Tag Archives: 5k

The thrill (and pain) of the 5K

29 May

Man, I forgot how exhilarating, exhausting, exciting and painful running a race is. I haven’t run a single race since the half marathon last September, and since Pokemon Go came out my runs have been focused on hatching eggs and catching them all, not piling on in the miles and increasing speed. But since my phone gets horrible reception in the US, these past few weeks have been a good time for me to work on running fast again.

The 5K is a weird race. It’s easy to brush it off as “only 3 miles” when you’re used to marathons and halfs. But to really race it properly, you have to go hard the entire time. As a recent article in Runner’s World put it: “If you reach the halfway point of a 5K race feeling calm, comfortable, and confident that you can maintain your pace to the finish line, you’re doing it wrong.”

That’s the mindset I went into this morning’s 5K race with: go out too fast, power through the [minor] hills, then hang on for dear life. I made a killer playlist that (ambitiously) was only 28 minutes long. It was a beautiful day for a barbecue, but for a run it was a scorcher. The sun was beating down the entire time and the course only had one small stretch of shade right before the finish. As expected, I went out too fast, was huffing and puffing on the “rolling hills,” but I never stopped to walk. The Runner’s World article stressed the importance of motivational self-talk during a 5K, so I tried different approaches: “Remember that time you ran 13.1 miles without stopping? You’ve got this last mile in the bag!” “The quicker you finish, the quicker you can see Cherry at the finish line and get out of the sun!” “The top 50 female finishers get an award!”

That last one seemed like a long shot — there were certainly a lot of people ahead of me, but were most of them men? I definitely saw only men pass me on the bridge out and back part. So I powered through. I kicked it into high gear during the last half mile. Sunscreen-laced sweat was pouring into my eyes behind my sunglasses and there was a brief moment I thought I might be sick. But then I remembered the final tip from that article:

“If you’re chasing a PR, you should seriously wonder whether you’ll make it to the finish.”

I full out sprinted when I saw the finish line in sight, passing two of the girls who were ahead of me the entire time. At the finish line they had separate men and women crossing points, and when I crossed a volunteer handed me a medal. I was feeling weak, a bit delirious, and like I had just ran way more than 3.1 miles, and I just assumed it was a generic finisher’s medal. But then the girl who finished right behind me got my attention.

“Is this for finishing in the top 50 women?” she asked, holding up her medal. It didn’t even dawn on me that that was why they had a separate female finish line point.

“I don’t know, that’d be great if it was!” I replied.

I put the thought out of my mind, collected all my food swag and found my parents and Cherry. I felt weird — more exhausted than I’d been in a while, short of breath, but also really excited. Even if I didn’t get an official award, I got an official PR. I was absolutely miserable during that last mile, and yet the minute I finished, I was already wondering when I could do another race. I guess the runner’s high is real and runners really are crazy.

And the proverbial cherry on top of it all? I checked the results online and I really did finish in the top 50 women! If I had run 30 seconds slower I would not have made it in.

corgi running gif.gif

My month in Cincinnati in photos

2 Jun

The fact that I’ve barely had time to blog means I’ve had a great U.S. visit. I have several blog drafts that I’ve started, ranging from complaining about hot weather and the FedEx guy who didn’t ring the doorbell to a 5K race recap, but I think a photo post might be better.

My visit began with a performance and poetry reading by one of my favorite local bands, Ellery.

Ellery northsideThe next day we had a fancy night downtown with dinner and a play. We went to Jean-Robert’s Table, a “chef-owned eatery serving upscale French fare in an intimate room,” according to Google. I had stuffed my face with Panera only a couple hours before our 5pm dinner reservation, so I wasn’t that hungry and just got this amazing crab salad:

jean robert table saladAnd chocolate mousse, of course!

jean robert table mousseThere was a baby bird in my parents’ backyard:

baby bird backyardI ran a local 5K in under 30 min! My clock time said 27:23, but the race was so small it wasn’t chip-timed, and according to MapMyRun, the course was only 2.99 miles, so I kept running after I crossed the finish line. I’m sure the onlookers thought I was nuts, but I wanted a real 5K time! So I ran 5K in 28:25 according to my phone app. I’m proud of that time considering how hilly the course was. The race was also special because it was on May 16, which would have been Squirt’s golden birthday (16 on the 16th).

5k race time We went to Big Bone Lick State Park to see the baby bison, but they weren’t visible. So we went a little too far into unpaved territory to get a glimpse at them, which warranted a stern talking to by the park ranger. It was worth it though, because we got to see the baby and other pregnant mamas up close and we did not get crushed by giant bison (there was a fence!).

big bone bisonI got to spend a lot of quality time with a dear friend — the very first person I met when my family moved to Kentucky almost 20 years ago. She went on vacation for a week so I took care of her cat. We had a fun time despite my cat allergies (my £5 six-month supply of allergy medicine was one of the best Groupons I’ve ever bought!).

daisy catI saw this vending machine at an Asian buffet restaurant.

playful pandaI kind of regret not getting a Playful Panda, but a photo is probably better.playfun panda vending machineWe went to Florence’s Public Services Night Out, where we got free food and cool water bottles. Apparently the water bottles were not dishwasher-safe though.

florence water bottleOn a rare day when it was not obnoxiously hot and both my parents were off, we went to the zoo. It was teeming with school trips, but we still got to see a lot of aminals (intentional misspelling). The okapi, my mom’s favorite animal, were out!

okapi cincinnati zooSo was the red panda. He’s no giant panda, but he’s still pretty cute.

red panda cincinnati zooI made delicious Amish sugar cookies, as well as several other kinds. I don’t bake much in London, so I take full advantage of my parents’ new kitchen (and their willingness to consume copious amounts of cookies).

amish sugar cookiesWe went to visit my brother in Louisville and went strawberry picking. I may or may not have consumed this monstrosity while still in the field.strawberry freakThis bad boy was not ripe yet.weird strawberryI bought 4 lbs of strawberries all for myself, and ate all of them in less than a week (aside from a small bag that I froze).

hubert farm strawberries

One of the main reasons I wanted to come back in May was because Over the Rhine, my favorite band, was having a barn raising — a concert on their actual property, Nowhere Else, to raise money to restore an old barn into a performing arts center.

otr barn

It was my 18th Over the Rhine show and every bit as magical as I dreamed it would be.otr barn raising I even spotted a swallow on their farm!

otr swallow nesting

I miss running in the Royal Parks, but I recently discovered some nice trails running distance from my parents’ house. Of course I discovered the best one two days before I leave.florence creek

It turns out the Standard American Diet of bottomless chips, sangria, wings, curly fries and ice cream is not conducive to speedy running. But Bruster’s birthday cake ice cream was worth it. brusters ice cream

It’s been good, Cincinnati. But London’s calling.cincinnati ohio river

Falling in love with fall and running (and, OK, pumpkin spice)

2 Oct

I think fall might be my favorite season, and not for your stereotypical white girl reasons.

psl white girlAlthough I did run to Waitrose (literally, I was awkwardly sweating in the queue) to overpay for a can of Libby’s pumpkin to make pumpkin spice overnight oats and pumpkin spice smoothies (which are better than pumpkin spice lattes because I use pumpkin spice tea and they also don’t cost £5 (is that what a PSL costs? It’s been a while since I’ve been to Starbucks).

pumpkin spice girls

ANYWAY…

The reason I like fall (OK, autumn, since I’m in the UK) is because it’s the perfect running weather — not I-need-3-tissues-just-to-wipe-my-sweat summer hot or dear-god-how-is-it-25-out-that’s-F-not-C winter cold. Since I officially booked my flight home for Thanksgiving, I decided it’s high time I start training for the Thanksgiving 10K again. Last year it was my very first race ever and it was amazing. Yes, it was 25 degrees out (that’s -4 C) and I had to weave my way through an obscene amount of other runners, but I got such a thrill. I remember sprinting to the finish and even running to the car after. It was a stark difference from my 5K in April which I finished huffing and puffing and feeling defeated. Part of that could have been a bug coming on, but I also think I hadn’t been training properly. Part of me feared I peaked on Thanksgiving last year and I haven’t been running the same since. I’ve just been plodding along, taking a walking break the minute any part of my body felt remotely uncomfortable.

Eventually the reality of the race in less than 2 months set in and the weather got cooler and I decided to get serious about running again. Last Tuesday, the day after that ominous day, I ran 5K under 30 minutes, something I haven’t done since last fall. And then two days ago I did it again — but even faster. And today — yep, you guessed it, even faster. I’m starting to fall in love with running again. There’s just something about that cool breeze, the perfect Spotify playlist (thank you all-you-can-eat data plan) and going for a “high score.” Running may be a competitive sport with professionals and prizes and actual human beings that can run a marathon at a pace of 4 minutes, 41.5 seconds per mile (how?!! I’m not sure I could maintain that speed for 50 meters), but ultimately it’s about competing against yourself, setting new goals and personal records — high scores (or I guess low scores if we’re going by time and pace). This year my goal is to finish the Thanksgiving 10K in under an hour (or right on the dot, I won’t be picky). Months ago that seemed like a pipe dream, but if I can maintain my current 5K pace for twice as long, it may just become a reality. I know there will be thousands of people in the race who are faster than me (I recently read a blog by a runner coming back from an injury who was disappointed by his 30 minute 5K time, saying “I don’t know if you can even call that running.” Here I am rejoicing about a 30 minute 5K), but I just need to be faster than 2013 Renee. As my Over the Rhine T-shirt says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

My First 5K Race… 5 Months After My First 10K

28 Apr

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!)

renee running 5k

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.

sugar pug
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!