Saturday, March 29, 2014

taking it to the pavement


Today’s race was not unlike our local Spirit of Survival race for me. That day, I arrived in the dark on a Sunday morning, broken in my own spirit, not ready for a race, but I knew I had to keep running. It was October 6. I ran a quarter marathon so I didn’t have a PR  for that yet, but I knew whether I did well, PR or not. I did. For me in that season of my running, I did well, and two weeks later I PRed my half marathon in Kansas City, running in just about double the time of the quarter. It reminded me I could keep running through anything.

Nothing has been that bad again.  May it never be! But this week was hard on so many levels. The last two days running were strained, slow. I was worried for real. I haven’t run 12 minute miles in ages and suddenly I was. I was lethargic. The stress in my heart, the pain from three different things occurring at once—spiritual, relational and internal—created a perfect storm in my heart. But I ran anyway. And I guess I took it out on the pavement.

The truth is, I ran this race because I have a friend who challenges me to time goals. I never make them! He doesn’t pressure me or anything, but I keep wanting to make them. After my excellent race in KC a couple weeks ago, I was sure I could pull off the 10K time goal, so I registered. I didn’t tell him or anyone else that, but that was why. It’s not often people expect much out of me, honestly, I mean like having goals for me. With running, people assume it’s easy for me and I just do it.

No.

I work my butt off. It’s hard. It’s work. I will never be a speedster. I work harder than some fast runners to just be middle of the pack. So having some goals is nice. That’s why I registered. I knew I could do it.

Then I was sure I couldn’t. Everything hurt. I ran a great double Wednesday but my Thursday and Friday I was slacking in ways I had not. I almost didn’t race. But I know better than to let pain keep me from the roads. If you have read this blog from the start you know that’s how I stopped running. I got hurt in the worst way, and slowly my enthusiasm died. I had no energy to run. I gave up one day when some idiot face in a truck made a comment to me. “Speed it up,” he said. Maybe joking. But I was running at 6 a.m. and it was all I could do to get my butt up to go. I was in a terrible place in my life. His comment took me over the edge. I stopped running regularly after that. I always remember that and the months before it and I vowed to never let what’s happening personally—whether pain or just business and stress or travel—keep me from running. So I didn’t cancel my race.

It was a good race. It was well-done and organized. And best of all it was a reminder to me of what the running community is. It was an out-and-back so that meant that the winning runners passed those of us who were slower as they made the turnaround first. So many smiles, “good job” comments, and just overall support. Runners are the most wonderful people I know. It’s what endeared me to the lifestyle in Kansas City. Today those encouragements from strangers reminded me again why I love what I do. I do it alone 99% of the time, but then on days like today, I remember I am in a company of amazing people. They have similar spirits. They push on in pain. They run early or late. They make time, not excuses. They work hard when no one is watching. And they know we all do, so they encourage when the rubber soles meet the road. I have written many times about how the closest to community I have seen is the running community. After Boston, what I saw had me in tears for days. We were one. “Boston stands as one,” the signs said. We did. We were Boston. Runners are one.

Today I needed that. Today I needed to see those people. I needed to remember there is something I am a part of because I choose to be. Sometimes you choose to be part of something but you can’t be. You want to go to Harvard but they don’t admit you, for example. You want to be in “that” crowd, but they don’t want you or you don’t perform well enough. But in running, all you have to do is run. And you are one of them. And they you.

The race was not too challenging, though the last mile had a pretty intense north wind, which was probably to my advantage as an Oklahoman. I know winds. And hills. I used it.

I knew mile 5-6 had a downhill, since we'd run up it in mile 1 and I saved energy to gain time. I ran that downhill stretch at just over 8 minutes a mile, dropping my last mile of a 10K to under 10. I know how to run downhills (which takes skill) as well as uphills. For the last mile of a race that long, that’s a big deal.  As I flew down that hill, fast but controlled, knowing I had about half a mile of wind in my face after that, I was stunned to find runners making a wall and walking. Who would walk on a downhill? All the runners around me had been running pretty strong, so  I was baffled. Then I realized. We were passing 5Kers who were still walking to the finish. So I shot by, knees high, posture strong, knowing my final time would depend on how I controlled that chance to make up any lost time. And I did it.

The last half mile was hard. It was slightly sloped up, not a hill in the slightest, but enough to feel it. And the north wind was in my face. Not strong like I sometimes face in OK, but gusty and cold. Very gusty. I just wanted it to go away and leave me alone, but I ran as hard as I could. What had happened on the downhill was I gained so much speed that even in that last part, I was faster than I had been. I always run hard into wind. I think it’s a challenge to me. Like hills. I hate them but I push at them hard. They will not take me out.

As I ran to the finish line, I saw that clock. My friend had challenged me to 1:05:59 or less. He knows my usual pace and he’s a math guy so his numbers are really well in my Zone of Proximal Development. I haven’t hit one yet, but after KC I knew I could. I wasn’t letting today keep me from it. I would run hard. If I didn’t PR or didn’t make his goal, it was okay if I ran my best.

The clock had barely turned to 1:03 as I crossed the finish line. I hope a photographer got the smile on my face when my eyes saw that number and I flew. I finished in tears. I had done it. After the second hardest week in a year, I still had a spirit of survival in me. I was a running rock star. I believed in myself again.

And that’s why I run of course.

This race I had the best race number I have ever had: 77. I am into numbers, of course. And so there was that. But what’s funny is my pace. A recurring number for me the last several months has been 10:10. It’s one of those numbers I see often on clocks or even on my Garmin when I look at my pace. Today the chip time numbers show that for 6.2 miles I ran a 10:10 pace.

77.
10:10.

On a side note, I was trying to figure out how this great race made any money. It was well done, chip timed, good water stops (still carried my own since I have been burned by that and need to drink when I run hard). Entry fees for regular registration were $15. That is dirt cheap--even for the 5K but especially the 10K. Then of course there were t-shirts. Not tech shirts, but decent around the house ones. And then our race number entitled us to a dozen free bagels. And somehow they made money for Down syndrome in the process. Class act, Boopa's Bagel Shop. I'll be back. 

I looked up my 10K history. I am about to do a bib number display anyway, and one suggestion I saw a while back was to write your race name and time on the back of the bib, so you would remember. I have not done that, but I am starting now. So I needed to look them up anyway. I have only done 4 10Ks since returning to running. Here are those results:

1. May 4, 2013, Fort Worth. 1:16:27
2. Nov. 28, 2013, Fort Worth. 1:12:55 (The one with bronchitis!)
3. Jan. 18, 2014, Wichita Falls. 1:06:24 (Female master's winner).
4. Today, March 29, 2014, Fort Worth. 1:03:06

13 minutes and 21 seconds in less than 11 months.

Today was my 152nd day in a row of running without a rest day.

Until the next run.




1 comment:

  1. Great job! I have bibs strewn about; I think they finally start getting thrown away. I might start doing times and dates on them and at least put them in a book or something.

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