Something bit me.

On Thursday night I decided to do some jogging outside to prepare one last time for this upcoming 5K.  I really fell behind training outside – it’s very different jogging on asphalt and on uneven surfaces rather than the treadmill.   So I got home from work, changed into running gear, waited a little for the heavy commuter traffic to die down and headed up my main street for about 3 miles or so.

I don’t know exactly when I got bit but by the time I got home the area behind my left knee was itchy and starting to swell.  By Friday I had about a 4 inch swollen disk-like welt forming and I was wondering if maybe it was a spider bite.  Hideous.  I just kept piling on the cortizone cream so I wouldn’t scratch and make it worse.  I’m hugely sensitive to mosquito bites so I figured I’d just given an extra pint of blood that night out jogging.

My friend P inspired me to try running a little over a year ago.  Some of you who have followed my posts from the beginning in here may recall me mentioning her a few times.  She recommended the Couch to 5K program as a way for a beginner runner to, yes, get off the couch and slowly get into running by walking and jogging in various intervals a few times a week.  Gradually the amount of walking decreases as the jogging increases.  At the end of the program it’s pretty much jogging 30 minutes 3 times a week, which is right around the time one can complete a 5K at a decent pace.  Don’t you love the name “Couch to 5K” – ? 

In fact, it was my plunge into the Couch to 5K program last summer that got me into what is now this Blog.  I started posting my weekly progress in my Facebook Notes, and some people started leaving comments, cheering me on, and seeming to like what I had to say and how I injected some humor into my recaps.  So combine a few good strokes and being out of work last summer and fall and – ta daaaaaa – here we are nearly a year later in fivenineteen!

Today’s 5K was the 16th annual Swedish SummeRun, a benefit for ovarian cancer research underwritten by Swedish Medical Center, a highly-renowned, non-profit medical provider in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, just east up the hill from the downtown core.  A couple of months ago my friend T asked if I’d like to do this with her and I said YES without hesitation. 

I went to the registration site online, paid my fee and then saw the fine print:

6:30am.

Ummm…are you kidding me?  Start time is at 6:30am?  I’m a terrible morning person, even moreso on the weekends.  But it made total sense to get an early start as it’s usually pretty hot here this time of year and the course is on asphalt.

Side note:  if you are planning an outdoor event in the Seattle area, plan it for this last weekend in July.  Statistics show it’s only rained here once or twice that weekend in about 70 years – no joke!  And even this year where our summer’s been a little shy, soggy and schizo, she delivered the goods this weekend.  Sunshine!

This was only my 3rd ever 5K (I did two last summer) so I’m still perfecting my routine of what to wear, eat and how to get a good night’s sleep the night before.  Given I suck at mornings, I tend to freak out that my alarm is misset or won’t go off when it’s supposed to.  And I toss and turn like a dumbass the night before, when normally I’m a very sound sleeper.  I do this whenever I have a special occasion early the next morning, like a flight to catch or some other event.  And I have to rely on adrenaline to get me through the next day.  So while my routine may still be gelling, I know how I’ll behave the night before and how I’ll get through.  And I laugh at myself too – that helps.

Thankfully that 6:30am was for the start of sign-in, not the run itself.  And thankfully there is zero traffic at that hour on Sunday mornings.  I met T at a park and ride lot and we carpooled into the city. I left my house a little later than I’d planned but it was eerily quiet on the streets and I pretty much zoomed to the park and ride and didn’t hit any stoplights (I took surface streets).  I guess it was too early even for the cops as well.  Lake Washington was calm and gloriously glassy.  I spotted tons of street barricades in downtown Bellevue just waiting to be lined up again for the arts & crafts fair later in the day (a HUGE event).

It was a postcard-perfect day…blue sky and zero clouds.  T and I got our number bibs, timing chips for our shoes and just hung out for awhile soaking in the surroundings.  The hospitals go on for blocks and blocks in the First Hill neighborhood.  I looked upwards at the buildings and wondered, wow, somewhere in this neighborhood was where I came into the world!  Deep.

This was a well-organized event with an emcee telling us where to go and when, and a live band keeping us entertained while we waited.  The 10K race kicked off first, followed by the 5K runners and walkers.

And as we got underway, I remembered what I told myself on my inaugural 5K last summer:  run your own race!!

I was really excited to try this course as I’d never run in Seattle proper before.  My prior 2 5Ks were in much more rural areas.  The route took us through part of First Hill and up north into Capitol Hill toward Volunteer Park and Seattle Preparatory School.  What a trip jogging through what are usually jam-packed city streets.  I could really take in and admire the beautiful homes in these well-established neighborhoods. 

How can you not have fun and be in a great mood on a gorgeous morning, outside exercising, knowing this is for a great cause?  Well, one douchebag bystander apparently had a big glass of Grumpy for breakfast, for as I passed him he was bitching to a cop, complaining about his street being closed!  For the love of all things holy, dude, I’m sure you and your neighbors were notified up the wazzoo about this!  “I’m gonna complain to the Mayor about this…” he yelled.  Umm, sure, you do that, Dude.

Oh 12th Avenue East, you sneaky little bitch.  This was the long, northward part of our course and dang if that oh-so-slight incline upwards didn’t kick me in the ass (and lungs) at some point.  Yikes.  I slowed down and walked a bit.  Then I passed the 1st mile marker.  Only 1 mile down?  Holy moly I am out of shape.

The 5K course veered off to the west and then back south again along 11th Avenue.  And we suddenly merged in with the rest of the 10K runners – many looked like they hadn’t even broken a sweat!  Wow.  At every corner there were volunteers cheering us on and random people passing by who were waving, thanking us – gosh that felt great!  And cops standing by as well – one was even blasting Lady Gaga from his parked car and I gave him a thumbs up.  I kept on jogging as I swooped up a cup of water at the water stop (thank you, volunteers!)  And then BOOM…another unevenly paved steep hill up East Howell.

And then at the top of that hill I suddenly saw a huge sea of walkers all in teal green (the color for ovarian cancer awareness).  Team Leslie.  The emcee had announced this Team was over 300 strong and by far the largest one participating!  Wow, how moving!  I wondered who Leslie is and if she’s still with us or not.  Whomever she is or was, she is remarkable I’m sure.

And how wonderful are those neighbors who turned on their sprinklers and pointed them into the street for us!  The sun was rising ever higher and it was getting hotter and hotter minute by minute, so a quick dash through a few sprinklers felt amazing.

Well dang, we had one last hill to conquer and then we were onto the finish line at Swedish Hospital!  I didn’t even notice the clocks or anyone cheering as we got closer to the finish line.  I tend to get into focused, tunnel vision mode at that point and everything goes silent those last couple hundred feet or so.  In the Zone I guess!

I had such a great time at this race and it was even more special being there with T as it was her very first and she did amazing!  Her friend J had joined as well and she is really interested in getting people together for triathalon training.  Ummm, sure I’ll go swim a few laps perhaps, but baby steps for now.

My 5K time?  41:08.  Not bad for having fallen off the training wagon, walking a bit and a somewhat-hilly course! 

Someday I will finish a 5K in under 30 minutes.  Time to step it up!

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