Monday, April 18, 2016

I ran my FIRST 5K in the Good Times Running Series in Lowell

Last week, I bit the bullet and signed up for the Good Times Running Spring Series. I've never done a 5K before nor have I ever run outside before. I'm not sure why I signed up, I just did it.

The 411
My friend Christine introduced me to the series. I can't believe I never knew about it and I live in Lowell.  For 10 consecutive weeks, runners of all ages and experience meet up in downtown Lowell for a fun 5K run. Each week, a new theme is featured and runners are encouraged to dress in Christmas attire or BYOB (bring  your own friend).  

This is a legit race. Runners wear bibs and are timed.  The goal is to improve your time from the previous week.  Different prizes are awarded each week.  Price for the whole 10 week series is only $100.00 or if you cannot commit to attending every week, people can opt for the a la carte option and pay $15.00 per a race.   The route is scenic along UML's riverwalk and the Merrimack River.  

The Training
Let's rewind. The last time I ran for 20 minutes straight was more than a decade ago in High School. We had to run the tracks or the trails at Notre Dame to warm up for sports.  Since then, the only way I've kept active was using the elliptical, taking Zumba classes and occasional spin classes.  I always thought I was too fat to run and made excuses that my Achilles hurt and I put too much stress on my ankles.  It wasn't until mid January when I joined Orange Theory ,where I was reintroduced to running again.

In every class, there is a treadmill portion for about 20-30 minutes and the other portion includes rowing and strength. During the treadmill part, participants are encouraged to go at their own pace whether they are walking, jogging or running. I started off as a walker a 3.0 MPH on the treadmill.  

Each class is different and rotates on a daily basis. On "Strength" days, we do hills on the treadmill, on "Power" days, we do sprints on the treadmills, on "Endurance" days, we do longer run blocks on the treadmill at a consistent pace.  This eliminates the monotonous run on the treadmill where most people wouldn't challenge themselves to do hills interval training.

At the beginning, my "base" (comfortable) pace was a walk at 3.0 MPH, my "push" (difficult) pace was about a 4.0 MPH and my all out sprint was about 4.5 MPH.  After about 3 months of attending classes (and dropping 30 pounds), I've gradually increased my speed a bit and strive for a base pace of 4.5, "push pace" of 5.0-5.5 (depending on the workout) and a sprint of up to 7.2 MPH, a big jump from 4.5 MPH.

In addition to Orange Theory, I've been seeing Jim Ellis at Evolved Health Chiropractic .  We have been working with mobility issues, loosening tight back/shoulders and improving breathing techniques. It's been a great asset to my training.

Race Day .. (and the day before)
The day before the race I was a nervous wreck. I called, emailed and chatted with all my runner friends to get advice. I really wanted to back out. I had so much anxiety that I couldn't sleep.
  • What if this is too soon for me?
  • What if I finish last?
  • What if the time shuts off before I finish?
  • What if people judge me?
  • What if I fall?
  • What if I can't finish?
  • What if I have an asthma attack?
  • What if I have a panic attack?
  • What if it rains?
The morning of the race, it rained. Oh boy! Luckily for me, it cleared up by 4 PM and the sun started to peak out. 

Before the race, I drank water, ate a banana, toast and peanut butter.  I also quickly foam rolled my legs and hips for about 15 minutes before heading to the bar to check in.  Everyone met up at Dudley's in downtown to grab their bib, use the bathrooms and congregate. I used this time to take selfies with my friends.  

Every week, runners get the same bib and number. This makes it easy to track.  Shortly before 6:45 PM, we headed towards the start line by the Ayotte Parking Garage.

My nerves peaked at this moment.  I was telling myelf to just shoot for 50 minutes and FINISH the damn race and get it over with!

The national anthem came on and the race began.

My little legs started moving to Martin Garrix's "Animals" and all my worries disappeared.  

Of course tons of people flew by me but I didn't care anymore. I enjoyed the scenery and was focusing on my breathing.

We went around the garage and headed down towards the Riverwalk and ran along the river.

It was such a nice view with the bridge in the background.  Maybe its because I was towards the back but there was plenty of room to run.

We went under the Aiken street bridge by Lelacheur park and reached the 1st mile mark where water was being distributed.  My MP3 player died. OH NO! What was I going to do now? After a few minutes of trying to trouble shoot it. I gave up. I just continued to breathe and continued anyway.

I ran past the ball park and made my way behind UML's dorm.  There were some small hills. Yup, this was my first walking break.

I picked up the pace once the pathway got flat again and twined through the paths before getting to Fox Hall. My heavy panting alarmed some of the UML students as I crept up behind them.

After I made the right turn, there was another small hill. I walked again....

After the busy University Ave intersection (you don't have to cross any streets), I started back up across the bridge.  The river rocks were so beautiful and the sun setting was a magical view. I wish I had my phone, I would have stopped and took pictures. 

We made a sharp right at the end of the bridge and went down VFW highway. This was the part where I picked up the most speed since it was all downhill.  I had to use caution as there were lots of broken glass on the sidewalk from assholes throwing out their beer bottles. The river was now on the right but I had Umass Lowell buildings on both sides.

I was psyched to pass the 2nd mile mark and took a quick break and walked for a bit.  Once I approached the Aiken street bridge, I started to run again.  It was amazing (and chilly) to run across the bridge. I felt snot coming out of my nose and had to use my sleeves to quickly wipe it.

I could see the light at the end of the tunnel! The finish line area was visible on the left.  I just had less than a mile to go! At the end of the bridge, we went back under the bridge and returned to the water station. The 1 mile signed was still up and I joked with the other joggers that we were running backwards, they  had a good chuckle.

I ran by the familiar path that I had already run and was back tracking my way to the finish line. I was relieved to see the 3 mile mark. That meant only less than .1 miles left! I was stoked.. then I found out we were going uphill. Yup, my ass walked again.  Once I got over the hill, I did a mad man sprint to the finish line HOPING I was under 50 minutes.  My friends who already finished the race came to cheer me on during the last few moments.  It was really meaningful and encouraging to  hear them shout my name and tell me how awesome I was doing. I was thrilled and was full of emotions.  I ran past the time board at 39 mins. 

I finished. I wanted to cry.. and throw up.

I cheered along my other friends as they came in and was ecstatic to be there. We walked backed to the bar where we would print our time.  The results are also emailed to you.  I was surprised that I did even better than I thought and came in at 38 minutes 37 seconds.  Sure, its not a good time but its my time. It's my first race and I'm sure damn proud of it.

What's Next?

I'm only 1/10th of the way done. I have 9 more races to complete. I am bummed that I already know I will miss two of them.  My goals is to do my best each time and improve my personal record, even if its just by a few seconds,  I'd like to take less breaks and challenge myself to job up those hills instead of walking them.

Sure a 5K might be a walk in the park for most people but for me  it was significant.  Completing the 5K is one of the most proudest moments of my life. I did it. I conquered my anxiety, stopped with the excuses and made it happen.

Join me on my journey to complete the 2016 Good Times Running Spring Series.