Race: The Parklands 5K Walk & Run
Place: Louisville, KY
Date: June 12, 2021
I raced. I raced in a non-virtaul, real life, in person race!
It has, legit, been…19 months since I raced all out in any distance. It’s been 16 months since I participated in an in-person racing event. And, wow, have I ever missed it! I never got nervous or felt like I needed to prove myself to anyone. I just wanted to get out there and run hard and have fun. I never once stopped smiling. Even when it was 80° F out at the start. I knew going into this that this wasn’t PR weather…at least not for me. So I was just going to push myself more than I would if I were doing speed work on my own and hope for the best. So, yeah…I wore that smile the entire time.
While the race did offer an option for race-day packet pick up, it was encouraged that runners stop by the PNC Pavillion at Beckley Creek Park on Friday to make race day a little less hectic and easier for everyone. I ended up leaving work a little early on Friday to make this happen. It took about 30 minutes to get out there, but the packet pickup process was smooth and easy. Louisville Running Co Owner, Michael Clemons, recognized me on sight (Cathy said some things don’t change…people just know me in this area) and made the process super quick, writing my start time (I went with the first wave at 8 am, hoping to run with fast people and hopefully have the coolest temperatures of the morning at the start) on the back of my bib before handing me a t-shirt and an envelope with race information and some goodies from The Parklands. Got back into the car for the ride home, and of course ordered my Magic Sushi for dinner that night.
I had to wake up early on race morning to not only get into my race outfit and gear, but to bathe in some sunscreen as well. If you think I’m being sarcastic, guess again. I wear sunscreen every time I go out for a run in the daylight. I never get a Garmin tan line like many runners brag about in the summer because, let’s face it, tan skin is damaged skin. So, on went the sunscreen…and then I ate a little something with my vitamins and then got to stretching. My roommate woke up soon after I finished that up and ate her breakfast while I made her some coffee and then went to make a few minor changes to my running outfit for the day. I brushed my teeth. I went to grab a banana from the kitchen. My roommate grabbed the donkey race sign (IYKYK). And we were in the car and making the drive from home to Beckley Creek Park in The Parklands. We got there and had absolutely no trouble getting parked. I ate the banana and took…you guessed it…a power nap!
I did eventually have to get out of the car, shed the t-shirt I was wearing to keep from freezing in the car air conditioning, and get a little acclimated to the outdoor temps that morning. We had about 15 or so minutes until the start of my wave. I should probably mention that the race was using a wave start, so a wave of up to 40 runners would go off every 5 minutes. Cathy and I went to look at the start and finish area so that she could get an idea of where she wanted to stand for the start and finish. While we were waiting, my friend Dennis, who talked me into doing this 5K, arrived. He was starting at 8:15 so he got to see me start and I got to see him finish. As I said, because of the heat and humidity that morning, I didn’t have an specific time goals, but told Cathy I would be happy if I came in around 23 minutes (my 5K PR was set in 2013 at the Pro.Active for Life 5K in Frankfort, KY).
Cathy suddenly alerted me that it was almost time for my wave to go off. I didn’t even realize how close to the start time it was. I still had to turn on my Garmin and get it ready to go. Luckily, it found it’s satellites pretty quickly. They made the call for the 8 am wave to line up on the left hand side of the street (making sure we understood that we were running out on the left hand side and returning on the left hand side). Michael Clemons went to get on the bike to lead the first wave out on the course. And the countdown from 5 seconds started, the horn blared, and we were off!
I legit just went for it at the start. I bounded over that start line and focused on just pushing myself. I knew I was going to be running with a lot of very fast, very talented people. I also know, from pacing a race that started in this park, that we have a few bridges that come at us in the form of hills, that aren’t exactly easy climbs. But I’ve also been running hills on pretty much every run I go on in training. There is no avoiding them around here, to be honest. I felt strong and confident and ready to just leave it all out there. I rounded the corner and was greeted with that very first hill. They do slow me down, but I kept pushing, because my specialty is, and will always be, that downhill. I gained some ground there and kept my feet turning over as much as I could. The second hill came in this first mile as well. There was a water stop at the crest of it, but I powered through, hitting that downhill and cruising through the first mile. I was slower than I had hoped to be at that point (I didn’t know until after the race because I don’t look at my watch…because I’ll stress out if I do), but I wasn’t dying in the heat. The run out to the turn around point was without shade, but it felt flat. I made the tight turn and started back toward the start. Halfway through.
It was fun to see the runners coming up onto the turn around point because we could cheer each other on. I knew that once I got back up the hill to the water stop, that we had to hop off the asphalt and onto the concrete of the Louisville Loop. I crested the hill, feeling the heat and fatigue setting in. But it was down a hill. And right at the Mile 2 marker, I passed the woman who was right in front of me. Did I mention that I love a good downhill? I figured she would catch me when things flattened out, but I never saw her again after that. I just focused on following the guy in front of me as we pounded down the concrete and baked in the hot sun.
One more hill. I struggled on this one. But I got up it and came down the other end, passing the guy that had been in front of me as I did so. Downhills are my jam! I turned the corner to head into the finish line. Cathy was screaming at me to run. I could hear the guy I just passed at the Mile 3 sign trying to get past me again. I don’t like getting outkicked at the finish line. It happens to me a lot because I usually just don’t have that finisher’s kick. But I found one more gear and managed to hit that finish line just before he did. Arms up in the air. Still smiling.
I got my finisher’s medal and went to drink some water while waiting for Dennis to finish. He knew the heat was going to be a factor today, but he was going to go for a PR anyway. I love that about Dennis. He will always just run as hard and fast as he can for as long as he can. No fear. No worries. It seems so easy for him. I envy that. I got to ring a cow bell as he came into the finish, not sub-22, but still sub-23. Win!
So, my official results of The Parklands 5K Walk & Run are that I finished in I finished in 23:10. I was 26/438 finishers overall. I was the 6/240 female finishers. And I was 2/27 in my age division. I couldn’t wait around that morning for the age group awards, so I’ll have to go and pick mine up next week at Fleet Feet. This was a good return to racing for me. This was a good confidence builder.
I can’t wait to do it again! And do it faster next time. I know I’m older. I know I have a problematic hip at times (thanks hip labrum tear in 2015). But I know I can get a PR in some distance this year. It’s time some of those old records fall.