Team WestEnders rolled the meteorological dice and decided to run a local 5K this past December--and afterwards heaped praise upon the benevolent Weather Gods for bestowing a damp, 50-ish, overcast day for the event, rather than the frigid, windy, or rainy alternatives one could reasonably expect at that time of year. Figuring that we'd pressed our luck quite enough, we then came to the mutual agreement that we'd take the cautious route, and not register for anything outdoorsy in January or February, since our (admittedly limited, but so-far reliable) experience thus far has shown that Spring tends to arrive in North Carolina around March 1st.
However, that resolution of sorts quickly was tossed out the window...at least for me...as the fresh-air fitness group I recently joined invited its members to participate together in a longstanding 5K that happens in Raleigh each year...in February. When I heard this, my immediate reaction was something along the lines of, "Oh, why the heck not!" Even if conditions were less-than-favorable, I rationalized, being there with a posse would make it more fun...and that length of course generally takes me less than a half-hour, anyway, so how bad could it be?
Oh, be careful what you ask, my friends, because the answer to that rhetorical question turned out to be: "pretty doggone tough"...as my personal race was beset by a perfect storm of factors causing it to...well..."suck", if you will. Let me explain: first of all, Winter seemingly up and vamoosed waaaaaay early this year...and race day--believe it or not--developed into a blazingly sunny...blustery...near-80* spectacle. Now, don't get me wrong, I do loooove me some balmy temperatures...but I kind of prefer a LITTLE transition time to adapt, rather than out-of-the-blue Summertime, when I'm gonna run 3.1 miles. (And really, is that too much to hope for? I didn't think so...)
And I mentioned the WIND, right? To be clear, I'm not talking about some light breezes that gently caress your skin while you blithely trot around the track, soaking up your Vitamin D (or, you know, having it scorched into your super-pale Irish hide, or whatever). Nope...more like "gusts powerful enough to force a me-sized woman to duck her head and push back to maintain forward progress. Can I just say: "Yippee! What a freakin' HOOT..." To add to the...festivities...the path itself proved to be one of the hilliest I've yet competed on (using that term extremely loosely, since my goals for these activities usually include such lofty items as "finish" and "don't be dead last, if at all possible").
Finally, in an attempt to ameliorate the delightful knee pain I've recently been dealing with, I'd bought a fresh pair of cushy kicks a few days prior to the race. They felt super-squish-ily-comfortable in the store, but I hadn't had time to test them out on actual pavement-type material, meaning that they were a bit of a wild card as I waited at the starting line. And--I suspect fellow runners will understand this--the first time you wear a brand new set of sneakers, no matter how nice they are, the workout isn't going to be perfect. It's hard to describe...the best I can tell you is that while the shoes may fit properly and do their job, there's something about needing your feet to mold to them, or experimenting to get the laces exactly right, that makes them seem just a wee bit...not-yet-quite-right.
Oh! I almost forgot one last thing: this particular 5K began at 2 p.m., rather than the usual 8 or 9 in the morning. (I guess they expect, in a typical February, to wake up to sub-zero on the thermometer, and want to give it time to warm up, so people aren't standing around with frostbitten toes and such...as opposed to this year, when most of us were probably seriously considering whether they should run back to the car and dig out the sunscreen to avoid a pink nose. Ha! The "best laid plans"...and whatnot...) Because of this, I'd eaten breakfast as usual...but procrastinated about having anything else. You see, my stomach likes to be as empty as possible when I go trotting around, so the bottom line is that I never did get around to fueling up, and eventually forgot...until the hollow emptiness in the region of my midsection let out an enormous starving gurgle...just as they were calling everyone to get assembled....and it was too late.
So I suppose it shouldn't have been a great surprise--or even really much of a disappointment--that I managed my SLOWEST 5K of all time. How awful was it? I even had to concede to walking a couple of times, when, from the bottom of one of those aforementioned inclines, I gazed upward and my legs made the executive decision for me, "Uh-uh! Not having it! No way!" (You've heard of PRs? Well, this was my...PW...which is totally NOT a thing, because who'd want to remember that kind of stat, anyway? But I digress....)
However, with all that being said...I did complete the darn thing...and I most certainly didn't straggle in at the end. (In fact, I witnessed more people stopping and strolling than I've ever seen at one of these, so it wasn't just me feeling the literal and/or metaphorical "burn"...) Even better, when I got home and checked the results (because no matter how terrible it might have seemed...yes, I AM that compulsive) I discovered that my tortoise-like 30:35 was good enough for 266th in a field of 579...and 13th out of 37 in my age group.
Frankly, this was soooo much better than I expected--therefore, even though the activity itself couldn't be called "enjoyable" by any stretch of the imagination, I'm gonna go ahead and put it in the WIN column nevertheless. And most likely chalk this one up to "been there, done that" and thus "never to be repeated". That'll teach me to sign up for a 5K in February, yeah?