5K Run + 5K Snowshoe = Amazing!

I am back.  Almost.  Saturday morning I braved the cold and headed out for my first group run of the half marathon session.  It was an easy four miles on the Steamboat Ditch trail with some of my favorite people.  Shelly and I cruised along at a nice 12:22 pace, chatting away about this and that before we acquired a few new friends, Liz II and Joey and continued to chat away.  I even finally got to run with Pat, which was fun and particularly exciting because I maintained a nice 11:15 with him while holding down a pretty good conversation about this whole May thing.  We even discussed that 50K.  You know the one that is on my calendar that I haven’t hardly breathed a word about?  But here is the run, which oddly is almost exactly the same as last Saturday’s four miler on the same trail.

Needless to say after that sort of run I was feeling pretty darned good and I was feeling pretty confident about this whole 10K thing on Sunday.  We skipped out on the wine walk on Saturday afternoon because it was windy, cold and miserable out.  Instead, I treated myself to a totally sensible pre-race dinner of cheese fries and a couple teensy tiny margaritas.  But hey, it’s only a 10K right?  Yeah, right.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling slow.  I didn’t feel bad but I didn’t exactly feel great.  I suited up, devoured a delicious sprouted whole wheat bagel with my homemade hummus and chased it with a sugar free Red Bull, two bottles of water, antibiotics and decongestants.  Breakfast of champions.  As I paced around the living room a few dozen times waiting for my ride, I started doubting whether or not I should do the 10K or drop down to the 5K.  I texted a few running friends then consulted a bit with Facebook.  A debate raged in my head and by the time Nikki honked the horn in my driveway, I had settled on the following course of action:

If I step out of the car at the event and my lungs hurt in the slightest, I will run the 5K.

This brilliant bit of decision making should perhaps have been the first clue that I should just do the 5K.  So of course we get out of the car, I take a few deep breaths and feel my lungs tighten a bit in the cold and make this even more brilliant decision:

Eh.  It will be a lot warmer in an hour.  I’ll do the 10K.  It will be fun!

Still, as I filled out my day of event registration form I must have spent five minutes playing eenie meanie miney moe over the check boxes for 10K or 5K.  At one point I am pretty sure Nikki wanted to slap me upside the head as I commented for the hundredth time that I really hate the 5K distance and I really wanted a good solid long run since the four miles the day before was NOT a long run for me.  I am not normally this indecisive which again should have been a big fat red flag that I needed to do the 5K.  Something clearly wasn’t quite right.

No, this isn't a random photo of deer behind a fence. These ladies were just lounging behind the fence as we parked. Aren't they pretty?

Of course I went ahead and entered the 10K.  I got my really cool retro race shirt from 2002 (day of race entries don’t get the current year shirt but they do get to choose from a cool selection of old shirts which makes us look totally amazing and bad ass – I mean, mine has cartoon snowmen on it!).

Nikki, Me and Melissa

Bibbed up and ready to go, I was growing increasingly nervous about this whole 10K thing.  We killed time by chatting with all our running peeps which instead of bolstering my confidence like it usually does actually made me second guess myself even more.  It’s not like anyone said, “Do you think running 6 miles is a good idea after coming off illness.”  It was more like the overwhelming feeling that just about everyone I knew was for some reason running the 5K, which felt weird because these are the same people I run 10K+ with normally.  When it came down to it, the only two people I knew running the 10K had actually run a nice 11 miles from town to the race and would be running 11 miles back to down after the race.  They are pretty bad ass.

The 5K and the 10K started together.  The 5K would run one loop.  The 10K would run two loops.  At 10 am we all lined up on the street and walked down a little hill to the start line.  Shelly and I decided to run together.  She was hoping to PR and the pace she was targeting was comfortable for me.  We synced up our matching Garmins and without fanfare we were off.

The race started out on a very nice downhill.  The kind of downhill where you pick up speed without realizing it.  The kind of downhill where you have the slight inkling that you are probably going to have to go back up at some point.  The kind of downhill where when a little old lady passing you is chatting it up with her little old lady friends, loudly proclaiming, “Sure this is fun now but there is this really big hill coming!  It’s a killer.”

You could say that, lady. The green is the elevation.

I think it is at that moment that both Shelly and I simultaneously looked down at our Garmins and realized we had a serious problem.  We were running 9:30.  We were targeting 11:30.   Actually, we didn’t really realize we had a problem.  We sort of did the mental high five “We feel great and we are so going to PR” thing.  THEN we realized we had a problem because we were trying to maintain that pace going up a nice steep hill.  That 9:30 average became an 11:20 minute mile just like that.  And my lungs hurt.  That tightness I had felt back in December?  That is what I was feeling as we approached the top of the hill.  I was actually wheezing.  At one point Shelly looked over at me and asked if I was going to be okay.  I assured her I was just fine, cursed the Black Death and secretly began considering my options.

Shelly and I: Don't I look absolutely thrilled? Really, I do love running!

There are three letters I hate in dog sports and running:  DNF.  Quitting was not an option.  Neither was walking because I was here to run.  But as we trudged through a rather uneventful but steadily climbing mile two, another option came to mind:  It was a loop course and I still had the option to drop to the 5K. I knew I could push and finish the 10K, but I also knew I wasn’t going to be happy with the results.  Though my legs felt strong, my average heart rate was significantly higher than normal as I struggled at times to get enough air into my angry reactive lungs.  I could do the next 3.1 miles and even sustain my pace, but I was reasonably certain it would mean a significant setback in my recovery.  I came in at the 5K and staff happily added me to the list of 10K folks that dropped.  We finished at 36:14.

Not too shabby for coming off the Black Death. I think I should be happy with this.

As I inhaled my orange juice and partook in the delicious post race BBQ offerings while cheering on my friends and fellow runners while downplaying fits of coughing, I knew I had made the right call.  As well as I have been doing this past week, I am still not 100%.  I still have a few weeks of slow rebuilding ahead.  Most importantly, all of us had fun and finished strong.  Great job, runners!

This of course did not stop me from snowhoeing 5K after the race with Nikki.  The only problem?  The utter complete lack of snow.

Donner Lake on Sunday Afternoon - Hard to believe this place once got so much snow people ate each other. Now we can just hike down to Taco Bell, just a five minute walk from the Donner camp.

We did actually find snow but it wasn’t great.  First, we hiked about a quarter mile into Donner Memorial Park before we put our snowshoes in to make our own tracks.  We even walked on water.  No really, we did.  The water in one of the outlets is frozen absolutely solid and covered in snow so you can ski, hike or shoe on it safely.

See...we can walk on water.

Okay…the part where the map shows us on the lake?  That didn’t happen.  We were safely on the shore because there is not ice on the water whatsoever.  But that part where the outlet is?  That happened.

So very little snow...

The lack of snow, particularly after a storm earlier in the week, was really quite sad.  How sad?  This sad:

Sad Nikki

But as we hiked out toward China Cove, we found some really good deep stuff.  The kind where even in snowshoes you occasionally sink in to your shins.  It was great.  We loved it.  Seriously.  We’re weird like that.  We were also very amused by the fact that we were snowshoeing our way through the swimming area.  So Nikki went swimming in snowshoes:

It really was rather bizarre.

We concluded our fantastic day of outdoor adventures with an amazing dinner with the gang followed by some group foam rolling.  Ahhhh, what better way to finish the weekend then group foam rolling?  With pie, that’s how.  Yeah, I brought over this peanut butter pie thing for dessert.  I figure after burning 1,200 calories, we deserved to indulge ourselves in pie to the tune of 350 calories a micro slice.  It was as delicious as our adventures.

I hope you all had just as much fun this weekend as we did!