Running Hurdles.

“P” IS FOR… WELL, YOU KNOW.
Four cups of coffee 1 hour before ANY race is a baaaad idea.  I’m a coffee-a-holic and I drink quite a bit.  I don’t use those sissy little 8 oz. mugs either.  I like a bucket of coffee.  Big, wide mugs that hold about a third of a pot each.  If I can’t see my whole head in my reflection in the coffee, it’s too small for my liking.  Two of them, if you please.  And I’ve never had an issue during a race – I suppose it is because I usually drive awhile to get to the races I’ve run, so I end up drinking my coffee earlier in the morning than I did during my last 5K, which, by the way, was about a 6 minute drive from my house.

Belaboring this story would be silly.  You have an idea of how it went.  Oh, wait.  You don’t.  You couldn’t possibly know that I was running the race of my life that day – I had wings on my feet, strides like a cheetah, calm cool breathing and the coordination of a ballerina.  A 5K is 3.1 miles.  At mile 2 my time was  15:00 – that means 7 and a half  minute miles.  Seriously people do you have any idea how fast that is?  But my elation trickled away as my bladder suddenly decided to seize the moment.  The urge to find a bathroom took over my whole being.  I forgot what I was doing.  My brain filled with terror at the thought of NOT MAKING it to a bathroom or worse, gambling that last mile only to cross the finish line as a human sprinkler (eww, sorry).

I was panicked when, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a beautiful set of Golden (apropos) Arches just ahead.  A McDonalds.  Just ahead.  Amen.

I jumped off course.  I sprinted for the entrance.  I burst through the doors and hooked right to head to the bathrooms and saw one of the most terrible things imaginable.  A sign  that said “Restroom Key available at front counter”.  My eyes filled with (yellow) tears.  I darted to the counter and asked for the key.  The girl looked confused.  I thought I might just pick her up and take her with me if I could speed things up that way.  “Oh, no key for the ladies room.  It’s open.” she said with a smile.

Suffice it to say I made it (barely) and I hopped right back on course afterward.  My finish was no reflection of the first 2/3rds of the race, but my dignity was the reward I got to take home with me that day.  And frankly, that was enough.

IN PRAISE OF SLOWNESS

Last weekend I ran the Baltimore 10 miler.  It’s a great race and a distance I think I could really refine my skills to conquer (one day).  Last week wasn’t that day, but something else came out of the experience – something other than a PR.  I had pulled a muscle a couple of days before, right under my left rib.  It reaaaalllllyyyy hurt for a day, then got progressively better.  But right at the start of the race, it reminded me not to count it out.  Honestly, my training has been off, and my dedication wilts with every degree of summer heat and humidity.  So I wasn’t in top condition for this race but I really wanted to do it and see how much running was ‘like riding a bike’.  Maybe a year of great, consistent training would allow me to take some time off but still deliver PRs on race day.  Um, allow me to spare you the same exercise.  Running is the opposite of riding a bike.  At least for me.  No training = sucky running.

So rather than push myself to the point of injury, I decided to try a “I just want to finish” race.  I’ve never done that – my first half marathon was my second race ever, and I had finish time and split goals right from the start.  This 10 miler is my 11th race in the year since I started running, and to ‘just finish’ was a totally new way to race.  New, but not exactly bad.

With a pin in my side most of the race, I paced myself and tested a few things I’d read about in Runner’s World and elsewhere.  I played with my pace, stride and breathing.  I slowed when I wanted to, I stopped to drink a Gatorade, I looked around and saw a bit of Baltimore I’d never seen before.  And when I crossed the finish line, I felt GREAT!  Not the “I could run 20 more miles” kind of great, but the “damn, I enjoyed that – now where are those free beers” kind of great.  And I carried that feeling for the next couple of days.

Well, that’s it for my update.  My next race is the Baltimore Half Marathon in October, but I’ll probably fit in a couple before that.  Wish me luck – no, wish me renewed determination!!  It’s training time, baby!

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