Monday, May 29, 2006

Winning a race

I glanced over at the alarm clock, and 4:15 a.m. was staring me in the face. Ah, well. Might as well get up now, I thought.
I haven't slept much anyway.
I'm not exactly sure why the body wakes up every half-hour before a day that you know is going to be long, exhausting and, at times, painful. You usually need your rest before such days. Instead, before a big climb and, now, before Monday's Bolder Boulder, I wake up more often than a hooker on call in Vegas during the World Series of Poker.
I woke up at 1:17 a.m., 2:10 a.m., 3:05 a.m.,
4 a.m. and 4:10 a.m. before my alarm was supposed to wake me up at 4:30 a.m. On nights like these, you don't ever feel like you've actually been asleep, and you tend to pray for the time to get up to just get here, so you can end the misery, until 10 minutes before it's time to get up, when all you want to do is lay your head on your sweet, sweet pillow, as soft as cotton candy.
Instead I rolled out of bed, put on my running clothes (wicking T-shirt, running shoes, shorts), grabbed my workout food (banana, which always tastes GREAT at 4:30 a.m., ugh, and a piece of toast, and Gatorade) and my GPS and prepared to run my first 10K.
I was, suprisingly, sort of confident today heading into the race. I'm really thought I could reach my goal of 50 minutes, about an 8-minute-mile pace. I'm not sure where that confidence came from. Maybe I knew I could finish because I did a 15-mile run three weeks ago. But I still wasn't sure how fast I could go. I'd run that far before. I'd never run that far, that fast.
Sitting in a coffee shop, in Boulder, near the start, at 6 a.m., quickly sapped my confidence, as my stomach started churning, as it usually does after I'm all in with TPTK and someone calls me with a flush draw that I'm sure is going to hit.
Uh, oh.
I visited the toliet twice, and let's just say I'll leave out the details.
In my first competitive 5K, last year, I didn't bother to visit the toliet and almost wound up crapping my pants about halfway through the race. It was quite possibly the worst feeling I've ever had (Kate's labor about 11 months ago may have been comparable), and I swore I would never, ever go through that again.
So, five minutes before my wave, scheduled to start at 7:08 a.m., a qualifer, was gonna go, I had to, well, go. OK, I thought. If I'm late, I'm late. I ran back to my wave start, practically shoving the other 45,000 runners out of the way, and got there.
"Is this CB wave?" I said to the woman next to me.
"Yes," she said.
"Cutting it a little close, aren't you?"
I barely had time to answer before the gun went off.
My plan was to run the first two miles in a 7:50 pace, run the next two under 8:30 and run the final two as fast as I could, maybe 7:15, maybe 7:30.
Starting a race always reminds me of the beginning of a poker tournament, at least at the levels I play. The beginners always start too fast, pushing with A,K on their first hand, and the veterans always start too slow, refusing to gobble up the fish money before it gets eaten by someone else.
By the second mile, my average pace, measured by my Garmin GPS, measured 7:55. Perfect.
Now the hills would start.
I'm not sure what's worse: Having AA cracked by K,J (to me the ultimate fish hand) or running up a steep hill during a race. I'm still not sure after the Bolder Boulder. The hills were plentiful and gradual, which is almost worse than short and steep (ask a Hamster whether he'd like his wheel stuck on a peanut that will eventually come loose or just sort of rusty and slow, and you'll know what I mean).
By the time I was done with the hills, my average pace was up to 8:05, and my right knee was sort of shouting at me a bit. I think it was saying, "Hey, Jackass, we're done with the hils now, OK?"
I agreed.
The road was flat.
Time to hit it.
I hit it, pushing my pace up to 7:15 at times, until 9.3 kilometers, when my stomach-o-meter was starting to reach BARF and my legs were getting weak. The sun beat down on my forehead, mashing it with unwelcome heat after a beautiful, cool morning.
And I heard Jamiroquai.
Now, I have what I consider to be eclectic but fine taste in music. Yes, I like my share of hair metal, but I'm also a heavy metal fan, I love jazz, pop, some hip hop and a whole lotta funk and soul. Many of my favorites are in the Hall of Fame. Steeley Dan, Stevie Wonder, Metallica, etc., all have been overplayed in my car.
But I can't help but love Jamiroquai. The dude plays some FUNK, even if it does sound like Disco to the untrained ear (OK, to many trained ones as well). And Jamiroquai was exactly what I needed. The Bolder Boulder does a great job of attempting to take your mind off how much pain you're in by supplying live bands along the route. This band was playing "Canned Heat," yes, that song from "Napoleon Dynamite" (which, by the way, really isn't that great a movie, get over it).
A surge of electricity went through my body, and my pace not only bumped back up, it surged past 7:15, all the way into Folsom Field and the last, steep, torture hill you face until you get to run a victory lap around the stadium, which I sprinted, of course, to the finish.
I looked at my GPS.
7:56 pace.
I did it.
I'm so happy I could puke.

(Editor's note: Upon reflection, my pace was actually 8:05 when I entered it in a pace calculator. I'm not sure why my GPS measured 7:56. It may have something to do with the fact that my GPS measured 6.33, and that may be because I turned it on a little early and it measured the distance I walked. Next time I'll have to reset it completely right before the race. I'm still happy about my time, especially for my first year, but I have to admit that news was a touch disappointing as well).

(In fact, I almost did, until a race official came over and insisted I needed to see a medical person there, which I answered to her that I had in fact climbed through puking sessions many times and was fine, and she annoyed me so much I forgot to be sick and started walking past the finish to get a snack).
Sometimes, winning a race does not mean winning with 7,7 against K,A, and sometimes, winning a race doesn't mean crossing the finish line first.
Sometimes, you win only by staying just ahead of the doubts in your head.


TripJax said...

I can imagine how having to hit the toilet mid race could be a problem.

Under 8 is about 8 better than I could do right now. Very nice job.

Felicia :) said...

nice write-up and good for you for doing as well as you did! :)

See? No doubts; you just did it.

As Yoda said, "there is no try; there is only do!" -grin-

Congrats ;)