Monday, October 12, 2009

The morning after the morning after

I’m still not sore.

110 miles into my training and I have yet to wake up sore from any of my runs.


I’ve had tightness, sure.  But that would go away after about 15 seconds of walking into the other room.  There’s also been injury-type pain, but that’s a different problem than the lactic-acid buildup muscle soreness.  To date, there have been no lingering, non-injury related ill effects from any run that I have gone on.  What’s up with that?


Saturday morning was the 10 for Texas.  It was the first timed 10 mile run I’ve ever participated in, so a PR was guaranteed.  It was also the farthest I’ve run this season.  Fuel stops were set at each even mile, plus the 9 mile mark.  The weather was perfect.  It was a VERY well put together event and the course was pretty decent.


I had serious doubts going in to this run.  I wasn’t worried so much about my conditioning, because I know I can cruise at 11 or 12 minute paces for quite awhile.  However, I wasn’t sure I WOULD cruise at that pace, or any pace, for that amount of time.  In other words, the worry isn’t whether or not I can, the worry is whether or not I will.  My quit has been a near constant running companion for the last several weeks and the notion of running for more than an hour still seems pretty absurd.  The goal was to finish in the range of 1:30 – 1:45.  Worse than that would have been a bit disappointing, better would have been unfathomable.  I get nervous the day before, arrive early and still nervous, see some folks I recognize and am still nervous, run back to my car and I’m still nervous, lose the folks I recognized and I’m still nervous, take a leak and I’m still nervous, race to the starting line still nervous, the gun goes off and…  no more nerves.  That was pretty cool.


For the first mile I’m picking through the crowd waiting for things to thin out.  Eventually the crowd thins and around the half mile point I find two guys who keep the exact same cadence and stride length as me.  They’re also keeping a 9:30 pace for the first mile and keyed it back to a 9:45 for the second mile.  I slow down and grab some water at the refreshment stand, and they scoot on ahead, but not out of sight.  I begin to reel them in at about the 2.5 mile area and catch them at the 3.5 mile area.  At 4 miles I slow down again and grab some water, they scoot ahead.  I was feeling good and keeping a nice, steady pace.  A half mile later I spot the JuneBug up ahead of me, cruising along like the machine she is.  She has an equipment malfunction and we briefly chat, then she pours on the speed and leaves me behind.  At about 5.5 miles I catch her and my two pacers and push by them to get a little space at the water stand.  They blow by me anyway and for another mile or so I keep them in my sights, but lose them forever between mile 7 and 8.


The first 7 miles were really uneventful.


For what it’s worth, 6 miles is the longest I’ve run in a single stretch this year.  I’ve doubled up some runs in a day and run more than 7, but never at a single stretch.  The fact that I was able to clear the first 6+ without really slowing down much or stopping to walk at all (except while drinking, but that’s allowed), gave me a significant sense of accomplishment already.


Around mile 7, though, is where I started to feel the distance.  I began checking my watch to gauge how far until the next water stand (keeping steady 10 minute miles really makes it easy to estimate distance).  I started talking to myself to keep the focus and energy up.  I started counting breaths and paces to maintain focus.  I began pulling out as many tricks as I knew how to pull out, plus I was keenly aware that my speed was slowly dropping.  I wasn’t at all out of breath and my legs weren’t really tired yet, but I was beginning to feel it all the same.


This is where my quit began talking:  This is too far, no shame in walking, slow down, catch your breath, you have plenty of time to get ready for the half in 2 weeks, just relax, you knew you weren’t ready for this, 7 miles is better than nothing…


Mile 8, water, keep rolling.  Check the watch, focus, focus, check the tank, test the legs with a  little surge, ok that was a big mistake but they’re still responsive, keep pushing, keep pushing, don’t stop, don’t even THINK about stopping, measure the breathing, check the stride, lengthen the step, maintain the pace, doing good, doing good, keep it going.


You’re not going to make it, might as well pack it in now, no need to torture yourself for 2 more miles, just walk/run the rest of the way, you’ve already fought a good fight, you’re just not good enough to finish today, don’t worry about it, look at those guys running so much stronger than you, you don’t even deserve to be on the road with them, why are you even here…


Mile 9 is approaching and I hear music!!  This was just about the best placed water stand on the whole run.  The music was great, THE Jon Walk was there wearing his crown AND gorilla suit with a host of other super heroes.  A quick check and the watch told me I was 90 minutes into the run and WELL within my target of finishing before 01:45:00.  That put a little spring in my step, too. 


I start to push the pace, ever so slightly, which really only serves to get my pace back up to where it was when I started.  I check the breathing, and it’s still good.  I’m keeping a nice, steady cadence breathing out on every other left step.  The rhythm and tempo are keeping strong and steady.  (I’ve long since given up heart monitors and this is the best way I know to measure my exertion level.)  5 minutes in and I see the market square area where the finish line should be.  The problem is I don’t know EXACTLY where the finish line is, so I don’t really know when to kick it into another gear.  I surge just a little, anyway.


And you know what?  The voices have gone silent.

Where’s my doubt?  Where’s my quit?  Silence.  That’s a pretty damn nice sound.


We get on to the curbed streets which means the finish line is close.  I push the pace a little harder.  We turn a corner and I recognize a building.  I push a little harder still.  We turn another corner and there’s the finish line.  I break cadence, switch to the final kick, and press to the finish line.  I stopped getting passed when the curbs showed up and I finally begin passing people on this final stretch.


1:40:50.  10:05/mile pace.


Tasks for the next week and a half:  deepen the tank a little bit more, get at least 1x 10+ mile run, learn how to push through that wall of exhaustion a little harder.

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