My First 10K

MCM 10K medal
Five years ago, I embarked on this thing called running. I’ve continued to run since. This year, I made a promise to myself to try to run a 10K, just to see if I could.

I started training in September. I’ve been running 3 miles a couple days a week all this year, so it was just a matter of slowly ramping up to 6 miles, right? It turned out that it was not as simple as I had thought it was going to be. I was not expecting to have a problem with metabolism– I lost weight in my first two weeks of training and was worried that I was losing too much too soon. It took me a few more weeks to figure out how to modify my diet so that my blood sugar wasn’t bouncing between extremes. Despite what my stomach told me, I was in no position to eat whatever I wanted– moderation and a variety of foods were the best course of action.

The physical part of running was actually the easiest part– the hardest part was the mental game. The training program I used had me alternating between walking and running to start out with, and my mind kept whining at me, “Can we walk now? huh? How about now? Why aren’t we walking?” I had to will my mind to shut up. Once I got into longer stretches of running, my mind then kept telling me to quit after 3 miles. “This is all you can do– stop,” it would say. “No,” I said to myself, “I have more to run.” “Aw, come on, you’re getting tired. Stop.” and on and on. I was getting annoyed at my mind.

Finally, the day came for the race. I picked a big one to start– the MCM 10K. I figured it would already be cool by then and that I would run in crisp fall weather. Nope– it was warm and it rained the entire race. But you know what? Working against the rain proved to help me– I was so focused on the weather that I didn’t realize how long I had run until I looked up and saw the 4-mile marker. I felt surprisingly good.

Unfortunately, I got over-confident and went a little faster than I should have in mile 5, and then hit the wall as I approached mile 6. I grit my teeth and pushed the rest of the way across the finish line. The finish was not as strong as I would have liked, but I finished. I did it!

Five years ago, if you had told me that I would be running a 10K, I would have said no way. But I proved to myself that with persistence and steady work, I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. The trick is to keep going.

Trot for Hunger 5K 2015

Once again, R and I did the SOME Trot for Hunger 5K. Some thoughts:

  • It was much warmer this year than last year. I wore a light jacket, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, wool socks, and a hat. I took off the hat not even halfway through the run.
  • We situated ourselves closer to the start this year, at the pace marker more appropriate to where we’ve been averaging on our practice runs. This worked out better for us. Last year, we were farther away at a slower pace marker because I wasn’t sure that I could sustain my faster pace at the time. Last year, we ended up having to constantly dodge walkers and strollers. This year, we did much less of that.
  • It also helped that we were familiar with the course.
  • Last year, I was a lot more cautious– I went much slower in the beginning, even for me. This year, I started out at a decent clip.
  • I felt like I kept a constant pace throughout, which my Strava data corroborated. My breathing felt pretty relaxed. I felt fairly relaxed overall.
  • I beat last year’s net time by almost 4 1/2 minutes! Still well below the average for this race, but this was a new PR for me.
  • Next year, I hope to be faster, even if only by a little.

Great Pumpkin Run 2015

(No connection to the Great Pumpkin Ride)

The Great Pumpkin Run was held in Frederick, MD. I had signed up with a bunch of friends on a team. Skies were overcast, but it was not too chilly. I didn’t realize it was a trail run until too late. I had been training on pavement, so I was not prepared for the challenges with the terrain. I did wear two ankle braces, because my ankles are notoriously weak on uneven surfaces.

The first mile was mostly rocks. This was decidedly my least favorite part of the run. The rocks hurt to run on, and it was tiring to negotiate running on the path. I felt like I was expending a lot of energy for little progress, and felt pretty discouraged. When we passed the 1-mile mark, I groaned aloud. If this was how I was going to feel throughout the run, it was going to be very slow going. Luckily, the terrain changed.

The second mile was in an open field with some muddy patches. The field gave way to a wooded area, where there were Halloween displays of dismembered people and scary looking animals.

The last leg was on gravel with the last tenth of a mile through a corn maze. It was much easier running on gravel. The corn maze was blocked out so that runners didn’t have to figure out the maze, but the path was narrowed so that there was only room for maybe two people to run side by side. I could hear people cheering, but I couldn’t see them until the very end of the maze, which was the finish line. R apparently was pushed by another runner to get to the finish, and I had heard later that that was not an uncommon occurrence. Not cool.

As expected, again, I was by far the slowest member on the team. I was feeling really grouchy at the finish, but physically, I felt pretty good. Also as expected, I did not PR [edited 11/25: uh, according to my stats, I actually did?!], but my time was much better than I thought I had done. According to Strava, I had kept a fairly even pace throughout, improving as went through the race. My official chip time was faster than my Strava time, which I thought was unusual, but I’ll take it. We received free cider and a pumpkin for our efforts, and our team went out for a celebratory lunch at a brewpub afterwards.

Well, another 5K under my belt. I have one more race before the end of the year.

Bicycling vs. Running

I suppose it’s not quite fair to compare the two, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far in training for a run versus training for a ride.

1. I recognize my limitations in running better than I do in biking.
After multiple injuries and difficulty in breathing from running, I am less apt to push myself. On one hand, I’m less prone to injury, and train more gradually. On the other hand, I have much less confidence in my abilities as a runner.

I seem to willfully ignore my limitations as a bicyclist. I can blame whatever problems I have on the bicycle, or I can fool myself into thinking that coasting and taking breaks can keep me going indefinitely. I can push myself much harder on the bike, and sometimes with deleterious effects.

2. Fueling is completely different for each activity.
After a long ride, I am ravenous and want to eat all the things. I need to replenish my fluids right away, lest I become dehydrated. After a run, I am not at all hungry or thirsty until much later. I forgot this, and after Thursday’s run, ate a granola bar because I thought I had to. Big mistake– that bar sat like a rock in my stomach for the rest of the morning.

3. Bicycling is a more social activity for me.
I like biking on my own, and I do that fairly often, but I think it’s more fun when I’m with friends who enjoy bicycling too. Running is still not altogether fun for me, and although I like running with R, I don’t think I can run in a large group. That stems partly from my lack of confidence in keeping up, and also in that I feel like I should suffer alone.

4. And yet, running improves my mood better than bicycling.
I’m not quite sure why this is. Perhaps running at the current distance and speed is the perfect setting for an endorphin rush for me, and I run out of energy from pushing myself too hard on the bike? I don’t know, but as long as I can stay healthy, I’ll continue to run on a regular basis.