Let the games begin!

St. Patrick’s Day. You still OK? Good. I gave you enough time to recover from your inevitable day – weekend? – of wasty face binge drinking to hear those words without a green face and the gag reflex. Ya lush! Just kidding. Or. . .am I?

St. Patrick’s Day for me marked the first of many races on my calendar for the year: the Runnin’ of the Green 7K. Dubbed “Denver’s classic Irish jog,” the race starts and ends in the heart of Lodo – lower downtown to those of you not familiar with the beautiful city of Denver that I more than joyously call home – and includes a bit of a hilly course that I remembered to be tough during my first Runnin’ of the Green in 2010.

I was so excited for the first race of the season, but I got to the starting line feeling horribly unprepared. Thanks to a grant proposal deadline - including what I call my first ‘big girl budget’ totaling just under a cool half a million - a mid-week work dinner event, a conference for work, and an impromptu invite to the Imagine Dragons show for FREE, I ate like crap, lost tons of sleep, and didn’t run at all for the five days prior to the race.

THEN, of course, on race day, I had a hard time getting out of bed; ate too much for breakfast - leaving a brick of a peanut butter, Cheerios, honey, and chia seed sandwich in my stomach - and didn’t feel as though I warmed up enough before having to find a suitable spot among the crowd at the starting line, which left me no choice but to jump up and down in place as high as I could and to stretch a bit. iNo bueno!

And, before I knew it, there went the gun. GO!

I started out stuck in the crowd going waaaay slower than I wanted. So, of course, I bolted out ahead - too fast, mind you - once I broke away, only I didn’t know it because my watch averaged my total pace for that first mile at that point – the first, super slow part of that mile plus the super speedy pace ended up averaging. . .still faster than I thought, which meant the super speedy part was too speedy to maintain. Mile one.

OK, just keep going. Run how you feel, even if you have to slow down a bit. You can always speed up later.

The uphills weren’t so bad, and definitely not as painful as I remember. What’s one of the best things about an uphill along the course? Mmm hmm, right. The subsequent downhill. Nice! Speed things up a bit! Aaaaand a right past the REI store, a one hundred eighty degree turn at the end of that short straight away, and back past the REI, I was officially headed back. Ah, crap. Don’t remember THIS uphill being here.

Ugh.

Luckily, the hill was short, just like all of the hills along the course; and I found myself  leveled out to a straight away back to 20th Street. One right-hand turns, one gradual downhill, one final short but steep uphill, then one last right-hand turn toward the finish line to go. . . And voila! Made it.

So here’s a quick glimpse into the depths of madness of my running brain for a sec. . . Anytime I run a race, I have two goals: the goal I think is more feasible and borderline ambitious – the race goal I tell others when they ask – and my actual, “secret” race goal – the one I don’t tell anyone to spare myself embarrassment and excessive verbal self-deprecation in the event that I don’t reach it.

How did I fare on this fine day of Irish-inspired debauchery, you ask? All said and done, my average pace for my first race of the year was faster than my actual, secret race goal by a few seconds per mile, meaning. . .you guessed it. . .a PR for the course!

I bested my time by more than two minutes since the same race in 2011 and by nearly four and a half minutes – over one minute per mile faster – than the same race in 2010. Huh. Not bad for this old lady.

All obstacles aside, I had experienced an amazing streak of luck in the days leading up to the race. And, with a bib number like 1313, my good luck was bound to continue on race day:

Lucky number 13. . .twice!

Lucky number 13. . .times two!
Photo compliments of Delcarmen Gilkey, a.k.a. finish line cheerleader extraordinaire

Fact: Beer ALWAYS tastes better when you earn it. Beer and pancakes. Yeah.

I was happy with my time but, at the same time, pondered how much faster I could have run had I trained appropriately, slept more regularly, and ate healthier that previous week. But then again, this was only the first race of the year. There’s still plenty time more to find out the answers to this – and oh so many more – questions in my head.

Ready? I hope so. It’s bound to be an interesting ride. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

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