I guess there’s never a good time to discover you’re coming down with a chest infection, but I’ll tell you when a particularly bad time is: during a race.
On Saturday I ran my very first 5K race, which I realize is surprising since I started the Couch to 5K program almost a year ago. I conquered the Thanksgiving 10K but never got around to running an official 5K until now. I admit I’ve been slacking on my “training” since doing the 10K, but I thought a 5K would be easy — only half what I ran in the last race! I figured I could easily do it in less than 30 minutes. In fact, I was so cocky about it that I made a music playlist that was only 30 minutes long.
And then I started running. I heard the gun go off but got caught up in the walkers group because I was fumbling with MapMyRun and my watch. Luckily this race was nowhere as crowded as my last one and I was easily able to maneuver around the walkers and catch up to the running pack.
“I am zooming!” I thought. “I’ve totally got this!” According to my phone, I ran the first mile in 8:50, which may be my fastest yet. And then I came upon a hill. During my last race I had one rule for myself — no walking, even on the hilly bridges. And I managed to continually jog/run for 6 miles then. This time I told myself the same rule — no walking, it’s only 3 miles! And then I finished one mile with a little too much exertion and started to feel a tightness in my lungs. I had taken two puffs of my inhaler before I set off, so I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. Was it because I started too quickly? Because I didn’t walk and stretch enough beforehand? Because I woke up too early and ate less than two hours ago? I had to break my rule and walk up a hill. And once I broke the rule once, I seemed to have no problem breaking it again and again. Not to get too graphic, but at times I had to “pull over” and spit up some mucus. I’m sure the other runners enjoyed watching that. My pumping playlist encouraged me to continue, but I couldn’t shake the pain in my chest. On one of my fitness videos Jillian Michaels shouts, “You don’t get to the finish line and slow down!” Except that’s what I did. I knew the finish line was around the corner, I had planned to gun it, but my lungs were burning. I started walking when another runner came up behind me and started shouting encouragement. I couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying because of my headphones, but it was still exactly what I needed.
“I think I’m getting a second wind!” I shouted back at her, then took off. (Thanks to my mom for the great photo!)
I crossed the finish line a proverbial hot mess — fallen off headband in my hand, one headphone dangling out of my ear, coughing and weezing like I had never ran before. I barely had enough energy to open the cold bottle of water that was thrust at me.
“What is wrong with me?” I kept repeating out loud. “I shouldn’t feel like this, it was only 3 miles!”
Then I met a pug who was breathing the same way I was. That made everything slightly better.
Even in the car ride home I was coughing. It wasn’t until I got home that it finally hit me — I didn’t perform so poorly because I hadn’t trained properly, I was sick. Whatever chest infection my dad has been fighting lately was probably lying dormant in me, and riding around in airplanes and trains in New York two days before the race probably didn’t help either. (Yes, I made a spontaneous trip to NYC last week, more on that later.) I’m still glad I did the race, and 31:52 isn’t a bad time when you’re ill. If anything it’s a time to beat at my next race. I’ll finish in under 30 minutes eventually!