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[Running] By Feel

Posted Jul 05 2013 12:09pm
*Alternate title: The time I ditched my Garmin for a month and learned to love running again (most days).
**Alternate title two: The one time I didn't obsess over my pace and won an age group award (caveat, it was a small 5k).
***Alternate title three: The one time I blogged about something other than books.

Because I have a foot injury that will not die (really, I'm rolling my feet on a stupid foot roller as I'm typing this), running is kind of a struggle these days still. I've learned that I'm going to have to accept that while my feet might not hurt during a run, I will have hot spots after I run or that sometimes during a run, I'll hit a spot on the pavement wrong and pain will flare up my foot. That's always fun. I have hope that this won't last forever and truthfully, they are better than they were six months ago. I need to remember that. It's just that way back in December, I had no idea that my feet would still hurt like they do somedays and that kind of sucks.

The biggest struggle has been comparing myself to myself. To where I was before I was injured to now. Before my injury, I was at my peak--running faster and further than I'd ever run, setting PRs at every distance. I expected that following my half-marathon PR, I'd knock out a bunch of 5k and 10k PRs. I didn't expect this setback, but life happens and I've done my best to accept that. Still, there are times when it's hard when I'm struggling to run at a pace that would've been so easy before. I knew that I was rebuilding, but I'm also only human and I missed when those paces were easy.

So I decided to ditch my watch for the entire month of June and just run. I mapped out all the routes between 2 and 4ish miles from my front door and back to my neighborhood. I tried my best to not look at the clock when I left because I knew that if I did, I would try and figure out my pace. I didn't stress if I had to walk or if I got stopped by traffic. I just ran. The more I did it, the more in-tune with my body I became. On one run, I could tell that I was pushing it when I stopped for traffic and my heart and feet were pounding harder than usual. Before, I would've known instantly by looking at my watch and I maybe would've backed off. This time, I just ran and felt pretty good doing it.

When June ended, I found that I had no desire to put my watch back on, even though I was signed up for our local 4th of July 5k. This is the third year our town has done this race, and I've run it every year. The first time was my first 5k and last year was my first official sub-30 . I almost didn't sign up this year because I haven't done a race since the Turkey Trot when I was robbed of my super awesome 5k PR and also, I've been running sporadic amounts each week and definitely not doing any sort of speed training, plus that whole thing where I could very well be running 12 minute miles and have no idea (which is not to knock anyone who runs 12 minute miles because a mile is a mile and every single mile counts, no matter how the minutes). However, Luke really wanted to do the kids' run, so it seemed like I shouldn't break tradition. Another tradition is that every year, Shane takes the boys to the playground (the start and finish is at the elementary school) and they always just miss me at the finish line. I cautioned him that this would likely be my slowest 5k yet, so to take at least 30 minutes playing.

I left my Garmin at home, gathering dust. I felt a little smug when everyone around me started their watches at the start of the race and I could just start running. I settled in to a pretty steady pace, knowing that the first mile is a gradual downhill with a steep hill at the halfway point and since it's out and back, the end is a gradual uphill. Nothing major, but enough that it's slightly annoying and I didn't really want to push. Truthfully, I was just enjoying myself because it was the first race ever where I wasn't staring at my watch. Because I started out so steady, I ended up passing a lot of people throughout the race who didn't start off so steadily. A woman near me had a watch or phone or SOMETHING that was emitting a loud noise every quarter-mile or so and that was driving me nuts and wrecking my relative calm. At mile 1, a volunteer was shouting out split times and I thought about covering my ears, but then realized that would make me look nuts. My split for mile 1 was 9:01, which would've panicked me if I'd seen it on my watch, I think, and momentarily panicked me when she said it out loud, but I told myself that I felt fine before she said it and that I needed to keep feeling fine. After mile 1, the course turns into a neighborhood, where you go up a steep hill, then turn around and go back out. Into the neighborhood, I passed a 10 year old girl who used to go to Luke's sitter who was walking at the time--I took the chance to pat her back and tell her how well she was doing. I saw her next when I was going down the hill and she was going up. She was running again, so I clapped and cheered for her. After that, it was back out of the neighborhood when I saw the girl's mom. She cheered for me and I said, "Emma's going up the hill!"

As I was approaching mile 2, a little boy ahead of me pulled aside and started walking, but as every runner passed him he said, "Good job!" and all I could think was, "Some parent trained him right." As I got to mile 2, the same volunteer was shouting out split times and mine was consistent with the same pace, even with the hill. I took a cup of water because a cute little girl handed it to me, but I kept running with it and just splashed it down my front. I knew that the last mile of the race was all road and sun and I would need to cool down. At this point, the woman with the constant loud watch/phone/whatever device was STILL near me and I started thinking, "I wish I had my watch so I could throw it at her." At this point, I started to pull ahead to get away from her noise and I caught up with a little boy who any time I would try and pass him would kick it in and surge forward. It made a fun game for me for the last mile. I would push, he would surge. This kid was a machine. When we got to the last little bit, where the finish line was just around the corner, he started to fall back and I knew I could pass him, but I said, "Come on... we're almost there, don't let me catch you now!" and he took off like a SHOT. He definitely has a future as a sprinter.

My official time was 28:19. While not my 5k PR, it's a course PR of over 1:30 and honestly, my funnest 5k. I was just in the moment. I chatted with people on the course, I encouraged other runners and I just enjoyed every moment. I wasn't going all out, but I pushed myself. Oh, and in true tradition, the only one clapping for me as I came across the finish line was one of the first grade teachers that I know. As I slowed down through the chute, I saw Shane and the boys scrambling up the sidewalk in the distance--ahh, well. There's always next year. When I checked the official results list because I wasn't quite sure what time the clock read as I came across, I saw that I was listed 3rd in my age group. Fortunately, #4 in my age group was right behind me, so I was happy to learn that there were more than 3 people in my age group. It is a small race, but there were 15 people total in my age group, so while it was a small field, it wasn't as small as I originally feared. Before awards, the kids lined up for the Sparkler Sprint.

(Luke is in the red shirt and grey shorts.)
Unfortunately, in typical kid fashion the little boy lined up like a serious sprinter tripped and fell and Luke tripped and rolled over him. Amazingly, Luke jumped right back up and despite then being at the back of the pack, managed to pass all but two kids and end up third in the shoot.
After the race, he told me how much fun it was to pass people. I don't want to push my kids into running just because I like it, but I think this one might be my runner.

After the kids' race, they gave out awards and I got to wear my medal for about one minute before Tommy stole it. Still, it was an exciting minute where I got to pretend to be a fast runner. Small races are awesome.

I'm not sure where I go from here, but I don't feel like I'm too eager to pick up my Garmin again. I wasn't hitting these paces a month ago. Obviously this month of running without a watch was good for my body, and I've learned to listen to it better without the watch. At some point, I'd like to train for something longer if my feet will let me. Can I do that without a watch? I guess that'll be a new adventure!
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