kansas city zoo 2011 race recap

I’m learning so much about myself through all this running…

Prior to the race, I had to fight a bad case of nerves, those pre-race butterflies that never seem to go away! But I’m also learning that the less I expect of myself, the less trouble I have with nerves. Doesn’t that sound crazy? Yet when I make a “deal” with myself that I’m just going to go out there, and I’m going to run and do the best I can and have a good time no matter what- well, then I have almost no trouble with nerves.

My parents and I got up early and headed to the zoo. It was an overcast and “drippy” day. We got there a little bit early for packet pickup. After getting my bib and packet, we had some 45 minutes to sit around and fiddle our fingers before the race began. I hate that- when you have time before a race and nothing to do! I was ready to run! We found a table inside the zoo’s visitor center/IMAX/cafe building and watched a reasonably entertaining slideshow of the zoo through the years.

With several minutes to spare, we headed towards the start line. This race begins outside the zoo, and the start line is something like a half-mile walk from the zoo entrance. I tried to get my parents to stay behind, since they are not in shape quite like I am and since it’s a half-mile that is mostly uphill. But they’re stubborn, so I was just walking as slowly as I could. Luckily the zoo had several “shuttles” (just large vans) moving people to the start line, and a shuttle driver who saw my parents’ distress stopped and offered to drive them.

By the way, the shuttle driver was a dead ringer for Kyle Chandler. I took that as a good sign!

The start line was chaotic and a little bit confusing. I put in my earbuds and spent the next couple of minutes focusing on the music and drowning out the nervous energy around me.

As the race began, at least three or four people commented to me on my apparel- shorts and a tank top. It was a bit chilly and drippy, but I assure you, I was NOT cold… I may have been slightly chilly as the race began, but once I got moving, I was quite warm!

At the beginning of the race, I watched a runner just ahead of me who was having some major issues with getting her pants to stay up. Poor girl, she had some major “plumber butt”, if you know what I mean! I felt bad for her, though it was funny at the same time.

The first mile was almost all downhill and quite easy. I expected that.

We entered the zoo and ran past the elephant enclosure. There were two or three elephants that we could see- the others were on the far end of the enclosure and largely out of sight. The race material had indicated that there would be one aid station per mile, and the first aid station was supposed to be right here. Only it wasn’t. It wasn’t the end of the world- I mean, this was only 4 miles, not a marathon or anything- but it was confusing and a little irritating.

I entered the “Africa” section of the zoo just past the elephants. The 2-mile marker seemed to come upon me very quickly. I was actually thinking, at this point, how short the race seemed. I think part of it is just my memory of last year’s race- struggling and pushing myself so much, and the race seemed “longer” in my memory. This year… not so much. Kinda wild.

Due to the overcast and mildly drizzly conditions, most of the animals were staying inside. That was kind of a bummer, but not too big of a surprise. Even without the animals, the zoo is still a very scenic place to run- lots of good landscaping.

Soon enough, I was exiting the “Africa” section, entering the “Australia” section, and passing the 3-mile mark. Again, most of the animals were staying inside or at least behind some kind of shelter, although incidentally I saw a lot of birds in the Australia section. There was also a sort of shaded enclosure with a couple of koala bears, which were kinda neat, although honestly they’re really not as cute as their plush stuffed-animal counterparts.

I left the Australia section and finally entered the catwalk section of the zoo. That area is the oldest section of the zoo, and the old cages were converted into big cat enclosures- for the tigers, leopards, panthers, and so on. I vividly remember running past the tigers last year, and the tigers behind sound asleep and with their backs turned to the trail. I got a chuckle this year because the tigers were awake, sitting close to the outside of their cage, watching us run past. (They were probably plotting to pick off the slow and injured runners for dinner. Thank goodness for that cage.) 🙂

The last bit of the race was kinda twisty, so I couldn’t see the finish line ahead. Not my favorite way to end a race- I like to be able to see how far I have left! But I pushed through, and soon enough I turned a corner and saw a finish line ahead of me.

Those are Racesox compression socks. They are fantastically awesome and deserving of their own post. I am absolutely convinced that they were a major contributing factor to my time and mileage on Saturday.

My overall race time was 54:45 for 4 miles, which just delights me. That’s almost a 3:30 improvement over my time last year (58:14) and just a great time overall.

But the crazy part is, I felt great after the race. I mean, GREAT. I felt like I could go run the race again. Like I’d hardly run at all. I wasn’t sore or tired. My feet didn’t hurt. My legs didn’t hurt. It was like my mind was telling me I should be tired, but my body was telling me I was fine. I just wanted to keep going!

So when I got home, I did just that. I went out and ran another 3.1 miles. I didn’t bring a watch, but I’m hugely pleased by this run too. It wasn’t until near the end that I started to feel tired or footsore, plus I’m quite sure that even with running the 4 miles before this race, my pace was still quite good.

I’ve spent the past two days resting, and I am now wondering what my next running goal should be. I plan to head out in the morning for another run. This is definitely a good way to start another year of running!