I ran another 5K yesterday morning. :)

“Yaaaawwwwwwn,” you say?

Yeah, I’m sorry. I know. Really. I empathize. You came to magicalmonkey hoping to find another one of my dirty little posts, and instead it’s more drivel about running. A consolation: if you didn’t log on last night or earlier today, you can scroll down (or click here) for yesterday’s mini post. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but does use the phrase ‘old man’s penis.’

Anyway.

At the start of THIS event, my little Shuffle was clipped to my shirt, happy to be in its proper race place. I was determined to break 32 minutes, and my plan was to use music to pace me through the race. Originally I’d selected 10 or 11 songs which would take me through an easy start, a gradual acceleration to a couple of fast songs near my pace limit, and then a gradual deceleration. But, after testing the mix during a short run last week, I’d decided it was too slow. So I nixed the easy start, reformulated the gradual acceleration so that it lasted longer and was not so gradual, built myself a slower-paced break, then sped it up again to the finish line.

I was ready, baby!

Some members of the running group had arranged to meet beforehand, so we lollygagged, chatted, warmed up, and pep-talked as we waited for the start time to arrive. I felt a warm-fuzzy for their supportiveness. A group really does help your motivation, even for a fairly dedicated loner-type like me. We moved toward the starting line.

As usual, I could barely contain my energy while waiting. I’d paired up with one of the faster members of our group, and we nudged a bit closer toward the front than was advised. I’d never started near the front, but she’d done it during our 5K two weeks ago.

“When the race starts, whatever you do….don’t look back,” she advised. “You’ll see nothing but a mob at your back.”

The horn sounded! Yay, let’s go!!

I didn’t turn the music on right away because in the beginning your pace is controlled by the crowd. After a minute or so, though, I cranked it up. A fun, fast little retro tune by Booker T and the MG’s started the party in my ears, and I sped up a bit. The next song was faster. The next song was faster than that. You get the picture.

I was actually OK through these acceleration songs, keeping a perkiness in my step. I liked that it was making me go faster than I normally would — come hell or high water, baby, I was NOT going to break stride!

Happily, my running buddy and I mostly stayed abreast. It was cool to run with someone — I’d never done that before in a race.

The culmination of those initial fast songs was the 159 beats-per-minute “Hey Ya!” by Outkast. By that point, I was beginning to get a little tired, feeling an urge to slow down….but there’s something about a driving beat which infuses a bit more life into your run. I picked it up. Shouting an apology to my running bud, I moved ahead of her.

Yep, for me, music and running go hand in hand. They feed each other.

The slower-paced break arrived, and I was grateful. I moved to the side out of the way of the faster pack, slowed slightly, and took deep breaths while managing a few quick shoulder shrugs and chest stretches. Man, I was tense! I made a conscious effort to relax my upper body and pay attention to form. When I get tired, I have a tendency to get sloppy.

After a minute or two, I decided I’d designed too much of a break with the slower songs. Not that I suddenly had a bunch of energy, mind you — I just had a mission to accomplish and needed to get in gear and damn DO it. So I forwarded through a few songs until I got to the second acceleration phase.

UGGGHHHHH. This was the part of the race that nearly killed me. I was managing to keep pace with the music, but my strides were considerably shorter and filled with more exertion. It was a freakin’ HUGE effort.

It was during this phase that my mind — my very own mind, residing inside my very own head — played quite a mean trick on me. You see, this race was being held in the same area, along many of the same trails and streets, in which we’d trained for nine weeks. Although we always varied our routes, we never failed to finish along the same path, coming to an exhausted stop at the picnic tables to chat and stretch.

Well, when the race took us along that path, and I could see the picnic tables in the distance…..I felt my body become physically relieved. “Ahhhhhhh,” my brain said to me, “just a few hundred more feet and you can stop. Look at those lovely, inviting picnic tables! You can sit down in a minute. Relax! It’s almost over.”

Pffffft. I immediately kicked my mind in its metaphorical, disloyal ass. I think the hardest moment of the race was to keep running PAST those picnic tables.

I thought for sure my running bud would’ve caught up with me by now, and I stole a backward glance or two, but never saw her. I wondered if she’d passed me already, and I just somehow missed her.

Shortly after those blasted picnic tables, I passed the one-mile-to-go marker and tried to brace myself for the last third of the race. I needed to go into a just-do-it machine mode, but all I really wanted to do was slow down and walk. I was vaguely aware that the course was doubling back on itself…..a hundred or so feet to my right, I could see the people in the race behind me running up a trail as I was running down a parallel trail. I was knocked out of my race reverie when I heard a loud “Wooooooooo, Lisaaaaa!!!” from the other side. I looked over and it was one of the guys from the running group.

Yay, a blast of an encouragement just when I needed it! I gratefully “Wooooooooo!!!”‘d him back.

My songs were still accelerating, and it wasn’t long before I reached the 160 beats-per-minute “Too Drunk to Fuck” by Nouvelle Vague. I’d timed it so that it could be my push to the finish, but I reached the song early since I’d skipped a few of the slower tunes. I tried to speed up to keep pace with the music — laughing as I did it, because that intoxicated little song never fails to give me a giggle — but it was just too fast for me at that point. I jumped backward to some of the more manageable songs in my first acceleration set.

I labored up a tiny, steep hill….turned a sharp corner….and there in the distance was the finish line!!

Ugh. But I didn’t care. I tried to conjure up the Type A, competitive Lisa, but she was taking a blissful, coma-like nap under a shade tree in the woods to my right. If it weren’t for the finish-line crowd up ahead — i.e., witnesses — I would’ve coasted to a stroll and nonchalantly crossed the finish line 15 minutes later. This always, always, always happens to me at the end of a hard run, whether it’s during a race or a training session. Everyone talks about that rush of adrenaline when they glimpse the finish line, but I’ve yet to experience it.

What DID help me, though, was catching sight of my run buddy out of the corner of my eye. She came up from behind me, shouting, “Come on!”

Now THAT, my friends, was cool. :) I increased my speed to keep pace with her. We were following a bend in the course which would spit us out very near the finish line. Almost done!!

UGH again. That blast of energy lasted all of five seconds. She left me as I slowed down again, gasping and ready to throw myself on the invitingly soft sideline grass.

Two things happened which kept me going. First, I heard our group’s head coach shout at me from among the bystanders — I couldn’t embarrass myself in front of a witness I actually know. And, second…….

I saw the clock.

I was not about to break 32 minutes.

I was about to break 30. Holy shit.

YAAAAAAAAAAAYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I kept my eyes on the large LED numbers as I ran, struggling, and passed under the balloon archway as the time read 29:39.

Inside my head, I was jumping up and down and hollering at the top of my lungs, but outside I was gasping so hard I was afraid I might hyperventilate. Fearing that my heart rate would drop too fast if I lay down on the wet grass, I kept moving aimlessly inside the small runners’ corral. Through belabored breathing and a haze of fatigue, I saw my running bud…and then we saw another from the group….and another….we gravitated toward a back corner where I found a pole — a strong, friendly, obliging pole — to lean against.

Thirty or so minutes later, after dragging myself through the crowds and heading back toward my car, I was fine. Ready to get out there and start my day!

The aches and pains started to creep up on me that evening, and have continued through today. It’s not too bad, though…..so far, it’s nothing that a little stretching hasn’t been able to ease.

Hmmmm….I divine an ass massage in my future…..

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