Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cold Runnings

In 2013, Team WestEnders decided to try running a 5K race together, sort of on a trial basis. Primarily, we wanted to see if A) each of us--but especially the youngest member of our family--could handle that distance and B) we all would find the experience enjoyable (rather than, you know, "torturous"). The answers to both of those queries turned out to be a resounding "yes", so we promptly registered for another one a month later. However, since none of us is particularly fond of getting up too early, or driving too far first thing in the morning for an exercise-related event, we stuck to those two local races, then considered ourselves done for the season.

This year, we managed to repeat the June Alex's Run, a couple of weeks before moving. (Actually, I did the 3.1 miles at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, then immediately got cleaned up and drove to NC, so I'd be ready to sign papers at the closing for our new house the next day...just to add to the excitement and all...) Then, after getting relocated and settled in, we found out about a 5K happening in our new neighborhood in September and signed up for it. So, having equalled our total from the previous year, we figured we were finished for 2014. But...nooooo. I saw advertisements for another nearby November.

At first I thought, "November? Are they crazy? It'll be frigid!" But then I remembered...we're further south than we used to be...and the temperatures tend to hover around the "balmy" level for longer into the Fall than we're accustomed it would probably be quite pleasant. Also, unlike the Summer runs, which take place early to beat the climbing mercury, this one would be held at the extremely civilized hour of: 10 a.m. We wouldn't even have to set an alarm! We breakfast! As a final positive, it was scheduled for the weekend after the soccer seasons wrapped up for both boys--so I couldn't honestly think of a reason NOT to go ahead with it.

And then came the unexpected, unusual cold snap. (Stupid...fallout from some monumentally fierce Alaskan snowstorm...or whatever...) Anxiously keeping an watchful eye on the forecast in the week leading up to the race, I was...downright the overnight lows. (It didn't do anything for my peace of mind that our helpful weather station in the kitchen blinks a green warning light when it measures outside conditions around the 32* mark...thus it flashed threateningly at us all week long as we sat at the breakfast tablel and attempted--pretty unsuccessfully, I'd say--to ignore it...) Suddenly, 10:00 didn't sound so peachy after all; a couple more hours would be nice, to squeak out even a few more degrees of warmth before putting our feet on the pavement.

But truth be told, I'm pretty much speaking for myself, here. You see, I gave myself permission, right around the time Riley was born, if memory serves, to cease running activities during the Winter. I realized...I just don't LIKE to do it. The stiff muscles, the frosty air seeping into my lungs, the sweat chilling on my body, the icy breeze cutting right through to my skin--yeah, I basically detest all of that. (Hard-core, year-round runners will argue that if you wear the right gear, with wicking and insulating and blah blah blah, it's fine...but whatever, nothing can change the fact that you're still surrounded by...COLD. No, thank you...) Anyway, it was a life-changing moment when I had the following conversation with myself: "Hey, I'm an one can force me to run if I don't want I'm just gonna hold out for Spring, boo yah!" (Or...something like that...)

From that transformative moment, my ground rule became "I'll run only on days when it's above 50*." And for many years, I stuck faithfully to that mantra...except now I'd paid for a race that happened to fall on a morning when the heartless numbers on the thermometer read 33*. So, dread it though I may, I mentally prepared to suck it up and get this thing done. Mostly, I kept reminding myself that at my normal pace, I finish 5Ks in about 29 minutes. So my perky inner cheerleader encouraged me along with the thought, "Less than a half-hour, and it'll be over! Easy peasy!" (Besides, I'm absolutely sure that no one has ever turned into a popsicle in that amount of time...) Then there was the minor matter of how to dress for this, since I don't have a lot of practice...or special outdoor Winter clothing, for that matter.

As I debated about what--and how many--layers to pile onto my person, Derek and Riley appeared, declaring themselves ready to shorts...and light jackets. (Sigh. The scary thing is, I can't even debate this with them, as they are both exceptionally warm-blooded creatures. No idea where they got that particular trait from...) Thus outfitted, we made our way to the Starting Line. And you know what? It didn't feel nearly as bad as I'd feared it would. Sure, it was...brisk...but I think we were lucky that there was no wind whatsoever, so it actually felt pretty darn bearable. Waiting for the gun to signal the beginning of the race, I gave the boys my usual pep talk...which consists entirely of "See you at the Finish Line." Yeah, they're much faster than I am, so I generally wish them Godspeed and fortify myself for yet another solo jaunt.

As for the course itself, it was pleasantly scenic...if a bit HILLY...winding along nice neighborhood sidewalks and a paved wooded path. Once they took off in front of me, I never saw my sons again, as expected. So I chugged along on my own...surprised and glad that it actually felt...pretty okay. (Which, based on my low expectations before beginning, translates to "Wow! This is awesone!") At the blessed end, I reunited with Derek and Riley, who had come in a full 5 minutes before me, almost to the second. Yep, those two speed demons completed the 3.1 miles in...24 minutes. Good. Grief. This earned them 25th and 26th in the overall standings--which of course left them inordinately pleased with themselves. (I ended up 59th in the total field...obviously not winning any medals with that one, but still a perfectly respectable result, as far as I'm concerned.)

Well, there you have it. 3/4 of Team WestEnders conquered their first...Polar 5K. And now, we can close the book on another race season...hunker down indoors for the cold months to come...and look forward to getting back out there again in the (hopefully WARM) Spring of 2015!

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