2011 UNCC 5k

5 Feb

Some time last year I caught the running bug. I started jogging/walking slowly and sporadically, but by the end of 2010 I was running about 15-20 miles a week. I knew that to keep 2011 interesting, I would have to sign up for a few races. I decided on the UNCC Homecoming 5k as my first race for several reasons. First, I am an alum, so I am familiar with the area. Second, the campus is local to my current residence so I would have plenty of opportunity to run the course before race day. Lastly, a 5k is a good starting distance and it was one of the few 5ks I could find in the Charlotte area in the January/February timeframe.

The day before the race, the weather called for icy rain/wintry mix. Thankfully, the precipitation stopped two hours before the start, but there were some deep puddles throughout the course nonetheless. I woke up extra early, at about 6 am and my breakfast was Cinnamon Roll flavored Cream of Wheat, with half a scoop of vanilla protein powder, a glass of diet iced tea, and then right before I left the house I had a piece of whole wheat toast with butter and strawberry preserves. Chris and I arrived on campus around 8:15 and there was plenty of free parking on campus at the West Deck and no road closures to deal with, which was nice.  We talked about my race strategy for a bit until 8:30 and then we made our way over to the start line. My biggest worry at this point was managing my energy (What if I am too fast in the first two miles and have to crawl over the finish line? What if I don’t go fast enough in the first mile and end up not giving it my all?).

Prior to the start, I picked up my chip, walked around the track three times, and went to the bathroom twice! I was actually starting to walk a fourth lap when they announced, “two minutes!” Eek! I turned right around and walked back over to the bleachers to hand my coat off to Chris. In my haste, I dropped my iPod in a puddle, and quickly had to mess with it at the start line as the gun went off. All in all, it was perfect timing because I was warmed up and ready to go, without having to stand around for too long.

Mile 1

The race started on the UNCC track, and we ran one loop couterclockwise before exiting the stadium and taking a left. I made an effort to run on the inside of the track and was pleasantly surprised that I did not have to claw my way to get over there! The first mile had two uphills. I passed a good amount of people on the first one–it was actually quite crowded around the turns–and I passed a few others on the second one. My goal was to run the first mile in 8:00-8:30 and was quite satisfied with 8:04.

Data junkies click through for more!

Mile 2

Mile 2 was the toughest part of the race by far. It starts off flat, but quickly we go through a steep downhill. My strategy on the downhills is to speed up so I am not wasting effort “braking.”  So I did just that and passed a few runners. Next, there is a short steep uphill as we turn left on to Cameron Blvd. On Cameron Blvd, there are two long uphills, followed by a brief downhill and another long but mild uphill on Mary Alexander. On the first uphill, I passed a few more people and I realized I was surrounded by 100% guys at this point. The short flat portion between the first two hills is the hardest and on the second uphill, I passed a guy walking. By the third hill, I was passed by a few people (found the ladies!), and was quite tempted to speed up. But my strategy for mile two was 9:00-9:30 so I relaxed when saw that I was right on track with 9:09.

Mile 3

I wanted to run the last mile somewhere in 7-7:30 but it ended up coming in at 8:03. This is because when I made my mile 3 strategy, I forgot that it starts with a hill. This is the last hill of the race, but I still didn’t want to run it much faster than a 9:00 pace. After the hill, there is some flat land until University Rd., which is made up of two downhills, and ends with a steep downhill as we turn on to Cameron Blvd. The short bit on Cameron Blvd required a strong push, because I was tired from sprinting the downhills.

Last Bit

The last turn on to the track is another steep downhill, and I reached a speed of 10.6 mph at this point. When I reached the track, I really felt like I could not go on. I kept my head down, eyes fixated on the track line, and put 100% of my concentration on picking up my feet as fast as I could. I was clearly spent at this point and this last .1 came in at a pace of 7:45. As I approached the finish line, I looked up and saw 26:07 on the clock. At this point, I knew I exceeded my goal of 27-28 and relaxed as I crossed the finish. My official chip time was 26:10.

So relieved with being done, I sat down on the wet bleachers until my legs were ready to quit acting like Jell-O. It was cold out, but it being my first race, I wanted to stick around to see the awards ceremony. It was nice to have some Starbucks coffee and bananas and oranges and even some chocolate to hold us over. There was quite a bit of swag being given out to random winners who completed a survey about the race, and my only complaint about this race is that this took forever! Chris and I were growing impatient and we nearly left, but I am glad we stuck around because they called my name for the 3rd place medal for my age group.

If you run, add me on dailymile.

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