That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. - Nietzsche

Saturday, November 19, 2011

race report - Girls on the Run 5k

I volunteered for the second time for a Girls on the Run 5k event. You may or may not recall, I was a running buddy a year ago, and it was such a great experience that I wanted to do it again. (They have a spring 5k too, but I had a friend getting married in NC that, I was BARELY running at that point. Stupid tibia.) Plus, my registration was free as a thanks for being a solemate (fundraiser) for the AF marathon. Can't beat that!

Note: while looking for that entry, I noticed that I also had a cold pretty much at the exact same time last year. Crazy.

Anyway, I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I nearly called in sick to work on Friday (and to show you how crappy I felt, I have called in sick ONCE in close to three years at my job. Yep.) and I figured if I felt awful Saturday, I'd just have to skip it. Luckily, it started at 10 am which gave me enough time to sleep in (because 8 am is sleeping in! I am so old!) and I felt pretty good on race morning. Mucus-filled, but capable of running a moderately-paced 3.1.

The day was sunshiney and beautiful, though a little chilly. I overdressed a little (based not on the pace I run, but on the 50 minute 5k I ran last year) and found the volunteer coordinator, who said she was pretty sure that everyone who needed a buddy had already been paired. Bummer, but I figured it would be fun just to run it and cheer everyone on. A few minutes later, she came back and told me that one of the school groups needed some buddies.

Source: GOTR Cinci facebook page
Source: GOTR Cinci facebook page

There's no pre-race environment quite like what goes on before a GOTR race. There's a big outdoor stage at the race start, and it was full of girls dancing like crazy to all manner of upbeat music - current stuff, line-dance favorites, and of course "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". I met the site coaches, but there were no girls near the school's sign - because they were all on stage. I commented that I don't have the energy to both dance AND run a 5k!

Source: GOTR Cinci facebook page

The University of Cincinnati track team took the stage to lead everyone in stretching, and everyone was supposed to be back with their group - except our group had three coaches, a handful of running buddies, and no girls! Eventually they all made their way over to us right before the race started, and coaches started handing off girls to buddies. The smallest girl ended up with me. She was so cute, wearing pink butterfly wings, not-quite chest-high on me, and I bent down to introduce myself and give her a high-five. She told me she was 8, so one of the youngest girls at the event in general - it starts in third grade. The first thing she asked me was, "Do you run fast?" I laughed and told her I don't run really fast but I enjoy running. I asked her how fast she runs and she said, "Super fast!" I told her I may have to keep up with her!

They announced the race start, and my previously shy little buddy (LB) got a huge grin on her face, grabbed my gloved hand with hers, and BOLTED toward the start line! LB was pulling me, and when she let go of my hand, I was chasing her through the crowds. LB wasn't kidding about the super fast thing. We got to the start line, where we were supposed to line up according to pace signs. LB looked a little confused. I asked her if she knew how many minutes it took her to run a mile. She looked at me like I had just asked her something in Swahili. So I asked her how long it took her to run their practice 5k and she shrugged. I asked her, again, how fast she runs and she said, "Super fast!!" So I told her we could just stand anywhere....which led to LB grabbing my hand and running aaaallllll the way to the very front row!

LB was holding my hand the whole time and the ginormous grin never left her face. She asked me where the course went and I tried to explain, but I wasn't sure of the whole course. So I gave up and told her to follow everyone else. "But what if we're first?" she said. I smiled and pointed out the bicyclist who would be leading the pack. "What if we're faster than the guy on the bike??" she asked, 100% seriously. I laughed and told her that we'd just run.

Try to keep up!!! Source: GOTR Cinci facebook page

LB told me that when they ran around their school building, she was always first. I started to get a little worried. What if she was a little running prodigy? What if I really couldn't keep up with her? I decided there was nothing I could do and if I lost my running buddy because she was a speed demon, someone else would run with her! Someone was holding a rope about waist-high (so nearly as tall as LB) across the start line and her eyes got wide. "We have to jump over that???" I explained that it was keeping all the excited girls like her from taking off so soon. The expression in LB's eyes reminded me of sonic the hedgehog revving up before he goes flying across a loop-de-loop. She was totally fired up. I told her about the countdown before the race started....and then I heard girls counting down! 10...9...8...7...6 (and I took my hand out of LB's hand just long enough to start my Garmin and then grab her hand again)...5...4...3...2...1....


And HOLY CRAP LB was flying. Like crazy. I looked at my Garmin and saw a 14: something because it hadn't caught up with us yet. I looked again and we were doing a 6: something. I was thinking - and hoping - that she wouldn't keep this pace for long and was using the typical kid strategy of running SUPER FAST as long as you can. When I started thinking I couldn't stay with her much longer, she stopped and came to a slooow sloooow walk. The excitement on her face seemed to slide right off, to be replaced by overwhelming fear and upset as her bicycle-passing fantasy collided with reality. "This is a LONG WAY!" She looked like she might cry. I looked at the Garmin. We were about .2 into the race. Oh crap.

So I gave RB a crash course in pacing, and I'm not sure how much of it sunk in. So I told her walk breaks were ok, that lots of people walk, that I ran 26 miles in a race and I walked. We walked. And we jogged, and she actually had a pretty quick jogging pace too. And then, without warning, we sprinted!! So much for pacing. I darted behind her, ducking through people and apologizing....aaannnddd....WALK. LB was struck by the number of people ahead of us, and I pointed out the number of people behind us, too, and how finishing, not winning, was the goal. I race all the time, I told her, and I NEVER win but I'm happy to do my best. I think it worked. She said, "Just don't quit!" and I firmly agreed.

Source: GOTR Facebook page. Yep, keep moving!!

3.1 miles is a LONG WAY to a tiny little girl. A really long way. When I got all excited at the first mile marker, LB just looked a bit overwhelmed that we had to run two more miles. Someone pointed out that LB's shoe was untied and I could see the wheels turning as she looked down at it, looked back up and realized she couldn't bear the thought of stopping long enough to deal with it, for fear she'd never get going again. Haha, been there - mile 22 of the marathon when I was pretty sure I'd ripped off a toenail and was filling my shoe with blood and kept moving anyway.

I cheered LB on the whole way, and miraculously, she found MANY more energized moments. She would see people cheering, or a landmark like Paul Brown Stadium, or I'd tell her one more turn and then we'd be headed back the way she came, and all of a sudden she would BOLT. I'd run, too, with my heart probably beating at the top of its range, and then we'd walk again. LB was fascinated that we got to run under the highway bridges. I taught her that you don't have to stop and stay at the water table to drink it, and she seemed to relish being able to throw her cup on the ground. I told her that she needed to go out for track when she was older because she was one awesome sprinter. We stopped to pose for a picture, taken by the GOTR volunteer rounder-upper, who then laughed as LB took off again and I broke into a full sprint to stay with her. She seemed to feel pretty good about passing 2 miles, and soon we could see the Purple People Bridge. Just on the other side of that bridge, I told her. I asked her if she ever thought she'd run 3 miles and she grinned and shook her head. I said even one mile is far. "One mile is ok," she said, "but three is a challenge!"

source: GOTR Cinci facebook page. Volunteer groups are recruited just to cheer!

Source: GOTR Cinci facebook page. My favorite signs!

A few more sprints, and then I think the attention span of an 8-year-old took over. She climbed up on a wall and started jumping over raised sections of it like hurdles. She came almost to a dead stop to look out at the river - which is pretty cool-looking, I agree. We were on the other side of the bridge, and she looked at me like, "OK, where IS the finish line?" Through the tunnel where we started, I told her, and we sprinted through the tunnel. I felt a little bit bad - we still had .3 miles to go, which probably felt like forever to her, and there were some twists and turns so the finish line wasn't immediately visible. She slowed to a slow, slow walk and I'm pretty sure she thought I'd been lying to her. Soon, though, we could see the final turn and the finish line and I happily pointed it out to her. I told her to tell me when she wanted to run and we'd run to the finish. Aaand....we walked. And walked. Past the 3 mile marker. Past Erin, the director of GOTR Cincy, who was excitedly telling LB that we were ALMOST THERE!!!! And then, without warning....S P R I N T!!!! I could barely stay with her - that little girl FLEW at what I'm pretty sure was the top of my sprint range, too!

We excitedly high-fived at the end. There wasn't a race timer, but Garmin said we finished the race in 42 minutes - which I think is pretty awesome for an 8-year-old! Especially considering that LB stopped a few times to tie the same shoe - she had finally decided it was ok to stop and tie it, much to my relief - before I tied it in a tight double-knot for her. LB was a total trooper. I delivered her back to her school before I left to do a few more miles on my own, as prep for the thanksgiving 10k.

I love doing this race - it reminds me why I run and how awesome the feeling is of accomplishing something that looks huge. It's so easy to get caught up on pace and speed and meeting or not meeting goals instead of just going out there and running and letting THAT be awesome and amazing on its own.

I'm still going for a sub-60 10k....but it feels a little less important now, and the experience feels like more of a priority.

I got home and checked what the Garmin had to say - our top speed was 12.4 mph!! I told you LB was crazy fast. Our Garmin feedback looks like this:

OK, some of that is I think because the Garmin gets a little wonky downtown, with the buildings and all, but some of that is genuine variation between sprinting and walking. (I think the four highest peaks represent shoe-tying breaks!)

Loved, loved, loved the race again this year. There were over 800 girls in the Cincinnati area groups, which is fantastic. I never, ever, ever would've thought I could do a 5k at that age. Such a good program, and I encourage everyone to get involved with GOTR in your area if you can!!

And remember, in the words of LB - just don't quit!!

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