Saturday, September 28, 2013

5k run and swim

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to support two causes that are close to me. The first of which is a school district where I work has a wellness center to help students who are struggling with stress, depression and any other form of mental health issues, and for the past three years they have put on a fundraiser 5k. I ran in it last year, and signed up again to give me something to train for through the months that I am coaching water polo.

Shortly after I signed up for the race, the master's team that I occasionally swim with as my schedule allows announced that they were doing a swimathon to raise money for a friend who is battling cancer. She was a former age group swim coach of mine, and my babysitter. Looking at the timing of the events, I realized that it would not be a problem to do both. If you would like to donate to support my friend, comment below or message me, and I will get you the details. I will match every donation.

For the run, I knew that my preparation would be pretty solid. After racing at nationals, and my disappointing run, I made a commitment to myself to run every day for 100 days. Some days it is as little as a mile, but I have been averaging roughly 3.5 miles/run. I have also been doing roughly one track workout a week to help with my speed. I am about halfway through my 100 day commitment, and my legs have been feeling pretty solid, so I went into the race hoping to come away faster than last year.

I got to the race, and with the race being put on by the school district, many of my current and former students were there. A few of my water polo players were there, and a few of the people I train with at the track workouts were there, so I knew that there would be some competition. 

I did my usual warm-up, and made my way to the start line. As this is a community race, a bunch of the younger kids like to line up at the start, so the first three or four rows of racers are all kids under 14. While this is adorable, it is also a little dangerous. They sprint the first 25-50 yards, and then slow down. Behind them are another ~400 racers who are running who are now effectively playing dodge the kid to avoid running them over.

I lined up about 4 rows deep with some of the people that I do the track workouts with, and we laughed at the little kids in front of us. At the start, as predicted, the little kids took off. Then one tripped. Then two more tripped. Within the first 100 yards, we had the potential for a bunch of people to get hurt. I carefully picked my way around the kids, and one of my track friends (Steve) went with me.

Through the first mile, I was running side by with a guy I didn't know (henceforth, Nemo), and Steve was behind us by a few steps. The first mile was all flat or downhill, and it ticked off quickly in just under 5:30. I was noticing that Nemo was pulling ahead a little on the flats, but with my superior mass (I weighed more than him by a bit), I was able to use my momentum to keep pace on the downhill.

Then came the first hill. Hills are one thing that I get to run regularly around here, so I pushed the tempo up the hill, and Nemo and Steve fell behind by about ten seconds. The hill was pretty short, and followed by a short flat section, and I was quickly caught again. I knew that the course was hilly, and assuming that I could push the later hills, the course would play into my favor.

Here's the course. Downhill, then uphill, then downhill...and you get the point.

The next hill came quickly, and it was a long one. It goes from the middle of Piedmont to almost the top. I kept my rhythm pretty steady until about halfway up, and then put the pace down a little. The breathing and footsteps that had been right on my shoulder faded away, and I was able to put some time between the two trailing runners.

At the top of the hill, I let my legs go beneath me on the downhill. I wasn't hurting after the hill, but I knew that there was a brief climb at the end, so I would need to save something for that if I was caught. I started making mental notes as I passed spectators and volunteers in the timing of the cheers for Nemo and Steve to try and judge how far behind me they were. In the past I would have looked, but I am trying to get away from that and run with confidence, rather than fear of getting caught, so I kept my eyes forward and my ears back.

I noticed that the gap was getting smaller, but I knew that I had one more hill at the end. I slowed my tempo just a bit to save my legs, and at the base of the hill, I could hear one set of footsteps behind me by a few strides. This is when I threw down what I had left.

The gap slowly got bigger, and at the top of the hill, I took a quick look behind me and saw that I had about 8 seconds on Nemo. Steve wasn't in sight. I pushed through the end, and finished in 17:57, more than a minute faster than my result from last year.

I waited around for a few minutes to congratulate the other finishers, and then I grabbed my stuff to head over to the swim-a-thon. There was a wave of swimmers going off at 9:30, and I was planning on being in that wave. I had raised a bit of money (if you want to donate, you still can-either a flat rate or a per lap donation), and I was looking forward to seeing my friend who was going to show up.

I ended up swimming mostly by myself, and doing 25x200s, to do 5000 yards in one hour and one minute. The team was able to raise more than $3500, and hopefully we will be able to pull more in the next couple of days.

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