Sunday, November 18, 2012

7 seconds

"To keep from decaying, to be a winner, the athlete must accept pain--
not only accept it, but look for it, live with it, learn not to fear it."

Yesterday I made the trek into Lynbrook for the "Fly with the Owls 4 Miler". It's a long ride, but it gives me the opportunity to meet up after the race with some friends to catch up. I did this race 2 years ago but was sick last year. So this year I was going to do everything in my power to stay healthy and get out there.

The night before I looked up my 4 mile PR to see if a new PR would be a possibility. It wasn't a completely far fetched time for me, but I knew I would have to run pedal to the metal or live up to my new motto "PR or ER". 

With fall races, judging how to dress can be tricky. What made the decision difficult yesterday was the dreaded windchill effect. It was supposed to be a little windy with temps feeling like it would be close to 10 deg cooler than it really was. Then you have to do the running math and add 20 deg to that since that's what it would feel like when you are actually running. I decided to wear a compression top and a lightweight long sleeve shirt with my running shorts. I felt cold before the start of the race, but once I was in the middle of the crowd waiting at the starting line, I warmed up. 

Once the horn went off, I bolted down the road. I wanted to get out of the crowd a little bit so I could settle in. The first mile is pretty straight-forward. After that it gets a little crazy, like an ADHD dream, lot's of turns.

arrows highlight the first mile

I wore my garmin GPS watch, but I knew the event would have timers at each mile on the course. When I rolled through mile 1, I was on a good pace. Not too fast, not too slow. But I could tell I was getting very warm. The two shirts were causing me to overheat. Since my race number with timing chip was attached to the top shirt, there was no way I could easily remove a shirt while running. I just figured "how bad can 3 miles be?" The answer is: pretty bad.

All I kept thinking was how long that 2nd mile felt. I didn't want to slow down much so I found someone to stay with. I also used this person as a shield when the winds picked up a bit. I tried to match  them stride for stride so I could keep pace. When I finally got through the 2nd mile I did some race math. I was still on track to PR. But I also felt like it would be a hard 2 miles to go. I felt like I was out there much longer than the race clock showed. I was in agony and the only way to make it stop was to get to the finish as quickly as possible.

I now began the craziness of the turns on the course. This organization does an outstanding job of marking the course and controlling traffic. There are volunteers at every turn with signs and pointing which way to go. I would have said 'thank you' but speaking was just not an option. I was deep inside the hurt box. My pacer was now long gone and I was on my own. I tried to latch on to various runners, but I kept yoyo-ing back and forth. A big mental game went on in my head. I was thinking about just slowing down and taking it easy, but when I passed the 3 mile clock I knew that if I could just hang on a PR was mine. All I had to do was hold it together.

This last mile was one of the hardest miles I've ever run. The turns were disorienting and my fatigue was making it worse. My legs and arms were getting heavier. I kept thinking "this must be the last, this must be the last turn..... no wait, THIS must be the last turn." 

Finally I did make it to the last turn. It was now a straightaway. The strangest sensation came over me. I looked to the side of the road and thought "that looks like a nice place to lay down." What a bizarre urge. Needless to say I fought it and did the best I could to pick it up to the finish. I saw my friends just before the finish. I looked at the clock as I crossed the line. I managed to just hang on and PR by 7 seconds. Holy crap. I worked that hard and suffered that much for 7 seconds. Clearly I have accepted the pain and learned to run through it. It wasn't easy at all, but I know what it feels like and survived it.

Photo courtesy J. Cordello  

After the race my friends and I went to a diner for breakfast. I just remember inhaling by breakfast and chatting away. Our time together ended too quickly and I was back in the car heading home. I passed out on the couch and took a serious nap. 

When I got up my legs and arms felt like jelly. It took my quite some time to get over that race effort. Who knew that 4 little miles could hurt so much.

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