Saturday, March 23, 2013

Strongsville Super Saturday 5k

Today I ran my second official 5k--the Strongsville Super Saturday. The weather was a little frostier than originally expected, but the wind was mild and the sun was bright, so it was all I could really have asked for.
I had been entertaining the idea of running a 5k for about a week this past January when a friend posted on Facebook that she was doing a 5k and wondered if anyone wanted to join her. Figuring it must be a sign, I signed up too. :)
My original reason for doing the race was to give me an incentive to continue working out 5 days a week, and to do so more intensely than I had been over the holidays (which had been a low-impact 20 minute workout each day). But, being slightly competitive, I soon tacked a PR goal onto that--I wanted to be 5 minutes faster than my previous 5k time of 35:12 (that I'd run at the Chili Bowl 5k in February 2011).  The winter here has been cold and snowy, and for the first couple weeks of training I was running on our treadmill and the times I was pulling did not look good. 12 and 11 minute miles were just not going to cut it, and I began to think that a 30 minute 5k was a little too optimistic. I got a little nervous. Then, the weather turned a little nicer, and I got a few runs in outside, which revealed that our treadmill hadn't been calibrated correctly, and I had actually been running about a 10 minute mile. So I began to hope again. And then, on the last two Mondays, when I ran a 2 3/4 and a 3 mile run under my goal 9:50/mile pace, and I realized a my goal was possible, I decided to tweak my "ultimate" goal again--to 29 minutes (but still be satisfied with at least a sub-30 time).
The eve of the race finally came and I began to get nervous again. Was 2 rest days before the race too many? Had I trained enough? Was I familiar enough with the course to run the race like I wanted to? After stewing over it for 20 minutes in bed, I decided I just had to trust that the training schedule I'd been following wouldn't lead me astray and hope that it'd be enough.

Me, Shelley, and Jessica are all smiles before the race. We're excited and ready to start!
This morning we picked up my friend Shelley (the one who had invited me to sign up), and headed for the start line, where we picked up our shirts and bibs, and met up with our friend Jessica (who was also running the race). Nervous and excited, we took a couple quick pictures then chatted together at the start line for the last few minutes before the race began.
Finally, the gun sounded and we were off! After a slightly frustrating start (of technical difficulties with my watch and MP3 player), my tempo song (the one I'd been training to that kept me to the beat of my 30 minute goal pace) was on and I was in the groove (and hoping I didn't have too much time to make up).
We cruised through the first mile (which was mostly downhill) and were excited to know that we completed it right at 9 minutes! But the real test--the hill--was coming up (at mile 1.5). "Alright" I told myself "It's just a hill. It's not too bad. You can do this." But then we saw it, and it was MUCH steeper than I expected. "That's ok." I told myself again. "Just keep to the beat of the song and you'll get through it. Just keep on pace." Right about that time I saw a lone spectator holding a sign off to our left, and I thought "What a sweet angel to be right here where their friend--and all of us--needs them most. Bless that person." And then I looked a little closer and realized that it was one of our friends from Church, Elizabeth Brown. I was SO grateful to see a friendly face. With that encouragement, I powered up the hill while Shelley and Elizabeth ran together behind me, and caught up to Jessica who'd pulled ahead a little while before. Running side by side, we took on another (much smaller, but still significant) hill and finished up our second mile at 18:10. "The worst is over" I told Jessica, and to myself said "Over halfway there."
The hills had taken more out of me than I'd expected, and as we took a turn onto our second-to-last street, I had to keep reminding myself "You can do this! You've done this before! Just keep running to the beat!" (I learned in this race how important running to music is; it kept me on pace and kept me going when I otherwise would have slowed down time and again. It really was a lifesaver.)
Cruising in to the finish line along the final stretch.

Still running mostly together, Jessica and I took our final turn with less than a half mile left in the race, and saw some more familiar faces--our friends Danny and Crystal (Crystal had run the 1 mile race before the 5k--which she smoked) were there shouting my name and cheering me on. It really was such a blessing as I had needed some more encouragement right then (thanks guys!!), because though Travis and I had decided that this is when I was going to speed it up, I honestly wasn't sure how much I had left to give. But, digging a little deeper, I started lengthening my stride and reassuring myself (again and again) that I was almost there.
Then we were to the final .125 (or 200 yards) of the 5k, which was a straightaway to the finish line (and where I had planned to go "all out"). Adrenaline pumping, and with some more cheers from Elizabeth and Travis and the girls in sight (oh how it made my heart happy to see my girls and Travis's smiling face and hear him cheering excitedly for me), I gave it all I had...

Seeing my sweet family and knowing I'm almost there.
Grinning after Travis telling me "Smile! You're going fast!"
and crossed the finish line at 28:00.7!! "I did it!" I thought. I'd EXCEEDED my goal and smashed my old record by over 7 minutes! I felt so amazingly happy and proud.

I found out after the race that I had also finished 7th in my gender and age bracket (25-29 year old women) and 115th out of 263 runners overall. It felt so good to not be at the end of the pack! 

Jessica and Shelley were close behind and we huddled together for congratulations and another picture before going home.

Shelley coming in strong.
Finished and happy with our times and grateful to Elizabeth for her support.

All cleaned up and wearing my race threads. :)

I'm SO grateful that I signed up for this 5k. The commitment really got me going on those training days that I felt sick or tired (or lazy) and got me to get my exercise in anyway (and I always felt a really nice sense of accomplishment when I did). And of course exceeding even my "ultimate" goal for this race feels so SO good. There's just something wonderful about testing yourself and seeing what you're really capable of.
After I finished, Elizabeth commented that I need to catch the running bug. And maybe I have. That competitive part of me kind of wants to know if I have a faster time in me. So, til then...


anita holloway said...

What a great post. I felt nervous, excited and elated for you while reading this. Way to go!

Crystal Carlson said...

Way to go Jenny! You did awesome & should be super proud--beating your previous time by 7 minutes is amazing!

Rachel Holloway said...

SO AWESOME! You look beautiful and strong and I am so proud of you!!!