I signed up for the Zoo Run the last week of December. I thought I would have plenty of time to train. 4 runs later I find myself getting dressed and heading to the run. I didn't have expectations as there were no realistic grounds to have one. I had only ran maybe 7 times in the last two months. In the back of my head I knew I would do pretty good. I do better with little training. It seems the only thing that changes with more runs are more injuries.
I was so very nervous on my drive to the zoo. I haven't been around the energy of fellow runners in months. The turn lane to get in the Zoo intensified my anxiety. Ten minutes later I rounded the corner and saw the finish line banner and crowds of people. In that moment my nerves were at ease and a smile emerged. There is something very welcoming about that Nashville Strider Start/Finish banner. I've run under that banner dozens of times all over middle Tennessee. I was ready.
The crowd at the zoo run is one that always gives me mixed emotions. Its where the elite mix with the families, groups of girlfriends and walkers. Because of my pace I'm slightly behind the elite. The air is different in this pack. The energy is selfish and quite. I hate waiting in this pack for the gun to go off. Minutes before the gun goes off I try to find someone to have a short chat with. This brings me back to a sense of unity on why we are all there- to run.
It was cold. It was cloudy. Typical for a January run in Tennessee. I love running in the cold. It forces my breathing to be shallow therefore less strenuous. The pack started to thicken. We were all moving, stretching, jumping-anything to stay warm. The air gets warmer with all the energy. This always calms me. The gun goes off- here we go.
I stopped running with music last year. I always have it when I train but never at a race. The Zoo run is my favorite race to run out of all runs without music. I will try to explain. We start with pavement. People are still talking and laughing. About a half mile in its silence. We are on raw earth. The pounding of feet is muffled. We round the corner and are on wet gravel. The sound is higher pitched as the rocks scratch together. We run on more pavement and at this point I'm in my pace pack. This is where people are no longer passing me. We are all running together. My favorite is when we run over wooden bridges. I love that sound. Its loud and echos. Its my favorite.
Then there it is- the biggest incline of the race. A steady uphill battle. This is my favorite part. You see I'm not built like a "runner" that typically runs at my pace. I'm shorter and have alot more muscle in my legs. This is why I love the inclines. I shorten my breath and lunge with speed up the hills. I pass skinny runners as they are pushing themselves and struggling to maintain a good heart rate. This is my high. I lunge up the hill and at the top-I'm gone. I recover fast thanks to my trusty short muscular legs and hit my pace again.
Running through the zoo itself is fun. The terrain changes every few hundred feet. Only a half mile left. I look at my GPS, the pack ahead of me and take a deep breath. I raise my arms over my head to fill my lungs with new air and my inner trigger goes off. I want to always be able to finish a race strong. I want to fly past the finish line. I take off and dropped my pace by a minute. I know I can maintain a much faster pace for a few minutes. Its all mind over body. With each person I pass I'm screaming "Go Naomi! " in my head. I round the corner and see the finish line. I check the clock time and sprint. I'm done.
Immediately I start the battle in my head of what I could have done better. I have flashbacks to were I slowed and didn't push myself. Good Lord it's not that complicated. It's just a 5k. But its not for me. I run through the gambit of emotions.
I placed 9th in my class and 72 out of over 500 females. My run was slower than last year but still pretty darn good for a girl with a bruised tailbone, tight lungs from being exposed to cats two hours before the race and only 4 runs. Oh and a dose of benadryl. Lol!
I can't wait for the next race so I can go through this all over again.