America’s Hometown Thanksgiving 5K, 24 November 2013

What: 5K

Where: Plymouth, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and Colin, with moral support from Drew and my dad

Benefited: The Fragment Society

Time: 30:49 Personal record!

Photos: (click to open larger versions)

Colin and me being goofy while trying to stay warm at the starting line

Colin and me being goofy while trying to stay warm at the starting line

And off we go!

And off we go!

Approaching a very bundled-up Drew, whose shadow can be seen in the foreground

Approaching a very bundled-up Drew, whose shadow can be seen in the foreground

It looks like I'm squinting, but I was actually trying to wink here.

It looks like I’m squinting, but I was actually trying to wink here

Approaching the finish with the ocean behind me.

The loneliness of the long-distance runner

Colin sprinting towards another PR

Colin sprinting towards another PR

...and I'm not too far behind

…and I’m not too far behind

Holy PR, Batman!

Holy PR, Batman! (Proof of my time to the right of me!)

Recap: Holy. Brr. [Brace yourself(ves), reader(s)… this is a long one!)

Man, if I thought the Veterans Fun Run was a cold race, then the America’s Hometown Thanksgiving 5K was downright arctic. In fact, I would have given anything for the relative warmth of that 30-something degree morning two weeks ago. Despite today’s race being about two hours later in the day, temperatures were lurking in the mid-20s, but the wind chill brought it down to single digits. It was brutal.

I had originally intended to wear a similar kit to the one I wore at the Veterans Fun Run – running tights under shorts, long socks, and a t-shirt over a warm base layer – but I was worried that wouldn’t be warm enough. I went with flannel-lined jogging pants, thermal socks my mom bought me to use when I shovel [thanks Mum!], and my running jacket over the base layer/t-shirt combo. I was also planning to wear my pink headband under a woolen cap, but we all got fancy running caps as part of our race swag and my wearing that instead turned out to be a good idea; the wool cap has a tendency to ride up my head as I run (I used to wear it playing soccer in colder weather, and was constantly tugging it back down over my ears) and the new cap has an elastic band to hold it in place. Plus, it has a running turkey on it, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong.

This race has been held for a few years running, so I was surprised at how disorganized the pre-race registration was when we arrived. Two cold ladies at one table were taking care of registering runners, giving out bibs and swag to runners who had registered online, and selling raffle tickets and hot chocolate. The runners were all in one line, standing out in the cold ocean breeze that was gusting around 40 mph, and the line moved so slowly that our starting time got bumped back more than 30 minutes. Luckily, the restaurant at the starting line opened its doors to all the runners so we could stay warm and use the loos. Props to the Cabby Shack!

When we finally got out of line with all our gear, we huddled in Drew’s car with the heat on for as long as possible. Drew, always such a good sport, was bundled up in multiple coats, a furry Russian hat, and a scarf pulled up to his eyes. He looked a bit dodgy, but also completely adorable. Colin and I both gave him permission to stay in the car or the Cabby Shack for the entire race, but he was a trooper and stationed himself in prime photograph spots to capture the travails of our shivering, struggling selves (see above).

We had aligned ourselves roughly at the 11-minute-mile spot behind the finish line, but when the race started I found myself chasing after a sprinting Colin. We passed so many runners – I usually hate when fast runners line up behind me and then pass me immediately… it’s a bit of a blow to the motivation and self-esteem – so I felt a little bad speeding by everyone. I also came within a few inches of flattening a 10-year-old kid; he was in front of me and decided to stop suddenly when his buddy darted off to the side of the road. Luckily I still have some of my quick reflexes and cutting skills from soccer, so with one quick little side-step I was able to avert disaster and all kinds of injuries.

Colin and I kept up the blazing (for us) pace for the entire first mile, and for that first mile I felt fine. The faster running was warming me up quickly, despite the absurd head wind we were running into, and the only part of my body bothering me was my faucet of a runny nose. However, around the first mile mark, my right calf started seizing up. It got so bad at one point that I was running with a slight limp. I told Colin that I’d probably have to stop to walk at some point, and he went into full-on motivator mode – blasting Muse’s Uprising from his phone and telling me it was okay to stop, but I wasn’t allowed to stop quite yet. I made it 1/2 – 3/4 of another mile before I had to stop and walk.

If I’m going to be totally honest here, I was a little pissed off that Colin ran ahead at this point. Yes, I told him that I wouldn’t mind if he ran on if and when I had to stop, so he wasn’t in the wrong at all. However, I couldn’t help but remember when I slowed down my pace during the Veterans Fun Run when I noticed his breathing was getting labored. Making sure he didn’t faint or have a heart-attack was more important to me than beating my best time, and though a sore leg wasn’t as serious as breathing issues, I was sort of expecting he’d stick with me to help push me along like I did for him. He never did get so far ahead that I lost sight of him, but it turned the race into a solo effort, and those are so much harder to run. I like having someone to chat with during races, and even if we’re not talking it still feels like a team effort because we’re in it together. I think I just need to realize that running really is a solo sport, and that if one member of a running duo is having a sub-par race, they should be happy to let the other one continue on at his/her best, especially if it’s a potential PR situation. Basically, I need to stop being so emo.

Whew, thanks for letting me talk that out! I think what I need to do is invest in a good pair of sports headphones and put together a running playlist for times when Colin (or whoever) and I get separated, so that I can still have some method of motivation.

Alright, where was I? Oh yes, stopping to walk. I had to walk several times between miles 1.5 and 3, and I found myself leapfrogging with a lady in a Chicago Marathon jacket. I’d struggle past her when she’d slow to a walk, then stop myself a few yards down. She’d usually run past me a little too closely for comfort, like shoulders brushing and all, and I felt a little wave of attitude come at me each time she’d pass me. It was probably the competitiveness in me imagining it, but she became my Moby Dick, or something, and in lieu of a running buddy she became my twisted new source of motivation. I wanted to beat her and her smug face and her marathon jacket.

It was a hard race, and I needed that motivation. In addition to my sore leg, it felt like a boa constrictor was wrapped around my entire inner torso and squeezing the life out of my lungs, heart, stomach, everything. It hurt to breathe, and I was not finding the joy in running that I had during my last race. I was running through a beautiful, historic town, and by the ocean, and I didn’t even care. I used the fancy stone structure built around Plymouth Rock as a distance marker to pick up my pace, not registering that it was Plymouth Rock until we drove by it a few hours later. Even when I saw Drew and my dad cheering on the sidelines a few tenths of a mile before the finish, I couldn’t even muster a smile or a wave. I just gritted my teeth and kept running.

The finish line was right after we rounded a restaurant, and I knew as I approached the building that I was so close to the end. I had Moby Dick/Marathon Jacket in my sights, and she was struggling. I reached deep into my reserve tank and lengthened my stride and overtook her, trying not to look smug myself as I did so. When I turned the last corner and saw that the clock read 30:-something, I pushed it one more gear, determined to cross the finish before it changed to 31:00. And I did! I was only 6 seconds behind Colin, which was amazing considering how many times I had to walk. Actually, finishing with an average pace of 9:55 was pretty amazing considering how many times I had to walk as well! Colin and I figured the fast start must have been the difference.

It was freezing, it was painful, and it made me emo, but I PR’d the crap out of this race, and the hot coffee and cannoli crepe at Persy’s Place afterwards were totally worth it. Kind of. And Colin, if you ever read this, I’m sorry I was pissed at you. I promise I’ll be prepared to run solo next time you need to leave me in your dust!

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