Tag Archives: race

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


Richmond Runfest Richmond Half Marathon recap

19 Sep

I stood by the baggage drop van taking last minute puffs of my inhaler.

“Um, are you OK to run 13 miles?” The nice lady manning the van asked me, genuine concern in her voice.

“Yeah, of course,” I replied, much more confidently than I felt. I was about to run the Richmond Half through Kew Gardens — my first half marathon.

During my training runs I questioned why I was doing this, but when my alarm went off at 6:30am, I really started to doubt my silly before-I-turn-30 goal. But I suited up, downed my overnight oats, and hopped on the tube to Richmond. The train was filled with other runners boasting their half or 10K bibs. And like true sheeple, when we got off at the Kew Gardens stop, each of thought “I’ll just follow the other runners, they’ll know where they’re going,” and we all started walking in the complete opposite direction of Kew Gardens, despite the fact that we all had GPS on our phones. After a couple blocks the runner in front pulled out the map and realized we were going the wrong way. Just what I wanted to do before running 13.1 miles — walk an extra mile. It was good warm up I guess. I still arrived with plenty of time to use the loo, and then immediately join the queue for the loo again because there was no way I was stopping along the course to use a porta-potty. I dropped off my bag and made my way to the start just as they were calling for my wave. Could not have timed it better.

richmond half start.png

We all started in a giant group, which made it hard to pick up speed or pass anyone. We moved as a giant amoeba through the scenic garden.

kew gardens pagoda.png

Then before I knew it, I was on my own — where had the rest of my amoeba gone?

The thing I love about running is that it can be either a solo or group sport. I was surprised to see more runners running the race by themselves than with groups of friends. Yet there was this subtle “we’re all in this together” spirit in the air as we powered towards the same finish line. At times running can be lonely though. At mile 5 we were back in the woods dodging sticks, rocks and whatever a pothole is called when it’s in the woods. To get the full experience (and because I read they were banned) I ran without headphones, so I only had the jukebox in my head. Which for some inexplicable reason was playing Jim Steinman’s Left in the Dark on repeat. It’s a sad song about an unfaithful lover. It is the furthest thing from a pump up running song. But I went with it. The only thing I had to focus on was not tripping, and even that wasn’t going well — I tried to dodge a rock and almost wiped out, but luckily caught myself without getting injured.

Around mile 5.5 we went through a cheering tunnel, which was encouraging. I felt ready to sprint towards the finish. But then I realized the cheering was meant for those doubling back on mile 11.5. There were people already 6 miles ahead of me. I still had 7.5 miles to go. I ate a Jelly Baby and buckled down for the long haul.

I always assumed I would walk a portion of the race. Besides my 10K race last November, I never run non-stop. There are always stoplights and stop signs along my routes, and even when I’m only doing 4 miles, I often have to take a walking break just to blow my nose and catch my breath (and most recently, catch a Pokemon). So it was just a matter of when my walking break would be. Around mile 7 my knee started to hurt. Just make it to mile 8, I told myself. That’s a respectable, even number. You can say you ran 8 miles non-stop. But then at mile 8 I ate a Jelly Baby and didn’t feel a desire to stop. So I pushed on. Slowly, mind you, but at a pace faster than walking. “You only have 5K left!” I told myself, then quickly realized it was 5 miles, not 5K (3 miles). Bollocks. Cue more Left in the Dark.

At mile 9 something weird came over me. I expected to be feeling like death, alternating a minute of walking with a minute of running. But instead this inner voice piped up: “What if you did it? What if you actually ran this entire half marathon? You only have 4 miles left. That’s a literal walk (run) in the park.” So I ran, getting a little boost each time I passed a runner who had thrown in the towel and started walking.

At mile 10 I decided to reward myself. Since I had made it 10 whole miles without a walking break, I opened up Pokemon Go and hatched my 10K egg (which was at 9.1K so I only had to run 0.9K). (I got a Pinsir in case you were wondering. I did not have him. It made me momentarily happy, which is what I hoped it would do). At mile 11.5 I ran through the cheering tunnel again and got a boost from all the charity volunteers. I was actually doing this! I was running — RUNNING — a half marathon! And I only had 2 miles left! At mile 12 volunteers rang bells and cheered us on. “One more mile!” They shouted. I spotted a photographer and gave him a thumbs up — thumbs up at mile 12. Who am I?

And then I remembered what I overheard a runner say around mile 10: “I hate the finish line of this race. You get into the park and everyone’s cheering and then you think you’re done, but they make you weave around.”

She was right. I was hurting, sure, but I had this fire inside me and was ready to finish. I ran into the park, high-fiving the crowds of supporters. I was on cloud nine! I could see the finish line! I looked at MapMyRun and saw my time — 2 hours and 10 minutes. I said I didn’t have a goal for this half aside from finishing, but my farfetched goal was 2:15. I couldn’t believe there was a chance I could attain that. I just had to go 100m, turn right, and sprint towards the finish. …but then I realized there was a sign after that 100m. “Half Marathon turn left, 10K turn right.” Turning right took you right to the finish. Turning left took you alllll around the park. I wanted to cry. I suddenly was emotionally and physically drained. It was the longest half mile of my life. Every runner around me was either walking or making “I want to die” huffing noises. There were no supporters around us — just grass, barriers and runners running out of gas.

I want to say I powered through, dug deep, gave an inspirational speech to those around me, and shot towards the finish. But I feel like I need to be honest with you, dear readers. I walked. Only for about 10 seconds, just to blow my nose, but at mile 12.8 of my first half marathon I took my first walking break. “You don’t get near the finish line and stop!” Jillian Michaels used to scream at me while I did her exercise DVDs. Well, apparently I do.

But this part happened for real — when I rounded the bend and saw the finish line straight ahead, I dug deep. I sprinted like it was a 200m race. I like to think the other runners plodding along gazed on in amazement as I shot past them. And then, like a scene from a cheesy movie, I actually threw my arms up in the air and crossed the finish line in that pose, victorious. (I can’t wait to see the photo, though I doubt it’s as magnificent as it is in my head). A volunteer handed me a medal, I put it on and held it up proudly for the photographer, and then my eyes started to water as the mental and physical exhaustion started to hit me. I ran a half marathon. And I actually RAN it, aside from that tiny infraction close to the finish line that we won’t talk about. My time ended up being 2:16 — 1 minute from my goal. By no means fast, but a solid first effort.

When I texted my runner friend the news she asked me if I was ready for a full now. As I write this Jim Steinman’s What Part of My Body Hurts the Most is playing in my head, so the thought of putting my body through 26.2 miles seems insane. I think I’d rather focus on improving my 5K, 10K and (maybe) half times. But then again, when I finished my first 10K race I thought there was no way I could run twice that distance, so in the words of (ugh) Justin Bieber — never say never.

I am a real runner now

3 Dec
It’s hard to believe it’s been a week since I traded the high street for strip malls, my shopping trolley for a car trunk, and healthy protein smoothies for brown butter salted caramel snickerdoodles and layered pumpkin pie toffee cheesecake. Yes, it’s good to be back in the land of the free and the home of the brave and high fructose corn syrup. It’s also been a week since I’ve gotten a real moment to myself when I’m not baking or rushing out the door to shop or run.

Speaking of run, on Thanksgiving I officially ran 10K, my first race ever. It still amazes me that six months ago I couldn’t run a minute without wanting to die, and five days ago I ran for an hour and 5 minutes through the streets of Cincinnati and northern Kentucky without stopping. I was proud of my time considering it was my first race and 25 degrees outside (-4 C), but I looked at the results and saw an 81-year-old man beat me. I guess that’s just motivation to go faster and try harder next time. I’m not sure when my next race will be, but I have a feeling my first won’t be my last. I really enjoyed the race atmosphere, the two guys dressed as pilgrims in a boat screaming, “You just got passed by a boat,” the high-fives and encouragement from random strangers as well as my family along the course, and that final sprint to the finish. I have no idea where that energy came from, but I gunned it at the end. So much that I finished disoriented and went right past the place to cut off my chip timer. Did I have enough energy to do the whole course again, which would equate to a half marathon? I don’t think so, but then again I never thought I’d be capable of 10K.

thanksgiving 10k edit

(I am wearing two thermal tops, the official race shirt, a jacket, thermal pants, leggings, shorts and a South Park scarf. The only parts of me that were cold were my hands until I scored free handwarmers and my feet until I got running. There was a lot of standing around time beforehand because we got there over an hour early because we are race noobs and thought there wouldn’t be enough parking at the Bengals stadium.)

Concrete for breakfast

6 Oct

A couple months ago I started to get this crazy idea. It was just a faint whisper in the back of my head saying, “race.” I’ve been running for more than four months now, and while it’s good exercise, I’m curious how I stand up to other runners in my age group. I want to know what it feels like to push through the desire to crap out because there’s a finish line, other runners, and people cheering you on. So I looked up the Cincinnati Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. I thought it was a 5K, but it’s a 10K. And that’s when the whispers got louder every time I ran — “10K. You can do it.” That’s 6 miles, longer than I’ve ever run before, but that’s what makes it alluring. I haven’t registered yet — I hover over the button every few days — but I found a good 10K training plan and have been following it. Everything has been going really well.

Until today.

I left the flat this morning debating whether I wanted to do the usual 5K/3 miles or push myself to 4 miles since I ate too much Chinese food and cake yesterday.

I made it 2 minutes. I was going around the Outer Circle of Regent’s Park, which was covered in leaves. I thought I was dodging them well, but apparently not that well. One second I was listening to my podcast, getting into the groove, the next I was eating concrete, completely sprawled out on the ground, iPod flung 10 feet in front of me.

panda slide

Another kind jogger stopped to check on me and handed me my iPod and water bottle. “That almost happened to me yesterday,” he said. I thanked him and began to assess the damage. I was able to brace myself as I went down, which meant my knee and palms took the brunt of the damage. I stood there for a second starring at the skin peeling off my hand, blood starting to surface, and my first thought was “What a waste of a run.” But obviously there was no way I could continue. I rolled up my leggings to expose my skinned knee, and made the walk of shame back home. While I was cleaning up my hands and knee, I realized my elbow hurt. I looked over and it was completely scraped and bleeding. It’s funny how the body works when injured — at the time, the adrenaline made me want to keep running, I didn’t realize the extent of my injuries or pain. But now they sting like nobody’s business.

I’ve heard countless times that running is a dangerous activity and almost everyone gets hurt eventually. I’m very thankful that I came away from the incident with just scrapes — not a broken leg or twisted ankle. The worst part is that all my injuries are near joints, which make it hard for bandages to stay on. I’ve definitely learned my lesson about jogging in the fall (avoid tree-lined paths!) and hopefully can get back to training soon.

Can dogs be racist?

30 Apr

There’s this Pomeranian that lives in my building. His name is Jay, but for the longest time I called him Teddy Pom-Pom, after a dog in an It’s Me or the Dog episode.

Jay is adorable, but I think Jay might be a racist.

Like many little dogs, he thinks he’s bigger and less fluffy than he is, and often shows signs of aggression towards various people and animals. I got on the elevator today with Jay. He looked up at me but didn’t make a noise. Then another guy got on. Nothing from Jay. But then two Hispanic maintenance men came on and Jay completely lost it. He started barking up a storm. “Ooo you’re a big scary dog!” one of them said to Jay with a laugh. Jay did not think this was funny at all and continued to bark until the men got off. Then it was just me, the other dude, and Jay’s owner. Jay calmed himself.

I’ve heard of dogs being partial to men or women, but can dogs be partial to race? What was it about the maintenance men that rubbed Jay the wrong way? Was it because they were Hispanic, or was it something else–perhaps their smell or the tools they were carrying?

I will update as my field work continues.