The race site was very close to the Long Grove Turkey Trot course, and I anticipated it being pretty similar, ie residential and flat.
Annnnd I was wrong. But we'll get there.
As with every All Community Events race, this one was well organized, easy to get to, and offered packet pickup both preceding the race and day of. It's always a good time with an ACE event, which is probably why I keep signing up for them! ;)
This race takes place right near the Deer Park Town Center, which is an outdoor mall. This means there's ample parking available, and it's all very close to the start. Packet pickup for the race was across the street at a Dick's Sporting Goods, and I stopped there the night before the race (with both kids in tow!) to grab my bib and swag. This year's swag was a light, long sleeve tech quarter zip. I see myself donning it a lot when the weather warms up a bit around here!
(Also of note: My toddler wanting to wander around Dicks in awe of all the basketballs and basketball hoops, and his unwavering insistence that the $200 baseball glove he found to carry around was his.)
This is where things get...interesting?
Pre Race Happenings
After the Turkey Trot I started thinking that I might be able to PR my 5k earlier than 2020. It was something on my list of goals (for 2020), but I realized it might be achievable sooner than that. But I've spent 3 years not setting goals - eschewing them entirely, as it happens - and I think part of me has forgotten how to set and achieve a goal.
So I'd spent two weeks toying with the idea of really pushing myself during the race and not only PRing, but trying to run the race in under 30 minutes.
I've never run a 5k in under 30 minutes.
For those keeping score, that's a 9:40/mile pace. My previous PR had been set in June 2016 at the Volition America 5k, and although I'd forgotten how to set a goal, I have not forgotten how badly that race hurt (haha). Which is why it really meant something when I vocalized my decision to PR.
If you follow me on Instagram, or are a friend on Facebook, you have likely seen my post about PRing this race. I'm going to post part of that here.
Yesterday I ran @allcommunityevents #hotcocoaclassic 5k in Deer Park. I've talked a lot lately about wanting to PR (personal record) my 5k and come in under 30 minutes, and for the last week I've been asking myself if maybe this should be the race to do it. But PR'ing a 5k hurts, and I still wasn't sure if I wanted to put in that kind of effort.
Then as I was leaving packet pick up I got a call from (my) Papa Bender, telling me his doctors had removed an 8lb (most likely malignant) tumor from his kidney. Papa Bender has loved me like a daughter for the last 10 years, and after losing my dad to cancer when I was 14, I'm sure you can imagine the fear that goes along with him facing all of this.
So when I hung up the phone I quietly said to myself, "I'm PRing under 30 for Pops. No 5k hurts as bad as cancer.Race Day
I got to the race site early. I had to drop the kids off at Anthony's sister's because after the race I was going to my mom's to bake all day. This was supposed to be Ant Man's first 100 yard dash, but with Anthony in California that weekend plans had to change. It was a little bittersweet, but I replaced my desire to see my 2 year old sprint 100 yards (and subsequently push him in a stroller for 3 miles) with the overwhelming feeling that I had to PR.
I wanted to actually warm up as well, and did something I don't do before races: I ran! I took a slow half mile loop around the parking lot of the mall in my new trail shoes, stopped at my car to switch to my road shoes, and then looped around that same half mile again. This got me to about 10 minutes before the start. I downed the rest of my Nuun, put on some chapstick, left everything in my car, and headed to the start.
As soon as they announced for people to line up at the corral I headed over. I didn't care if I was seeding too far forward - because I was attempting to PR so drastically I didn't want to have to worry about passing people. They could pass me. I wanted to save my steps. I estimate I seeded myself with the 8:00-min milers.
Fun little FYI: While we were waiting to begin, they explained the tapered "hour glass" starting line that I mentioned in my Turkey Trot post! As we were lining up in the corral, the announcer said the purpose of funneling runners across narrowed starting mats is to spread everyone out better across the course so there aren't packs of runners. I'm not sure if it works, but I guess it makes sense!
The anthem played, the count down was counted, the start horn blared, and as we moved towards the start mat I said out loud, "This is for Papa Bender."
And I was off.
Unlike Long Grove, this course was not flat. The bulk of it had very little drastic elevation, but there were a few notable increases and I felt them. The course was entirely paved - it started in a parking lot, moved to roads, and then onto a bike path. After that path it joined back onto a road and led back to the parking lot for the finish.
I remember coming off of the first mile (8:45) having banked nearly a minute of time and turning onto the bike path to face a hill. In all honesty it was probably a bunny hill, but it sucker punched my lungs regardless. It was maybe 30 feet of elevation over a tenth of a mile...but it precipitated a false flat that delivered another 30 feet of elevation over the next mile. Now, 60 feet of elevation isn't climbing a mountain, but when you're using every ounce of energy to run faster than normal, it feels like it. And my pace reflected the slow climb when I clocked my second mile almost 45 seconds slower (9:28).
I did the math in my head. At just over 18 minutes, I could keep over a 10 minute pace for the remainder of the race and still come in under 30 minutes. That was a relief, but I didn't slow down. I wanted to crush this goal.
All I thought the whole race was that I wanted to be able to call Papa Bender when the race was over and tell him I'd done it for him. I didn't care how much it hurt at any one point, because when it did I thought about him in the hospital and kept pushing pace. I was going to do it.
As the third mile disappeared under my feet (9:11) I knew I had the race, my PR, AND my sub-30 goal in the bag.
And the photographer actually caught the achievement this time...not just my right shoe ;)
|This is probably my favorite race photo ever! :)|
I'd done it. I brought it all in under 30 minutes.
Official time 28:32.8
I called Papa Bender after so he could listen to me cry and tell him I'd done it for him.
(And then I went and got my finisher's mug, took a few selfies, and actually used the race photo banner to mark the occasion.)
There are so, so many things I could say about this race. About how it made me feel, and the accomplishment I felt when I ran across the finish line and saw what I'd achieved.
But in all honesty, the greatest thing this race did was remind me of everything Meghan and I talked about during Ragnar.
That's what running is about. That's what the hard runs are about. No matter what, no hard run is EVER as hard as the actual, really truly hard things we go through in life. And running is there to save us from those things.
It is testing physical and mental limits over a long period of time. And for me it was once again proof that I can do hard things. That perseverance and discipline and training mean something.
...Sometimes you get to the point where you have to trust that your body can do it without you telling it to because you have the training behind you. You have to turn on the auto pilot and go, and you have to fight the voice in your head that's trying to bargain with you. That's the real hill to climb.
I have a lot of goals this year. So many things I want to accomplish. And I know that, realistically, I will have a bad day at some point and not achieve one of them. And on that day I want to remember this.
|Jeez, I need to get another medal hanger.|
As of the writing of this post, I went back and reread my post from the Volition America 5k in June 2016 and realized that apparently I did actually run the 3.1 mile distance in under 30 minutes 3 1/2 years ago (according to my Garmin). At the time, I challenged myself to PR under 29 minutes. Well, seems like my subconscious was aware of that...regardless, I never counted that as a 5k under 30 minutes because I always wondered if my watch glitched that day or the course was actually long. So I'm still calling this 5k my first under 30 because my Garmin lined up with the course, and that accuracy counts to me!