Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Run for Trophies!

Every year since we moved down to our little corner of the earth, Hubby and I have run the Leatherneck 5K to benefit the Semper Fi Fund to support injured Marines. If you have the time to click that link, you will learn that the Semper Fi Fund is an amazing foundation and you will see why we run each year.

This year, I made it a goal to set a new personal record on the course. I also privately set the goal of placing in this race; Not necessarily this year, but at some point in my lifetime. Going into this weekend, I had no idea, and even doubted, that this year I would achieve both goals.

The Leatherneck 5K is a smaller race; nothing compared to the tens of thousands of people I ran with at the Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon series back in March. The draw for the race is the cause and the beautiful scenery.

The 3.1 mile course begins at one of the finest Naval golf courses in the nation and wraps down and back along the Chesapeake Bay. Many of the runners are active duty or retired military, which makes the run humbling to say the least.

My time last year was a solid 30:32. Not too shabby, considering this was well before I decided to train for a half-marathon. This was back when I considered myself a graduate of the Couch to 5K Running Plan.

Since then, I have obviously added to my mileage significantly, having trained for and run a half-marathon and other races. Following the half in March, I began training for the Sole of the City 10K, which unfortunately we were unable to race due to a death in the family.

During this time, Hubby and I also joined a CrossFit gym. Between running and training at the gym, my body was going through the most intense physical training it has seen since climbing out of the womb. Furreals.

As I grew to love CrossFit, I began to focus less on my running training. I was still getting my interval sessions in on Wednesdays, but the rest of my planned training nights were dominated by CrossFit. Eventually, I fell off the running wagon all together. Our gym recently began a Paleo Challenge where you are rewarded extra points for extra workouts. Seemed like a no-brainer! Ditch the treadmill for some heavy weight-lifting aerobics.

It wasn't until Friday night before the race did I begin to doubt my ability. It had been a couple weeks since my last run greater than 1 mile. Was I even capable of completing the race without stopping at this point? (Yeah, seriously. I asked myself that.)

We arrived at the course Saturday morning to the most beautiful day a runner could ask for. Sun shining as it climbed into the sky. A cool breeze coming off the bay. It was perfect. Hubby and I did a lap around the parking lot to get warmed up after collecting our race numbers and souvenir t-shirts. We chatted with a friend from the gym, then took our places at the starting line.

The officials counted us down and we were off. I mean really off. Hubby and I shot across the start at a pace of 7:30. Slowly, I started trying to pull us back. It wasn't until about a half mile in that we settled at a comfortable 8:45 pace.

I cannot say how proud of the hubster I am for keeping pace with me as long as he did. It wasn't until a quarter mile after the second mile marker that he had to pull back his pace.

On my final mile, I was starting to struggle a bit. But my CrossFit training has taught me not to stop until it's done.

On the turn, I was the 10th female in line. Yes, I counted.

On my final stretch, I passed one of those women, making me the ninth female finisher overall. I was trying desperately to catch any other female runner, hoping it would be enough to get a taste of running glory. Unfortunately, the only other people I passed on my way to the finish line were men. That's right. I was passing men on the final stretch. Grown, military-trained men. I can live with that.

My final tenth of a mile was an all out sprint. I must have looked like a gazelle coming across the finish line because a lot of people started cheering really loudly when I began my sprint.

If only I looked this majestic.

I wish I could say it was a beautiful moment when I crossed the finish line, but I was handed a Popsicle stick and told to go stand in line to record my time as I was choking back vomit. It happens.

Thankfully, I was able to hold my composure and grab a water bottle on the way to the judge's table. No Gatorade for this cavegirl. 

We hung around for a while to hear the results at the awards ceremony. I was sizing myself up against the other runners who placed before me guessing at who was in my age group, shaking with anticipation while I waited. When they called the third place runner's time in my division, I was thrilled! I was a full 3 minutes faster than the person who placed third in the women's 19-29 year old division.

My time of 26 minutes and 53 seconds won me this little beauty right here. My first running trophy! And I couldn't be more proud.

Who cares that there were only about 300 people who ran the race... =)