Today was the 7th annual St Paddy’s 5 miler; and it was my 3rd time running this race. What traditionally is a St Patrick’s weekend race was moved to April this year due to traditionally very cold and windy weather on race day in March. Today we woke up to sideways falling snow, with nearly 30 mile per hour winds, and temperatures barely reaching 30 degrees. It was supposed to be an April Fool’s race, but I think the joke was on us. When I looked outside at 6am with the snow coming down and the ground already covered, I thought, there is no way I am going to run a race in 4 hours, it’s not that important to me.
But, 3 hours later, as we drove by the course to check out the conditions, the snow had stopped, the roads were wet, but not slushy, and it was windy, but wind is something that is uncomfortable and challenging, but not dangerous. So I changed my mind and decided to see what 5 miles felt like in those conditions. I was joined by 289 other runners, and I had absolutely no expectations other than to try to run 5 miles in an hour. I was bummed I forgot my music, but decided I would focus on my breathing instead.
Maybe that is how I should run all my runs. I set my GPS watch at the start and never looked at it again. I even forgot to stop it at the end of the race. I was conscious of not starting out to fast, and tried to breathe through my nose for as long as I could. I was happy to approach the 1 mile timer in just under 10 minutes. The wind was at my back until I turned the corner approaching the 2 mile mark and then it was like hitting a wall. If you read my 5 mile time trial recap you know mile 1.75-2.75 is uphill. Into the wind. Ouch. I tried to slow down my pace just a bit and concentrate on my breathing. I think I may have taken a walking break for about 30 seconds, I can’t remember, but I kept chugging along up the hill. The lead runners passed me running back down the hill as I was about half way up the hill, and I passed my daughter who later told me she couldn’t tell by the look on my face if I was going to push on or give up. I had told her if it was too much for me I was going to bale at the top of the hill, which is also near the starting line. I never even considered quitting. The wind was intense, but my breathing and legs felt good.
I had no idea what my time was as I approached mile 3 about 200 yards heading back down the hill, but I decided not to push it on the downhill but instead used that time to recover a little bit and went back to nose breathing. I knew I still had another mile, uphill into that headwind again so I tried to conserve my mental energy.
As I turned up the steep hill at the 4 mile mark there were all kinds of people grumbling and walking, I stopped to walk about halfway up the hill to recover my breathing, and the windchill was fierce. I had been wearing gloves, but had taken them off when I warmed up, but the gloves went back on at that point until the end of the race.
As we turned right for the last three quarters of a mile my eyes were watering, my nose was running, and I felt like I was barely moving heading uphill into that 25 mile an hour gusty wind. I knew it wouldn’t get any harder, but I stopped to walk for another 20-30 seconds anyways. I remember thinking, (and I may have said it out loud) “It really doesn’t matter at this point.” I figured my time would be close to an hour anyways, no PR’s today! But I also knew the faster I moved the quicker I would be done, so I started running again and pushed it the last 200 meters as I approached the finish line. I was pretty surprised to see my time was around 52:00, especially considering my 4-5 walking breaks. Overall I felt pretty happy with how I felt during the run, too. My calf and achilles issues were non existent. My left hip started feeling a little tired near the top of the hill at almost the three mile mark, but honestly, I felt pretty strong, physically and mentally.
I realized I probably place too much pressure on myself and create a whole bunch of issues that are more detrimental to my performance than my physical preparedness. I needed this today. All the usual distractions were there, but because I had no real performance expectations I felt so much more relaxed and ready to deal with the stress of the race itself. I spent absolutely no time worrying about pace and time, and instead focused on what will help those things improve.