This morning was the annual Reindeer Run in Nassau Bay. It’s the one race I’ve managed to do every since year since I moved to Houston, so this was my 9th appearance. The early December date means the weather is completely flaky, flip-flopping from 35 degrees and overcast to 75 degrees and sunny depending on the year. This year it was on the warm side — 60 degrees and sunny.
I had one goal: set a new 5K PR. Through this morning, I’d run a 5K in less than 30 minutes exactly 3 times:
Turkey Trot, November 2003, 29:28
Reindeer Run, December 2003, 29:18
Heights 5K, June 2007, 29:45
My running has been going very well lately and the combination of solid training with my 15+ pound weight loss over the past year had me feeling like I had a really good shot at beating my 7-year-old 5K PR of 29:18 — BUT, I knew it’d be pretty darn hard. As a super stretch goal, if everything went just right, I thought I might be able to finish under 29 minutes.
I warmed up with an easy 5-minute jog about 15 minutes before the race started. I never warm up before races, so this was a sign (to myself, anyway) that I meant business. I joined the crowd at the start line and ended up standing around for a while. In retrospect, I might have done my short warmup just a bit later, i.e. a little closer to race start time. But it wasn’t a big deal.
The horn sounded and we were off! This race is congested at the start, but it only lasts for a quarter mile or so and soon enough I had plenty of room to run. I had already told myself that I was not going to walk. If I needed a break, I was allowed to slow my pace, but no walking. I settled into what was a comfortably hard pace at that point, concentrating on keeping my stride fast and my breathing fairly even.
I immediately started to get warm, and realized that I’d made a rookie mistake in choosing my race day apparel. I wore capri tights, which I chose because they’re super comfortable and eliminate any worries about chafing or having to adjust my shorts. When I left the house it was 50 degrees and these short, thin tights are fine in that weather. But by the time the race started, it was approaching 60 degrees, and more than half the course is in the sun. The tights were a dumb choice. I was hot. But there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
I passed the mile 1 marker in 9:12. Before the race, I had calculated that I needed to average a 9:20 pace to finish in 29:00, so I was happy with that first mile. However, I wasn’t sure I could maintain the pace for another 2 miles. I was already starting to “feel the burn” so I just concentrated on the feet in front of me — when I’m running hard, I tend to get a little tunnel-visioned and end up staring at whatever is at ground level 10-15 feet ahead.
I passed the mile 2 marker in 10:05. I was initially bummed to see the 10+ minute split, but I quickly realized that the mile 2 marker was off. I know this course VERY well, and the marker was actually ~2.1 miles into the race. Shortly after the mile 2 marker, I walked for a quick 20 seconds — just long enough to take a couple swigs of water from the water stop. I hadn’t planned to stop for water, and I probably didn’t need it, but man did I want it — even though it made me break my “no walking” rule. The water made me happy, but only for a moment. I was really starting to struggle. A girl ran up next to me and told me she liked my headband (a pink, white and black argyle pattern from Sweaty Bands!), and I could barely manage a “thanks” through my labored breathing.
With about half a mile to go, I walked. Yep, I walked. I hated every step, but the 30 seconds was enough to let my heart rate drop just a little and mentally tell myself to suck it up and GO FOR IT. I started running again, determined to get my PR. I turned the final corner and passed the 3-mile marker in 27:55. I saw that on my watch and knew I could set a new PR — and even go sub-29:00! I gave the last tenth everything I had — and unfortunately the mile marker was off because I was running faster than a 9:00 mile, but it somehow took 1:08 to cover the final “tenth” to the finish line.
It was hard. Really hard. It didn’t feel good at all until I crossed the finish line. But I PRed! 29:03! A new PR by 15 seconds, and soooo close to sub-29!