“10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…LIFTOFF!” and the front runners streamed away as astronaut Sandra Magnus started the 31st running of the Lunar Rendezvous 5k race. Held on Saturday, July 18, 2009 at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake, the course wound around the perimeter of the campus.
Anticipating being one of the slower runners, I held back and crossed the start line (starting my chip) about a minute after the race started. I’d warmed up by walking back and forth between the start line and the finish line (a little ways away) a few times and was feeling pretty good. I resolved to run at least the first 35 minutes of the race (following my “One Hour Runner” plan for the day). I also wanted to improve my 5K time.
I let my heart rate settle in the mid 160s during the first mile as we passed the rocket park and a long building with a line drawing of the Saturn V rocket it contained painted on the side. This building and others provided plenty of shady areas that really helped keep the temperature down. At the first mile marker, I glanced down at my HRM and saw that I was at just over 12 minutes.
The HRM slowly crept up into the 170s during the 2nd mile. I slowed down slightly a couple of times to bring my heart rate down, but I didn’t worry about it too much. I know from my training runs that my heart rate will tend to rise slightly as I tire. I downed the second mile in around 13 minutes.
During the first half of the run, I noticed a pattern to the people around me. There were several people that jogged past me at a blazing pace. A few minutes later, I’d pass them as they slowed for a walk break. My pace was fairly consistent the whole time. I told myself that I was the slow and steady tortoise getting passed by a succession of hares (Yay Bunnies!). Sure enough, by the second half of the race, I was no longer seeing any of these people. They’d dropped behind me and their jackrabbit hops were no longer sufficient to pass me.
The last mile of the race turned into a mental battle to keep going. Somewhere around 32 minutes in, my legs were suddenly awash in a wave of lethargy. My heart rate was high (into the 180s) but my breathing was easy. I kept going.
My determination was rewarded a few minutes later when I got my second wind. At 35 minutes into the race, longer than I’d ever run before, I was good to go. Nothing was hurting, nothing was overwhelmingly tired, heart rate was high but not worrisome, and I could see the spires of the rocket park in the distance.
I jogged across the finish line with a chip time of 40:57, 22 seconds slower than my Dad’s Day 5k time. I’m okay with that. It’s only 7 seconds difference per mile, about as close as it could be.
I’m SO proud that I actually ran the entire 5k. A huge milestone has been passed that will give me extra confidence during my next 5k.