Race: Throo The Zoo 5K
Place: Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky
Date: May 11, 2013
So, something happened last week when I was walking around the Mall of America on my last afternoon in Minneapolis. Cathy and I stopped in just to scout out a few things…and while I was on the move in the Nike Store (of all places), I suddenly started to limp. My outer thigh just sort of hurt. A lot. Bad enough to bring my even stride to a painful limp. I tried to walk it off as much as possible…but damn…it hurt. Bad.
I toughed it out…put on the “I’m not hurting” face and just trooped through the rest of the visit. I went through airports without complaint. I even did some early morning runs in the dark (where I can’t see the pavement in front of me) regardless of the pain in my leg. I learned to endure the pain of my foam roller. And Biofreeze was once again my friend. Ibuprofen before bed. Hope for the best. And over the course of the past three days…my leg still hurt, but I felt that it might be improving.
That being said, I had signed up for the Throo The Zoo 5K months ago. This is a fun race that winds through residential neighborhoods, populated streets, then through the Louisville Zoo for the last mile until it kicks you out and you make your dash to the finish line. It has challenging hills at places and it just sort of is a fun run to do.
Granted, never have I been a good 5K runner. I’m no sprinter and I never have a finishing kick. I am better suited for longer distances. Some runners just are. I seem to be one of them. But 5K races are still important and any runner will tell you that. Some people, after taking on a half marathon think they can’t possibly go back to shorter races. Embrace the shorter races…for that’s where you get your speed work. Those are the races I end up enjoying the most. I am not a 5K fan…but I still have a blast when I run them regardless. Where else will I get my speedwork in? I have yet to really work on that. I think my friend Kelsie needs to teach me how she finds energy for her finishing kick she always manages.
This morning was rough. My leg was feeling better than it has all week, so that was comforting. Maybe I would survive this after all. The goal this year is no injuries…and I’m doing my best to not push when I shouldn’t. That’s why I dropped my mileage this week WAY down from what I have been running. Run smart. Run uninjured. But, I got up at 5:00 a.m. to get dressed and get things taken care of around the apartment before the roomie was awake at 6:00 a.m. I had to have coffee brewed and breakfast ready. I even made a point of laying out the breakfast bars we were taking with us on the counter…so as not to forget them. Poured cereal. Poured coffee. Her alarm got her up. We ate. She went to get dressed and I went to finish getting things together, brush my teeth, and then…we headed out the door.
The drive to Louisville started, and we were just about to head over the bridge and I looked up from my recent issue of Runner’s World and realized…I forgot our breakfast bars. We ate so early, but the time the race started at 8:00 a.m., we would be starving! I would definitely be starving. We exited on the last New Albany exit and pulled into the first gas station we could find…knowing that we could at least get bananas. Except…they didn’t have fruit of any kind. UGH! So, back in the car and onto the next. This place had fruit…but no bananas. I was really starting to get anxious now…and angry. We were now behind schedule. After I took such great care to put something out so I wouldn’t forget it…I forget it. Kicking myself because now we were meandering around New Albany and not heading to the Louisville Zoo. We pulled into one last gas station and they had some bananas. None at the ripeness I like, but beggars can’t be choosers. I snagged one for each of us (the ones with the fewest brown spots) and we paid $1.00 and hurried back to the car to get our booties over the bridge and heading toward the Louisville Zoo.
We got there at about 7:20…just enough time for me to peel my banana and start eating it. That was 40 minutes to start time…which is my usual banana-fest on longer races. So…I was familiar with this. We parked in the grass off to the side where we were directed. Walked through some soft and muddy lawn (it rained a lot yesterday!), and headed up toward the zoo. Port-a-potty lines were super long. And people were milling about near the finish line. One thing I did notice was that the start line had moved from where it was last year. Instead of starting on a side road in front of the zoo, we were on one of the residential roads near the zoo. So, that was very different. We headed that way after throwing away banana peels as a lot of runners were already making their way over there.
As I was stretching out, I spotted a flurry of color. I knew immediately it had to be Kelsie. Oh yeah. She came over and we talked a lot about races we want to run, injuries, and how we were pursuing this race (she was aiming for a PR…with my leg bothering me, I was doing a shake-out race and hoping I didn’t strain a muscle or something). Before I knew it, more people were filling up the start line, so we took a couple of pictures and then got into the road with everyone else. Jeff, from Fleet Feet, started shouting that 5 minutes into the race, they were going to open the cages at the zoo and let the animals out. Jeff makes me laugh. He’s someone I can always count on to make me smile and relax me at the start line. Even at the start of a race I was doing to shake off a half marathon.
Kelsie and I were talking when we heard the sound of the horn sending us off. I almost forgot to start my watch. We just started moving. She passed me immediately, going for her goal, and I fell into a pace I felt comfortable with because I didn’t want to go out too fast because I knew that Gorilla Hill in the zoo would be killer. It got me last year. That being said, she never got too far ahead of me. I could see her, maybe up 20 feet from me for most of the race.
Mile 1 was actually done faster than I wanted. Very close to the start, as we ran down Russell Avenue and was about to turn onto Poplar Level Road, I passed Jeff. He spotted me and said, “GO KAREN!” Treating this as a fun run, I tossed my hands up in the air. He totally did it again. Jeff has so much passion for running and other runners…it’s hard not to smile when he’s around. Mile 1 clicked off just as we were about to head into the park portion of the route. Guess I wasn’t running as easy as I thought because I clocked out another sub-7-minute mile (6:50 this time). I knew I was going out fast, so I eased up…just slightly. I hate when I peter out at the end of a race. And in 5Ks…I tend to do that. Like I said…I’m a runner who was made for endurance, not speed, so longer races are my thing! I pace myself so much better in them.
Heading into Mile 2 meant looping the park and heading down the front of the zoo parking (where the race started last year!) and back around the corner. The start line was still up and we had to run under that. As we did, Jeff was right behind me shouting “RESET! RESET!” But instead of heading back down the street and into the residential area, we veered left toward the zoo.
And the name of the race suddenly comes into play. Welcome to the Louisville Zoo. Coming in through the back, immediately you hit a downhill portion. I took advantage of that brief downhill slope and was starting to feel a bit like my old self again. This is why I don’t run races to set PRs. I run for fun…because I run better when I don’t focus on pace and speed and goals. My goal is, and always will be, to finish and to do so having fun. Sure, I’m a serious runner, but if I don’t enjoy it…why do it?
The zoo portion is a lot of fun and very challenging. I spotted flamingos this time around. And as we ran through the polar bear area, I was hoping they would be out like they were last year. No luck. Darn it. But then comes the part I dreaded, because I knew it was there. Gorilla Hill. GORILLA-FREAKIN’-HILL!! It’s at mile 2.5…so you’re so close but still not-so-close to that finish line. And you have to determine whether you want to use energy to climb it or not. I try to tackle hills hard. I hate running hills, but the challenge of them makes me want to take them on. I’d been avoiding hills recently because, my half marathon was hilly and I wanted my legs to recover, and my leg had been bothering me…so I was taking it easy so as not to do further damage. But I was not going to let Gorilla Hill defeat me. And…in the process…I managed to pass Kelsie. I knew that would be short-lived though. She’s a strong finisher in 5K races. A sprinter if you will. She’s so well-suited for 5Ks because she can put on the afterburners right there at the end. My goal wasn’t to beat her or pass her though. It was just to finish. I was close.
The zoo portion came to an end as we rounded the corner. I was right…in the straightaway, Kelsie pushed past me and ran hard. She claims it was too soon, but I didn’t see her slow one bit. We came around a little turn and there was the finish line. I could hear Cathy screaming at me. I saw Kelsie cross the finish line…definitely beating her last 5K PR…YAY! And I crossed behind her. I stopped my Garmin, stepped off to the side, and couldn’t help but smile. It was a shake-off run, but my zen attitude paid off again. A new PR according to my Garmin.
Cathy came over and gave me a hug. We decided to move down the way so we could check out some of the tents in the finishers area. I grabbed some water and some apple slices and we started walking around. When nursing sore muscles, legs, etc…best to keep moving and not stop. So, we walked and walked and walked…and talked. And we meandered around. Raffle tickets were handed out to finishers…and this year we hung around, simply because we wanted to stay for awards. Awards were happening at 9:30…we had lots of time to walk…and listen to the raffle numbers get called. Luck was not with me…again…so no prizes here.
Then…the sad news of the morning. River City Races announced that they were having some “technical difficulties” with their equipment, so division awards would not be handed out. But they would give out awards to the top 5 male and female finishers. So, many of us stood out in the chilly morning and applauded those that crossed the finish line ahead of the rest of us. The awards ceremony was fun, but I was hoping to at least have something official to report. I never report times to my mom until they are official.
It is coming up on 12 hours after the race…and River City Races hasn’t posted anything about the results, nor breathed a word about them. It’s a little frustrating…because I want to be able to call my mom and dad since they live a couple states away and always want to hear about my races. I just can’t. Because I refuse to give unofficial times.
I’ll have to end the blog here…until I find out more from River City Races…
Okay, late last night River City Races FINALLY posted the results of the Throo The Zoo 5K. That only took way too long and was very frustrating. But…what do you do, eh?
And the results were that I finished the Throo The Zoo 5K in 22:15. A new PR! Um…not bad for doing this for a fun shake-out run. Wow. Thrilled. I was the 71/1659 finishers overall. Oh, and I finished 2/135 in my age division. WOOOOOHOOOO!! Cathy had kept count at the race, but I confirmed that I was 9/1047 females to cross the finish line as well. Awesome. Quite happy with this being as this race was one I was taking easy for the sake of my leg…my body…and just…because it’s the zoo. I wanted to have some fun. PR-ing is always nice…and I managed to do it here…but if it’s not fun…why bother, right? I think I smiled through this entire race.
Already looking forward to my next one…