Sunday, May 8, 2011

Holy Hills, Batman......

Yesterday was my 2nd time running The Bench 5K. Last year I ran this race not knowing what the course was like. I knew it had a hill in it, but that was it. Turns out it has several hills. Two in particular stand out. The first one comes up less than 1/2 mile into the race and the 2nd hill comes around the 2 mile mark. Last year it also rained near the end of the run. I had a tough time on the course last year due to the hills, but this year I am a different runner and I was curious to see how I would do.

Fast forward one year to yesterday. I pulled out my lightweight running shoes for this one. The Wingman and I drove out to the race and went to check in. There were so many people that signed up by the time we checked in they only had XL and XXL shirts left. I bumped into a few of my professors along the way. It was also a first time 5K for my friend Tracy. She brought a friend down to run with her. Tom and his two friends came down as well. I briefed everyone on what I remembered about the course, but it turns out my memory of the course was not entirely accurate.

We started in the first 3rd of the pack. I didn't want to get caught in people traffic. My strategy for a 5k is to just go out and hang on. There is no such thing as trying to hit a target pace for each mile. When the horn went off, I was heading down the road. I think it's a very slight downhill because it felt easy to run off the line. I could see Tom ahead of me and the distance between us wasn't changing. I didn't look down to see my pace, but I knew it was fast if I was running Tom's pace. I knew he would lose me by the first turn and that first turn came a little sooner than I remembered. As soon as I turned BAM!!, the first hill was in my face. It was a little steeper than I remembered. I knew I would take it easy and just make my way up it - no walking allowed. My arms grew heavy as I climbed up. As soon as I reached the top I breathed a sigh of relief that it was done. Only to look ahead and realize we had more climbing ahead. I took advantage of the downhills to get some time back. I just wanted to get through the hills because there were flats coming ahead.

Once I got into the flat section I opened it up a little more. The sun was out and it was warming quickly. They had an aid station halfway through so I grabbed a cup to pour down my back and take a swig to clear my mouth. Right after the aid station, we made a turn and I could see the next big hill. This hill was more brutal than the 1st series of hills. This one just kept going, and going, and going. It had to be almost 3/4 of a mile long. My only focus was to make it to the downhill prior to the finish line. I kept plugging away at the hill. My arms and legs grew heavy. I was turning myself inside-out, outside-in, and then inside-out again to keep going. My heart was beating in my throat. The crest of the hill finally came. I used the momentum of the downhill to pick up my pace. I made the final turn and had tunnel vision on the finish line. I was pleased with my finishing time on a course that hard.

I looked over my paces and the first two miles were fast and the wheels came off for the last mile. I have something to work on for next year. Without a doubt, I will be back for that race. The improvements they made from last year for the pre/post race festivities were great. The finish line was moved out into the road and the back lot of the bar was used for the food. Whatever organization donated the food did a great job. They had hero sandwiches, bagels, fruit, hot dogs, beer, water, sport drinks, and if you hunted it down, they had ice cream too!! There was a live band playing too. But most importantly, the proceeds were going towards a pediatric oncology charity.

Today Wingman and I will head out for a long bike ride and the weather looks great. I think the wind will cooperate for this ride. Got my fingers crossed.........

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