i promised a recap of all the complaints, excuses, and explanations i have for my performance at the recent NASA Inter-center 2 mile, 5k, 10k race at the SLF (that’s Shuttle Landing Facility for you non-meatballers)! and here it is:
originally, a free 5k run at the SLF sounded like a marvelous idea! i pretty much convinced everyone else in my running group that we should do this since it was free, available to most of us (except for 1 person who doesn’t have the badging to get onto the Center) and the chance of a lifetime. how many people can say they’ve been on the runway at the SLF? okay, well hundreds, probably more like a couple thousand, but in the grand scheme of things that’s almost nothing!
and how convenient and perfect for us that it was scheduled on a tuesday, a day when our running group would normally meet anyways and get their jog on.
well, when we got there it was a different story. we didn’t have our usual routine of stretch, drink a bit of water (but not too much), go to the bathroom, warm up, and have a known route (very helpful for pacing!). instead, we had a hot, humid, WINDY, unknown route that would take us over black-top for the entire 5k. we had unknown runners all around us and no good method for pacing (none of us brought our mp3 players, doh!) and no good spot to do our normal warm up walk. not to mention the port-a-potties (which, though they were probably the cleanest ones i’ve ever used, were still not as nice as air-conditioned indoor plumbing!).
once we DID get going in the actual race, we didn’t get to interact with eachother as much as we usually do when we run our usual loop. the SLF run had us going 2.5k down the runway and then turning around and coming right back to the start/finish line, which meant there was no lapping, or going backwards, and no way to increase the interaction with our friends unless someone sped up or slowed down to match another’s pace (not ideal!).
running, to me, is all about the comraderie. yes, it’s also about pushing myself to be a better me, but i can’t do it alone (and i don’t want to either!). so having all my usual running mates run past and leave me behind was more disheartening than usual knowing i would only see them once at the beginning of the run, once in the middle (if i was paying attention) and once at the end (if i made it that far).
add to that the fiendish wind that kept toying with my breathing and causing me to be winded when i wasn’t even tired yet, it was a trying race. every time i tried to catch my breath, i had to slow to a walk to do it. every time i thought i could speed up again, i wouldn’t last more than a minute (ha! if that!) before i had to walk again.
i was beat by at least 1 pregnant lady (who apparently was truckin’ cuz she also beat one of my friends who’s faster than i am) and plenty of old people. i was even beat by a couple people who power walked the whole thing! UGH!
but in my defense, i have excuses:
- i did stop and pick up 2 or 3 styrofoam cups that had flown away from the trash and/or water stations along the way and ended up in the grass. you’d think that NASA would have a biodegradable cup for their outdoor physical fitness event!
- and i kept getting this annoying side ache. very piercing and smack dab in the middle of my left side. since i couldn’t keep my breathing even, it was very difficult for me to make it go away and resume running (cuz it just came right back as soon as i sped up!). very annoying.
overall, i really didn’t do that bad. my goal was to not be the last person to cross the finish for the 5k, and i wasn’t (even though i didn’t actually cross the finish because i didn’t want my time to be tabulated); there were about 10 people behind me (out of those who actually DID cross the finish line and get their time tabulated). i also wanted to be able to sprint at the end, and i totally could (since i walked most of the race, i still had plenty of pep left in me; the wind was really the only thing preventing me from pushing myself harder over the entire duration). and i wanted to say “i’ve been on the runway at the SLF” and now i can!
also, (actually, i should say “luckily”) when the frustration at not being able to do my best threatened to make me drop to my knees and break into sobs, i was able to calm myself down by soaking up my view of the landscape. granted, the runway at the SLF is secluded, and at the heat of the day the wildlife was scarce, but it was still a really great experience.
not many people get such a view of the mate/de-mate device used to remove the shuttle from its special Boeing 747 after piggy-back rides from the west coast. not many people get to be on the tarmac where astronauts return to earth after weeks in space and thousands of orbits of the earth at speeds most people can’t comprehend. not many people are as lucky as we are to be able to say, “why yes, i AM a rocket scientist!” and not many people (sadly) are able to say, “why yes, i HAVE participated in a 5k race before!”