The last couple of weeks have been busy ones. Two weeks ago, I was able to log three 4-mile runs and one 5-mile run, and was feeling really good. The miles were slow ones, and I was still feeling cautious, but also more optimistic every time I went out.
I spent as much time stretching, icing, and foam rolling as I did running, and spent a lot of time lifting weights and getting back to my hip strengthening exercises, and rounded it out with PT and acupuncture visits.
And this week, it all seemed to finally pay off. I ran 6 miles Monday, and felt great. I ran 6 miles again Wednesday and felt even better. I ran 7 miles on Thursday, and felt better after that run than I had after Monday's.
That was then I decided to jump into a local 5K on Saturday.
I had been registered to run the Mystic 10K today, but two weeks ago I didn't think I'd be up to running a 10K at this point, so I deferred my registration to a different HMF event. And although I am able to run 6 miles right now, racing 6.2 probably would not have been a good idea.
But I was feeling so good, and tempted to get out there and push myself and see what kind of speed I'd be able to pull off, and I thought racing just 3.1 miles was doable. And when I heard a couple of my friends were going to also be running the same 5K I was considering, the decision was made.
As I drove to the start Saturday, the temperature on the car dashboard read 62 degrees. And then it went up to 64, and then up to 65. I think by the time we got to the starting line, it was a little above 65. And since I've been running in temps in the low 50s (or cooler), 66 or 67 felt more like 80.
We ran 2 warmup miles, and I was dripping with sweat already. I knew I'd still give it my all, but I also knew that it would probably be even a little slower than I had thought I might.
I really didn't know what I was going to be able to do. I thought that maybe I'd be able to come in under 23 minutes, but given what I've been through in the past 4 or 5 weeks, it was very hard to know what would happen once I actually started running, so I decided to just run fast and hope for the best.
I haven't run this race before, but I had heard the description of the course, and have run this stretch of road numerous times on training runs, so knew exactly what to expect.
The first mile is pretty flat, and I was thinking that I should try to not go out too fast, so tried to stick to a pace that felt difficult the way a 5K should, but not so difficult that I was going to regret it in mile 3.
The mile finished in 7:17, and actually felt pretty good, but I knew the huge hill in mile 2 was looming. When I've run this hill on training runs, I've actually felt pretty good making my way up, but trying to race up it was entirely different.
And to add insult to injury, the pollen in this stretch of road was so thick that I almost felt like I was choking on it. The hill slowed me down for sure, but I didn't back off, effort-wise, and mile 2 came in at 7:34. Slow, but considering the hill, I felt like I had held my own.
I was so done at this point, though - as I knew I would be. Even without an enormous hill, a 5K just feels awful for that final mile. I knew it was only a mile, and I had to keep pushing, but I so did not want to.
There was a nice downhill stretch in mile 2, and as tired as my legs were, and as much as I felt like I wanted to throw up, I tried to take advantage of the downhill.
I knew I was the 3rd female at this point, and I knew there was no way I was going to catch my friend who was a full half minute ahead of me in 1st, and I hadn't thought I'd be able to catch my friend who was in 2nd, but during that downhill, I was able to get my legs turning over fast enough to catch her and pass her.
The downhill turned flat, then there was one last little hill before the final push to the finish. I seriously almost cried running up that last hill. I know it well, and I know that it's not a big hill and on a normal run I hardly even notice it, but the way I was feeling at this moment, it crushed me.
But I made it up, and I was still holding onto my 2nd place spot, so I didn't let up, and finished mile 3 in 7:17. The final .1, as always, seemed to last forever, but finally the finish line was there, and I crossed in 23:08.
This race was a vivid reminder of why I'm not a fan of 5Ks. They just take absolutely everything out of you. I was completely spent. And I know I would have felt that way even if it hadn't been a warm day, but the heat made it far worse.
But I was happy with my time. It's a far cry from my all-time 5K PR of 20:51, and my typical 5K time in the 21s, but given that I just returned to running 2 weeks ago, I am pleased with how well I did. And although it's a very small race, it was fun to place 2nd overall.
Fun to race with my friends, too, who placed 1st and 3rd.
Overall, it was just so fun to be back out there and feel like part of the running community again.
I have a lot of work to do to build back up to the level of fitness I was at when I got hurt last month, but I don't feel like I'm quite starting from scratch - some of that fitness is still there; it just needs a little nudge to get it going again.
Yesterday's race was a challenging one, with the hills and the heat, and I would love to be able to test myself on a slightly easier course in better weather conditions, but the heat of summer is not far off, so that's not likely to happen anytime soon.
So I'll take the 23:08 as a great starting point on this comeback journey, and will continue to listen to my body and push it only as much as it feels safe to push.
Final numbers -
23:08, 7:22 pace