After the personal debacle that was the Super 5K in February, I was more than ready to kick some butt at Sunday's Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5K in Ann Arbor. Six weeks of half marathon training including speed work had to have made a difference.
The race didn't start until 1:30 pm on Sunday. I could only surmise this was meant to lure as much of the post-race crowd as possible into hanging around downtown for some Day-Before-St. Patrick's Day beer and food, since in Michigan, one is not allowed to serve or purchase alcohol before noon on Sunday. I'm 100% serious! You wouldn't believe how much that sucks! Especially when one is out of beer and the NASCAR race starts at noon! Or when one goes out for a fancy brunch at the Common Grill and can't even have a mimosa! Like, take your ancient frowsy, fuddy-duddy Puritanism and stuff it, people!
Anyway. The race started late, and good for that, because we were out quite late (for us-- 12:15 am) the night before at a St. Patrick's Day party. I also consumed a large quantity of beer. Despite feeling slightly fuzzy-headed Sunday morning, a breakfast of oatmeal and a lot of water put me back in fighting form. By the time we departed for Ann Arbor around 12:30 I was totally in the zone. I was pumped. Psyched. What-have-you. I was ready. Ready to KICK some ASS!
I got my chip and put my number on my shirt, then went for a short warm-up jog along the race course. At the corner of Ashley and William I heard someone calling out my name and I saw it was my friend Tina who was there to volunteer so I stopped and we chatted for a little bit. While I was standing there a few people came up in cars, saw the cones across the road, and, not realizing they could still turn onto William, they made angry, screeching three-point turns and tore off back down Ashley in the other direction which happened to be the wrong way on a one-way street. One guy drove up and yelled, "So, I can't get to Downtown Home and Garden from ANYWHERE?" Dude, just chill out. The spring seeds aren't going anywhere. Park farther away and, you know, WALK THERE. Isn't Ann Arbor supposed to be the third best city for walking in the country?
After my warmup jog I came back to the parking lot along Ashley to find that my friend Patti and her husband had arrived. Patti was signed up for the 2-mile walk. We stood around for a little while, I used the Port-A-Potty one more time, and then it was time to head to the start. I made sure I was closer to the front of the pack this time. I was on a mission and I didn't want to get stuck in the rear of the pack and spend the first mile overextending myself to catch up to my pace peers. It helped that the race was split into two heats: a "competitive" heat for those who intended to finish in under 27:00, and a "noncompetitive" heat for the walkers and everyone else in the 5K. I made sure I was in the "competitive" heat. As I was standing in the crowd being alternately nervous and excited, fiddling with my shirt and headband, (every single strand of hair MUST be held back!) someone said, "Excuse me, but are you Sarah?" I turned and there was a guy I didn't know standing next to me. I said, "Yes," and he said, "Hi, I'm Jeremy," and I was thinking Jeremy...Jeremy...wait a minute...oh, of course! He was someone I knew from an online runners message board; at some point we'd discovered we both lived and ran in the Ann Arbor area and we were both doing the S&S 5K. There had been some discussion of perhaps meeting up on race day to put faces to the online identities (worlds colliding! again!) but nothing concrete had been arranged, which is why I was so very confused when he came up and introduced himself like we were old pals. I had to ask how on earth he knew who I was and he replied that he'd seen pictures of myself I posted on this blog. So we chatted for a little bit and then all of a sudden the whole pack was taking off in front of us because the race had started!
I bolted with the rest of the pack and quickly settled into a groove. I felt good. Rested, energetic, loose, and strong. We turned onto William, then First, and back north to Huron. There was a hill on Huron between First and Main with which I was going to become very well-acquainted over the next 20 minutes or so. The course looped around downtown Ann Arbor four times. When we passed the first mile mark on First St., the clock said I was at 7:07. 7:07! That was way faster than I had been expecting. Yet, I felt good. Really good. I was still holding my form, my breathing wasn't out of control, and my heart wasn't beating too fast. Around mile 1.5, on our second loop of the course, the men's leader came through the field. He had lapped the field and was almost done (he finished in 15:09). He was flying. It was kind of weird. I never get to see race leaders. He was sailing along, almost whisper-quiet in what I can only assume were racing flats (maybe I should get some of those...) .
Mile 2 I passed at around 14:40. I can't remember exactly; I just knew I was going really fast. Much faster than I had expected. When I passed the 2-mile mark, I did a quick calculation in my head and realized that I was on pace to break 25:00 for sure if not 24:00! When I came to the race my only goal was to break 25:00. I came so close at the Big House Big Heart 5K last September when I ran a 25:01. My "dream goal" was to break 24:00. I had absolutely no intention of setting a new personal record. That wasn't even a remote possibility as far as I was concerned.
Mile 3 was difficult. I was starting to drag. I was dreading the uphill grade on Huron that was going to come right before the finish. I tried to concentrate on keeping my form, not bringing my arms up, staying upright and strong and relaxed. The hill near the finish was as tiring as I thought it would be, but I leaned into it and gave it almost everything I had left, saving just enough for a good hard kick to the finish, and I needed every last bit, because when I rounded the final corner onto Main St. and saw the finish clock in the distance, at first I thought it said "26:xx" and I seethed and fumed and thought If that says "26" I am really going to be mad but as I got closer I saw that it said "22:xx" and then I was like Holy shit! I have a chance to PR! Go, go, go, go, go! I forced myself to run as fast as I could as I watched the seconds tick towards the time of my old PR. Oh God, please don't let me finish one second slower than my PR. That would have been devastating. Eyes glued to the finish clock, I didn't slow up even a tiny bit as I pounded over the timing mats. I mashed the stop button on my Garmin and it said 23:15. Oh my God, I had just set a new personal record. I JUST SET A NEW PERSONAL RECORD! My old PR of 23:21, the one I set at that dual meet with Orange High School in the fall of 1991 during my last year of high school cross country, had fallen. I was stunned as well as completely drained and I had to pause with my hands on my knees for a moment. After removing my chip and getting a free beer glass I saw John on the sidewalk and I went over to him and squealed, "I just got a new PR!" I couldn't believe it. The picture to the left is of me just before the finish, right about the time I realized I had a chance to PR and I better move it if I wanted to make that a reality.
Garmin claimed my mile splits were 6:57, 7:20, and 7:41. Who knows if that's totally accurate. 6:57?? That would be the fastest mile I have ever run in my entire life! My official finish time ended up being 23:19. I finished fifth/tied for fourth in my age group out of 81 and 165/899 overall. I got four free beer glasses! We all went out for lunch and beer afterward at Grizzly Peak Brewing Company.
I've run this race before, actually. March 12, 2000. I was still in graduate school at Michigan and some of my classmates and I decided to run the race. I "trained" for about 10 days beforehand (a grand total of three or four runs in Gallup Park) and finished in 33:33, which is my slowest 5K time ever. 8 years later, I was back on the streets of Ann Arbor to do the same race in a time that was 10 minutes and 14 seconds better.
However, this spectacular personal triumph has created a new wrinkle. You see, I joined in the Shave Your 5K Challenge organized by Vanilla over at Half-Fast, and I had joined the fray with my first 2008 5K time which was 26:06 (from the Super 5K). I thought I had it made with that 26:06. It was going to be ridiculously easy to beat that time at a 5K later in the year. However, "later in the year" meant any race after the cutoff date of March 30. My time from the race on March 16 was going to count as my "Stubble Time" whether I liked it or not. Oh, sure, I could have taken the sleazy way out and just not told Vanilla about my new Stubble Time. That way when I ran some 5K over the summer and beat my PR then I would come out shaved clean as a whistle in the SY5K Challenge. But no, I had to go and ruin everything by being honest and telling Vanilla that I ran a 23:19 which was not only a new PR but my new Stubble Time.
Now I have to beat that 23:19. Have to. I've just created more work for myself. Great. Just great. Actually, I'm being sarcastic. I love a good challenge when it comes to running. Therefore, my new goals for 2008 (now that breaking my PR is out of the way) are to break my PR again and break 23:00. If I do both of those at once, hooray!