Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Beautiful (and cold!) day in The Garden

The picture above was my view as I took my place at the starting line of the "Take 5 in the Garden" race Saturday at the Garden of the Gods. Can you imagine a more perfect setting for my first running race?

It was a cold morning, 25 degrees when I arrived at 7am and it only warmed up a little bit more by the time the race started at 8am (I was wishing I had my long johns on!) The race had 2 options - a 5K or 5 miler and since I'm a gluten for punishment I chose to do the 5 miler. When I signed up for the race I was given the warning that this course was "hilly and strenuous and only for people in excellent shape." You know what, they were absolutely right. It was a tough course, one hill after another that pushed me, my legs and my lungs hard - I heard one runner call it brutal, I would say that was a fair description!

One of the more difficult hills was at the beginning of the course - a 1 mile climb that felt more like 10 miles! Lots of people fell behind fairly quickly but I did something I have never done before, started out strong and fairly fast (for me anyway). I got into a good rhythm and started to move pretty quickly down the other side of the hill.

The hills started taking a toll on me at about the 3 mile mark. My legs were doing fine but my lungs protested. Despite using my inhaler right before the race, I was having difficulty breathing and I had not brought my emergency inhaler with me. I started to walk more in an effort to catch my breath but it didn't help much. I just couldn't breathe well and decided to just press on - I had the goal to finish under an hour and I was determined to make it, no matter if I could breath or not. (Note to self: ALWAYS take your inhaler to races.)

At about the 4 mile mark I met a great lady by the name of Laura and we began to chat - she said she had been trying to catch me the entire race but I was too fast (that made me laugh... me, too fast? that is just too funny). Once I started to walk she caught up and we decided to finish the race together. We had a great time on that last hill and she is a big reason why I pushed it even harder at the end - well, that and her sister (who just happened to win our division with a time of 42 minutes), who was waiting at the last 1/4 mile and encouraged us to speed up to the finish. I ran hard for that last section - my lungs and legs were burning but it felt so good to finish strong and hear the crowd cheering us on!

My goal had been to finish under an hour and that is exactly what I did - my official time was 58:50. Not too bad for a first-timer who couldn't breath for most of the race :-)

It was a tough race to pick for my first one but I'm glad I began with it - might as well get the tough ones out of the way now. I'm already planning for next year - the course we ran is being added to my training schedule and by next year you can bet I'll be one of those running at the front of the pack.

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