Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Season Opener

Have you opened your running or racing season yet for 2009?

I suspect there are many runners who prefer to run on the treadmill throughout the winter and then mark the day when they hit the streets for the first time. Or perhaps they take the winter off from running and do other activities entirely, like Nordic ski, snow shoe, alpine ski, swim, Pilates, aerobic classes, etc., until they get outside to run. They really delineate a running season and an off-season. Me? I just run...outside.

This winter, I seemed to run more than during past winters. This was probably due to running with the group on Sundays in preparation for the February Mid-Winter Classic 10-miler. And it's funny, but I did not consider either this 10-miler or the 20-miler two weeks later on Martha's Vineyard as "season openers."

My season opener is a 5K race. It's what I train for during the spring and summer and where I have a clear goal. Unlike elite runners, I tend not to do speedwork during the winter. I run miles and build a base, but I don't do anything very fast. When the day comes for the first 5K, I never really know what to expect. I use it as a barometer to get a sense of my strength, and what, if any, leg speed I have. And I try to enjoy it. The truth is I don't, really. I'm a nervous wreck.

Last Sunday, I toed the line for my season opener in Saco, Maine at the Kerrymen's Pub 5K. This race used to be a four-miler, and not only have they changed the race but it runs concurrently with a large scale walk to benefit the Maine Cancer Foundation. It was a beautiful, sunny and clear, relatively mild day.

In spite of the fact I had no speed training under my belt, I did all the things I have learned to do over the years in order to be ready (and relaxed as possible) when the gun went off. I arrived with just over an hour until race time. I registered. I remained fairly relaxed and slowly ran the course. I had to carry a map with me, but that was fine. I met up with a Maine Track Club comrade and we jogged the second half together. I used the restroom. I stayed hydrated. I put my number on, tied up the racing flats with the chip on my shoelace, and still had about a half hour to go. This gave me time to start warming up, literally. I started running at a picked up speed in order to get my heart rate up and my body temp up and to shake out the butterflies. Okay, let's do it.

There were 800 runners, including a few Nor'Easter Run teammates. We chatted at the start-line and I admitted to Nick that I don't really know why I do this racing stuff, I get so nervous. He understood the feeling and reminded me of the benefits we experience when it's done. Yea, I know, and I know I'll keep doing it. I just wish I didn't have to feel the anxiety. One of my former teammates once said to me, "Just own it, Jeanne. This is how you get. It's not going to change." So I try.

I finished my season opener in 19:25, third female overall, and took home the information I needed: What is my 5K fitness level, where do I stack up against the competition, and how well did I recover? Now I can get to work on improving those.

If you would like information on how to train for a 5K, there is a free clinic tonight at Peak Performance Multisport in Portland. Go here to learn more.

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