Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gatorade/Steelers 5K 2013 Recap

I initially chose this race for a couple of reasons:

1) It was cheap.  I know that makes me sound terrible, but race fees are pricey and paying $40+ for a short race doesn't make me feel fuzzy inside.  This was around 20 bucks.  Kids were 15.  I like that.
2) It's nearby.  Walking distance nearby.  Score!
3) I love the Steelers.
4) The money goes to a good cause.

I had mixed emotions going into it.... I really haven't been training for a 5K specifically.  I mean, I've been so focused on building mileage and strength and running longer that I honestly couldn't tell you (other than speedwork) just HOW to train for a good 5K.  I wanted to run one because it has been nearly a year since my last one, and since Hal Higdon lists them as part of his training plans, which I'm following.  He hasn't steered me wrong before, I'm not about to question him now!

I kinda knew I'd PR because a year ago my 5K time at the Great Race was 26:05 and I've beaten that in every race I've done since then as well as most of my speed training runs.  That has since turned into an "easy" run for me.  Amazing what time and training can do, huh?  The thing is, I didn't know what kind of time to shoot for.  I definitely wanted to come in under 25 minutes, but a secret part of me really wanted to try for 23 minutes and change.  McMillan Running was giving me a prediction of 23:34 based on my previous race times and training paces.  I could live with that.

Packet pickup Friday afternoon was pretty easy and painless.  I was lucky enough to get in the short L-O line (not sure why the others were so long) and I was in and out of Heinz Field Gate C in no time.

I do have to gripe about one thing:  the shirt.  Oh my, oh my.  For something with a Nike logo on it, this is one of the ugliest and poorest quality race shirts I've ever seen.  And it's not even tech material OR a women's cut.  Boo!  Yes, I'm one of those people who "does it for the shirt" and I appreciate a good quality, technical shirt that I can make good use out of in the future.  So, for something like this to come out of something with the Steelers brand attached to it was disappointing.

Moving on...

I was also unsure how to fuel for a 5K the day before.  I mean, it's only 3 miles and change, right?  It's not like you need a carb load pasta feast or anything...  Even before long runs lately I've only had a banana beforehand and have been fine.  So, I just stuck with my normal meal plan but had my new trusty oatmeal/PB2/Chia seed bedtime snack.  I drank lots of water all day too... and that wasn't really hard because it was 90 degrees and nasty outside.

A good thing about the race being so close to home was the fact that I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn the morning of.  In fact, I actually got to sleep in longer than I do for most mornings.  I got up around 6:50.  Yep, that's "sleeping in" in my world!  I got up, did my STATs, and started getting my things together.  Before we left, I had a piece of toast with 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter on it.  I was a little hungry, but I don't like a whole lot in my belly before a hard running effort.  But, I knew I still had about an hour or so to go and I didn't want to be hungry for the race.

I also made some wardrobe adjustments since it was in the low 70s and very humid.  I was planning on wearing knee high yellow compression socks, but those things make my legs so darn hot that I just wasn't having it today.  I also went with the singlet instead of the shirt.

We got to Heinz Field around 7:50.  This proved to be a good thing because it was packed.  People were still registering, the lots were almost full, it was crazy.  They said this was a record turnout - somewhere around 3800 runners?  We wandered around the stadium a bit.  I was impressed with the fact that they already had tables of water and Gatorade set out.  I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and had a few swigs of it.  I couldn't finish it - so I just tossed it.  Victoria and I stopped for a potty break - the line wasn't too long, thankfully.  Then, we headed over to where the start line was near the Science Center.  They were making announcements about the corrals they were setting up.  I found the 20-24 minute finish sign and hung around there for a bit.  I did a little bit of warming up and stretching.  People started crowding into the corrals so I said goodbye to the family and went to find a good spot.  As I was looking around I was noticing a lot of people who must not be aware that the corrals were separated.  I took this into consideration as I tried to put myself near the front half of the corral.

The starting line.

The race started after some former and current Steelers pep talks and announcements and Ryan Clark was given the honor of firing the starting gun.  I got a good laugh out of the fact that he looked like he was afraid of it and flinched.  Nick had thought the same thing and got a good pic of him.


The start was nuts... as are most races, but this one especially irritated me because they had corrals that people obviously ignored.  There were people in front of me going considerably slower than a 20-24 minute finish pace.  There were even a group of girls STANDING right before the starting line giggling and saying to everyone dodging around them "we didn't know we were in the middle of the fast group, we'll just wait for ours to catch up".  Seriously?  I've never done so much dodging around, slowing down, and having to make up time like I did in this race - especially the first half.  It didn't make for an easy or comfortable time.  I got kicked really hard at one point, too.  That sucked.

Just after the start.  In case you can't figure it out, I'm the girl in the yellow headband.  2 awesome things about this pic - 1) Check out that muscle tone.  Thank you weight lifting and Focus T25.  2) Steely McBeam is in the upper right.

It took until probably around PNC Park to get into a good rhythm and decent pace.  I was just so irritated by the people and the crowding.  I had to check my attitude several times during this race because I kept thinking of all the negatives and not focusing on the positives.  I don't know what was up with me because I usually don't have a problem with that kind of thing during a race, but today I did.

I will say that I think I did a kick ass job of running tangents when I had the ability.  Like I've said previously, I know this area very well, so that helped a lot.  This was actually the first race EVER where my watch stats and official stats were nearly identical - distance was right on, time was 1 second off.

I kept tabs on my pace frequently but instead of freaking out over going too fast or slow, I was more focused on how I felt.  My pace was a little faster than I intended, but I felt good.  I felt really strong - nothing aching, nothing twinging.  I felt a little humidity "blah", but that's really all.  My main problem during this race was mental.

There seemed to be frequent bottlenecks during the first half.  Just when I thought I'd be breaking free a bit of the crowd, I'd hit another wall and have to slow way down.  Then when I fought my way around the herd, I'd feel like I had to speed up to make up the time.  That just made me so mad.  I fully admit that at one point I said "You've gotta be fucking kidding me!" after spending way too much time behind a group of people, obviously running together and talking, and not responding to my repeated "excuse me" requests.  I had to do a sideways push through with my shoulder to break through.  Probably not the classiest move on my part, but at least I admit to it.

The worst part was the turnaround.  It was like a huge clog in the drain.  So many people that I practically had to slow to a shuffle/jog/wog/walk thing around the road cone and then continue my fight through the crowd again.  This time it was a little difficult to accelerate again because we were going back up the small hill we just came down.  Thankfully, the crowd finally seemed to thin for good after this and I was able to stay sped up.

The greatest sight in the world was Heinz Field coming closer and closer.  At this point, I kind of lost track of my time, didn't care about my pace (I remember glancing at my watch at one point and seeing 6 as the first number and thinking "wow!"), and I just wanted to be done.  I pushed as hard as I could - did the whole target someone in front of you and reel them in to pass thing (lots of little kids, a few really struggling - which, as a mom tugs at my heart and makes me feel like I should be helping them instead of ditching them).  When we turned and headed down the chute and into the stadium it was just awesome.  I heard the DVE chick saying something, and looked at the clock.  I was so delirious I couldn't process what the clock said, though... lol  I think it was 24 minutes and change and I was really pissed because I thought I was going to have a crappy time.  I dug that bit deeper and blew across the finish line.  

When I stopped my watch and saw my time I was in disbelief.  It took until the official results were posted that I believed it.

I drank a few little cups of water and had a banana, an oatmeal raisin cookie, and some ice cream.  Not a bad breakfast... haha.  I will say this was some of the most well organized, best post-race food lines and offerings I've seen.  Great work, Heinz Field.

I hooked back up with Nick and the kids and after they got some snacks too, we headed down to the field for the kids fun run.  This was Garrett's first race!

Standing in the end zone - Go Steelers!

The kids races were really cute.  They separated them by age and they all ran across the end zone with kids of the same age.  All the kids did great.  Garrett was a little confused as to what to do at first, but he got it.  The two year old group was so adorable.  They all got a little ribbon for participating.

After the kids race, we stuck around for the raffle and awards.  They were giving out Steelers tickets, after all.  We didn't win anything, but it was worth a try.

I finished the 5K in 22:04, over 4 minutes faster than my last 5K almost a year ago and quite a bit faster than my goal time.  I don't know how I did that, really.  Like I said, I felt very strong.  I guess some days I'm just capable of more than I want to believe.  I do wonder what would have happened had I been able to put out a consistent effort and didn't get caught up in so many roadblocks along the course.  Then again, maybe there would be other factors that would effect it.  It's easy to sit around and say "What if?", but I keep reminding myself that I should just be really proud of this accomplishment.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a few years and many pounds ago that I'd be able complete a 5K, let alone race one in less than 25 minutes.  I'm just kind of dumbstruck.

Oh, and one last thing: