Progress isn't always about the number on the clock. Sometimes it's about what happens in those miles on the course and the number doesn't even matter. Or as I, the user experience researcher, like to remind people, you have to put the what (quantitative) with the why (qualitative) in order to understand the full picture. End UX nerdery.
So about running - this past weekend, I ran the Moms' Run 5K for the second time (this time without the stroller) and it was my first race with, as one of my friends said, my "new lungs." And those lungs are doing well! I had no goals for this race other than to just breathe. And breathe I did.
While waiting at the starting line, I ran into a running buddy from Fleet Feet. Since I hadn't seen him in a while and because neither of us had any real goals for this run, we ended up running together. And we chatted a good amount during the first 2 miles or so.
We started off at a decent clip and my watch was showing a sub-7 pace. I freaked out when I saw that because I don't feel like I'm back to full strength yet and I don't want to attempt an all-out race yet (although it's nice to know that's there in my reserves). The number gradually crept up to the 7s, which was just fine with me. I was able to talk fairly well through most of mile 2 and then I started to fade and my friend told me to stop talking and just run. By that time, I had lost too much energy to really recover and speed back up, but my pace stayed in the 7s.
I finished in 24:10, which isn't a PR, but it was good enough for 1st in my age group. Considering my focus wasn't on racing and I'm dipping my toes back in slowly, plus we've had some sleep issues with B this week (sleep deprivation, yay!), and I had alcohol the night before, I can't complain much about this race.
Except for the course. It wasn't so great this year. Last year, we ran through the neighborhoods on Daniel Island where residents were out to cheer us on. This year, we ran around parking lots and buildings. Gross. I really hated the course this year and got extremely annoyed with looping around parking lots and buildings, especially at the finish. A lot of the course (other than the parking lot loops) was shaded, so that was nice. But it was equally shaded last year, probably more so since the neighborhoods have lots of trees.
So could I have PR'd? Maybe. My legs certainly felt better than they've felt in months and my breathing is better. But a PR wasn't my goal and my head wasn't in PR condition. My goal was to breathe and to start rebuilding my confidence in racing again. And this race was the first step.
After checking in with my coach, she validated what I was thinking. Being able to talk at that pace at all is progress and even though I faded, it's still okay and still shows improvement. She pointed out that the talking also had me not focused on racing or breathing properly or anything like that, so overall, there is progress. Add that to the temperatures starting to creep up, and we're doing okay here.
And this race did begin to built up my confidence, which is a win for my mental state. I've been just as battered mentally as I have physically lately, so getting my head on straight will be a big part of improvements. I also know it's going to take more than a week or two of feeling good to get me to where I want to be. It's going to take some work and more time running healthy.
I plan to run at least one 5K per month over the summer. It's bound to be a sweaty slogfest, so I have no expectations there, but hopefully with healthy lungs I'll really build some strength and come back to crush it in the fall.
The real fun of this race was the family fun festival before and after. I got to hang out with my family, including my mom who was in town from PA, and there was so much for B to do. He played with legos, hung out in a pink fire truck, and he and I painted a painting together. We were covered in paint and a total mess, but it was worth it. I love that painting way more than my 1st place AG medal (and I really love medals).
Overall, not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning. Fun times with family and friends, and I saw progress: running a 5K without having to whip out my inhaler; being able to talk while running sub-8s even though it eventually zapped my energy; and most importantly, my confidence slowly being rebuilt. And someday soonish, I hope that progress shows up on the race clock, too.