Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 413:

Oh Blogland! I'm BACK. I finally feel BACK. After hitting up CrossFit last week, I was blessed with some multi-day stiff/sore/muscle fatigue, which served as a real re-motivator. I forgot how good it felt to really get down to business. I've been getting in my scheduled runs, following the plan, eating pretty well and am gearing up for my big races of the year.

Speaking of races, this weekend I did something I would've never thought of a year ago. I popped out of bed early on a Saturday morning - voluntarily - to go out and run a local 5K race. Just for fun. No stress. I mean, really, it was called the Flying Pig 5K (in honor of a local bank mascot)... how could you be stressed about that? But the funny thing was, a 5K race has become such a non-issue. I don't prep special for them (5K is a short run for me these days), I'm not stressed that morning, and I have a really good idea what to expect from my body during them. What a complete 180 degree turn around from when I ran my first 5K just about a year ago.

The morning was sunny, I had some of my favorite race buddies warming up with me and toeing the starting line, and the course promised to be flat and fast. I was hoping that this would be the time that I hit my sub 30 minute 5K race time. I was slightly concerned about how my still-healing ankle would react to the all-road race, but I'm feeling good, running regularly and was here to throw it all out there. I mean, really, what else would I be doing on a Saturday morning? SLEEPING?! Sorry people, I had a finish line to chase.

It was really interesting, this was the first road race that I'd actually had time to have an adequate warm-up for. We had time to run a mile and get our legs going, do some stretching, and feel good when the starting mark went off. If ever I was going to run a great race, this had to be it. I was a little disappointed when I realized that this was not a chip-timed race. You see, a gun timed race means everyone gets the same starting time.... whether you start in the front of the pack and actually cross the starting line at that time, or if you're in the back of the pack starting 30 seconds later. I won't lie, I was running this one for time, so I muscled my way up toward the front.... right behind the boys high school cross country team. I may be running for time, but I knew I wouldn't be running the single digit mile times that those young 'uns would be hitting (... not THIS year, anyway... ;-) ).

The race began and I felt strong as our starting stretch lead us up the only real hill of the whole course. I powered up this with Spartan legs, at a regular rhythm, passing a lot of people. Never underestimate the power of practicing hills. Interestingly, I ran along sign my doctor (?!) for a few minutes... Who happens to be 60+ and does Triathlons with her husband. She was geared out in Gaspari Nutrition Spandex, looking really professional.... and then proceeded to steadily pass the masses on that hill. I HOPE I am that awesome at that point in my life. Talk about Chicking!

After that hill, my race buddies and I had drifted to our natural paces to run our own race. If you only ever learn one thing from my ramblings, BlogLand, it is to run your own race. You have to run to your plan, capabilities and capacity - not to try and keep up with the horde, or that damn blond girl slightly in front of you that you just can't seem to pass....

I was trucking along at a good pace, keeping (faster!) April in my eye sight. I was using her as a visual gauge of my speed, as I know she would finish in 29 minutes or so... therefore, all I needed to do was not lose her, come in slightly slower and I'd be right on target. About a third of the way through the race, we turned to the mental challenge of this tiny race: The out and back. A vast majority of this race was this out and back stretch on a road, in the full sun, at about 1130am.

I hate, hate, hate the heat BlogLand. I wanted to walk. Sweat was pouring off of me, my muscles were feeling "tired". I say "tired", because I know that they're not tired 1.5 miles in... they're just wanting me to think they are, so we could stop running in the heat. I ran on. I won't lie, as much as I was running my own race and taking my own advice, there was a lady in a flying pig hat just in front of me that I was determined not to let beat me. Thank god for her, as I'm pretty sure that competitive motivation was all that kept me moving through that sunny stretch of death.

I admit, here, BlogLand... I know where I made a mistake. As I hit the water station, just before the last mile, I dropped out of my run to grab a water, sip it and throw it on myself. While I kept walking at a good clip, this effects your time and was, in reality, unnecessary for a 5K. Nonetheless, it was how I was going to keep my sanity.

I reminded myself that I was almost at the end, rallied my thoughts toward my single-focus of a time goal and tried to get my feet turning over faster. Rounding the last stretch, I saw the crowd of people eagerly awaiting "their" runner, clapping and yelling general  encouragement in the meantime, and I put on the best effort I could for them. This resulted in a neck and neck finish line Chicking, where I busted past this guy at the last minute.... eliciting a sarcastic chuckle and mumble from the dude I passed. He was apparently not impressed. However, WTF? We're running for time, and neither one of us was in contention for top three placing... soo...? What's the big deal. Geesh.

Hitting the finish line, running for all my over heated body was worth, my eyes reflexively darted for the clock... 31 and change. DAMN. My goal had been clear. I wanted to do a 30 minute, or just under, 5K.... today was not the day.

As I came out of the shoot and cracked my water bottle, I let myself have that moment of disappointment. I didn't hit my goal. I came SO CLOSE. I let myself have that moment of replaying the things I could've done better, where I might improve, and what I was going to do next time.

And then, with a conscious effort, I closed that door. Why? Because, BlogLand, there is no reason to let that negativity stay. Yes, I was unhappy with not meeting my goal - that's what keeps driving me to the next one and to be better for the next finish line - but it's not the be all and end all.

The thought I decided to latch on to was that almost one year earlier, I had set my baseline for 5K races at a time of just barely under 35 minutes, after running only a short 100 days in my whole life. Today, I had cruised through a 5K race, a fun, non-stressful Saturday morning activity for me now, on a still-healing ankle, in a time close to 4 minutes faster...... and could've kept running a much longer distance!

uhm. WIN.


THAT is the thought process I intend to let seep into my brain. The one that reminds me that I'm not there YET, but I'm a hell of a lot farther than I was, and every day I get a little bit closer. There are an infinite number of finish lines I will still cross, and PR's to set and beat, but I am proud of myself for having the courage to get up and get to the start line.

After this little weekend mental victory, I did my training runs this week - managed a solid 4.5 mile run without any pain in the ankle. This is a great sign, because this weekend is a monster...

Tomorrow, right after work, I leave for NJ to tackle the Spartan Tri-State Super.... coming in at right around 10 miles of hilly terrain, rumored to include a 25 foot cliff jump, obstacles we've never seen before and a whole lot of mud.

There will be many of my favorite Spartans out on the course with me on Saturday, which I'm really excited about (find me! Pictures!). I'm a little nervous, as this is looking like this is going to be one grueling course.... but I'm not afraid. I'm pretty prepared physically (there's always room for improvement...), I've got a great hydration/fuel plan, intending to KT Tape my ankle just for safety, and what else is there? I'll have an awesome buddy running right by my side (Hey Stace!) and between the two of us, this course doesn't stand a chance.

Bring on the cliff!!!!

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