Saturday, October 15, 2011

Exceptional People 5K

One of the side benefits to hurting my elbow while trying to drop a weight class for the Pan Ams was that it yanked me back into running shape. All at once, I went from running 10-15 miles a week of mostly easy, recovery runs to 30-35 miles a week.* I couldn't roll, but needed to keep my exercise up in order to burn calories. Since I'm one of those weirdos that genuinely loves running,  I was happy to have an adequate long-term running base to sustain such an increase in distance.

The special ed PTA from the school district where I work hosted a 5k this morning and I decided to sign up. It was a win-win: I've been itching to run a race (I haven't done one since March) and I was more than happy for the chance to support my students at the same time.

Now, there are some who might think that running should not be allowed to contaminate a jiu jitsu blog. But I think it's appropriate for 2 reasons 1) running counts as general cardio conditioning, a useful asset in BJJ and 2) my elbow is on the fritz again and I am under doctor's orders not to roll until it is better. So, quite sadly, I have no jiu jitsu news to report.

It was great fall running weather. I told myself that it would be nice to finish under 20 minutes, but didn't have a very specific time goal, since I was unclear about my current running fitness.

When the race stated, I took off and soon found myself a couple of minutes ahead of the other runners. I was in a position that I have never before seen in a running race - the lead. I don't attribute this to my running ability so much as to the makeup of the race participants. It appeared that the race had only been advertized within the school district. Participants were not from running clubs, but were teachers or parents from the schools  - a real community affair. Go Orange County!

We were told to keep running until someone told us to turn. Sure enough, there were volunteers at the intersections telling us where to go. About halfway through, we spread out to the extent that I could no longer see the runners behind me. This made me nervous.

Finally, the road that I was on came to an end - and there was no volunteer in sight. I had two choices - to turn left or turn right. I had a 50/50 chance of staying on track but had no idea which way to go.

In the end, I decided to veer right, a decision that I very quickly regretted. I found myself running along highway 70, a very busy street that had not been blocked off. This couldn't be right. In the sea of passing cars, I saw a man walking his dog. "Have you seen any 5k runners?" I asked him. He looked at me like I had escaped from a mental institution.

I knew then that I had to make a decision. I could continue at race pace, hoping against odds that I was going the right way. Or I could slow down, accept that I was lost, and find someone who could help me find my way back to my car. I knew that the latter was probably the more realistic move, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I kept running until I had no choice but to stop, due to a red light. WTF! Now, I knew I was off course. I waited for about 30 sec until there was a break in traffic, then darted across the street, jaywalking - jayrunning - like I didn't give a damn.

I accepted that I was lost but kept running - what else could I do?  It was then that I started hallucinating. I saw children up ahead, children in race shirts, children waving at me, telling me where to go. It couldn't be - could it? I rubbed my eyes. Holy miscommunication, I was actually on track! I wasn't going to end up a streetwalker, doomed to jiu jitsu innocent folks for their wallets. I was going to finish the race and make it to my warm, safe car. Whatever happened next, I could trust my reliable GPS to take me home. I smiled, waved to the kids, and started sprinting.

In this unconventional manner, I won my first ever running race. A mom came up to me and said "My son is running and he is a boy, but it's really nice to see a woman win." This made me laugh. One of the volunteers told me I finished in 20 min, but I wasn't sure how accurate the time or the course was. I was happy, because at least it meant I wasn't way out of running shape.

I talked to other runners who finished, none of whom shared my navigational problems. It seems I was one step ahead of the race infrastructure - the intersections in question were identified and blocked off a few minutes late, after I had run by.

All in all, it was a fun time and it felt GREAT to be back in my racing shoes. I can't wait to do more races this fall!

* Do not try this at home. This sudden increase in mileage is neither safe nor reasonable. Most experts will recommend increasing mileage by no more than 10% per week.

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