Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Mile High Club, Running For Cookies, Tapery Goodness, and Wilson

Last weekend, I went to Denver with my two oldest daughters for the second of two dance conventions with their dance studio. For those who do not have young dancers in the family, these things are pretty cool. The kids take classes from master instructors/choreographers, and get to perform and compete dances for a panel of judges. I really do enjoy watching them, as well as seeing what else is out there in the dance world. I also get a little stressed out and nutty this weekend. It's a weekend spent almost entirely indoors. There are costumes, makeup and hair items that I don't deal with on a daily basis. A time schedule for performances and workshop classes. All that. I always threaten to run during these weekends, bring gear, and never get out. I wind up enjoying it but wishing I could have gotten outside for an hour or two.

This weekend, my friend Cheryl said she'd be in Denver, and would be running a 5K that her friend was putting on. I thought, hmmmm. I've never raced in Denver. No idea how I'd fare in a bigger city race. This would be good. I packed gear to race in case it worked out. As it turned out, my girls were in classes all Saturday morning, not competing. Great. This might work. I tentatively committed to it, but woke up Saturday feeling like I hadn't gotten enough sleep. I was kind of cranky, and not feeling it at all. That voice in the back of my head screamed "THAT'S WHY YOU NEED TO RACE, DUMMY." So, I made sure the girls were in class, texted Cheryl to say I was coming, and headed over to Greenwood Village, about half an hour away, for the Cookie Chase 5K.

Now, if you're me, and you race in Grand Junction, Colorado, you're used to very small fields with few bells and buzzers, and a highly competitive field. I was thinking that I wouldn't have a chance to place at a Denver race due to the sheer size of events there. When I arrived, there were TONS of people milling around. Lots of booths giving away everything under the sun. I was still tired and not feeling racey. When Cheryl arrived, she mentioned looking at race results from the previous year, saying the winner came in around 24 minutes. If things were similar this year, we'd totally have a chance to podium. Lining up, we saw this young kid wearing superman socks, her hair back in a long ponytail, being told "good luck" from friends who then moved back. She appeared to be our main competition, and when the starting gun sounded, she was off like a shot. Cheryl was immediately a bit ahead of me, along with a small handful of men.

I was not feeling awesome, but this was a 5K. I'm supposed to feel like crap. This was good...I was at my pain threshold. I focused on little track group-isms, like the short stride, high rate of turnover, and focusing just a bit ahead, not up the road. I got through the first mile feeling as if I'd paced where I could maintain, and not have a huge positive split.

We headed down a main road, or should I say, UP a main road in Greenwood Village. I passed a guy, and was getting closer to Cheryl. We made our way around a hairpin curve and for the first time I could see who was behind me. There was some lady a hundred feet back or so. Close enough that she could catch me if she was a good kicker. I cranked it up, and slowly made my way to Cheryl. I said "hey" when I reached her, and then said "let's put some distance on the women behind us." We ran pretty much side-by-side, pushing really hard, sometimes with one of us drifting a few feet ahead, and sometimes the other. Oh man. I was feeling really crappy now. I could hear Cheryl with the occasional gasp/sigh...this was not a "sit back and run your don't-give-a-damn pace" kind of day.

The road seemed like it was ready to turn toward the finish, but in a cruel and unusual twist, it kept winding around to cover the full 5K distance. I was hurting pretty bad now, but knew we were nearing the finish and still sitting jointly in second place. I kept turning it over and got ready for a final burst of speed at the finish.

We took the turn for the last .1 downhill, and Cheryl just opened up. She ran the 800 in high school and college, and comes with some excellent short distance kick. I worked to follow suit but wasn't able to gain on her today. I tried to keep it close, though, and flew through ten seconds after her for third overall. A guy in the finish area said we looked like we were skipping down the street. I felt like I was having massive convulsions, but if he thought we looked good coming in, then awesome.

The atmosphere at this race was extraordinarily positive. It was for the Make-a-Wish foundation, and there were kids on hand who had benefited from the organization. We had volunteers thank us for participating, and who thought it was cool that a couple of random girls from Grand Junction were here. The hardware at this race is perhaps the coolest I've ever received, besides the hand-carved African animals and handpainted bowls at Children With Hope. We met the girl who won, and Cheryl's fiance Skip, as well as the young winner mother, took pictures of us with our awards.

Cheryl and I realized that our plaques were the left and right shoes from the same pair as we stood there looking at them, and so we got another picture with the matched pair.

We agreed that it sure helped to have the other out there, and that we'd pushed a lot harder for it. The woman who was kind of close at 1.5 miles was nowhere near when we came in, so we'd indeed done a good job of putting distance on runners behind us. Besides the plaques, we also got a tub of cookie dough. By tub, I mean big giant vat. From the back of a truck. It felt kind of illegal. We laughed because this was not the standard way of receiving post-race schwag, nor was a container large enough for swimming full of cookie dough standard post-race fare.

This race was a welcome positive experience, because about a week ago, we had to put down Wilson, our chocolate lab, and first "baby" in the family. My kids simply did not know life without Wilson there. He loved to swim, and in the final months, he still loved to lay outside in the sun even though he couldn't really move around well. I know fourteen years is a really, really long time for a dog. Still, it doesn't hurt any less to have him not here. Every workout after he died was tough. I struggled to get through easy runs. Broke down several times on an early midweek run with a friend. Spent more time in child's pose at yoga than I think I did in the full nine months since I started practicing. So, I feel like the decent race result with a tired, kind of negative mind and body was proof that you have to keep training and working, even when it feels awful.

I'm now just a few days out from my first 50-miler. I'm pretty nervous but excited. I feel like I'm not as well prepared as I could be, but everyone keeps saying I'm good, and can hike it out if need be. That's my mentality going in; if it was easy, everyone would do it. I will be one of the last people out there, but I intend to be out there, taking my time and getting through it, not bowing out at 25 miles. You never know what could happen on race day, and it's going to be very hot on Saturday. I'm still going in knowing it'll be hard, but with a sense of optimism. That's about all one can do in any situation. Oh, and I'm going to smile every mile. Not many people are as lucky as I, to be able to live and train here. Might as well maximize that time, and think about how good a cold beer at the finish will taste at the end of the day. And know that if Wilson could get out to play in the great outdoors, he would. So, I shall.


Denise said...

You inspire me Karah. ((hugs))

Running In Boise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Running In Boise said...

Those awards are super cute! Looks like a fun race.