[personal profile] seabird78
So yesterday was PAWS Chicago 8K day! I spent most of Friday night tossing and turning from pre-race jitters, but somehow still managed to feel awake enough to function when my alarm clock went off at 6 yesterday morning. The run start time wasn't until 9, and I picked up my race packet at the official PetCo site beforehand to avoid long registration lines, but I still wanted to allow myself plenty of time to get situated at Montrose Beach, because I wasn't sure if I'd be delayed by summertime road construction, and I haven't navigated that area by car that often (I rented a car for the weekend to avoid being at the mercy of the CTA at an off-peak hour), so I didn't know if there'd be prolonged quest for parking.

I left the house by about quarter to 7, and was parked in one of the designated lots and walking to the race area by 7:30, so my worries were for naught, but no matter....I'm always more comfortable with a wait due to obsessive punctuality than suffering the anxiety I feel when I'm rushed to reach a destination.

And anyway, the extra time allowed me to get familiar with the various tents (gear check, the rewards table, merch, snacks/drinks etc.) and to admire the multitude of dogs on hand for the 4K walk and Guinness World Record attempt. They were aiming to break the record for most costumed dogs in one setting, so there's was a TON of adorableness on display....doggie duos as Superman and Batman dogs as hula dancers, dogs as shrubbery (yes, this was a thing).....you get the idea. The weather was perfect for running purposes - cool and slightly foggy, a little damp but warm enough at around 60 degrees.

So I had a banana and wandered around, snapping pics and eavesdropping on random running-related conversations while I waited for them to announce that it was time to line up in the start corral. The jitters I'd felt the night before were pretty much gone once I arrived, and an encouraging text from a co-worker who also runs was helpful as well, so mostly I was just impatient to get on with things. I knew there was no question that I'd finish, but I also knew I would not be setting any speed records, but that's okay, because I know I'm not built for that, and that's not my reason for running to begin with.

I stretched a bit. I readied my running App to track my course. And for the first time, I popped in earbuds and plugged them into my iPod shuffle. I hadn't ever run with music before (aside from what gets played at the gym) mostly because while training, I need to be able to hear the App lady tell me when to change pace, and most of the other races I've run have been too messy to risk gadgetry, or done with company that I'd rather be present enough to speak to.

But running alone, at a distance longer than any I've ever done, I figured it couldn't hurt to have a soundtrack to help push me forward, and to keep my self-doubt inner monologue at bay.

As it turns out, I was right. The bell went off, and the whole herd of us started moving, and I pressed play to kick things off with Arcade Fire's "We Used To Wait." It was the perfect starter, for that period of the race when you're just finding your rhythm and feeling out the course, and you can't go all that fast to begin with because you're hemmed in until the pack breaks open a bit more.

It's funny how the Shuffle playlist seemed to know exactly which songs I needed at any given time throughout the course.

"I Was A Teenage Anarchist," by Against Me! worked well in the second mile for some speed bursts. I actually repeated that one a few times because it made me feel faster.

"California (Hustle and Flow)" by Social Distortion during the return portion of the course. If only for the lyric, "Life gets hard, and then it gets....goooooood," to keep me pushing as I felt myself losing steam.

"The Final Countdown" by Europe. Because who doesn't need a little ridiculous humor in the midst of physical challenge?

"Indestructible" by Rancid. Another one I repeated a couple times, both for the speed bursts spurred by the fast guitars and Tim Armstrong's raspy encouragement.

All of these tunes collaborated in getting me to within half a mile from the finish line, which was when the magnitude of what I was doing started to take hold, and my body didn't feel so happy or efficient. I could tell I was slowing down, but "Rusty Cage" by Soundgarden ensured at least a steady pace over some slight inclines that made it very tempting to slow to a fast walk.

I swear it felt like the longest half mile ever, but then I reached the final bend in the course, where a teenage volunteer (who would've been cute if he wasn't so young) helpfully told me, "Just round that corner and you'll be done!"

So I kept going, just as "Enjoy Punk Rock" a super fast, super peppy track by a Japanese band called Nicotine came on. As one of my go-to happy songs, it was perfect for digging deep and finding one last burst to power across the finish line.

I barely heard the cheering well-wishers. I mean, I noticed, and definitely appreciated them. But there was this sense of overload, and a huge swelling of several emotions - pride, relief, exhaustion, amazement - that choked me up as I slowed to a walk and accepted a much-needed bottle of water from one of the volunteers. I didn't full-on cry, but I think if I had plopped in the grass to stretch there would've been a messy floodgate.

I remember a similar feeling after my Run For Your Lives zombie race, and my first normal 5K, but this was a bit more intense, maybe because I was alone? At the former race I had a friend waiting at the finish line, and the latter was done with a friend who finished a bit ahead of me and waited so we could share in the post-race celebration.

Regardless, I mostly held it together, and sent a mission accomplished text to my co-worker before making my way to the VIP food area (anyone who raised over $86 was allowed access) for some pizza, fruit, and fancy pretzels. I tried drinking the free beer, but I'm not a huge fan to begin with, and I'm learning that when I'm dehydrated the only way I can get beer down is if it's ice cold and kind of watery. Miller Lite I can do. Or High Life. But the one I chose was a really hoppy IPA, and I was done after a few sips. So I left it, and collected my VIP souvenir, a PAWS race-branded mason jar glass, and ended my solo celebration.

I headed out not long after that, since the people who were supposed to post official race times didn't show. I still don't know what my recorded finish is, and I'm not sure when that info becomes available, but my App logged me at 1:00:55, and that includes the time it took me to pull my phone off my arm to stop and save. Which means I MIGHT have accomplished my goal of finishing in 60 minutes or less. Even if not, I came REALLY close!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my long-winded recap. Next step - first 10K in November! That extra 1.24 miles is gonna be hard fought, I can tell.

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seabird78

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