Race Recap: John Thompson Memorial 5K

20 May

On Saturday, May 18th 2013 I finished my second 5K.

And y’all, it was h-a-r-d hard.

Let me start at the beginning, though, as it is a very good place to start.

Around 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, Christina woke up to bottle feed the little fading puppy.  He was not doing well at all and he unfortunately passed away in her hands around 4:30 a.m.  We were both feeling devastated, but I forced myself back to sleep because I knew I needed to rest up.  I had intended to get up around 6 a.m. but instead we snoozed the alarms until around 7 a.m.  We were out the door by 7:15 a.m. and on the road.  The race took place an hour and 15 minutes away at my high school, Neshannock Jr/Sr High School.

It was weird pulling into that parking lot for the first time in 11 years.  We arrived about 20 minuteStartingLine2.JT5Ks prior to start time, so I hurriedly put my race bib and chip on and hit the bathroom.  Then, I found my people near the concession stand:  Christina, my mom, my sister, my brother, and my sister’s boyfriend were all huddled around talking.  I scanned the crowd, relieved that I didn’t recognize a single person.  I stretched out as we examined the race map.  The cross country trail is not something that I even knew existed when I attended school at NHS.  With the passing of one of our beloved biology teachers and cross-country coaches, Mr. Thompson (who we all lovingly called Mr. T), the school district breathed new life into the old trail.  They now host this annual 5K race in his honor.

As we lined up at the starting line, I hung near the back of the crowd with my sister and her group of friends.  My brother was lost in the crowd, hanging close to the cross country kids.

I was glad to be out of ear shot of the current cross country coach, who gave a speech to all the runners.  My mom and Christina told me afterwards that he was explaining how difficult the course was, with plenty of hills and winding, newly mulched trails.  He even said something like: “This is a difficult race, don’t expect to beat your 5K PR today.”   I’m glad I missed that reality check because I probably would’ve used it as an excuse not to push myself.

The horn blew and people st1stLoop.JT5Karted moving!  We started near the entrance to the football stadium and ran towards the high school.  Then, we made a loop around this big grassy field where the sports teams sometimes practice.  It was really surreal for me, running on the outside of windows which I used to stare out of. We looped back around to the starting line (below) and then ran past it, behind the field and entered the trail.

As soon as my feet hit the grass, I got a little worried.  Pretty different than the concrete which I’m used to.  I was relieved that the trail was entirely in the shade as it wound through the woods.  There was more winding than I thought was even possible.  I had no idea the woods were that deep!

As we entered the trail head,  I could’ve sworn that I was in the middle of a pack.  But then, as I started running I realized that I was completely alone in the woods.  I had a few minutes where I freaked out, worried that I had fallen behind significantly and hadn’t noticed.  Was I in last place?!  Calm down, you’re fine.  

During mile 1, I just decided to relax and enjoy my solo run through the woods.  There were a decent amount of hills during the first mile.  I ran up the hills in short quick steps and cheered myself on down every hill, catching short glimpses of runners brightly colored shirts in the distance.  I was thankful that no one caught up to me!

When I got to the aid station, I was worried.  It felt like I had been running a heck of a lot longer than I actually was.  I actually tried to run through the aid station, which was a first for me.  I think a few tablespoons made it into my mouth, but the rest was down the front of my shirt.  It cooled me down, so no complaints!

After the first aid station, the course sort of flattened out.  While I was thankful for the flatness, this was about the time I started feeling really strained from the newly mulched trail I was running on.  At one point right before the mile 2 marker, I started walking.  It felt like I was sinking into the ground, not quite as much as walking on sand.  I decided I would exert less energy if I just kept jogging because my feet wouldn’t touch the ground as much.  So that’s what I did.

Right after I passed the mile 2 trail marker, I passed up a slow moving cross country boy.  That made me feel awesome!  Then, around mile 2.5 I passed up 2 more!  Booyahhhhh.  The course looped back around and then you hit the same water station, but from the opposite side.  This time, I slowed down and drank all the water.  Exactly what I needed!

When I emerged from the trail, I could see Christina and my mom waiting for a glimpse of me.  I knew I was almost to the finish line.  Now, I had to run parallel to the football field, around the end zone and into the fence.  To get to the finish line, you had to run 3/4 lap around the track.

Of course, my little race buddy was waiting for me!

FinishLine1.JT5K

FinishLine2.JT5K

At one point he said to me: “Let’s sprint it out!” and I thought “Um, little dude, I am going as fast as my legs can carry me!”  I finished in 39:13, about 3 minutes shy of my current PR.  I remember glancing up at the race clock as I neared it and feeling disappointed.  I ran more than I had in the Ole 5K and damn it if I hadn’t pushed myself harder.  I mean, I felt exhausted.

Then, Christina and my mom came up and gave me a hug and told me how good I did.  I didn’t beat my previous time, I told them.  Then, Christina told me what the coach said at the starting line.  The difficulty level of this course was much higher than the one I had run in May!  When I heard that, I felt really great about my time.  I may not have set a new PR, but I was pretty darn close to at least matching it!

Not too shabby for my first trail RUN, let alone trail RACE.

After the race, I grabbed a banana and a blueberry Nutrigrain bar and collapsed in the grass.  Once I felt like I had recovered a little, I forced my family to take pictures with me because guess what:  it is also the day I graduated with my masters!  I skipped the commencement ceremony to run the race, so we had to get a few choice pics.

GradHat1.JT5K

Sibbies.JT5K

I promise, they actually do love me.

Then, we packed up and headed back to Pittsburgh.  About 15 minutes later, my mom called me.

“Guess what I just did?” she laughed.  “Um, just picked up your third place medal!”

I could tell by the tone in her voice that she wasn’t joking, but I didn’t understand.  She told me that I placed third in my age group!!

Medal.JT5K

Not in a million years did I even expect that. To the point that I was all ready on the interstate by the time they announced my name!  That made not setting a new PR feel like no big.  I’ll take it!!  My very first medal ever. In my life.  In 29 years of living without a trophy or medal or athletic accomplishment.  Ironically in the place where I would’ve won a trophy had I been involved with anything.  Its funny how life works, huh?

Here are some of my final thoughts on the details of the John Thompson Memorial 5K:

PRICE:  $20 which benefitted the NHS cross country team.  In addition to a really nice shirt (as far as race shirts go), we got swag bags with random goodies.  I don’t know how I would’ve lived without the Giant Eagle jar opener or the Avon bubble bath or the sweet Noga Ambulance water bottle.  But, stuff is stuff and it was free!

PARKING:  Parking was in the stadium parking lot, obviously free and plentiful.

PRE-RACE/POST-RACE GRUB:  The concession stand at the football field was jam-packed with goodies:  Dunkin Donuts bagels and donut holes, bananas, apples, oranges, NutriGrain bars, and candy galore.  I grabbed another NutriGrain bar for the road. 🙂

TIMING:  The race was chip timed by SmileyMiles.com and the results were posted within a day or two.

WEATHER:  Gorgeous.  It was mild, in the late 70s.  Since the race was primarily in the shade, I wasn’t effected at all by the heat.  The blue skies sure didn’t hurt, though!

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3 Responses to “Race Recap: John Thompson Memorial 5K”

  1. Mom May 20, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    And even though you left before they started, there were quite a few–even alot–of raffles after the race!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Coming To Terms | SOLE for the Soul - September 26, 2013

    […] the John Thompson 5K, I placed third in my age group (I still can’t believe that), despite the fact that I had no […]

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