Monday, August 8, 2016

Every Mile a Memory: 3rd Annual Community Run for Life 5K 8.7.16

Some background behind this race
Even though this was my third time running the Community Run for Life 5K, I wasn't really sure what to expect and I’ll explain why in a moment. But first, this is one of my races that is more of a personal event rather than “just another race.” As you know, I am a three year, eight month year breast cancer survivor and three months after I was diagnosed, my dear father, AKA Papa D, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, a battle he fought ferociously but with grace until God called him home April 14, 2015. This race benefits the Lake Health/UH Seidman Cancer Center where my oncologist is as well as where my dad’s was and where he received his chemo and radiation treatments. Unlike June's Race for the Place 5K, there are no teams or fundraising efforts, you just support the medical center by participating. So there was a very personal aspect for running this race. Also, when I ran their inaugural race in 2014, I had just started running in March that year and it was only my third 5K so you can imagine how utterly surprised and stoked I was when I received my first AG placing during that race. Even when they changed the course up a bit last year, I still managed to place in my AG. As you can see, it’s a special race on many levels. Why wasn't I sure what to expect? Even though this was my third time running it, not only did they change race management companies this year, but they also changed the location to the Holden Arboretum where a few of my other races have been (trail-type, mostly gravel and windy course with lots of rolling hills). The good thing was I knew what I was in for as far as what the course was going to be like in general however, the specific route looked like it was a little different than any of the other races I’ve done there that is why I wasn't really sure what to expect from a finish time aspect. Add to it this year they grouped the awards by the 40-49 ages rather than 45-49 so I really didn't see an AG placement this time around. It's ok though, I decided I would just run the race in memory of my dad and not worry about times, AG placings, etc. Another thing new this year, since it's at the arboretum, they have added a flower dedication in the butterfly garden in memory of a friend or family after the awards ceremony.

And now on to race day
I woke up at 6 am in a complete panic about this race. I wasn't bothered by the fact my left hip and right knee had given me troubles earlier in the week so I used the elliptical rather than run most of the week. I thought about just how hard a 5K is, both physically and mentally, especially on this particular course because it's not a flat road race, and quite honestly, I almost prefer running my 10 mile race over a 5K.  I even mentioned it to my DH on the way to the race. Yep, self-doubt kicked in the minute I opened my eyes. It didn't help that I woke up to some minor family drama and add that to the emotional aspect of this race, yeah, I really wasn't feeling strong about this one. I decided I was going to stick with my plan of just running the race in memory of my dad and not worry about anything else. I was joined by my brother-in-law who is an avid runner and runs many of the same races I do, my oldest sister and mom (who were going to walk either the 1 mile or 2 mile option which was new this year), a few co-workers (one co-worker's sister died of breast cancer in December and she herself had a cancer scare month ago), and my cousin and her family.

Me, my big sis, and my mom
After we all met up in the staging area, I went for a short half mile warm up and while my knee was fine, my hip was a bit achy as was my calf which was weird because I've never had an issue with it before. Nothing too horrible though and I figured once the race adrenaline kicked in, I'd be ok (which ended up being the case).

It was a small race this year with only around 100 people participating in the 5K. I'm not sure how many people were actually running the 5K as opposed to walking it. There were so few "competitive" runners it seemed that I was able to position myself right at the front. Plus, the walkers, whether for the 5K, 1 mile or 2 mile distance, were instructed to line up behind the runners. The gun went off and for the first quarter mile or so, I started to cry a bit thinking of my dad.  I think I was just in emotional overdrive and I was able to regain my composure and just run. With it being a small race, there wasn't whole lot of weaving in and out of people and probably around the half mile mark, I was pretty much running by myself. There was this one little boy that for some reason felt the need to speed up and move over in front of me every time I tried to pass him. It seems EVERY race I do there is some little kid who does that. Why do they feel the need to do that?! It drives me crazy because a few times I've almost tripped over them!  Luckily he ended up stopping at one of the porta johns and I wouldn't see him again.

Anyway, I fought with feelings of self-doubt for most of the race. I was tired, this was hard, I couldn't breath, how would I finish, etc. etc. It was so bad at times even my power songs on my playlist weren't cutting it but then as I approached the water stop, I saw my dad's care coordinator handing out water.  She didn't recognize me or anything and I didn't stop but seeing her was a much needed mental boost that no matter how I was feeling physically, this race was about my dad. I really think it was no accident she was at that water stop as would remind myself several times after that why I was running. There were several hills that were kicking my butt and I kept telling myself they were pieces of cake compared to the monsters I encountered on my vacation. When I reached the tops, I decided to slow down because my breathing was horrible and I felt like I couldn't catch my breath. At one point during the race, my cousin's son, who was running a 5K for the first time, passed me and at first I thought I might try to keep up with him but there was no way I could, he was just too dang fast! Paul was taking pictures and he was positioned somewhere between miles 2.5 and 3. Seeing him gave me another mental boost. At the 3 mile mark, I started to feel very overwhelmed again and a couple of the volunteers were standing there directing the runners where to go. I said something like "what, we still have more to go?!" and the one man cheer me on and said "you can do it, you only have about a minute left." Ugh, I was not going to make it one more second, much less a minute…but I pressed on. All the sudden I started to feel like I was going to throw up. I have never ever run a race and had that feeling before. There were a couple of times I even put my hand up to my mouth because I thought I was going to. But a little voice in my head said "just go, you can throw up when you cross that finish line so move it!" I rounded the corner and saw the finish line clock. Holy heck, it was still in that 24's! I kicked into overdrive and crossed the finish shortly after the 25 minute mark. According to Garmin, my time was 25:12.5. Dang, once again I felt like I was running like crap but instead I was killing it! I kept thinking to myself had I not slowed down the times that I did, I would have finished sub 25 again. Although I was so out of breath it took me about 10 minutes to regain my composure, the sick feeling I had went away. Sweet, this would not be the race I tossed my cookies!

Once everyone finished, we walked over to where the award presentation was being held. Knowing my time was better than I thought and given the fact the race was so small and there weren't any women who looked like they'd be in my AG who passed me, I was feeling pretty confident an AG placing would happen, despite the ages being 40-49 rather than 45-49.  They announced the overall winners first and wouldn't you know I was only 0.5 seconds behind the #3 female?! Since I was behind her the entire race but never able to catch up to her, I felt even more confident a placing would happen. Sure enough, they announced the winners in my AG and I guess you've figured it out by now that I was #1. Chip time of 25:12.5.  As they announced my name and my family and friends cheered, I cried as I bounded up like Tigger to receive my award. The woman who was handing out the awards hugged everyone as they came up so sure enough when I went up to get my award, she hugged me too and she could tell I was crying so she held on just a little bit longer than usual and told me nice job. What made this unexpected victory even more special, after I received my award and walked back to where my family was, my dad's care coordinator, who was talking to my mom at the time, walked up to me, gave me a huge hug, and told me my dad would have been very proud of me. There really are no words to describe how I felt in that moment.  My brother-in-law won first in his AG and my cousin's son, the one who passed me, won first in his, too. My sister who did the walk with my mom won one of the door prizes.
A family who races together wins together

After the awards, they had a small memorial "service" in the butterfly garden. Everyone was given a sunflower and after a short prayer was read, we threw our flowers into the pond. Paul took pictures so once he gets them processed, I will share them.

Last year when we ran this race, we met a woman and her friend. They had been running partners for years and he had been diagnosed with lung cancer a couple months prior so it was his first race since. At  Sunday's race, she won in her AG but I didn't happen to see her friend anywhere. When we were at the butterfly garden, I noticed her across the way crying. After the memorial service was over and as everyone was leaving, she walked past me so I stopped her, mentioned we met at last year's race and I said I noticed her friend wasn't there. We chatted for a bit and sadly, he passed away in November. She mentioned again how he was her running partner for the last 12 years and how much she missed him. She thanked me for remembering her, we congratulated each other on our awards, and said we'll see each other next year.

So, while my chip time was not my fastest to date and had the usual suspects been at this race and I probably wouldn't have placed, yesterday's race was a personal best on so many other levels. It just goes to show that sometimes even when you aren't feeling it, you just might surprise yourself when you race with your heart rather than race with expectations.

1/13 AG 40-49
19/99 overall

One last note: I'm not sure if the course was the same as the race I ran there on Father's Day. The start and finish were the same, but as I was running the trails, some of it seemed to be a bit different (and seem to be more hilly!!). I chalked it up to them adding the 1 and 2 mile walk option but when I compared the course from the Father's Day race in June to this one this morning, they are almost identical so who knows. At any rate, my time for that race was 25:53 so if that's the case, I beat that time by about 41 seconds. Another unexpected victory!