Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thirsty Summertime Thursdays

So these last few weeks have been pounding by so quickly, with so many things going on, I'll have to hit the highlights in a few quickly successive posts.  If I could get it into my head that not every post needs to be "meaningful", then I'd keep up with current events a bit better.

The May Thirsty Thursday 5K was postponed a week due to the weather.  It was actually scheduled to run on the day of our crazy rainstorm adventure, after which I think I'd have gladly gone out and run for 3.1 miles, just to use up the extra adrenaline!  So on the fourth Thursday in May, Erin, Isaac, and I, plus some friends who've never run it before, went out to Trooper Thorn's for our favorite 5K.  This would be the first race for me of the year and I was looking forward to setting a baseline time.  I was fairly confident that whatever time I achieved would be easily beat in future races, since it was a sweltering 90 degrees.

Sure enough, the heat was sucking the oxygen right out of the air.  The crowd running was smaller, so there weren't so many bodies to fight through for a comfortable start.  I ended up taking a walk break before reaching the half-way point and again not long after turning around.  Everyone we'd come with had passed by before I reached the turn-around, and it was fun to cheer them on.  I had expected to be the final one of our group to finish, but was surprised with just how difficult a time I was having.  Keeping my legs pumping while struggling to breathe had sapped my energy reserves rather quickly.

At about the point where I was contemplating collapsing into the weeds on the side of the trail I saw a familiar face coming toward me.  Erin had come looking for me and she pulled in beside and proceeded to encourage, cajole, and coach me on through to the end.  What a sweet girl!  Normally in these little local races a lot of the front-runners, the serious racers, will turn around and run the course a second time.  Due to the heat, there had been none of that happening, but here was my sweetie coming back to help me along!  I've never run alongside Erin for more than a few paces, she's so fast, but here she was, talking me through, keeping me going.  We finished in 33:14, my slowest time for a 5K, but I finished.

We got water and found our friends, talked a bit while sprawled- I mean, sat- on the grassy hillside, before heading to the back deck of Trooper Thorn's Pub for our free beer and the prizes.  Our friends had really enjoyed themselves, and their fun was punctuated by three of their family winning ribbons for placing in their respective age categories.  There's a camaraderie among sweaty, exhausted strangers who have just run a friendly race together that I've never experienced before I began running last year.  Everyone smiling ear-to-ear, having shared an accomplishment, whether one came in first or last, we all finished.

My biggest shock came after reaching home however.  When we got home and were telling Jim about the race I learned that Erin had not finished before coming back for me.  She had turned around at a certain point and came looking for me before she crossed the line on her own!

Now, this past week, I ran my second Third Thirsty Thursday for the summer.  As it happens, there was an event which Jim and the kids needed to attend so I ran on my own, joining the friends who are now hooked on this little race.  The weather was far kinder, there was actually air to breathe, and there was a larger turnout this time.  I'd been running more faithfully since the last race and felt stronger going into this one.  I took two one-minute walking breaks and finished feeling fantastic in 30:54.  What a difference breathable air makes!

I'll never be one of the lunatic front-runners, nor will I find myself sponsored by a shoe manufacturer.  By keeping track of my times I am merely gauging my own strength and performance, not setting myself against anyone else.  I never even expect to place in a race unless there are only two other women my age running.  But the best prize ever I have already won.  My Erin came back for me and kept me going to the end of one horribly hot and miserable race.  And that I will treasure always.

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