Sunday, March 29, 2009

"This is the worst thing in the WORLD": WLC Race Report

As the WLC coach put it: "Well, I guess you all set personal records today for races run under 35 degrees!"
This is definitely a true story.

Only 6 people from the club were awesome enough to race on Saturday, 5 girls and 1 guy, and 5 of us were in the 5K. The nice thing about that was we got to leave the Union at 9:15...luxuriously late for a meet day. The weather was crappy from the start - 32 and windy, and apparently it was only supposed to be windier in Tosa. Greeeeat. When we got to the track, our worst fears were realized - it was FREEZING, with winds gusting up to 30 mph. And if there's one thing I detest while racing, especially in track, its wind. There was a girl running around the track in just her uniform and we thought she was crazily warming up for something...until we realized it was the ONE girl running the 10K. Talk about a champion...we cheered for her for awhile before holing up under the bleachers where it really wasn't much warmer, but it was at least slightly less windy.

We watched Jade run the 1500 which she ended up winning by outkicking a Parkside girl which was pretty sweet. The start was ridiculous because they were waiting for like 5 minutes after everyone took their sweats off for some girl to take her sweet time putting on her spikes, and then another girl didn't understand the concept of lining up by was strange. Which will happen I guess when the only schools in attendance are extremely random, tiny schools from Illinois. After that we had maybe half an hour before we had to go warm up for the 5K...this was seriously the fastest meet in history, I guess because half the races had 1-2 people in them.

I don't think I ever really got nervous for this race because I was so damn cold and that was all I could really think about. Until we started warming up I couldn't feel my feet, and I was more worried about how much it was going to suck taking my sweats off than how much the race itself was going to hurt. Brittany, Claire and I all wore shorts, and all the other girls were freaking out like "aren't you going to freeze?" I was also wearing my underarmor top, a headband, and gloves so it honestly wasn't that awful, especially once we started running. So then the race started. It took awhile to get settled into a pace, especially with the wind kicking your ass on one straight and helping you out on the other. I felt a little frenzied at first, but eventually I fell into a rhythm that really stuck with me throughout the rest of the race. I remember looking at the clock at around 5 minutes and thinking "oh my god...I still have to run for like 15 more minutes"...but that was the only time I really gave any thought to how long the race was. I came through the mile in about 6:35...I was hoping to get out a bit faster, but with the wind and all I wasn't too unhappy about that. Around then, this girl from Parkside ("Kimmy") passed me, but really didn't get too far ahead of me. (I only know her name was Kimmy because I spent the rest of the race being taunted by her teammates/coaches cheering for her at every corner of the me, I knew her splits like the back of my hand). I didn't feel like making a move at that point, so I kind of tucked in behind her and attempted to draft off of her, but when that didn't really work after a couple laps, I just said screw it and put in a little surge to pass her. Apparently, once I passed her she continued to fall further and further behind me for the rest of the race. I was really proud of how I actually made an effort to actually push through the wind, not just let it kill me and slow down. Everytime I hit the windy straight I would think to myself that in only 100 meters, I would have the wind at my back and it would be fabulous. With 1200 to go I was starting to get tired but not so much that I was dying and slowing fact, I felt strong throughout the race. Finally, at 400 meters left, I threw everything left in me into my kick. I felt great down the back straight and into the final curve...and then I hit the last straight...aka, I ran into a 30 mph wall of wind.

The last stretch seemed to go on was seriously like running through a tunnel where the finish line keeps on moving further and further away. I couldn't hear anything except the wind whistling in my ears and I kept trying to will myself forward because I REALLY wanted to finish under 21...but alas, there was nothing I could do about the invisible force pushing me back. I finally crossed the line in 21:04, which I'm not sad about in the least considering its the second best 5K I've ever run, and in pretty much the most absurd conditions possible.

I think the thing that made me happiest about this race is how strong I felt throughout it. Now, if I had really been willing to push myself, to really make it hurt, I'm sure I could have PRed. So in that way it isn't good that I think maybe I could have made it hurt more...but its not as if I wasn't tired or wasn't trying. It's the first time EVER that someone has passed me and I've been able to respond, to not just watch them run off while I continue to struggle behind them. And to be honest, its the first time in a race that I have ENJOYED myself. It was the weirdest thing - all my mind could focus on was how good I felt, when usually it clings on to every twinge, ache, and pain that it can find. Also, the fact that I was only 15 seconds off my PR doesn't hurt. I can only imagine what's to come in the rest of this season...all I know is, I will DEFINITELY be running the 5K again. The thing that I think is weird, but kind of cool about the 5K too is that there aren't any really slow people who run it. Like if you suck, they're not going to throw you on the track to suffer for 25 minutes, they'll let you run a 3:30 800 or a 7:00 1500. I could run crappy times in the mile and still beat 20 people, but if I can run a time I'm proud of and beat 3 in the 5K, well I think I'd be much happier with that.

Seriously. I don't even know. What kind of crazy life is it when I go from thinking the 300 m hurdles is the worst thing in the world to LOVING the 5000 m? I did absolutely love it. The rhythm of the race, and the fact that you have time to fix things that go wrong, and just the strange symmetry of it and knowing exactly where you are (unlike in cross country) have just sucked me in. I'm sure I'll get around to steeplechasing eventually, but for now I don't think I'm going to stop until a 5K PR is mine. All mine.

Oh, and then it snowed, and today I ran 12 miles in it, as well as more absurd wind. My left achilles/calf is definitely bugging me, so I'll be icing tonight and hoping it calms down in time for whatever crazy workout is planned for tomorrow.

And if nothing else, I can't say I'll ever complain about weather at a meet ever again. :)

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