Race: Run for the Berries 5K
Place: Starlight, Indiana
Date: May 25, 2013
There is nothing more satisfying than diving into a bowl of fresh strawberries after a short little 5K race through the ups and downs and twists and turns of Starlight, Indiana. I should know. This is the third time that I have endured this race.
There are certain races I would never miss if possible. The Run For The Berries 5K is one of them. I mean…it’s at a local strawberry festival. The fact that it involves strawberries is enough to get me to return time and time again. After all…strawberries are one of my favorite foods. I could eat them by the gallon and not get sick of them. Strawberries are love. And running for strawberries is pure bliss.
A lot of things were different this year as compared to last year. For one thing, it was about 25 degrees cooler this year. Last year, the race kicked off in 72 degree temperatures. This year, it was 47 degrees on Saturday morning. Big difference. Also, packet pick-up wasn’t ready when I arrived. In fact, I had actually arrived earlier than normal…but getting to the festival was easy this year. So, I had more time than usual to kill. The reason packet pick-up wasn’t ready was that the guy who had all the t-shirts and race bibs had to return home for something, so the volunteers were waiting on him.
In the meantime, I figured then was as good a time as any to settle into a chair in the hall where packet pick-up was happening and go ahead and eat the thinkThin Crunch bar that I packed. No fun to run while hungry, and I had gotten up early and that meant an early breakfast of just cereal and a cup of coffee prior to leaving for the race. That would be a full 2 hours before the start of the race, and from experience, I knew I’d be hungry if I didn’t pack something else to nosh on. I wasn’t sure how the Caramel Chocolate Dipped Crunch Bar from thinkThin would do with my stomach before a run, but it was the only one I had that wasn’t primarily chocolate. I figured it was the safest choice.
I snacked, and just as I finished it up, the man with the t-shirts and race bibs arrived. As I mentioned last year, this race uses recycled bibs from previous races. This year…mine was from the 2010 Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast. Awesome! I received my t-shirt (they went back to the tech-shirts this year, thank GOD!) and went to let my roomie pin me up. Once I was properly pinned, I went to duck into the bathroom before heading outside to at least start to acclimate to the cooler temperatures that moved in during the night. I’d been running in 60 degree weather in the mornings, and now I was back down to the 40s. I was bitching about it quite loudly and often. Just ask Cathy. I do better in the heat, amazingly enough…even if I do tend to wilt. Cold weather and I do not get along. So, I did some of my measly cold weather half-ass stretching for a little while, before deciding to finally get a bit more serious about it. After all, the week prior to this my ankle had been bothering me and that meant slowing down my runs, taking a couple days off, icing and foam rolling. Even compression socks weren’t helping. I had to do what was best for me…and that currently means making sure everything is loose and not hurting. With my first marathon coming up this fall, I do not have time to be injured and that means…I listen to my body. That also means…I stretch…whether I want to or not.
While stretching, I had the opportunity to hang out with Matthew and Dawn, who I often see at my races. I love talking with these two. They have inspired me in my marathon pursuits, whether they know it or not. Definitely two of the most awesome people I have met through running in this area. They are so easy to talk to and make me focus more on enjoying my run than trying to outdo someone or something. They just are so encouraging and just so much fun to be around. Ah, I love how my circle of friends has grown since I took up running…and how many great people with different goals and different pursuits I have met along the way.
With race time approaching, it was time to head to the starting line. This run is not chip timed. Most of the races put on by this group are not. I wish they would be though…but I can see how this would definitely be easier to deal with. Still…there is something I appreciate about chip timing. Anyway…the starting line for the Run For The Berries 5K is a green spray painted line on the street. All of the runners sort of clustered as close as they figured they needed to be, while the walkers, as requested, stayed further back in the pack. We had about 5 minutes to run time. The final announcements were made…and soon…the horn was sounded…and we were off.
One of the challenges of this race is just how hilly the area is. I don’t mean gentle rolling hills. Nope. Some of these are rather steep. The rolling hills hit within the first mile. I remember at the start line, one of the runners just behind me said his buddy told him the first hill that we could see ahead was the worst of it. I laughed and said just wait until you hit the hill just after Mile 2. I can say that…because I have cussed that hill out the past two years I have run in this race. It’s evil. It’s steep. It sucks!
But…I’m getting ahead of myself here.
The first mile has its fair share of hills and the like…but nothing too major. I ran what was comfortable, feeling as though I was actually moving quite slow for a race. I was still near the front of the group that went out though…so that was fine. As we rounded a corner and hit the marker for Mile 1, a woman right behind me asked, “Anyone know the pace on that?” A man running next to me called it back to her. I hate knowing my pace. While I wear a watch, I try to not obsess over such numbers because it just stresses me out and I tend to run…poorly. It’s so much better for me to just run and look at the pace and numbers after I’m done. It turns out I run better doing that.
From there, it was on to the second mile. This mile always seems the easiest. I guess because I know that as I hit Mile 2, I’m hitting Hill Road (yes…that is the actual name of that street), so anything seems easier than that. Heading into Mile 2, there are a couple of turns onto various streets…and this year the added joy of loose gravel in a turn that had the road pretty torn up. Thankfully they had a volunteer there to wave us through. The water stop is at Mile 2…and then…that’s when you see it…
THE HILL!! I won’t lie…this hill is steep. And I see a lot of people walk it. I always have pushed myself to get up that hill, even if it slows me down. It always does, but I have never walked it. Never once. And I wasn’t about to start. I pushed myself to get up that incline as fast as I could manage, because I was in the last mile and now was the time to push. Right? Right! I could see a few other women runners ahead of me, and I thought I might be able to catch up to them, but after pressing up that hill, my legs were feeling beyond tired. I gave it my all though. And as I rounded back onto the main road, I could almost taste that finish line.
It was ahead. I knew that much. I thought, for some reason, I had one more turn to go, but I was wrong. It was straight on through to the finish line. The crowd was cheering and I could hear Cathy screaming, “GO TWIN!! GO TWIN!” I pushed as much as my tired legs would allow, thankful that they were just tired and not sore. And I crossed the finish line…not beating my Throo The Zoo gun time yet…but I came close. I came very close. I was handed a card to fill out with my name, bib number and time. My card said I was the 8th female to cross the finish line. Not too shabby.
Cathy came over to give me a hug and we walked over to where I could grab some water. I drank it down before heading into the building to fill out the card I was handed and drop it into the proper spot. I stepped out and went back for more water, taking time to sip on it this time. We moved around a little, just giving my legs some time to stretch out. Then went to find a spot on one of the hay bales to sit. Cathy took my water cup and told me to do some light stretching. I knew she was right…so I did just that. Then went for a slow jog down to the end of the blacktop and back. After that, we walked over to the Strawberry Freeze booth and got a Strawberry Banana Freeze to split. Nothing tastes as good as fresh banana and fresh strawberry packed into a blender with ice and a bit of water…after a race. It doesn’t matter if it’s chilly out…it just tastes good. We had toyed with getting hot chocolate…but we were at the Strawberry Festival. Strawberries had to be on the menu.
We split the freeze and around 9 a.m., I meandered over to my favorite booth of all. The build-your-own strawberry shortcake. Now, I can’t have the shortcake or the whipped topping, but I sure as hell can pile up strawberries in a bowl and fast on those. That was going to be the remainder of my breakfast that day. This was always worth running for. This is something I treated myself to after the race the past two years I have ran in it.
The awards ceremony started just as Cathy returned with her breakfast (cheese fries…what else?). I was feeling really good about it this time. I was caught off guard last year by winning my division…and I ran this race over 2 minutes faster. I was feeling confident that I at least placed.
So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that every woman that came in ahead of me either placed in the top 3 overall, or were in my age division. I walked away from this one empty-handed despite having run this course better this year as opposed to last year. Maybe weather does have an affect on running. Some do better in the cool air…some do better in the heat. While I ran faster…I wasn’t fast enough. And the woman who beat me in was just a few steps in front of me at the finish. SO close.
But this was also a nice lesson in humility and a reminder that running isn’t about winning and placing. Yep…I was totally disappointed. Actually, when they started announcing my age group, I was all set to hop up for first place. And then my name wasn’t called. So I prepped myself for second. And my name wasn’t called. Surely to God I at least got third, right? Wrong! I felt my heart sink and this extreme welling up of anger and disappointment at myself. Never mind that I just ran one of my best 5K times yet…I was disappointed not to walk away with a glass pint glass this year.
Cathy helped put it all in perspective, telling me I didn’t need another glass anyway.
What I discovered here was a humbling reminder that winning and placing doesn’t make or break my race. I love running this race. I was hanging out with great people, eating strawberries, enjoying a beautiful morning in the sun. And I had been upset for not placing? Well…it was time to shake that off and suck it up. I might have run better, but there are always better and faster people out there. That Saturday morning…they ran better and faster than me.
Strawberries were my award…and I smiled and finished eating my heaping bowl of strawberry goodness as they started giving away door prizes. My name was called toward the last few. I was left to choosing between coupons for Subway or Chick-Fil-A. But…I’m a gluten-free vegetarian, so none of these were good choices for me. I grabbed one of them, and ended up giving them away. At least they would get used and appreciated that way.
Final results have not been posted yet…nor do I know if and when they will be. But, as it stands…I finished the Run For The Berries 5K in 22:19. I was the 8th female to cross the line and came in 4th in my division. If the official results ever get posted…I’ll update this accordingly.
I can’t wait to try again next year…and this time I’ll enjoy the journey more. Lesson learned.