Tag Archives: 5k

My Second 5K: The Monster Dash

The run is over, folks, and this Monster Dash 5K was even more fun than expected.

If you remember, I ran my first 5K just a couple of weeks ago. I registered on a whim, despite the fact that I’d already signed up for the Monster Dash as my goal event. That decision turned out to be a good move. Unfortunately, the day before the Monster Dash, I found out that they weren’t timing the 5K event! Since I had been training to break a time goal, this was disappointing. I had perused the entire website before registering for the 5K, and somehow neglected to realize that was the case. On the bright side, this took off the pressure to perform, which was a good thing – because Xavier had registered to run with me, and we wanted it to be fun!

Please indulge me while I brag about the man I love for a minute. He absolutely hates running, despite spending lots of time as a successful track and field competitor in high school. But he’s sweet enough to jog with me at least once a week, and determined enough to complete a five-miler out of the blue. (That is completely beyond my capacity as a human being and an athlete). I was so excited for him to join me in a race, but a little nervous. I had been training more than him – I didn’t want to hold back just for the sake of staying together on the course. So the lack of timing was a relief. It meant we could stick together and just enjoy the experience of running through the streets of downtown Atlanta, surrounded by people in costume.

(Of course, I used my Nike running app to time us anyway).

It was definitely fun to arrive to a race and find yourself surrounded by Halloween festivities. There were some really creative costumes out there. A few couples, especially, had really gone all-out with their ideas. One of my favorites was a pair that included a convict and a policeman. There were pirates, three blind mice, superheroes, and a whole lot more. Although I might be biased, my opinion is that our Greek Olympian costumes were the coolest of all – even if strangers approached my boyfriend to ask him what was under his skirt.

We aren’t hardcore runners, so when it came time to arrange ourselves in the chute, we debated for a minute. Should we line up at the 10:00/mile pace? What about the 11:00? In the end, we stuck to 9:30.

The gun went off and we took off, weaving in and around other runners for a couple of minutes until the pack settled into their paces. The course began right next to Phillips Arena and took us through the city streets. It was very exciting to be running through downtown Atlanta. Fortunately, we found ourselves towards in a clear zone relatively quickly. That was when the unexpected occurred. Barely a quarter-mile into the race and crossing a bridge, I tripped on a metal strut. I don’t know how it even happened. One second I was happily trotting along. The next, I looked down and tried to skip the metal thing. Then I was on my hands and knees on the asphalt.

The other runners were very concerned, but I bounced up immediately and was lucky to have just a couple of scrapes on my palms and knees. There was no blood whatsoever. The experience was a little startling. At least now I can say I’ve survived falling during a race!

Even considering that little mishap, the rest of the race was a great time. I loved running through all of Atlanta’s buildings, on quieted streets that are usually choked with traffic. Maybe because we were towards the front of the pack, we had mostly ample space to keep our pace, with minimal bobbing and weaving around other runners.

And somehow, we managed to beat my goal! I’d originally just hoped to break 29:00, knocking 30 seconds off my first 5K time two weeks prior. Imagine my shock when my Nike Running app clocked our 5K at 28:41. Although the race wasn’t officially timed, it was reassuring to have evidence of awesomeness on my trusty running app.

Tune in to find out what’s next…

Coming through the finish line

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running my second 5k, and honey-balsamic vinaigrette

Legs running a 5K

These are the legs of a tired runner

When I first started this blog, many of my posts discussed exercise: my desire to exercise, my struggles to stay motivated, my tendency to make excuses that allowed me to gain weight. Then, as it often does, my focus drifted to things that were more fun to write about. Things like cooking. Traveling. And of course, all of the random adventures that I create for myself. It was easy to neglect writing about exercising, because I simply wasn’t exercising.

Something changed towards the end of July. I was even heavier than I’d ever been before, and becoming quite miserable. Looking in the mirror was depressing. Putting on clothes was depressing. Even eating was depressing, since I felt guilty every time I so much as looked at food and wanted it. I felt like I was so heavy that I didn’t deserve to eat.

Well, I don’t know what sparked it, but something snapped. We’d been religiously attending two classes at the gym: a core class that targets muscles in the abs, and a cardio kickboxing class that’s just an overall barn-burner of a workout. But I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted to see. Then I made the decision to start jogging at least once per week. And I dedicated an adorable puppy dog calendar to tracking my exercise.

By the end of August, I could look at my calendar and see at least four documented workouts per week. It felt great. Somehow – despite an off week when I was struck by cellulitis after scuba diving – I managed to maintain the pace through September. And all of a sudden, I started to notice changes. My clothes fit a little better. I could wear the tighter T-shirts that had been shoved to the back of my closet, and when I put them on with jeans, I wasn’t as self-conscious about my belly straining the fabric. I went jeans shopping – usually a traumatic, depressing experience – and came out with a pair in my target size that fit comfortably and perfectly.

What’s more, I started to enjoy running. This was shocking, to say the least. There was no sign of the aches and pains that plagued me when I’d randomly run every six months. I think it’s beacuse I started slowly and built up my muscles gradually. Beyond being pain-free, running has actually felt good. I finally understand the runner’s high, that feeling of elation that you get from breaking a sweat. This has been the strangest thing of all. In the past, running felt good for the first five minutes. Then it just hurt. Now, after about four months of practice, it’s bearable. And afterwards, when the endorphins kick in? It’s all worth it.

As fun as it’s been, I need to be proactive about making sure this hobby sticks. That’s why I signed up for my first 5K: the Atlanta Monster Dash. Yes, I get to don a costume for this race, and that’s the only reason I’m doing it. Well, there is one more reason. The fear of embarrassing myself will get me out the door and running well before the race. At one point in my life, I did a sprint triathlon with the goal of simply finishing. I met my goal, and felt good about it, but there’s room for improvement. Now, I’m ready to be competitive.

In a hilarious twist of events, after signing up for the first run, I signed up for another 5K that would actually take place before it. That event was somewhat painful, but went well overall. Afterwards, I was ready to break another record. Unfortunately, I just learned that the Monster Dash 5K is not a timed event. This works out well for a few reasons. First of all, Xavier is running with me, and the lack of timing will allow us to relax and enjoy the experience. Second, there is trick-or-treating on the race course – this means we can indulge in some candy! And that brings me to my next point.

I’m always going to love decadent food, both preparing it and eating it. (Yes, I’m already excited for Hannukah to make potato latkes, and it’s only October!). But it’s much easier to eat well when you’re in training mode. After a long run, you don’t want to negate your efforts by chowing down a double cheeseburger or half a pizza. So I’ve been making a point to eat lots of entree salads lately. It’s nothing fancy. There’s always some Romaine or green-leaf lettuce in the house, and usually some combination of cucumber, tomato, avocado, carrot, and pepper. I’ll rinse and chop whatever’s around. If there’s protein in the house – chicken tenders, shrimp, whatever – it’ll get a quick saute over high heat, after a dusting of whatever spices I feel like grabbing.

That would be a complete meal in itself, except lately lots of studies have come out saying that salads are actually healthier when you eat them with dressing. I’m no nutritionist, but I can tell you that the nutrients in vegetables are better absorbed into your body when they can bind to fat molecules. In light of this information, you should whip up a quick honey balsamic vinaigrette. Okay, it ups your calorie intake. But it also adds bright, complex flavor to the whole meal. And it makes the salad so tasty that nobody complains about only salad for dinner.

Recipe: Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp shallot or 1 small garlic clove, minced (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup neutral-flavored oil (canola, grapeseed)
A few tablespoons olive oil (or substitute walnut oil, avocado oil, something flavorful)

In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, Dijon, honey, and shallot or garlic (if using). Alternatively, use a handheld immersion blender on a low setting.

Drizzle in the neutral oil, little by little, whisking or blending throughout. With each addition of oil, whisk until emulsified before adding more. When the texture is just about right, add the olive oil. Finish with a quick blast of the blender or just a little bit more whisking.

Toss with lettuce and veggies, then enjoy.

(Note: when I follow this recipe, it makes enough to dress quite a few salads. You’ll likely have leftovers. They’ll keep well in the fridge for at least a week, encouraging you throughout to make more salad!)

Adventure: Running My First 5k

Crossing the finish line of my first 5k

I look like I’m dying as I cross the finish line.

Here I am trying to reformat my blog, to feature more recipes related to my adventures. And since I’ve actually been exercising lately, I wrote a whole post about my plans to run a 5k. The post ended with a lovely recipe for salad dressing: power food at its finest. Since the race was planned for the end of October, I wrote my post and put it on ice. I needed to make salad, photograph it with dressing, and then post that sucker with enough time to motivate me to stick with my workout plan.

Then I kept getting emails at work about a fundraising 5K that the university’s cancer research center was sponsoring. The registration fee was reasonable and included a sweet long-sleeve shirt. The race was two weeks earlier than the one I was already planning to complete, but on a whim, I decided to go for it.

That was how I found myself at the starting corral of a road race for the first time in my life.

I’ve been training for the Monster Dash 5k with the goal of breaking 30 minutes. On the morning of the university event, I was terrified. Although I’ve competed in my share of athletic events, they never depended exclusively on my physical fitness and preparations. (The triathlon didn’t count – I was competing just to finish, not to perform). What if I wasn’t ready for it? I was short two weeks of training, after all. All morning on the way to the race, I debated whether or not to shoot for my goal, or save the effort for the Monster Dash in two weeks.

To make matters more exciting, I had been convinced that the race started at 9:00 am. My amazing cheering section and I arrived at the course at 8:00 or so. We took our time retrieving my bib and exploring the scenery. At one point, we noticed that someone was leading a group stretching session. Then we noticed that everyone was slowly migrating towards the starting line. “Let’s check it out,” we decided, and that’s how two non-racers wound up in the chute. They said farewell and left me there, and as I jogged in place and tried to stretch my calves, I casually asked the girls behind me why we were lined up so early.

“It’s 8:30!” I said. “Are we supposed to just stand here for another half hour?”

They looked at me like I was dumb. “Um, the race is starting now.” Sure enough, I heard a horn, and the crowd slowly began to move through the gate.

It was slow. Packed elbow-to-elbow with my fellow runners, getting through the gate was quite an ordeal. But finally we were through, and I began jogging cautiously. The first mile was a mess: I passed quite a few people, and in turn was passed by some. I tried to ignore that and focus on maintaining a sustainable pace. Fortunately, running slowly has never been a problem for me, and I happily succeeded at my goal.

Things picked up at the mile marker. Since I was listening to music from my iPhone on an armband, and using my Nike Running app to track my progress, I received a welcome interruption in the form of my pacekeeper. (Use that app if you can. It’s amazing). Fortunately, my pace was right on target with a 10-minute mile. I was feeling pretty good, surprisingly. So in that moment I reconsidered my goal of breaking 30 minutes and upped the ante a little bit. The course was starting to clear out, and I enjoyed having a little more space to myself. To make things more exciting, I passed my cheering section around the two-mile point.

Goofy smile for my cheering section

Seeing them made me happy, so I waved and mugged like a champ as I passed. But then things got a little dicey. Suddenly, I discovered, I couldn’t breathe so well. My legs burned and struggled and fought as I tried to make them move. I had reached a stage of utter exhaustion.

So I’m going to estimate that the last six minutes of the run were spent in sheer panic as I wondered whether I could keep going. This part of the course was sort of twisty with lots of turns. I tried to remember where the finish line was, and with every turn I peered ahead anxiously, just hoping to see that gate. Although I really wanted to stop running, I repeated in my head, “Keep going! Keep moving!” And surprisingly, I did. It was really an exercise in mental toughness, just trying to forget the pain and focus on finishing strong. Those of you who have been running for years already know this, I’m sure – but hey, for my first race, it was quite an experience!

In the end, I crossed the finish line with a gun time of 29:56.07. It was awesome, because I saw my cheering section as soon as I was through – such a relief! I could hardly breathe, and I wanted to puke, but I managed to gasp “Guys! I beat my goal!”

And the next day, when results were posted online, I learned that I’d not only beat my goal, but crushed it: my chip time, or total time on the course, was 29:30.23. It wasn’t easy, and it hurt like hell, but it felt surprisingly good at the same time.

Next, I’m competing in the Monster Dash 5k in just a week. I would like to break 29 minutes at this race, so my training plan will include some sprints during my longer runs. We’ll see what happens.

You can kind of see me behind a streamer at the very end