Sunday, March 24, 2013

Just Breathe

So, I realize that I'm a little behind in posting. There's a really good reason for that - last week I fell victim to the "too busy" excuse and completely ditched my training plan. Despite having signed up for the Interplanetary 5K at the Peoria Riverfront Museum for March 23. Not my best idea. I figured that maybe I would just have super fresh legs come race day from the week of rest. And since I had been training so hard before I knew that I could at least get through it and probably not have to walk much.

Now comes race day. I woke up with the worst stomachache in the world. I seriously considered throwing in the towel but I had promised my friend Troy I'd run the race with him and I knew he was going to pick me up at 8:00am to go down there so I decided to suck it up. If I had to walk, I had to walk. I had a little time to start reading the latest edition of Runner's World (I'll spare you the details of why I had this time pre-race...) and I was reading the editor @DWilleyRW's letter and he talked about a breathing technique where you use a 3:2 variation and match your breathing to your strides - 3 steps inhale, 2 steps exhale. I thought that sounded like an interesting idea to try when training since I never focused much on my breathing before. I notice other people's breathing and the fact that some people sound like they are about to keel over when they run yet somehow finish ahead of me (I'm not bitter...) but I never really focus on my own breathing or my own body.

I was plenty focused on my body on Saturday. Focused on how not to toss my cookies on the way to the race and how I was possibly going to finish the 3.1 miles. I felt a little better once we got to the race site and I started running into some of my coworkers who also run a lot of the same races I do. I knew I would at least make it through the race and the excitement and nerves at the beginning of a race are infectious. I started focusing less on my stomach and got caught up in what was going on around me. The gun went off and I started running.

Not even a half mile in I started feeling a little winded. I knew I needed to take it easy but my legs felt fine so I decided that this was the perfect time to put that new breathing technique into play. 1-2-3 1-2. 1-2-3 1-2. I did this over and over again until I felt a great influx of oxygen coursing through my body. It was so rhythmic to be counting my breaths that when I got to the first mile marker the timer yelled my time to me 8:32. "Really?" I asked him - he assured me he wouldn't lie to me. I was excited to be making such good time. I continued along with my regulated breathing and made it past the "goose loop" (luckily devoid of geese - I have been hissed at many a time on the Peoria Riverfront). Mile 2 time was yelled out to me as being 17:10. I thought to myself, even if I ended up having to walk a little I might beat my PR from last week. That seemed completely out of reach.

1-2-3 1-2. 1-2-3 1-2. I kept chugging along and finally the clock tower came into view. I was pushing myself to my limit and not quite sure if I could keep up my current pace. Just then the older gentleman next to me yelled to me "Go! You've got this! Go!" My body kicked it into higher gear. I rounded the curve and headed straight for that finish line. 26:43. A new PR! After a week of not training and a PR the previous week. I couldn't believe it. When I started my day I thought I'd be lucky to finish it in 30 minutes but instead a new PR!

I made sure to find the older runner after the race and thank him for his encouragement. We had a nice chat about running and PRs and about the different courses there were to do in Peoria. It helped remind me why I run. It's not to beat other people - it's for the camaraderie. It's to share with other people this crazy thing that we love. So the big lesson here - if it feels a little overwhelming and like you might not quite make it, just breathe. You might even PR...

...and get your picture taken with Boba Fett like I did at the after party!

(I also assured the Storm Troopers that were wandering around that these were not the droids they were looking for...)

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