Monday, May 9, 2011

Corporate Challenge 5k

Two years ago after an extremely disappointing finish, I vowed never to compete in the Corporate Challenge 5k again.  I wanted to break 24 minutes.  I ended up finishing in 25:52.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't run anywhere close to fast enough to earn team points for my company.  I got the participation point.  I didn't know why I kept running it and setting goals when I knew there was no way I would get more than one point.  I would have to run 2-4 minutes faster for that.  My most promising time was 24:38 which wasn't very promising.  I had run the race 3 times out of my previous 5 years of employment to this end...

2007    26:54
2008    24:38
2009    25:52

But this, my 6th (maybe 7th?) year with the company, I decided to try it again.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe because I had set a new 5k PR back in November of 23:31 and after looking at past results I noted that this time might possibly get me some points.  It also helped that I was no longer in grad school and working part time.  And most importantly, when a runner says he/she is never going to do something again, it usually means he/she is DEFINITELY going to do that thing again.  Because it probably didn't go well.  And when something doesn't go well, you always have to prove you can do it better.  Right?

So of course I sat down with my friend Coleen, who had been newly certified as a running coach.  She asked me about my goals and would make a plan for me!  Well I set the goal, which I was already regretting days later.  A goal time of 22:30??  Ridiculous.  A full minute faster than my PR, on a much tougher course.  What was I thinking?  Well the training plan never really came to fruition as I was out of the running game for about 3 weeks due to a variety of runner type ailments.  By the time I was running normally again, the race was only a few weeks away.  Not really enough time to execute a "plan".

Despite my lack of speed training, I had daydreams of 5k grandeur.  "I can run sort of fast", I thought.  Maybe I'll end up doing really well just by shear determination!  I envisioned myself with an unexpected, tearful finish among the top runners.  Childish dreams.  My hopefulness was knocked down a peg after doing a test run of the course that I felt was pretty quick.  Upon actually looking at my stop watch, I was disappointed by the 8:11 pace.  Pretty far off my desired 7:30.  No more daydreams for me.  That PR was seeming pretty far fetched.  And the "goal" of 22:30 was way off in la la land somewhere.

I was already quite nervous the day before the race.  I always am for big races like these.  You might not know it, but I'm sort of socially awkward, and large crowds of people don't make me feel any more comfortable.  My stomach is also socially awkward and likes it best if I spend most of my pre race time in the bathroom.  Not this race day though!  Only...THREE visits to the bathroom.  Gee what a breeze!  I had a banana for breakfast before heading out for the 40 minute drive and had a chocolate agave gel about a half hour before the race started.

Because of the large number of competitors the men and women race separately.  The 15-minute delay of the men's race of course put the women's race behind by about 30, making it nice and WARM by the time we started!  That nice and warm part is sarcasm.  Everybody knows I hate running in the heat.  Ok it wasn't super hot but it was maybe in the low 80's. 

I initially lined up by the 7 minute pace sign being a little optimistic.  But a few minutes before the race started it was clear that nobody was going to actually line up for the 5 minute pace group so we all shifted forward.  I was in the second row of runners.  When the clock started I was running at a pretty decent clip down the first hill, but I noticed my friend Amanda was running a little faster.  In the interest of being able to chat, I decided to pick up the pace a little to try to hang with her.  When I looked down at my Garmin, I was a little surprised by the 6:30 and below pace, but I kept at it because I figured I would need that extra time when I slowed down going up hill.  I remember thinking and saying to Amanda that I didn't know why I was so close to the lead runners.  I was ready to hit the wall at any point.

I think Amanda got ahead of me a few times on the first of not many flat sections, but once we hit the first hill I started pulling away.  Oh and no, I wasn't chatting any more at this point.  Maybe that should be part of my Leadville training.  Practice having a full on conversation while running up a steep hill.  My legs were already getting tired at this point so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that this hill was a little steep but not actually very long.  I was prepared to be passed by anyone at any moment.

As a matter of fact, I believe I was passed by a girl in a hot pink shirt.  I was also passed by running buddy and serious speed demon, Jonette Kilmar.  I wasn't surprised or upset about being passed by Jonette.  In fact I cheered her on!  I've never even come close to beating Jonette at any race, ever.  So I was pretty stoked to have run a whole mile before she passed me.  As I ran up the hill, I glanced down at the Garmin again and saw my pace was at 8:10.  Crap!  I need to pick it up or hall balls down hill.

After that initial steep hill, the course flattened out for a bit before ascending an annoyingly gradual hill.  We ran around the park's administrative offices where volunteers held out cups of water.  I don't typically drink water at short races like these but it was getting warm and my mouth was feeling particularly dry.  I was stupid to think I would be able to actually drink the water.  I was not willing to slow down, so I splashed the water in the general direction of my mouth and ended up swallowing about a teaspoon of it before I decided to pitch the cup (in an actual trash can).

After the water station it was back to a nice down hill.  For the next mile or so, pink shirt and I traded places several times.  Me passing her going up hill, her passing me going down hill.  There was one long down hill before we headed up the hill to the finish line and I tried to keep my pace under 7.  I think I managed 6:30-6:45. 

By the time I reached the last hill I was feeling a bit queasy and quite daunted.  Compared to what I do for hill training on a regular basis, this hill was a baby, but at the end of that 5k it seemed like a beast.  I took it easy up the first of 2 small climbs.  But once I reached the second I decided I needed to push it in.  I passed pink shirt and amazingly, I passed Jonette.  Once I was up the final hill and hit the flat section that leads to the finish line, I was starting to doubt my choice to push up that hill.  I'm normally pretty good at sprinting to the finish line but it was seeming pretty far away at this point.  All I knew was, I would look pretty silly if I passed a couple people on a hill only to be passed at the end, on a flat section.  So I sucked it up and stopped thinking about how I felt like I was going to poop my pants and finished the darn race. 

I was flabbergasted when I saw the clock at the finish line and it said twenty ONE? forty.  There was definitely NOT supposed to be a one after the two.  I was shooting for 23:30.  How the heck did this happen?  And on top of that, there wasn't a hoard of runners moseying around the finish line refreshments table.  The whole experience was totally surreal.  Running in the "front", where people are actually spaced apart and not elbowing each other for a better time at the finish line?  After the race, I hung out for a while to see other coworkers finish and congratulate them. 

But I felt bad for my boyfriend, Nick, who took this fabulous photo.  He had been standing around with our dogs for the past couple hours while I picked up my bib, chatted with coworkers, ran and chatted with coworkers some more.  I knew the final results weren't usually posted for a few days after the race, so I figured they didn't have an awards ceremony.  No idea why.  Probably because I had never been anywhere close to getting an award before. 

So we ended up going home and I got a call Monday morning that I had won a silver medal!  Whoa!  The medals are given by age group, which I guess is less impressive than overall.  But I'm still pretty psyched.  The 25-29 group typically has the largest number of and fastest runners.  I didn't think I had a chance at a medal.  But it turns out I came in 10th overall out of 1029 runners.  And I came in 2nd out of 167 in my age group.  And my official time was 21:44.  It was exciting to actually live out  my wildest, off in la la land dreams this weekend. 

I definitely think wearing the Garmin was a great idea, despite the fact that I pretty much hate wearing it any other time.  It was perfect for keeping me on track for the 5k.  So I guess in response to whether or not I have something to prove, the answer is yes, and I did prove that a trail and ultra runner can occasionally kick some butt at a 5k.


  1. Not surprised, but then modesty about my daughter's abilities being what it's not, I manage this shortcoming by a ruthless dedication to the obvious. Just sayin.

  2. WOWZA! i wish i could accidentally run a 5k this fast. nice job!