Monday, September 07, 2009

Anatomy of a race

Breaking down the Labor Day Park-to-Park 10-miler in Denver.

4:49 a.m. - Coldplay's "Viva a Vida" wakes me up. I didn't pick the song, but I like it. I throw the sheets back in the hotel and flip off the air conditioner. I try to poop. No go. Uh oh. Pooping is the most important thing you can do before a race. Besides dressing.
5:15 a.m. - Time to caravan the cars. This course ends 20 minutes from the start at the Denver Zoo. I'm tired. I've had a busy few weeks and they are catching up to me. But I crank Metallica's latest, and I feel the first jolt of excitement about the race halfway through "That Was Just Your Life." I was beginning to wonder. I wish I had more control over how I felt before a race, but a little person inside me determines that.
6:35 a.m. - The race is close to starting, and we walk up to the starting line. I'm relieved to see a generous helping of port-a-potties. I do the deed. Thank God.
6:59 a.m. - Nerves blast through my body as the Star Spangled Banner rings out. I'm getting into the mindset you need to have to ignore pain, exhaustion and discomfort for as long as I can. The music helps.
7:01 a.m. - Stratrovarious speeds through my ears. And we're off.
7:03 a.m. - Dammit. I can already tell this race may not be my best. My body feels tight. I run into a 7:45 pace, which is what I'm hoping for, but it feels like I'm dragging my body with it, rather than floating along. Not a good sign.
Mile 3 - This is a pretty race. Lots of parks. I try to notice. I'm maintaining a good pace, around 7:40 or so, but my body still feels like it's made of iron, not paper mache.
Mile 3.2 - Hills. Shit.
Mile 4 - Oh man. This hill's a killer. The whole mile is uphill, and I've got a cramp in my side. I try to ignore it, and surprisingly, I do a pretty good job. My attitude remains good, but not even speed metal can drive it away. I'm maintaining a pretty good pace up the hills, but I've just got to get over the top. Ouch. The cramp really hurts.
Mile 4.3 - I consider walking it off, but I'll lose a lot of time. I'll run through this, but if it gets any worse, I'll have to walk.
Mile 5.5 - Whew. OK. I'm starting to feel better. I dig through a pocket in my shorts and find some Sport Beans. I try to eat a couple. I stick them in my cheek, and they sit there, like a patch of tobacco. Eating something is tough when you're breathing hard, and I don't really need it, but if I start to feel tired, it's too late and I've blown my race.
Mile 6 - So far, so good, still on pace, I just ran a sub-48-minute 10K. Or close to it.
Mile 7 - Ugh. The troll is starting to creep in my head. I've done a good job of keeping him out, but I can only block my thoughts for so long. This is something I'll have to work on this fall during my half marathons. The troll doesn't tell me to walk, but it does whisper in my ear that it sure would be nice to stop.
Mile 8 - I'm tired, and these constant rolling hills aren't helping. It seems like as soon as I finish one I've got another to tackle. The hills aren't steep but they are consistent, and that's almost worse. I can't really find a groove. I start to fall off pace. What's worse is I stop caring.
Mile 8.5 - Well, my plan to finish strong is gone. I'm really tired, my body's tired and my legs are heavy. I'm really looking forward to the finish. I try to find a pace and stick with it, and I fear that that pace is 8:45. Sigh. I don't have it anymore today.
Mile 9.5 - I'm dying here. I feel like I've got a sack of sand tied to my ass. What a disappointment. It's small consolation that I am able to run hard at the end.
Mile 10 - I'm done. 1:20:22. 8:01 pace. Still good, but disappointing given my good start.
Walking to a blueberry muffin is difficult. I've got to get something in my body.
Why did I finish so poorly? I ponder this as I wait for my friends to finish. I have three thoughts. One is I'm tired. Those peaks were difficult, and we ran the mile Wednesday (6:05 was my time), and your body can break down occasionally. I didn't give myself a chance to peak.
Second is I wonder if I have the mental strength for something like this. I should have just stuck with it, even if I was feeling bad. Sometimes I don't suck it up enough.
Third is I didn't eat enough and it caught up to me, and not only that, but all the hills caught up to me. This course was harder than I thought it would be.
The rest of the day I walked around the zoo with the kids, and now I'm on the couch. I'm really exhausted. I should feel better about the day than I do. That, too, is part of getting better.


Memphis MOJO said...

I'm getting into the mindset you need to have to ignore pain, exhaustion and discomfort

I don't know how you do it. Even though you sounded disappointed, good job.

The Wife said...

I'm with Memphis . . . that pace is inhuman to to the majority of us . . . you're still a demi-god. And a cute one at that.

Think of what a great example you're setting for your little ones.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Finishing with an 8 min mile pace is def solid. I'm actually thinking about doing a 10 miler myself in October to kinda gauge how I'm doing in prepping for the half. I'm starting to run a little... I prob won't go into full fledge running but I'll def incorporate more running into my workouts (eg - Sunday, I did a brick workout - biked 26 miles then ran 6 miles (transition time of approx 8 minutes - had to lock up my bike, change shoes, etc)).

As for your race, do you think you started off a bit too fast? 7:40 pace is pretty fast and I wonder if that hurts you even more... of coruse, you ended with a 8 min pace so it's not like you can start off much slower but I'm just curious as to whether that made you hit the wall sooner.

Also start carbo loading 3 days in advance please... of course, you would know this though...

pokerpeaker said...

Memphis, and Wife, thanks (very sweet, Wife, as usual, made me feel better).

Alan, you definitely bring up a good point, though I still think I'm capable of 7:40, so I decided to go for it, knowing that I could/would finish if I did indeed crap out a bit. That day was probably not the day for that pace, though, but I'll keep trying.

kurokitty said...

I think your pre-race taper had something to do with it (as you have mentioned).

Fourth reason is that we're both getting older and you can't expect to always perform at your best. I ran the 10-mile Medford, Ore. Pear Blossom Run in 1:22 and change -- when I was 27 and don't really care if I run it in that time again.

You'll have good days and bad days performance-wise but you'll usually have just good days if you don't worry so much about time in the days ahead. Your goal should always be to finish strong -- and not worry too much about it when it's not in the cards. First and foremost, running should be fun. Even races.