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Throo The Zoo

Don’t blame me for the spelling of “Throo”; I’m just the messenger.

Saturday was graduation day for my Spring 2011 No Boundaries Couch to 5K training program, a 5K through Louisville’s zoo and the neighborhood immediately surrounding it. We lucked out weather wise, getting neither the hot and humid weather of the day preceding nor the cold and rainy weather of the day after the race. For that, I am quite thankful.

It was an odd feeling to affix the red 546 race number to my shirt on Saturday morning. I had to look up the right way to do it: pins or tape–who knew? I couldn’t help but wonder who this person was lacing her running shoes, filling her water bottle, and putting her keys, driver’s license, and health insurance card inside a storage pouch. The insurance card is a relic of earlier days when I though it important to demonstrate my insured status in case I keeled over or suffered a spectacular fall* on a training run. It would be bad enough to do the actual keeling or tripping; I surely didn’t want to compound it by ending up in a hospital for indigents.

Never having done this before, there were many uncertainties, like how much breakfast to eat and how early to eat it? Or where to put myself in the line? It seemed silly to be so pumped up and nervous about a family friendly fun run, but I’ve rarely been so out of normal comfort zone. As a life-long non-athlete of the first order, even a fun run was like visiting a new country.

So I settled on oatmeal with blueberries at 6:30, arrived at the zoo at 7:20, got rained on, and took a group photo before the race. Here’s part of the No Boundaries Crew:

At the far left is Caitlin, the grad student who always ran ahead of me. Next to her is Katie, the nurse I could just about keep up with. To my immediate right in red is Lindsey, the coach of the running group. Behind her is Samuel, another fast runner. To the right and behind Katie is Caitlin’s baby sister.

I was totally unprepared for the congestion of a big(ish) race. There were about 2,000 of us, and we were left to our devices to line up. I put myself in the back of the front third, possibly a bit further back, figuring that would yield room for the real runners but still put me ahead of the walk-runners or plain walkers.

I was wrong. At 8:00 a massive body of people took off and I realized that my immediate throng included lots of walkers. I wasn’t too worried about this at first, thinking I had time and space to maneuver into a better spot. I spent years darting into the street, between people, and in front of cars in San Francisco’s crowded Chinatown, how hard could this be?

Then I learned that although I was still walking and trying to find space, I had crossed the start line and the clock was ticking. What’s more, I had crossed it a minute or two ago, thereby ruining my chances at coming in at or under 30 minutes. Or even 31 minutes. So that was a bit demoralizing. The first mile was full of jockeying, but things opened up considerably at the beginning of the second mile. I ran pretty steady, was pleased that the zoo hills were more than manageable after training on the very hilly Scenic Loop in Cherokee Park, and was able to finish by speeding up for the last eighth of a mile or so. My time was a disappointing 33:15. Probably around 31:30 if adjusted for congestion. What can you do?

Then I came home, watched a friend of Simon’s for five hours while his mother took her girls out for a party, cleaned a bit, hit the mall to find Simon some sandals that fit and don’t cause blisters, shopped at Target for a birthday party, and went to another friend’s house after Simon went to bed to organize preschool auction baskets. By the time all that was over, I had gotten over being disappointed by my time and was focusing on the bright spots:

  • After ten weeks of running and 15 weeks of working out, my legs are significantly more muscular, and I lowered both my blood pressure and my resting heart rate compared to this January.
  • I have plans to meet up with several other No Boundaries alumnae for regular runs. Expanding my circle of friends was a top priority for 2011, so I’m very happy it worked out that way.
  • My finish time was a let-down, but it still placed me at 27 of 106 for my age group. Sometimes when Katie, Samuel, and Caitlin zoomed ahead of me I forgot that the oldest among them was 28.
  • Seven weeks ago I attempted to run the loop, only to have to walk up all the big hills and not be able to run for more than about five minutes at a time. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve come a long way, too.
  • It’s immensely satisfying to take on something scary and new and follow it through.

Tomorrow will be my first group run as a Couch to 5K graduate. I’m not fully settled on what my next goal is, but I think I’m going to prepare for a 10K in July. I can do about 4 miles now, so surely I can add another two in eight weeks. And if I pull it off, I’m totally buying myself a spiffy watch that tracks my time.

*I have had more than my share of spectacular falls, including an infamous face-plant in Ann Arbor—powered by a 50-pound backpack—that left me with cuts on my face and broken glasses. One friend suggested that my next goal be a 5K with that back-pack!

One Response to “Throo The Zoo”

  1. Amanda says:

    Yay you! And dreaded shorts look fine.

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