Carson High Safe and Sober 5K (Carson City, NV)

Here I am with Siobhan and Kate along with Pookie (JRT) and Molly (Pug)

First race in over 10 years.  I am 75 lbs heavier than I was in my last race but I am down 45 lbs from just a few months ago.  The voice in my head cheerfully shouts, “Run, fat chick, run!” as I go to sleep early Friday night.

Wake up and frantically check the time.  Only 2 am.  Don’t have to be up until 6:30.  Struggle to go back to sleep.  Wake up and frantically check the time:  3:46 am.  Put in the ear buds and turn on TMOS to settle my mind.  Wake up and frantically check the time:  4:11 am.  Buzz is doing the news and I am amused.  Lay in bed staring at the ceiling; try not to giggle out loud so I don’t wake up Bill or the dogs.  Wake up at 5:11 am and give up.  I get out of bed, wake up sleepy dogs and take them out to potty.  Wake up the neighborhood with Turbo Blender 5,000 for my pre-race breakfast and for no apparent reason turn on the most recent episode of CSI courtesy of the DVR.

Breakfast.  From previous experience racing and with competing in dog sports breakfast on competition mornings is not to be underrated.  A lot of thought goes into this breakfast.  For two weeks or more I debated between carbs and protein.  A 5k is a short run and given my propensity to burn through carbs so quickly I might be tempted to eat any small woodland creature that dared to cross my path after 9 a.m. I opt for a light protein smoothie consisting of the following:

  • 100g Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 140g Strawberries
  • 106g Banana
  • 20g Protein Powder
  • 1 packet of Stevia to sweeten it up

I take a shower hot enough to steam up the windows in the kitchen down the hall, braid my hair and don my racing apparel:  ultra light weight yoga pants, super duty sports bra and an old long sleeved team shirt.  I realize I have forgotten to pick up Thorlo socks, spend a moment thinking where I can pick some up on the way, realize nothing will be open and find a nice color coordinated pair of socks I’ve been training in.  I put on my funky cheapo running shoes that until 6 weeks ago had only seen the light of day for the gym and cold weather flyball.  They are actually good shoes.  Not great but good. Supportive, light and well used they will get the job done but I vow that if I hit my goal, I will treat myself to a fitting for big girl running shoes.

By this point Pookie is giving me his most soulful look.  He is making sure I don’t leave him behind.  For the last week I have told him he gets to race.  He is a few tacos short of the Plato Gordo and while I am sure he has no idea what exactly we are doing he does know that he and only he get to go.  He is not going to let me forget him.  Just as a reminder, he goes to the front door and glances over his shoulder at me. 

I run through the check list again:

iPod.  Check.

Siobhan’s cell number.  Check.

Cell phone.  Check.

Poop bags.  Check.

Water for dog and human.  Check. 

Pookie.  Check.

This is pretty much it.  We’re not going far, the race is short and Siobhan checked me in the night before.  Time to go meet up with work friends Siobhan and Kate so we can head to the race together.

From this point on there is some driving, some singing, some explaining to Pookie that he is the best old dog ever (don’t tell the others!).  I go to the wrong Starbucks but that’s okay because the correct Starbucks is just a couple blocks away.  It is true what they say.  Even in small towns there is a Starbucks on every corner.  We caravan to race parking, get our bibs on, chat, warm up, wait, warm up some more, wait.

The race itself has a good turnout.  There is good music and though it is 8 a.m. on a Saturday, the bar is open and serving Mimosas sans champagne at the Firkin & Fox.  It’s a fun event to raise money for the high school’s Safe and Sober Graduation party.  I meet members of the softball team who are going to run the 5K to warm up for their game in the afternoon.  I do not feel inferior.  I have flyball practice followed by a bridal shower.  Take that teenagers!

At 8:55 we are called up to the start line which is decorated by a balloon arch in the colors of Carson High School:  Blue and White.  Pookie matches:  white dog, blue pack.  I have made Pookie responsible for keys, cell phone and poop bags.  I suddenly worry about getting lost on the route.  I have this fear in agility and rally with the dogs.  Siobhan assures me it is well marked.  Kate says I’ll be fine.  I let it go and get focused on keeping Pookie and I in a good starting position where we can quickly get out of the way of those people far faster than we are.

The start line is crowded.  There is a countdown but the air horn doesn’t go off.  Another countdown, still no air horn.  The crowd laughs, shifts.  I pick Pookie up by the handle and move him in front of me.  He is excited.  A third countdown.  No air horn but GO!  I take off with a few halting steps, losing Kate and Siobhan in the chaos of moving bodies.  Pookie and I move out of the way.  He is weaving back and forth in front of me, coming to heel then repeating the pattern.  Rhinna’s “S&M” is blaring in my ears.  How fitting.  Siobhan and her pug Molly appear from the crowd and we settle in and get with it. 

Asphalt.  I hate asphalt, perhaps not as much as concrete but I hate it none the less.  I am keeping a slow easy pace but my right shin begins to burn.  And burn.  And BURN.  I take a couple halting steps, return to a jog and keep pushing but as we turn a corner I change from a jog to a walk.  A very fast walk.  I already know from training that I can walk almost as fast as I jog.  My packmates pull ahead.  My right foot hits the ground hard and flat.  I try to stretch, keep moving, keep it warm but still it burns.  I return to a jog for a few paces then a walk.  A myriad of thoughts cross my mind:  It’s okay to walk, I can still make time.  I don’t want to get behind.  I don’t want to be last.  It’s clear, I don’t want to walk.  I alternate running and walking for the remainder of the mile.  A 15 minutes mile.  I can’t go any slower to meet my goal.  And then the burning fades, my stride lengthens and I am running.  Not fast, but I am running and I feel great.

We make a few more turns.  I feel a slight wave of vertigo wash over me from the left.  Nothing major.  Sort of a surreal moment when I feel like I am really moving.  I know I’m not.  I see the second mile marker; start to make the turn and get thrown to the ground, landing between the check station car and the curb.  Pookie’s face looms over me.  He is unconcerned but confused.  This isn’t right, he seems to be thinking.  I bounce up feeling that familiar push from the left.  If you run long enough, you will fall.  If you have Meniere’s, you will fall more often. 

My running partners are running backwards to check on me and the check station staff is mobbing me.  I smile, give the thumbs up and say, “I have a balance disorder” then take off.  My left knee is killing me but I can tell it’s just superficial.  You run into enough inanimate objects or hit the ground enough and these are things you know.  I just keep running.  I am being followed by the check station staff; I shake my head and break into a smile.  Pitbull and J-Lo almost make me break out into a Zumba move with “On the Floor.” 

I am cruising now.  “Run, fat chick, run!” I tell myself.  I feel great.  Really great.  This feeling of euphoria is why I love running.  I remind myself that I always struggle with the first couple miles and then hit my stride.  Humming “Italian Leather Sofa” to myself (a long standing endurance habit of mine), I glance at my watch.  I figure that I should be around 2.5 miles but when I look up I can clearly see the 3 mile marker.  Not only that, but I’ve caught up to my running partners.  Cake’s “The Distance” comes on and I am suddenly making a run for it.  And I am smiling.  Not that little smile but the huge, full teeth smile.  RUN, FAT CHICK, RUN!

I start to make a break for it, remember that I am part of an awesome team and come back to finish as a team.  Pookie is technically the first to cross the finish line.  As the applause starts, he poses for his adoring fans.  They are all here for him and him alone.  We let him have his glory.  The time comes up:  40:00:12.  I feel amazing and want to keep running.  We celebrate with yogurt and fruit, take a few photos and plan our next race.  Kate suggests we do a 10K with her in the fall.  I am all in. 

After a bit of celebration, Pookie and I head off to flyball practice.  I am already planning the next race and thinking of that new pair of shoes.  My goal was 45 minutes, or a 14:30 average.  I averaged 12:56 and had a 10:30 mile in the mix.  The winners finished in less than half the time but I don’t care.  I feel great.  No, not great.  Awesome.