Here it is folks, the last race recap of 2014. I wasn’t sure if I was going to participate in the Run Pacers Jingle All the Way 5K after Vegas last month. I’d signed up when I thought I’d be fully healed and back in the full swing of things by now. I work at an office that has a staff the size of a small high school, so you know among us there are bound to be at least some who run. One of those people organized a team from our office and graciously invited me when he learned I was a runner, too. (I’m only now hitting the one-year anniversary at my job, and like I said, it’s a big staff, so I still don’t even know everyone.) Excited to represent the organization I work for that I love so much, I gladly joined.

250458_10152913376359207_4763251007458477942_nI’ve been having a lot of trouble with getting on a normal sleep schedule lately. Not working out on my normal routine has totally thrown me off and I’ve been dealing with various anxieties that aren’t helping me sleep either, so when I woke up that morning at about 4am, I just kind of stayed awake and decided to drive downtown early and get a good parking spot instead of deal with the red line of the DC metro. I chose to go with Christmas colors while representing our Team – with my “fur free” red t-shirt (if you can’t tell, we promote animal welfare 🙂 ), paired with a white Sparkle Athletic skirt and green Nike leggings.

I parked in front of the National Theatre right in front of Freedom Plaza, which is where packet pickup and bag drop were. Parking in DC is almost as bad as parking in NYC – maybe worse, because you probably didn’t bring your car to NYC. But early enough on a Sunday and I scored big. For those reading not familiar with DC, Freedom Plaza is just a hop skip block or two away from The White House. I take my city for granted a LOT. I complain about DC a LOT. But when I think about moving elsewhere, even though I’m completely unopposed and even definitely want to relocate a few times in my life to gain life experience living in different parts of the country and the world, I know I’ve been spoiled growing up in this area. Shit happens, world decisions are made in my backyard.

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Just wandering my city post-race

I wasn’t sure how the race would go. I’ve been going to Physical Therapy twice a week to get my knee and hip worked on by magic hands, work out dynamic stretches and slowly advance my strength exercises, and even getting electro-stim therapy, but I haven’t done any cardio since Vegas. The 5K I ran before starting PT – the Trick or Trot 5K – was over 35 minutes, which I think of the 15 or so 5K races I’ve done in the past two years made it my third slowest. And since then I’d put a Vegas taxing on my joints, but on the bright side added PT. So I didn’t know how it would go, I just knew I wanted to be vigilant about if my joints started talking to me.

The morning was super cold and I was cursing myself for forgetting to wear gloves and a headband or hat that covered my ears. My extremities were not happy with me. Not running all winter and all of the coldest part of fall made me forget most of the basics.

Runners bundled up waiting to start on Pennsylvania Avenue 

The race began and my two male coworkers took off like shots. I didn’t see where the girls went, so I figured I’d see them when we all met back up again post-race.

I was kind of happy to be running alone. I plugged in a 5K playlist I’d thrown together that morning and the first song on it, “Escape Route” by Paramore, was exactly the right high-energy, free-flying tempo I needed. Almost effortlessly I clocked a sub-10 first mile. I was amazed. I’m coming back from injury! Where did THAT come from?! I kept trotting along, smiling and so, so happy to be back out on a race course actually cleared to really run. As cold as my fingers were, and as many times as I’ve run the District from the Army Ten Miler in 2013 through all the big half marathons in the city and finally to Marine Corps this year, this was the first time in a long time I was running it happily. RnRUSA I ran on a bum ankle. Nike Women’s I hated all of the last 9 miles. Marine Corps was so nerve-wracking and hard I could barely appreciate the scenery. But this little 5K around Penn Quarter, I was happy as a clam.

DC architecture: A motif that says "historical shit happened here"
DC architecture: A motif that says “historical shit happened here”

I clocked mile 2 just under 10 minutes and continued to be very pleased and wished I could call my PT office right then and there and thank them. I was feeling a little tight in my hip and a little unstable in my knee, but not really in any pain. I could feel the consequences of little to no cardio for the last 3 weeks and stopped to walk in the final mile just for a minute. But the race was so full of people (almost 5,000 people for a 5K. You read that correctly. That’s more runners than the Charleston Marathon field. DC is a runner’s town.) that their forward motion kept me in forward motion.

I crossed the finish line with a net time of 32:21, with an average pace of 10:25. My third mile was definitely slower than my first two as my cardio started to wane, but I was still pretty happy I kept my first 5K back after PT under 33 minutes. I was 406/787 for my age division. One cool thing I noticed they did was rank the Teams based on top 3 for both a co-ed division and an all-female division (I guess there weren’t enough teams with at least 3 men to do an all-male ranking). The girls in our group averaged high enough to rank us in the top half of the female team division, and including our dudes, we almost broke the top 1/3 of the co-ed team division. Pretty proud of our ol’ office team there!

A major highlight of the morning was running into Mar and Julie!

Screen shot 2014-12-09 at 8.17.47 PMI’d only found out the night previous that they’d both be there, but that morning when I saw how crowded the race was I had little hope of us finding each other. And especially when I could barely use my frozen fingers after crossing the finish line to text them, I just hoped they wouldn’t leave before I’d thawed my fingers out in my car. But what do you know, as I’m trying to warm my frozen digits over my car’s heater, a little knock came on my window and there was Mar! Shortly followed by Julie! Both jumped in my car and we debriefed each other on how our races went. So, so good to see them! (We all did remark how it was super weird to not have Courtney there! But she is off in some sort of tropical Caribbean dreamland on her much deserved honeymoon so I don’t think she’s too sad she missed it. 😉 )

I’m really glad I did end up being able to do this race, especially with my co-workers. I loved that we all wore some sort of shirt representing our mission, and more often than not I start races alone so it’s always a welcome change of pace to have people to chat with before and after. I also loved that for a 5K it gave us a really decent little jaunt around Penn Quarter. I didn’t partake in the post-race social brunch, though it was at The Hamilton and I do love that place. I do, however, really like the long-sleeve participant t-shirt – I even wore it to the gym tonight. A race t-shirt design that manages to be single yet elegant? I’ll take it.

image1And yes, you read that right. I’m getting back into a weekly gym routine. I have Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans half marathon at the end of January I hope to be able to run strong at, so I’m carefully building back up my mileage with careful attention to strength training and continuing PT. I went to PT yesterday where we worked out some of my tightness from the 5K and I used the TRX station to safely do some hip and knee strength exercises. Then today I made sure to do my prescribed 5 sets of 15 reps for my hip abductors, as well as some core/torso work before running a single mile at an easy pace. It felt great. It felt pain-free. And I let myself stop before anything started acting up.

Winter gets me down really bad. I struggle with depression year-round but in the winter it gets really, really ugly. So before being able to run again this week, things were getting bad in Nevie-town. Being back on the treadmill tonight just doing a Tuesday night workout, not struggling through a race or worrying over how effective PT is going? I smiled like a goof for the whole 11 minutes I took that leisurely mile.

I missed you, running. Let’s never have to take a break from each other again okay?