That’s really all I can say.
Mr PugRunner and I joined our friends, K from A Mom on the Run and her husband, for the Florida Striders Memorial Day 5K in Orange Park. I picked it because of the timing (a few weeks after Mr PugRunner and I graduated from Couch 2 5K and at the end of May so not too horribly hot), the locality (a lovely, shaded neighborhood), and the fact that all finishers receive a medal (I’m picky that way).
It also helped that there was a free, one mile fun run after the 5K, in which little man and K’s kids could participate. A little something for everyone.
There’s always a method to my madness.
On Sunday, I took it easy. I did end up doing an easy mile run out from the house (with a mile walk back), just to keep my legs loose. Mr PugRunner opted not to go out because he had spent Saturday walking around Disney with the little one (according to his pedometer, he clocked about five miles in the Magic Kingdom). We all took a nice nap in the afternoon and then headed out to a local Italian restaurant to carb-load with our running buddies.
This is the first time I have prepared for a race day, so I asked for some dinner and breakfast suggestions on Facebook, and tried to make the best choices. The overwhelming majority supported a pasta dinner with some sort of protein, sick amounts of water, and some kind of bread with peanut butter pre-run. Sounded pretty good to me.
For dinner, I had a small salad with a lunch portion of angel hair, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, grilled chicken and white wine sauce.
I had a little bit of ice cream for dessert (because a day without ice cream is like a day without sunshine), and tried, desperately, to go to bed. Unfortunately, I got hooked on Behind the Candelabra, the Liberace movie on HBO featuring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, and it was close to midnight when I fell asleep.
We were up around five. We had to shower, dress, take care of the dogs, get little man going, and hit the road by 6. When we picked up our race packets at 1st Place Sports on Saturday, they told us they were expecting about 1,200 racers, so arrive early to get parking. As soon as we secured our spot, picked up our chips, and submitted our waivers for the fun run, the lot was full, so I am glad we took the advice.
And then we waited. The gun was set to go off at 8:00, so we wandered around, ran into some friends and chatted a bit.
Before too long, it was time to line up. We left little man with his friends and their grandparents, and found a comfortable position towards the middle of the pack. My heart was pounding in my throat. The National Anthem was sung, The Eye of the Tiger blared through the speakers, and the gun sounded.
We were off.
When I crossed the start line, I was going pretty fast. I had to check my pace a few times along the course. Which, I would like to point out, was beautiful. We would through the most beautiful, shaded neighborhoods, and the course was lined with police and volunteers who pointed the way, waved, high-fived, and called out words of encouragement. There were three or four water stations along the way, as well. Absolutely wonderful.
The one thing I was not expecting was the hills. Ugh, the hills. There were several, not necessarily huge, but big enough for me. I conquered the first few, but the last two I had to walk. My knee just wouldn’t accept running up anymore. It didn’t mess with my speed, and it gave me just enough of a break to finish (mostly) strong.
An odd thing I noticed while I was running was that I just wanted to photograph so many things. Normally, I’m the one behind the camera, snapping away, but this time, I just didn’t have the luxury. I wish I was able to capture the start line, the finish line, the crumpled cups along the sides of the road, the crowd ahead of me, our friends cheering us on by the finish line… all those amazing details. It was kind of a bizarre adjustment for me, but it took my mind off running a little.
Finally, after following the unfamiliar course for just under a half hour, I saw some runners walking against the crowd, with medals around their necks. I knew the end was near. I decided to grab a cup from the last water stop for a quick sip to get me through the last .3 miles.
I turned the corner and I could see the finish line. And I was fine. Emotional, but fine. I think I started welling up with tears a little, just because I couldn’t believe that this was it. I was doing it and loving it.
Then it happened.
A man was walking past us. He had finished the race and was returning to his car or home. He meant well. I know he meant well. Maybe he saw that I was crying. Maybe he saw that I was making one of those awful faces I make when I’m focussed. He looked right at me and said something like “You’ve got this. The finish line is right there. It’s just a straight sprint and you’ve got it.” And it was 100% awesome and encouraging and supportive, and a normal person would have veered over and high-fived him for being so great.
But it was too much. I was too overwhelmed. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. I really think I started hyperventilating, because I just couldn’t get air. It was awful, but I kept running. I picked up my pace and just kept going, because the sooner I crossed that finish line, the sooner I could just sit down and cry or put my head between my legs or whatever would make this awful feeling stop.
I saw K and her family, with little man sitting high on her husband’s shoulders, waving and calling to me. It was so surreal. I crossed that finish line. I slowed down. And then I managed to duck right beneath the photographer’s elevated tripod and vomit right by the barricade.
It was probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I just stood there, hunched over and holding on to the fence, apologizing to the people who I could have hit if I hadn’t been careful, until K came running over with water and then wipes so I could clean up. I was able to compose myself after a minute, let the volunteer collect my chip, accept my medal and get to my friends. Little man was really upset, but I promised him I was ok and that I was just too excited.
And then we were able to cheer for Mr PugRunner, who was just a few minutes behind me (he experienced his own difficulties when an unleashed dog decided he looked tasty and ran out to mess with him).
We did it!
We rehydrated, and then made our way over to the start line for a crack at the fun run.
Little man ran a good portion of the mile. I really wasn’t sure what he would do, seeing as how it was an early morning and a lot of waiting around, but he crossed the finish line at a run. We are so proud of him.
The boys were thrilled to show off their new bling.
Last but not least, the numbers.
Mr PugRunner finished with a gun time of 39:07 and a chip time of 37:59. His pace was 12:13. He finished 54th out of 61 in the 35-39 year old men’s group and 934th out of 1234 total runners.
My gun time was 34:56 and my chip time was 33:48, giving me an overall pace of 10:52. I finished 48th out of 86 in the 35-39 year old women’s category, and 771st out of 1234 overall.
It was a solid first time out, and I rate it a success. I can’t wait to sign up for another race and to improve on our performances.
A special thanks to all of our friends and family for all the continued support. And thank you to 1st Place Sports, the Florida Striders and all the volunteers and employees who worked so hard to put together a great event.