Race Recap: Monster Dash 5K

This month's been really hit-or-miss with my running, and mostly on the "miss" side. I had to take a few weeks off, starting in late September, because my knee was bothering me. Then my routine was interrupted and I had a hard time getting back into it. Two weeks ago, I noticed that this race was coming up really quickly and so I had better get back to my regular runs!

Since it had been a while since my last run, I had gone from running 2.5 miles without stopping all the way back down to only 1 mile. Amazing how quickly the skill deteriorates! Well okay, it also had to do with the sudden change in weather and the fact that my lungs don't like the cold [they get used to it but the first few exercise attempts? Not so good]. But once I got into it, adding back the distance wasn't too hard. I added a half mile every run [I'm still just running every other day] but then got stuck at 2 miles because of outside factors [ran out of time one morning, ran into a coyote another day]. Still, I figured I'd be good for today's race and, if need be, I'd allow myself to walk for a bit after hitting the halfway mark/water station.

Aside from my interrupted training, I was really excited for this race. My mom came to cheer me on today, which was exciting because I've never had anyone at a race to see me before! Also, that means that there are actually pictures of me this time! Plus, I love costumes, and I love running, so why wouldn't I love this race? My costume didn't come out at all like I wanted but it still made for an awesome 80s look:
Coming up with a costume that I could run in was difficult! But I took lots of pictures at the race so maybe I'll find inspiration for next year.

Before the 5K, there was a 1K kids fun run, which was adorable. Some of them were super serious runners and then some didn't seem to have a clue what was going on. I was also surprised to see that Ninja Turtles and Mario are still popular costume choices among young children. Well, maybe not Mario so much because it's always continued to be a popular series of games but definitely Ninja Turtles.
This little dude was my favourite.
After that race ended, a group got together and surprised everyone with this:

Finally, it was a few minutes to 11am and I went to line up behind the start line. And... this was really disorganized. Usually races [especially the larger ones, this one had ~3000 people registered] have you line up by pace/estimated finishing time. This one did not. It was basically "Whoever gets there first gets the best spot and then good luck." Which was frustrating, once we actually started, because I was stuck behind walkers [and people with jogging strollers! Those were specifically told to line up at the back!] for a good while. It took a few minutes to break out of the pack and into a comfortable pace. So, that was annoying and if they ask for feedback, I'll definitely mention that.

After the shaky start, the first mile went really, really well. I was surprised to see that I finished it under 10 minutes-- actually, in 9:05. What?! I never run that fast! Well, I sometimes run that pace for a couple minutes but not sustained over an entire mile. So that was surprising, but I was feeling well so I didn't worry too much about it. Maybe it was because, unlike the last 5K, I was actually feeling the entire race environment this time around. There were crowds all along the route cheering us on, it was a much bigger race [and in a much more populated area], and I wasn't listening to music this time. I'm glad I decided not to do that; it was fun hearing the cheers the entire route, and the announcers [and their Halloween music] once I got into the homestretch!

Since I never got up to running the full 3.1miles in training, I told myself that, if I felt like I needed it, I could take a walking break at the 1.5mile mark [where the water station is]. And I did. I walked almost to the 2mile mark, because my knee was bothering me a little and it had also started raining. So that put my pace back a little, but I think it was worth it. I finished the other 1.1 mile strong and my mom got this awesome picture of me coming down the homestretch:
Seriously, can we just take a moment to acknowledge how hot my legs look?
As I ran towards the finish line, one of the announcers saw me and made a comment about tutus being really fashionable this year. Did you hear that? I'm fashionable. That's not something I hear every day! But honestly, there were a lot of people in tutus and I'm all for that.

Official race stats:
33:40, not bad considering my lack of training all month, but I had been hoping for under 32 minutes. If I hadn't walked for so long, I could've done it. Oh well. At least I still beat my time from the last 5K, so I'm improving!

And, the unofficial RunKeeper stats:
After crossing the finish line, I went and found my mom and we watched the rest of the race together... well, at least until the finishers slowed down to a trickle at about 50 minutes in. Then we went inside to the convention center to check out the race swag [huge disappointment at this one, honestly, but I did get a banana] and hear the band play the same two songs over and over ["Dynamite" and "Forget You"]. I checked the official results once they were posted, and then we made our way out and back home [with a stop at Whole Foods for lunch, where I got a delicious Honey Crisp apple. I love those!].
best apples in the world, and totally worth the high price tag
All in all, it was a fun race and I look forward to doing it again next year [and the Downtown Jingle 5K on December 2nd, which is the same route and put on by the same people] but I hope they sort out a few organizational issues before then, particularly the starting lineup. Well, that and the shirts they gave us aren't the best, fashion-wise [I understand black = Halloween but really, you're not helping with the "visibility in the winter" thing] but they're free long-sleeved tech shirts so I'll make do.
I picked up my race packet and snapped this picture yesterday
Next up, aside from the Downtown Jingle, is [semi-leisurely] half marathon training. I've decided to ease into it, but I want to complete a half marathon next spring so this will be a good project for the winter. I'm maybe possibly joining a running club, I have to see if transportation works out in my favour [since biking in the winter isn't really good around here] but that would be a fun thing to keep me motivated through the coming months. [No, I haven't decided on a half marathon yet. There are a few I'm considering, though.]

Also, I FINALLY lost a pound this week, breaking the six-week plateau. I give credit to my new TreadClimber [which I'm writing a review on, don't worry!]. 4 more pounds until I hit the 50 pounds lost mark. And on that optimistic note, good night!

How I Became a Runner

I wrote this post on my tumblr per request of a friend but I'm posting it here too. I’ve gotten lots of other comments in the past few months, on various sites, about how amazing it is that I’m running now but also the commenter “could never be a runner”. While I concede that running isn’t for everyone [some people are dancers but I can’t zumba to save my life without punching myself in the face], a lot of non-runners can be runners if they put their minds to it. The trick is putting your mind to it. Running is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one, especially if you’ve been telling yourself for years that you can’t do it. The other trick is acknowledging that it won’t happen in a day, week, or even month. It takes time. It takes work. But when it happens, it’s kind of amazing. I finished a 5k in 33:53 last month. It took hard work and dedication, and it took about six months, but it wasn’t impossible [even if it felt so at times].

There are programs designed to get you “off the couch and running 3 miles in just two months” but they’re also built with people who have some kind of fitness base. For those of us who don’t, even running 30 seconds/walking 2 minutes/repeating is pretty intimidating. Those programs aren’t designed for us. They’re designed for us somewhere down the line but for right now, we need something more basic.

First off: You have to acknowledge that this takes time. It does. That’s not something that most people want to hear but it’s the reality. It took me about six months, give or take, to get where I am today. This included months of building up my cardiovascular fitness before I even considered running. It also included a few failed attempts at running before it finally stuck. [it also included a sprained ankle but, you know, setbacks and all that.]

Second: You should build a base of fitness with low-impact, “easier” exercise before attempting running. Running is hard work. Nothing challenges your muscles and your mind quite like it. There are loads of exercises to prepare you for it, however. Cycling and the elliptical are the two I implemented the most, but any exercises will help you improve.

Third: It’ll take time to learn to love running but if you’ve been running consistently for 3-6 months and don’t love it, don’t force it. Running isn’t for everyone. If you want to be active in some way but aren’t entirely set on running, there are plenty of other things to try! If you just focus on running, even though you hate it, you’ll be miserable and end up doing nothing at all. [Sure, the race swag one gets is nice but it’s not everything.]

Fourth: How and where you run are extremely important factors. How: I’m not just talking about form [although that’s important too, as well as proper shoes], but following a training program and sticking to a consistent schedule. Figure out if you’re a morning exerciser or evening [this might also depend on the time of year/weather]. I love running in the afternoons or early evenings but when I have to run in the morning or skip it, I do it. My results are considerably worse, but it's better than not running. Where: Do you like the treadmill, or find it boring? It can be a good training tool but some people loathe it. Do you like running loops on the track so you know what to expect, or does that get tedious? Do you like getting out on a bike path or your city streets to enjoy the scenery, or would you rather stay inside on a treadmill, away from harsh weather and your neighbors? Everyone has a preference, and figuring out yours will be an extremely helpful tool.

And fifth: Talk about it. Tell everyone you know. Tell your friends that you want to go running at this specific time and make sure they bug you about it if you don’t [I’ve done this more times than I can count]. Make plans to run in races a few months [or more, if you’re on the slow track like me] down the line. Get excited about those races, and about every additional minute/mile you add into your routine. Your friends might get sick of you, or you might inspire them to try as well [and then you’ll have friends to run races with!]. Or find a running community so you can talk about your accomplishments to your heart’s content without annoying everyone else. [they’re also great for accountability. If you’re a regular poster and then stop commenting all of a sudden, people will notice and make sure you’re keeping up with your goals!]

Those are my tips. And now, here’s my story of how i went from “barely mobile” to running 3.1 miles.