Saturday, May 2, 2009

5k x 2, or "Getting My Mojo Back"

AM: 1 mile w/u
5k "race" in 23:xx
Total: 4+ miles
Original Pancake House
15 mins. core
PM: 2+ mile w/u
2.5 miles of 5k "race" @6 min. pace
2 mile c/d
Total: 7 miles

So, at the risk of calling this prematurely, I'm marking today on the calendar as the day when I kinda-sorta-almost turned a corner and felt like my old self again. If the next few days go well, I might actually withdraw from my funk. Fingers crossed!

Now for the recap. First of all, this morning's "race" was super fun. Tanya and I were up fairly early for a Saturday so we could jog the easy downhill mile from the prison to the start of the Great Harvest 5k. We met up with Jeff, as well as my friends/classmates Jenny, Clint, Jason, Chris, and our awesome professor Kim right at 7:40 by the chip-timing table. Some of them, like Jason, were running their first 5k ever, which I thought was pretty cool. I guess having been a runner and worked in the industry for so long, I forget how fun and exciting the everyday neighborhood 5k can be for people who are just discovering the sport, but it's pretty cool to see my friends genuinely pumped about trying something new. (As an aside, here's my plug for you to watch and "vote up" Jason's documentary on Mixed Martial Arts, which he just produced for his Master's thesis project.)

For Tanya and myself, this "race" would just be a fun, easy run and a hope to score some freebies. It was much more significant for Jeff, who would be attempting his first steps since before his epic foot surgeries. Just like some of the newbies, he was nervous and excited, but for different reasons. Wanting to rally with our "team," we joined them near the back of the 500-person pack at the starting line so that we could ease into the pace. Naturally, our first mile was super slow, but Jeff and Tanya and I gradually picked up the pace until we were running comfortably by the end. I think I caught our final mile at 7:10, which is neither fast nor slow, and we were all pleased to see that Jeff felt comfortable and pain-free the entire time. The three of us stopped short of the finish line so we could cheer for each of our friends as they completed their races. It was pretty awesome to see each of them finish strong with grins on their faces, and I was proud to see them out there pushing themselves.

Almost 12 hours later, Holly and I set off for High Point (which, incidentally, is a gorgeous campus in the middle of a trash dump of a town) to race another 5k. She was hoping to break 19 minutes for the first time, and Jeff wanted me to take her through the early stages of the race and keep her from going out too fast with the rest of the pack. Of course, this implied that I was capable of running ~6-minute pace in my current state of woe, which hasn't exactly been proven over the past few weeks. I was desperately hoping I would be able to do my job, for my own sake but especially for Holly's, and I wasn't taking this responsibility lightly.

The gun went off at exactly 9:35, and I found the pace almost immediately. I could tell Holly was feeling antsy, but knew she needed to save herself for the final mile, so after fighting her for a lap or two I basically ordered her to fall in behind me and stop thinking. We cruised through the first mile in 6:02, and I was pleasantly surprised to feel pretty strong. By no means was I jogging, but the pace wasn't forced at all. Jeff was in the infield on the backstretch, and I looked for his splits each time we went by to make sure I was on pace. I guess I can be a metronome when the situation calls for it, as I never wavered from 90's or 91's for the first two miles. We passed the two-mile mark in 12:04, and at this point I told Holly that it was time to race. We picked up the pace a second or two on the next few laps, and I could tell she still had plenty left in the tank.

Just short of 2.5 miles, I felt a slight twinge in my foot. It was nothing major, but I knew I should probably be smart and heed its warning. This was my first time wearing flats since the day I hurt myself, and I didn't want to risk anything tonight. Also, a small part of me wanted to see Holly finish this off by herself. I wanted her to know that she was capable of doing this solo. After a few final words of encouragement, I pulled off the track and into the infield. For her final three laps I still got my exercise, sprinting back and forth on the grassy infield to cheer her on. She was really dropping the pace, and at this point the question wasn't whether she would break 19 minutes, but by how much. I don't think I've ever cheered for someone so intensely as I did when she rounded the final turn and I started running alongside her to urge her on. I could see the determination on her face and knew she wanted this more than anything. She crossed the finish line in 18:37 and immediately dissolved into tears, exhausted and proud of what she had accomplished. As a freshman who couldn't break 20 minutes in cross-country, she's come a long way in less than a year. I'm so proud of her and can't wait to see what she achieves throughout the rest of her running career.

Sorry this entry is so long, but it was a huge day. I ran twice, I didn't feel like crap running 6-minute pace, I helped Holly set a PR, I watched Jeff successfully complete his first run in months, and I enjoyed some cinnamon nut French toast with a group of cool new friends. It would appear as though all is right with the world.