Saturday, March 15, 2014

What a difference a year makes

I was so nervous heading into the St. Patrick's Day 5 mile race this year, due to my difficult run yesterday and my nagging hip pain, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went.  Although, my race morning got off to a rough start with a rookie mistake I made.  I left my race bib on my kitchen counter and I didn't realize it until I got downtown and parked my car.  I was irritated because even though I also track my time on MapMyRun, I also wanted to get an official race time.  Then to add salt to the wound, I realized that without a bib, I couldn't get the free Michelob Ultra at the finish line.  Oh the horror!

Luckily, I got downtown early enough to mosey over to the race day registration area to see if I could get another bib.  I re-read my confirmation e-mail and realized that race day registration bibs would not have timing chips and I was a little bummed.  However, when I got to the registration area, I noticed that they had race day pick-up for pre-registered runners, including bibs with timing chips.  I explained my silly mistake to the woman at the registration table and she was very sweet to give me a new bib with a timing chip and update my bib number in the online system.  Crisis averted!

The starting line
The weather was gorgeous today, which was a vast improvement from last year's race.  Last year, the weather was gloomy and cold, but today was sunny and almost warm!  I was worried about my hip, but I just took it slow to start and tried not to overdo it.  There were some pretty intense hills on this course, but I just slowed my pace to push upward and onward.  I stopped to walk for a few brief seconds at each of the two water stations to drink my water, but otherwise I plugged along.  I always enjoy people watching at the St. Pat's race; there are always interesting characters to see (and a lot of beer), which can help make the miles go by faster.  I saw one spectator with a sign that made me smile (although I tried not to). It read:  Smile if you're going commando.  Very clever.

When I crossed the finish line, I couldn't help but think of my awful run yesterday and how much I needed this race today.  It was a difficult, but great run and I needed the boost to my self-confidence.  I was also reminded about how far I've come on my running journey and how much can change in a year.  

Pre-race photo with my friend, Stacy 
Last year, I trudged through the St. Pat's race and was in the midst of my Couch-to-5K program.  I walked most of the race, with the exception of a few running intervals, the longest of which was .7 of a mile.  When I finished the race, my back ached with such intensity that I could barely sit still in the car and I was nearly in tears at the restaurant during our post-race lunch.  I took some ibuprofen and I'm fairly certain that I slept most of the rest of the day.  I was still proud of myself for setting out to do the race at all and I was pretty pleased with my finish time of 1:16:03.

Stacy and I last year following the race; don't let my goofy face fool you.  I was in a lot of pain.
I felt so much more prepared for the race this year and my only real concern stemmed from my hip pain.  I knew going into this race that I could run 5 miles, but I also knew I had to snap out of my funk from yesterday.  I ran the entire race this year (save for a few seconds at the two water stations as mentioned above) and my finish time was 1:07:03, a 9 minute improvement from last year.  I felt great after the race and after enjoying a post-run lunch with my mom, we spent the entire afternoon bumming around (including buying fabric to make a sparkly skirt for me to wear for the half!).  I have a little residual hip pain, but that is about par for the course at the moment.  It is a pretty amazing feeling to know that I've come to a point in my fitness journey where running 5 miles is somewhat normal for my body and it doesn't completely drain me and leave my body in shambles.  As I look back on where I was at this time last year and where I am today (three short weeks away from my first half marathon), I am pretty proud of how far I've come. 
The finish line.  I never tire of seeing the Arch in the backdrop of many of my race photos!
Post-run picture with Stacy and her sisters
This is always a fun race and this year was no exception.  Each mile had a cheer station and my favorite was the first at mile 1, because they happened to be playing Pharrell's Happy as I was trudging up the first of many hills.  I've mentioned it before, but I'll say it again; I love, love, love that song and it was wonderful to hear it during that hill.  The one thing I didn't remember from last year was the lack of post-race food.  The free beer was nice, but I was feeling hungry.  I guess the thought is that there are plenty of food vendors around for the parade, which started shortly after the race ended, but a granola bar or banana would have been nice.  I did, however, find some darling Girl Scouts selling cookies near the post-race area (kudos to whoever thought of that idea and kudos to their mom for dressing as a Samoa to help their sales) and I bought my first and only box of cookies for this year.  Hey, they were Thin Mints and therefore fit into the color scheme for the day.  Apparently, they also ran out of cups for the post-race water station and therefore, were handing out jugs of water.  It was a little strange to me, but I was thirsty and it made for a great photo op.

I'll let your mind ponder the types of comments that preceded this photo. 
I also tried BodyGlide for the first time today and I can't say enough wonderful things about it.  I bought a stick on Wednesday when I picked up my race shirt, because I've been experiencing some minor, yet annoying, chafing as I start running longer distances.  This morning while I got dressed, I put some on my upper arm where my armband sits, under my sports bra and along my waistline, which are the areas where I've experienced chafing lately.  The packaging resembles a stick of deodorant and you just slide the product on the areas you want to protect.  It is odorless and colorless and it worked like a charm; not a bit of chafing to be found after today's race.  

I feel so much better today about the half and my running.  I needed this race today to help counteract all of the negativity I felt yesterday.  As I said, sometimes you have runs that make or break you and today was luckily not the latter.  

"I got this."