparation, or maybe I was just being cocky again...whatever the reason, I just didn't have butterflies in my stomach.
...until RC, Troy, and I decided to do pre-race warm up by running the course. For what looked really innocent in the car the night before, was a totally different story on foot. The first mile was mostly downhill and flat. E-A-S-Y. The only struggle I thought I might have was going out too fast. We made a couple of turns through the downtown residential area during the first mile. On the 3rd or 4th turn, we began to run a long stretch of road (approximately 1/2 mile in length) that looked harmless. From the car, it looked flat. Now, on the pre-race warm up, I could already feel my heart rate rising with each step. It was not in fact flat, but a steady incline for the entire 1/2 mile. And as I was getting out of breath, not even half-way through the course (on the warm-up no less), I started to get those dreaded butterflies. Thoughts of only running 20 miles over the last two weeks, not running hill repeats, etc started to flood my mind. What had I gotten myself into?
We finally made a right turn and the road began to level out...another right turn and we were headed back downhill. Yahoo! Recovery time! Another half mile or so of rolling hills followed by another half mile of flat-flat-flat...in my mind, I began to convince myself that whatever I had lost on that last mile, I could surely makeup on this flat terrain. The final half mile was another climb, but again in my ridiculous mind, I thought that my sheer will to PR would help me climb that last hill.
Boy, was I wrong.
The race sortof went like this:
Mile 0-1: Wow this is easy...maintaining a 7:47 pace, giving myself enough leverage to slow down on mile 2 (if I have to). Why was I ever nervous?
Mile 1-2: Oh dear...what was I thinking? Why am I even running this race? At least I'm still passing people, but really, am I going to make it? [insert a few random prayers] Oh my...am I really thinking about walking? Whose stupid idea was it to run this course in the most hilly part of town? I saw some really good stretch of flat road on my way in...stupid race directors...I'm never running this race again....really, another hill? Give me a break! I hate this race and everything it stands for: torture, insanity, and just plain meanness.
Mile 2-3: Hmmm...well, I'm now 19 seconds off of my overall pace to run a 24:14. Maybe I can make it up on that flat part. Maybe the race directors aren't so stupid after all. Maybe, wow just maybe, it's my fault that I'm running such a horrible race. Ok, shaved 3 of those 19 seconds off...maybe there is still hope for me...why am I running so slow...why won't my legs keep going? I'm never under training again. This really sucks. And I still have one more hill. Just don't walk...just don't walk...just don't walk.
Mile 3 - 3.11: I really really hope that RC and his family and Troy have decided to go get a drink and aren't watching for me at the finish line. I can't even muster a smile...and I'm certainly not going to PR...[insert prayer that they had to run to the car and won't be there to watch me cross the finish line]...this is going to be embarrassing.
And yes, they were all there at the finish line...with cameras in tow...to catch all my miserableness in action. I could even hear them yelling for me even though I never saw them. Total embarrassment, miserableness, and some serious kicking of myself for under training.
Of course, it only took about 5 minutes of cooling down to decide that I'll be back next year!
I will not let this race beat me!
I went into this race knowing that I would have placed 3rd in my age group if I ran last year's race based on my current PR...so I was really disappointed to look at the race results and realize that I could have placed 3rd in this year's race if I had of trained well the last two weeks. I ended up tying for 4th...just more motivation to go back next year and try for 2nd place (or even 1st!) in my age group.
RC had an awesome race, running it in 17:17 (his goal was 17:20)! Way to go RC!
RC's Mom won First Grandmaster! Way to go Rosie!
And Jim (Team POD) and MaryAnn (Jim's wife) ran a hard-fought race themselves.
The final prize winner for the day was a man who has been participating in the race for the last 15 or 20 years...as he approached the finish line...a little over an hour and a half after the race started, the spectators gathered around the finish line, chanting his name, clapping, screaming...he wore bib number 92 to signify his age...92 years old...he shook his arms in the air as he crossed under the finish line...the whole town stopped what they were doing to cheer him in...it was an amazing, and humbling sight, and one that I won't miss next year for anything!