Saturday, June 28, 2014

Women's Distance Festival 5k Recap

This morning was the Women's Distance Festival 5k, the race that we were encouraged to run as the celebratory finale for the Women's Training Program (WTP). I've been very excited to run this race and registered the day registration opened!

Last night I picked up my packet and the swag bag did not disappoint:

The theme was "Ladies Go Green" and the swag was designed to match. Tech t-shirt, socks, and reusable shopping bag all sported the logo and theme and were quite attractive. There was also a quick draw hand-held water bottle which I am so excited about. It has a key/id pouch and is in the color "Fern" so it matches the theme. There is also a keychain with a globe on it that might disappear into the shopping bag in the above photo. Freddy claimed the keychain as his own, of course. We also received a finisher visor with the logo when we crossed the finish line!

I started thinking about my pace and goal last night. I haven't run a 5k for myself since Run Your Heart Out in February, when my brother Josh paced me to a PR of 32:56 (10:37 pace). I felt like a PR would be out of reach, that even sticking with the 11-minute pacer would be a challenge for me. I went to bed uncommitted to a goal, wanting to strive for the 11-minute pace group but still uncertain. I decided I would see which coach was pacing that group and maybe that would help me decide.

When I arrived in the morning, I felt really energized by the decorations and the atmosphere. The organizers and volunteers had gone all out to create a festive environment. I only captured a fracture of the cool things with my camera. Here is some of what we saw:

Motivational Signs were EVERYWHERE. They were awesome!

Both sides of this footbridge were lined with
cans, ribbons, and signs

People starting to arrive,
Finisher area being set up in the pavilion

Used shoes were collected for donation 

The finisher area had bananas, oranges, bagels,
water, coffee(!) and probably other things I missed.
The potted plants were planned as awards - cool!

I met up with my friends Lynn and Tara from Potomac River Running 101 Training, and Katherine, who was really brave in committing to the Women's Training Program and the race. I am so, so proud of Katherine for completing this and can't wait for her next 5k!

Katherine, Lynn, Tara & me in our WTP shirts
(and "happy birthday" headbands...)

Then we met up with the rest of the WTP participants and took a group photo:

WTP participants & coaches at Women's Distance Festival
(photo courtesy Brian Kent)

We also met up with my friend Gina who was celebrating the big 5-0 with a birthday race. Gina had a big group turn out to support her and run with her and we all got to sport fancy "happy birthday" headbands:

Happy Birthday Gina
(Gina is the center bunny!)
The birthday girl surveying the scene

I asked Louisa who was pacing the 11-minute/mile and she said it actually wasn't one of the coaches, and she turned to introduce me to Marcy Foster. I know Marcy! She used to be my Weight Watchers leader! She is one of my fitness and wellness role models! I've seen her cross countless race finish lines with her signature flying airplane arms. I gave her a hug and felt my mind click into the commitment to run the 11-minute pace and sticking with Marcy no matter what. 

With Marcy before the race

The race course was familiar, since we've run it before in WTP. It's challenging, with some hills. There are some nice shaded spots and some "full-out in the sun" parts. I stuck with Marcy and trusted her to tell me when we were going too fast (in the beginning), and when our pace was good. I was incredibly lucky because no one else was running with our pace group, so it was like having my own personal pacer.

Marcy leads the way; Coach Louisa is in the yellow shirt

I didn't look at my Garmin  once, just relied on Marcy to tell me how we were doing. I knew we were going a bit faster than 11-minute/mile, but I figured it wasn't much faster. The race was challenging, we were pushing my comfort zone which was great. The last mile I was struggling a bit mentally and Marcy kept me going. We planned for me to kick at 3 miles and bring it in strong, and I actually felt like I had no kick! Like I barely made it across the finish line! I usually run so conservatively and have so much energy to kick at the end, and this is the first time I feel like I truly left it all on the course. And we finished in 32:24! a 10:26 pace! A new PR for me!! Marcy said to me later, "You are much faster than you think!" I think I have a new race mantra...

Afterwards I sought out my coaches so I could tell them about my accomplishment and thank them for everything they had done for us in the program. Sylvia was my main coach who I ran with on Mondays. She knew how much I had struggled just this past Monday to keep up with a faster pace of 11-11:30 when we usually run in the 12-12:30 vicinity. I was so proud to tell Sylvia how fast I had just run!

Coach Sylvia - look at that fabulous sparkle skirt!

As I headed for home I ran into Louisa, one of my other main coaches. I told her how much I had enjoyed the program and how much I had gotten out of it. And then Louisa made my wonderful morning even better when she asked if I would be interested in being a coach for the program next year. I told her without hesitation that I would love to be a coach. It would mean so much to me to give back to the program and help inspire other women runners! 

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