Monday, May 11, 2009

5k Fiasco

I feel the need to clarify from the beginning: For once, I am not the fiasco to which the title refers. Rather, the organization of the 5k Run Wild for a Cure event this past weekend was a mess.

Based on my 10k, I decided that a finish time between 32 and 34 minutes would be okay, and a time under 32 minutes would be fantastic. On the way to the race in the morning, I visualized myself at the start: nervous but excited. Getting off to a decent pace, a bit faster than on my usual runs, but easily maintainable. I would stay strong and keep everything in check for the first mile, leading up to the huge hill that starts Mile 2. I would power up the hill, and at the top, I'd feel a sense of accomplishment because the race was half over, the hill was behind me, and I knew I would be able to finish strong. At that point, I would pick up the pace and make the most of going back down the hill to relax my muscles but still use the momentum to pick up speed. I would tough it out through the last mile, and fly across the finish line. I pictured myself with a finish time of 31:45—just enough below my expected finish range to be exciting but possible.

I was excited and nervous at the start, so it was all going according to plan. People flew by me left and right, which I'm getting used to. I held my pace, and started passing people about 1/2 mile in. I was feeling pretty good, closing in on the one-mile mark and the uphill. I reached a fork in the road, and veered right to head towards the hill. Not everyone was going the same way, however.

It was a mess. There was a huge surge of runners, I wasn't sure if they had started the 1 mile race? Wasn't that just a walk, though? Either way, a lot of runners were charging up the initial incline and heading left and right, willy nilly. No one seemed to know where they were going, and there was a lot of shouting going on. I just held to my course, because I had run this race before and knew exactly where I was going. But I felt bad for the other runners, who had obviously been misdirected.

Then I reached the bottom of the hill. A person stood next to the one-mile marker, yelling out splits. From a few feet away, I heard her .... but I must have misunderstood. She was yelling out times that were past the 13-minute mark. That was impossible!

From my perceived rate of exertion, and my breathing, and how my legs felt ... I was expecting a time anywhere between 10 and 11 minutes. 13 was wayyy past the acceptable range. And I hadn't even gotten to the hill yet!

I was so depressed. I completely lost my motivation. I struggled up the hill, walking part of it, and then walking through the water station afterwards. A walker charged past me. A cheetah paced in her cage, seeing all us back-of-the-packer's as easy food.

I just couldn't believe I was so off in judging my pace, based on how I felt. Maybe my legs were still tired from the 10k? Maybe I didn't drink enough water that morning?

By this point, I just wanted to get the stinkin' race over with. I trudged back down the hill, doing my best to make up a little time and maybe, just maybe, finish somewhere near my goal pace.

At the bottom of the hill, a different person was calling out times. When I passed, he said it was 21 minutes and some. I thought, "Well, that would be great if that was my 2-mile time! Too bad it's just the 1-mile time for the runners/walkers going up the hill."

And then I kept running, and kept thinking about it .... and there was no Mile 2 marker. But surely I had run further than that. So maybe Mile 1 and Mile 2 were at the same point, at the bottom of the hill? And maybe I really had passed Mile 2 in 21-some minutes?!?

By this point, I didn't know what to think anymore. I knew the race was a fiasco, because I had seen other runners being misdirected. So wasn't it also possible the time-keepers were also off? And I hadn't run the first mile in over 13 minutes? I gave up trying to figure it out, and just did my best to finish strong, as per the original plan.

I came around the final curve and saw the clock at the finish line: it was just past 32 minutes. I ended up crossing the finish line at about 32:30. So definitely within the acceptable range, and so close to the fantastic goal!

For the rest of the day, I wasn't sure how to feel about the race. I was happy with my time, but so frustrated because I felt like I could definitely have done better, if they hadn't messed with my mind at the 1-mile mark. In the end, I decided to be happy with it. It was a good time, and I was lucky to at least be one of the runners who ran the whole course and finished.

And now I have a good starting point for the rest of the summer. Our next planned race is a 5k at the end of June. I hope to be under the 30-minute mark for that one. And I hope the organizers do a better job of running the race!


Emily said...

what a crazy experience! i'd say you definitely ran an acceptable time, especially given the bizarre conditions and the mental challenge. it is exciting to think about what you can do in the next 5k!

great work!

M. Lubbers said...

Thanks, Emily! I appreciate the encouragement:)