Last week I decided that I would, for the hell of it, run a 5K and see if my half-marathon training had done any good for short distance races. I expected that it would and was gunning for the sub-26 minutes that I had attempted and failed to do at last fall's Turkey Trot. Mind you, I'm well off my high school race times (6:15 mile, 13:30 two mile, 23:00 5K... I also now weigh 20+ pounds more, which doesn't help my plight). Anyway. I've been chasing this damn 26 minutes for years. Seven. YEARS. Since 2002, when I started training for the LA marathon. Even several weeks after my second marathon in 2003, 10 pounds lighter than now, I still only ran 26:04 on a flat course (flat as in, totally completely flat, hard-packed sand in Manhattan Beach). Always hovering in the 26's.
Saturday morning it was raining, but decided at 5:30am that it was light enough that I would just run the race, whatever. Just some rain. So I get out on the road with my Google directions and the first ridiculous thing is that 30 minutes from my destination, nature starts calling. Like pounding her fist on the door, not just a pleasant "Hi, How are you" phone call from your Aunt Sally. Seeing as I had a limited time to get there and register, it was 6am so what place is open with a bathroom except sketchy gas stations, I drive on hoping that I can hold it. The directions say to take a highway that is apparently a toll road. I didn't know it was a toll road until I got to it and saw that the sign said ("133 - Toll Road - Cash or FastTrak" -- it really should read "133 - Highway Robbery"). Now I could have probably figured out how not to take the toll road but I had to GO. BAD. Clenching was not a permanent solution. And, seriously, if I had to pay 3 or 4 bucks for the toll road, whatever. I get on the damn road and my exit is like one hot second after I get on. OK. Cool. Maybe there's no toll then.
Not only is there a toll booth for $1 at the end of my exit, but it's unmanned. And also - what century are we in - it only accepts coins or FastTrak (which, I have no need for). Coins. And, by the way, the other toll road I have used in the OC (the 73) has actual live people in the booths and they take flippin' paper money. I sit there for a few minutes hoping that someone will come up behind me with change, but I quickly realize that (a) I still have to go bad, and (b) I could be waiting for some time before someone comes up behind me since it's 6:45am, and (c) that person might only have enough change for him/herself. So I accept the ridiculousness, curse the Orange County Toll Road A-holes (seriously, no other county in So Cal has toll roads like the OC - one of the richest counties in the state), and go through the toll without paying, knowing I will likely get a $55 fine in the mail.
I FINALLY get there, and first thing I do is run to the porta potties. Sweet Relief, my friends. Sweet Relief. I go register for the race and I'm ready - even the rain has stopped.
The buzzer-gun-thing goes off and we are greeted with a mother of a hill. Right away. At this point I figure I'm done. $85 bucks for another 26-something finish. We get a nice long downhill and turn around for the second half. Garmin says my pace is all over the place since the elevation is all over the place. On the return to the finish, I had moments where I was in the 9:00's, but I kept thinking that I had paid 85 bucks for this "experience" so I had better just push through whatever this slow business was. Turns out that was a long hill (the price of the long downhill I just had) - I wasn't aware of how long it was until I looked at my Garmin data. With about a quarter mile left to go I realize that sub 26 is so happening. The finish was downhill - sweet! I crossed and demolished my last 5K time of 26:20. A time of 25:22. This course had total elevation change of more than 500 feet over only 3 miles so, flat, it was not.
I was all set to go home, happy with my adulthood PR. I walked to the car then decided to go back and see if I could trade my small t-shirt in for an XL so The Husband could have it (I have more t-shirts than Imelda Marcos has shoes). I see the results are up and say "Eh, let's see how far back I was in my age group." I actually got 3rd out of 21. Very unexpected in a race of 800 that I would get 3rd. Now I have another medal for the collection. I almost walked away without it (I've done that before, too).
All-in-all, I am still mad at the Evil Toll Road people. But I was very much happy that I finally beat that stupid 26 minutes. I think the 24's may be just around the corner!