Sunday I managed to complete my first 5k. It was a run/walk event, so I knew there was no chance of me getting swept or anything. But I have never participated in a road race before, so I was still a little anxious about how things would play out.
I was spending the weekend up in Northern Wisconsin helping my Mom with her new restaurant. This was a big weekend for her since the much anticipated Musky Fest was taking place. Yep....I said Musky Fest. Apparently that's a big deal up here in Hayward. I must say that all this hunting, fishing, camping, and all-out woodsiness is lost on me. And the fact that the kick-off to summer is celebrated with a festival named after a big, ugly fish - well, it just freaks me out a little bit.
So the fourth and final day of Musky Fest started with the 5k. My new summer home is just a few blocks from the registration and start point so I walked down to join the festivities and pick up my free t-shirt. I watched the crowd grow as runners and walkers of all fitness levels joined the masses. I checked out some of the elite runners and made mental notes of all the cool gear. Some of those runners were already running in circles around a couple of blocks that made up the holding area for everyone who was registering. I mean, c'mon, you're gonna get a chance to run in just a few minutes. Whats with the extra credit?
I met a nice couple from Elgin, IL in the group. Elgin is not far from my home so we chit-chatted about the area. I also met a group of folks from Colorado who asked me to take their picture. I suppose I should've had someone take a picture of me to document the experience. But, frankly, I didn't know how this was gonna turn out and perhaps I would need to erase it from the archives. So the less photographic evidence the better.
Eventually the announcer started counting down the remaining minutes before the start of the race and everyone took their places at the starting line. I felt my heart beat just a little faster as I found my place comfortably to the side, but close to the front of the group. There were over 400 participants in this year's race and I was surprised at the turnout of the good ole Musky Fest 5k Run/Walk.
Shortly after I found my place in the herd of 5kers the announcer was counting down the remaining seconds before the official start.
Holy Crap! Here I am stuck in the middle of 400 crazy people who got out of bed early on a Sunday to self-propel themselves around 3.1 miles of Hayward, WI. What the heck was I thinking? And how the heck do I get out of this now?
But before I could come up with a good escape plan the gun fired to signal the start of the race and I was running with oodles of people around me. And everyone was running. Where are these walkers I've heard so much about? Clearly I was in the wrong section of crazy people. I should be somewhere between the dog-walkers and the wannabes. But nope. I was smack in the middle of the honest-to-goodness runners.
I was holding my own and not letting too many people pass me, but I was sucking some serious wind and I think we had gone all of two....maybe three blocks. But no on in front of me had started walking yet and I really didn't want to be the first to tucker out. Then I heard some women behind me say that they really wanted to walk but didn't want to be the first to stop. I figured this was my good deed for the day and took it upon myself to help them feel a little better about themselves. Of course there was the little issue of me not being about to breathe, but lets just say I stopped to help out my fellow wannabes.
So now I'm walking but maintaining a pretty good pace. Sure there were some runners passing me, but I was passing some of the walkers and that made me feel pretty good. I alternated jogging and walking for much of the race. Almost everyone I saw had a friend or a group with them. I was flying solo and just picked out people ahead of me to try to keep up with. After spending all my walking/jogging/wogging miles by myself, I enjoyed having others around to push me a little harder.
The first mile of the race about killed me. I took it way faster than I normally would have. And it took most of the second mile for me to recover. I was seriously rethinking this whole running ambition. How on earth did I come up with this idea without there being alcohol involved? Cuz it really seemed like a dumb idea right about now.
I came upon a water station and one of the volunteers there let us know it was the halfway mark and we were at 25 minutes. Seriously? How was I this tired and it took me 25 minutes to make it 1.5 miles? That's just stupid.
I had a goal of completing the 5k in less than 45 minutes. I normally jogged a leisurely 17 minute mile and shaving off 2 minutes a mile seemed like a good goal. And here I was only halfway done and not at all close to achieving my goal.
I was feeling better after recovering from my initial start with the crazy runners so I picked up the pace again. I was able to pass some other woggers and was now feeling pretty strong. All those miles I logged last month seemed to be paying off. It was nice that I was passing some people, but now I had to catch up to some others in order to figure out where the heck I was going. I didn't really know the course and just planned on following people in front of me. But now there were fewer people in front of me which presented a little problem. It wasn't long before I spied some people around a bend in the road and I jogged up a hill to catch up. My legs were on fire and I wasn't at all sure how I was supposed to function for the rest of the day. I just knew that I had to get to the finish line before I could relax any.
The last half of the race went faster for me. Partly because I actually went faster. And partly because I was just in a better place mentally. I felt strong and confident since I was back in the group of wannabes, directly ahead of the walkers, and safely out of the way of the crazy runners. Before I knew it I was rounding the corner which took me to the final stretch of the race. It was a good four or five blocks ahead of me, but I could see the finish line. I heard a group of spectators cheering everyone on and it got me a little choked up. I was having a hard enough time breathing. I didn't need these stinkin' people getting me all emotional before I finished the blasted thing. Thankfully I had so much sweat pouring off my face no one could tell if I was crying or not. All I know is that if I were crying it would've made it even harder for me to breathe and I might've made some wheezing/wind-sucking sound that may have caused someone to call an ambulance had they heard.
I started running faster and passed all sorts of people on that final stretch. I don't know how anyone could walk across the finish line. All that adrenaline practically carries you over the line if you let it. I heard the announcer say my name and "way to finish strong!" Was he implying that maybe my start and middle were a little weak? Hmmm??? Then I heard him say "just over 45 minutes. Nice job."
I looked at the clock at there is was 45:10. I wanted to complete it in under 45. But since this race wasn't chip-timed and I was at least 15 seconds behind the starting line I am totally giving myself the under 45 minute accomplishment.
I grabbed a water from one of the volunteers who held it out for me and quickly turned away from anyone looking - you know.....for fear of getting all emotional again. I'm such a big sap.
Once I pulled myself together I realized that no one gave me a medal or anything. Are you kidding me? I go to Mardi Gras, drink some beer, and people give me all sorts of beads and stuff. Here I just about killed myself wogging 3.1 miles and I'm rewarded with a bottle of water? Seems a little wrong to me.
So, I have no finisher medal to show for it, but I am able to check off one step on my way to a larger goal. And I do have that t-shirt with a picture of a big, ugly fish on it.