Remember a while ago I told you the story about Keller’s Corner? It was almost a year ago, actually. Here’s the link to that entry if you’re interested in re-reading it, or reading it for the first time.
I have now experienced first-hand my own personal version of Keller’s Corner. I completed my first, bona fide 5k race on Sunday and flew across the finish line in record time (for me).
I’ve run well over 3.1 miles before, but this was the first time I ran competitively. I planned to pace myself with a good friend of mine who has a similar training pace. My goal was to stick with her. She is a seasoned runner and athlete, with a background in climbing, running and yoga. A true fitness guru.
We had been joking around last week about our running strategy for this race, of which she planned to maintain a normal speed until the end and then blitz it to the finish. I, on the other hand, had no strategy whatsoever. If you recall from my previous posts, I was a terrible competitive runner and was always in dead last, so I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this 5k race. I had completed one mile and two mile races before, but those were on easy, flat terrain. This course was anything but easy or flat! Granted it wasn’t one of the hardest courses I’ve seen, but for someone who trains solely on a treadmill at a very even pace day in and day out, this was quite the feat.
Nevertheless, during my training over the last two weeks, I stepped up my incline training as well as added some tempo runs here and there. If I hadn’t, I probably would have died on the course.
After arriving with zero strategy except to stay with my partner-in-crime who had a very solid strategy, I quickly adapted my style to one of “taking advantage of the hills.” Translation: run fast downhill. The first major hill was at the very beginning of the run, which is precisely where my running partner and I got separated. I went balls to the wall. I shouldn’t have, but I did. It felt so awesome to let go and essentially free fall down the hill. The way back up wasn’t so bad, either. And for the most part, the course was really nice. It wound through the campus of my old school, and so I knew the area very well and knew exactly what to expect. In fact, I had run many times before on the very ground I ran on on Sunday. It was kind of nice.
What wasn’t nice was the weather. It was cold. And then it started spitting rain. And it was cold. My feet and knees were frozen and my bum hurt up until one mile into the race. Then I finally had some blood pumping and could feel my body again. I hauled the entire race mostly because I just wanted to go home and take a nice long hot shower.
So anyways, at about 2.75 miles, I was almost slowing to a walk. It took everything I had to keep going. I would absolutely not let myself be defeated. Like I said, I’ve run much farther than 3.1 miles before, and I certainly was not about to puss out and walk just because I blitzed it too early on and messed up my stride. I’m sure to anyone driving by in a car it probably looked like I was walking, but I still had some bounce in my step. And then came the downhill from the beginning of the race.
I tried so hard to bust out a fast pace downhill. It didn’t really work. I was too worn out. After what seemed like 25 years, I finally made it to the top of the hill. And out of my peripheral I saw an older, heavier gentleman gaining on me. We were running together for a few seconds, and I was hoping to at least stay with him, if not beat him, to the finish line. But as soon as we rounded the last corner and the finish was in sight, he pushed it. So I had to push it harder. I was running harder than I had in a really, really long time.
As me and the older gentleman were coming up on the finish line, I saw my sweet husband and little man cheering me on. I was so determined and focused on beating this man that I couldn’t even smile or wave at them. I felt awful. And he still won.
And as soon as I crossed the finish line I had to run to the bushes to puke.
Okay so that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but not really. If I had eaten one single spec of food, I would have been puking. I spent at least a full minute in the bushes dry heaving. It was terrible. But now I know after all these years of thinking of Keller’s Corner. Now I know.
I actually realize now how truly discombobulated I was during that race. As I was coming up on the three mile marker (almost exactly where the older man starting pulling ahead of me), I started questioning where the finish line was. I was so confused. I was expecting it to be in the road, not in the parking lot in the same place as it was when I left. I honestly thought they moved it. It took me two full days to figure that out.
I took yesterday off and ran again this morning. Lo and behold, I felt my stomach churning around 1.25 miles. I had to stand for a few minutes to get my bearings and then as I continued on to my 3 miles, I had to practice focused breathing to get me through. I really hope this isn’t how things are going to go from here on out.
My official chip time on Sunday was 27:30, which translates to 8:52 min/mi. I placed 7th in my age group, and 127th out of 257 runners. I killed it. I far exceeded any expectations I had for speed. But I will never push myself that hard again.
Thanks, Coach Keller. Now I know!