May 26, 2014

May 26 - Jog 4 Joe (5K Race)

Total time: 46:56
Total distance: 3.13 miles

When one of your close friends asks if you will participate in the memorial 5K for her killed-in-action brother-in-law, that's not exactly something you say no to... even if you haven't really been running and you have hit the "hate" portion of your love-hate relationship with it, even if you have to get up before 6am to drive across the state to do it. Because there is a thing called perspective, and really, all of it is the least you can do, to help honor the memory of a fallen loved one. US Air Force EOD SSGT Joseph Hamski: this one is for you.

I spent most of Memorial Day weekend with my family, consuming glorious smoked/bbq and hanging out with my little nephew, then said my farewells in an attempt to get to bed early. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this or not, but my sleep is incredibly screwed up. For starters, I have insomniac tendencies, and it's often well after 1am before I can finally get myself to sleep. For seconds, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea last October, which I am just now starting to treat. On top of that, I've never been a morning person. Usually, usually, I can make the heroic effort to wake up early if there's an Event occurring, but it's always questionable.

But! I knew I had to be up and ready and out the door and at my friend's house by 6 to ride over with them (I can always sleep in the car, right?) so I forced myself up and got ready and sent her a text saying I was on my way, and... about three blocks later, her husband calls me and informs me that she's sick and they won't be able to go.


As much as I hadn't been keen on getting up crazy early to go run, I felt rather disappointed. 

I was already awake and surprisingly alert, and, frankly, a solo two-ish hour drive wasn't going to be all that bad. I drive almost that far to visit my sister. Granted, this was in a part of the state that I was entirely unfamiliar with, so it felt like it was a lot farther away. However, it also felt a lot more like an adventure. I looked at my car clock and did some mental math and if Google Maps was to be believed, I could still make it there with about twenty minutes to spare. So I filled up my gas tank and set off on my own.

This race felt bigger than me, felt more important than usual. It wasn't really about running it or walking it. It was about showing up. And I had already committed to showing up, so, dammit, I was going to. Even if I had to go by myself. Besides, I felt like somebody should represent them if they couldn't go.

It was kind of a nice drive. When I'm awake for them and not bone tired, I actually do rather enjoy mornings. I get why people are morning people. It's crisp and fresh and quiet and the day feels full of promise and, frankly, you can get a lot more done.

G-Maps took me as far as the park itself, leaving me to my own best guess as to where in this sprawling expanse of lakes and campers and trails the actual race start was. Fortunately, after stopping to ogle some baby geese (grown up geese are jerks but the babies are adorable!), I found where I needed to be. It had been lightly raining on and off for the last twenty minutes or so, and it didn't really show any signs of stopping. It was a little bit muggy, but not as bad as it could have been, I suppose. I slathered on the bug spray and meandered over to the general start area, where I knew absolutely nobody. (I recognized my friend's mother-in-law, but I'm not sure she would have had a clue who I was if I'd gone to say hello, even though I was a prominent member of the bridal party in the wedding. Granted, this happens to me a lot - I am really good at remembering faces and I have to refrain from creeping people out by greeting them when I know they will have a very low probability of reciprocating said recognition.)

This was a pretty small race, compared to the others I've done. It was kind of refreshing. It was laid back, completely local, and for a common cause. No fancy start line, no chip timers; they had people with clipboards at the finish line recording bib numbers as people finished.

The race itself felt pretty solid for me. I didn't really have a goal time in mind; I hadn't been running as much as I would have liked (even though my "big" 5K was coming up the following week - I had decided to use this one as kind of a warm up/trial/check point to see where I was at) so I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was kind of hoping that I'd been secretly getting in shape from softball, but I wasn't terribly optimistic on that front. My only real goal was to try to run the first mile under 14 minutes (something I hadn't done yet this year), and even that goal only really clicked into place and I started moving. (NAILED IT! 13:50, woo!) I did force myself to stop and walk a bit - I felt good, but I didn't want to overdo it, either. They got to be shorter and fewer as the race went on, and I found myself in this completely contented zone, one I'm not sure I've quite found before.

Aside from the rainy/muggy weather, I enjoyed it a lot. It wasn't unbearably hot and sunny like the 80s run had been; the course was pretty flat and ran through the park and it mostly just felt good to run. I could think of not a single thing more fitting to do with my Memorial Day than to go out and run in memory of all those who were gone, all those who had sacrificed. I really didn't even care about a finish time. I was just running to run at this point. I was dripping wet at the end - it might have been sweat, it might have been rain - and I could feel that my face was super pink and flushed. I kind of awkwardly milled about with my post-race banana and water, not having anyone there to meet up with or talk to, but not quite ready to get back in my car and drive home. I hung out for the awards ceremony and wandered away when everyone dispersed. I felt more anonymous and invisible than I have in other events where I've been by myself - possibly because it was such a small event and almost everyone there knew each other - which was a really surreal feeling. Assuming the schedule works out, I'll probably come back again next year... hopefully next time with my original companions.

UPDATE: About a week later - coming off the bizarre event that was the Dam to Dam 5K, they emailed out the results... I got 7th! I mean, out of 17, but even so... that's not only in the top ten (which is something I will likely not see again), but it was in the top half! There were more people behind me than in front of me! So that's really cool.

This wasn't chip-timed, so I'm going with my Garmin time over their written finish time since it was being manually tracked, even though the difference was all of three seconds. ;)

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