Yesterday I ran my first race event of 2011. It was really a test – to see if I had it in me. And man, I had my doubts. After being sick for most of the new Year, I could feel my strength and mojo ebbing away from me. I orginally had signed up for a 10k but then downgraded it to a 5k  – this just seven weeks after doing a half marathon!!

I was nervous, no doubt. But I’d signed up and I was determined to do it. I had my great sister-in-fitness Lisa Marie with me, and I also got to meet health Tweeter @Faby_Gonzalez who told me about the race in the first place.

This was going to be a small race (150 people as opposed to 30,000 in Las Vegas!). Which meant that most of them were probably going to be really fast runners. This seems to be the trend at small runs. Anyway, we drove out there and it was beautiful – easy parking (this was a HUGE stresser at the Redwood run I did last year – I got there, the lot was full and I had to park a mile away and RUN to the start line! Ack!) and just a nice, friendly vibe. They had “pep talks” for the 10k and 5k runners both. There were massage tables and food tables and it was just nice.

It was pretty chilly when we got out of the car (East coast people, don’t laugh! or throw stuff) Lisa Marie and I warmed up by doing lunges across the parking lot just like we do at the trainers. It turned out to be a perfect way to warm up.

The 10K pack took off (I was glad I was not with them). Then for the next 10 minutes I powerwalk/jogged around the parking lot in an attempt to REALLY warm up so I’d be ready to run at the start. The peptalk guy mentioned something about the first part being uphill. WHAT? I had not noticed this. I really, really dislike running uphill. Especially at the beginning! But what could I do about it? Not much. Ready, set, RUN!

We took off. I tried to remember my mantra of staying at my own pace and tried not to notice all the people passing me right at the beginning. And then of course it started climbing up hill. And up and up. I was panting. It was really hard! I tried to take small steps, but still I was not ready for that. I tried to just focus and run slow and keep going. A bunch of people around me fell back to walking but I really felt like I wanted to keep running. I felt like I was running really slow.

Then my RunKeeper (on phone) spoke up. “Five minutes. X-tenths of a mile. Pace 12:30.” I was like, Whaaaaaaaa? I’m running 12:30 uphill?  I know this is glacial for many of you, but I gotta say, I’ve been running an average of 15:00 pace for the last six months or so. The half marathon was pretty much at a 15:00, which was an average of 13-14 running and 16-18 walking. So this shocked me. Um, no wonder I was winded!!

A note on gadgets: I brought the (dreaded) Garmin in the car and tried once again to decipher the little manual while I waited for LM to get ready. It just frustrated me. I have the feeling this thing is going to be going up for sale soon. I just don’t like it. On the other hand, RunKeeper Plus (the deluxe version) is FREE on iTunes until TOMORROW!!!!! and man, it is even better than the RunKeeper free. I just love it. So I think that’s gonna be my device for the time being.

So we got to the 1-mile marker and I was still not feeling very comfortable. It was still an uphill climb which I was getting tired of. But what could I do? I am used to having orthopedic issues but I have not been out of breath running in a very long time. I kept going.

The thing about a 5k is, no matter what, it goes by pretty fast. We got to the turnaround (it was an out-and-back course) and that made me pretty happy because it meant… yeah! DOWNHILL!

Yeah I was happy. As bad as it feels to run uphill it feels great to run down (unless it is super steep, then it sucks). But this was pretty much a rolling hill and it was just like… wheee! Then it got fun. I passed the 2 mile and then it was on cruise. The finish line was there before I knew it (wheeeeeeeee, downhill!). I was so happy!

This little race was the bomb. Not only did they give us cute little finishers’ medals, they also had the BEST FOOD! Hot pasta, Caesar salad, fruit, what??????? I couldn’t believe it. All for free. And free massages. And just a nice happy vibe. I got to see LM thru the finish line (YAY) then we got our medals and food. She had had some breathing issues on the course too, but she finished strong and I was so happy we were there!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This event was really important for me. It truly felt like my “comeback” event after feeling so sick and out of it. LM asked me if I had any goals before we started and I said, “One, I want to finish, and Two, I want to make friends with running again.” Both accomplished! I was really amazed at my time (true penguin time, but for me, it was like cheetah time!). When I got home and studied my RunKeeper stats, I was sort of amazed to see that I’d kept that pace pretty much steady no matter if I was going up or downhill. Which was very surprising to me. But good! It made me feel good.

I’m not sure if I will be able to do an event in February but this got me very pumped for my BIG WEEKEND in March: StairClimb, 5k AND Oakland Running Festival! (probably Team Relay, which is cool by me) I’m ba—ack!