A 5K check-up

Fall brings me back to cross-country.

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I started running cross-country as a high school freshman as a way to “meet people and make friends.” After all, I was transitioning from being in public school my whole life to a private school where I knew only two other kids.

Little did I know that “those people” I would meet in XC would become some of my closest friends (and remain so to date!)

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Little did I know that XC would teach me a lot about myself.

Little did I know I would eventually fall head over heels shoes in love with running.

So, the 5K has a warm spot in my heart. It was the first distance I ever raced and trained for as a clueless teenager.

Now I consider myself a distance runner (i.e. marathoner) but I do the occasional 5K.

I know a Halloween 5K is supposed to be a fun run — especially if it falls on October 31st.

But, I think I am going to give this one my all.

I want to see where I’m at in racing the 3.1-mile distance.

The last one was for Valentine’s Day back in February and I went into that one just for fun and came away with a faster time than I expected.

So, let’s turn it up a notch this Saturday, shall we?

I’ll just pretend I’m running away from a mob of zombies.

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Dawg Dash 2015: Trying to figure out the 10K distance

I can’t say I walked away from the Dawg Dash 10K thinking, “Wow, I love 10Ks now!”

I walked away thinking, “I am never doing this course again!”

I’ve done the 5K version of this race several times and enjoyed it. But, the 10K course is completely different — lots of winding and weaving and mazing around the University of Washington campus. It got a little, um, annoying.

I was excited at the start. I was excited to see what my new 10K baseline would be. Seeing that the only other time I raced this distance was five years ago when I wasn’t in very good shape, I knew I would have at least some form of PR.

I started toward the back of the pack, which may have been a mistake for someone who wanted to race. But, I was happy to be surrounded by my coworkers at the beginning. For one, it was her first 10K — and race ever! — so I was super pumped to introduce racing to her.

The first mile I spent trying to pass runners on Greek Row by running on the grassy median since the road was so narrow and crowded. By the time we reached Ravenna Park, I had more space. I focused on using the downhills of the park since I knew later on there would be some uphill running.

In between mile two and three, Bryce found me running on the Burke Gilman. He was going to watch me at the finish so it was a pleasant surprise to see him. (He told me I was “looking around” when he called out my name).

I clocked in at the three-mile marker at exactly 23 minutes. If I had been racing the 5K, I would have definitely broken 23 minutes! (This is a feat I have only accomplished one time, so I was feeling all the positive energy followed by the question, Why am I not racing the 5K right now??)

Everything felt well and good until about mile 4.83. It was fun being on my old stomping grounds — I’m a UW alum — but at the same time I was tired of “running in circles” on campus. Running around Drumheller Fountain with the UW (alumni) marching band playing a happy tune was my favorite part of the race. It was always my favorite part when I did those 5Ks in the past.

Just before the 5 miler marker, Bryce and our friends, Benjie and Amber, saw me and started cheering. I tossed Bryce my iPhone which I had in one of those arm pouches, but was annoying me. Upon seeing Benjie, I yelled, “You’re done already??” He ran the 5K.

As soon as I approached the Quad, I knew the end was very near. I also kept looking at my watch so I knew I was very close to breaking 50 minutes. The classic Kristin kick made an appearance. I sprinted past a ton of runners while flying by in the “5K lane.” The finish chute was narrow. If I had stayed in the “10K lane,” there was no way I would have been able to pass so many runners without bumping shoulders or plowing someone down. Don’t worry though, right before crossing the finish line, I hopped back into the “10K lane.”

I caught my breath. Looked down at my watch.

I did it.

49 minutes and 16 seconds. A 6-minute-and-1-second PR!

Breaking 50 minutes was my secret goal. And, now the secret’s out.

What felt just as good about my race was seeing my two coworkers finish their races. They both were smiling at the end. And, honestly, I was worried that the one who was new to running would hate me after the race. After all, I had encouraged all of us to sign up together “for fun!”

And, winding course, muggy-grey weather and all, we had fun.

Am I a 10K convert? No.

It’s just that the longer distance races tug at my heart a little more.

For now, let’s say I’m a 10K skeptic.

Continuing the run commute

Just a check in to keep me honest on run commuting home.

It’s still happening, folks!

I’m getting my runs in after work.

I’m not getting stressed out waiting for the bus.

I’m enjoying Seattle fall weather.

And, so far, I haven’t had a single run in the rain. (Knock on wood).

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As the colder and wetter weather comes into full force, I will do my best to continue to run one to three times a week home from work.

The hardest part will probably be packing my running outfit the morning of.

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But, if wardrobe dilemmas are the hardest part, I think fall/winter run commuting will be just great!

Rain, sign-ups and hot tea

I just registered for two races while drinking hot, hot tea.

This morning my friend Mo and I ran two loops around Discovery Park in the pouring rain.
Then, I went home and finally signed up for the Seattle Half Marathon that we had been talking about recently.

So, I guess day 1 of training is complete!

The second race I registered for is a fun 5K on Halloween. Well, I’d imagine it will be fun since it’s on Halloween. I actually didn’t even think to look at the course or anything. It was a fairly cheap race fee as far as races go, and I’ll be doing it with some of my Oiselle teammates. I’m excited to meet some of them for the first time!

So, there you have it.

One morning soggy run, two races registered for, and now feeling toasty with my slippers on and drinking hot, hot tea.

I do love fall.

Ramping it up for fall racing

The Cle Elum 25K at the end of September has unleashed my inner-motivated-runner to ramp up fall racing.

Photo cred: My wonderful friend, Jackie H.

Photo cred: My wonderful friend, Jackie H.

I honestly didn’t think I was in good enough shape to actually race Cle Elum, which ended up being 18 miles. And I managed to pull off a time of less than four hours. I’m fitter than I thought I was!

If I can get through a trail race in a decent-for-me time, road racing will feel so easy now! Seems logical, right?

That’s why along with my already scheduled 10K in a week-and-a-half, I am going to register for a 5 or 10K at the end of this month with my Oiselle team. I am also signing up for the Seattle Half Marathon. It’s about seven weeks away but some of my high school friends will be doing it as well. So, I’ll have motivation to train (with them!)

Maybe this is the year I finally PR this course? Or, maybe the year I finally get back to a sub-1:50 time?

We’ll see. I know I will have to put the work in to see the results.

And, maybe with only seven weeks of training, it’s far-fetched.

But, a runner can dream.

Cle Elum 25K: Becoming a trail runner

I felt pretty good with my training for the Cle Elum 25K. Sure, I was “normal-race” nervous, but I knew I would finish it.

But, then the night before the race I took a closer look at the race website and read that the 25K-race (which equated to about 15.5 miles) would in fact be an 18-mile race.

My heart sunk a little as I went to bed. What was I getting myself into?

I actually got myself into something really great.

Bryce and I met up with Jackie and Brent bright and early. We left Seattle before 5 a.m. and arrived at the race start around 7 a.m. It was chilly, but I knew I wouldn’t be starting for another two hours.

Jackie and I wished Bryce and Brent good luck on their 50K … yeah, I may be crazy but I’m not that crazy — yet.

And then at 9 a.m., it was time for the 18-milers to begin our journey.

I was a little worried I would be cold in my singlet and shorts so I packed arm warmers (that I’ve never used before) in my hydration pack. I’m happy to announce that I never had to break them out. I’m even happier to announce that I did not need to take a single pit stop the entire race! As a road runner/racer, I’m not used to not having portapotties at the ready.

The beginning of the race is all up hill — like literally, for the first 6 miles we were just going up and up and up. And not even a mile into it, runners started walking. The road runner in me was appalled. I told myself to just keep running. If I stopped to walk now, who knows when I will finish!

I passed the walkers as I slowly ran up this hill. Once my Garmin beeped indicating that we had reached the 2-mile mark, I realized why all those people started walking a mile earlier. Now the course was really going up.

Giving myself a mental pat on the back for running continuously for two miles, I continued the trek — now walking. From then on if others walked, I would follow their lead. I was new to all of this, after all.

Up until about the 7-mile mark, it was rough. There was about 3,700 feet of elevation gain for this race. Here’s a breakdown if you are so inclined.

Once I arrived at that first aid station at about mile 7, I knew I would be OK because it would be “all down hill.” Since I had my hydration pack (with water) along with packs of Gu and chews, I really only craved Gatorade. Instead of Gatorade, there was water and soda (Coke and Mountain Dew). I poured myself half a Dixie cup of cola — If everyone else is drinking it, I should too, right?? — and chugged it and went on my way. A few other runners left the aid station along with me and we began our descent along the forest service road.

“Hopefully it’s all down hill from here!” another runner cheerfully said to me as he sprinted past me. (BTW, trail runners are so energetic and friendly!)

We weren’t at the very top of the ridge like the 50K runners, but we had a pretty good view. The sun was in full force. It was a beautiful fall day. I had one of those moments where you think, “I am so lucky to be here in this moment — and to have the ability to run.”

I kind of felt like I had to pee but I pushed the thought to the side. I didn’t want to veer way off course just to find a secluded area to maybe relieve myself. I continued on and before I knew it, I arrived at the second aid station. This time there was Gatorade. I was at about the 10-mile mark!

I was getting a bit tired but my legs and everything felt more-or-less fine. I found myself behind an older female runner, maybe late 40/early 50s. She had no hydration pack nor even a water bottle with her (like most of the other trail runners did). She seemed to be going at a steady pace, so I told myself to just stick with her. “She’s probably completed countless trail races,” I told myself.

The miles ticked by. I wasn’t worried about pace, or my time. I was just on a mission to finish. A few times I stumbled or tripped, but caught myself. The woman in front of me — who I nicknamed my running guru — did the same.

Then, just short of mile 15, she fell. She tripped over a rock or a root and completely tumbled to the ground. I stopped immediately and helped her up. She hit her head, but luckily wasn’t bleeding.

Another runner caught up to us and asked if the woman was OK. She said she just needed to walk a bit. The two of us started walking with her.

At this point I wasn’t sure how long I had been stopped from running. I knew I wanted to start again though. The woman was conscious and moving. After a few minutes of walking together, I said that I needed to run or else I would begin cramping. (Not entirely a lie, but the only way I could easily find myself to be on my way).

Now I was alone. I didn’t really hit “a wall” like I have done in so many past road marathons. But, at about mile 16 or so, I was ready to be done. The only time I listened to my iPod was from mile 16 to 17.

When I finally arrived at the last downhill, I knew I was close to the finish. I kicked up dirt as I attempted to now quickly get to that finish. Jackie was along the sidelines as I neared the finish line. I took what I had left in me to sprint in, but suddenly both of my calves started seizing and cramping.

“I’m cramping!” I half yelled and half laughed at her. (She said it didn’t look like I was cramping, so there’s that …)

I was glad to be done. I completed my first long-distance trail race! And, I did it in a time of 3:47:38!

I didn’t go into this race with any time expectations. I just expected myself to finish. But yes, I figured I would finish somewhere between four and four-and-a-half hours. I was pretty proud that I snuck in under four hours — which includes the time I stopped to help the woman who fell. (The woman did finish, she came into the finish running strong).

Bryce and Brent both did amazing jobs on their first 50K, too. They are now ultra runners and have inspired me to consider doing an ultra — some day.

Unbeknownst, I also snagged an Age Group win! I didn’t hear the race director announce my name during the awards ceremony (but I wasn’t really paying attention), but Brent saw my name written on a piece of paper on an official-looking clipboard.

So, I ended up with two medals from this race — one for finishing and one for the AG win!

Best of all, I didn’t fall during this race.

When Jackie and I were hanging around the finish area, waiting for the boys to finish their ultra, another runner came up to me and we exchanged congratulations. She saw my cut up and bruised left leg and asked if I fell.

“Oh no, that was from another trail run,” I casually said.

It was like this city girl could fit right in.

Getting back on track

It’s a new month.

I don’t have to worry about the “days I didn’t run” and look forward to the days I will run.

Last night, I signed up for my next (individual) race. It will be the Cle Elum 25K.

At midnight, the price was going to increase ...

At midnight, the price was going to increase …

Yes, I had no idea what the distance of a 25K is either but Google told me that it’s around 15 miles. I know it won’t be an easy race since there will be all that elevation up in the mountains, but I am up for the challenge. (Plus, Bryce will be doing the 50K — his first ultra — so at least I can tell myself I am doing just half of what him and all those crazies will be running!)

I’m excited to follow a training plan once again and to get back into the groove of running.

No more excuses.

No more sleeping in.

It’s time to train for fall!