Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Coach Bubba's 20K

Race day didn't start off nicely.

I had my alarm set for 5:30 AM - give me time to get my stuff ready, eat, drink a cup of coffee and tend to anything else without rushing. Instead, I was roused by CJ's alarm clock at 7 AM. Race time is at 8:30 and it's in Durham...

So everyone has to wake with a jolt. Tim and the girls are slated to root me on and, well, _get_ me there...so they're "free" day is disrupted by my lateness. But Tim gets me there with time to spare.

I look for my buddy $Bill. He has a running plan and I want to join him for it. It took awhile, so long that I thought "maybe $Bill also slept late? but that is SO not $Bill". Soon, I see Frank, a mutual running friend of me and $Bill and I ask if he's seen my man...he says he's on the way.

We start the race together. The first part of Coach Bubba is very hilly -- up and down roads throughout an old Durham neighborhood. It's pretty challenging, but for the past several weeks, hills haven't been bothering me. I actually _like_ them, which is so 180 degrees against how I felt about hills when I first started running. Hey, they're not easy, but I am pretty confident at my ability to tackle them.

$Bill and I take this part of the course on pretty well. We're chatting and enjoying the neighborhood and not having too much trouble: despite the fact that $Bill had some sore legs and my calves were recently healed (like the day before) from my vigorous Step class this past Monday.

After we reached the 10K mark, I could see $Bill getting faster and either I'm not catching up or I'm getting slower. I make sure he knows I'm good to go without him and off he goes. I have him in my sights throughout the first length of the American Tobacco Trail (ATT). He's doing great time, and in a sense, so am I. My legs feel strong and I know that the ATT is just long and mostly flat, so I am feeling pretty darn good so far.

Soon after $Bill left me, I had started my counting phase. One, Two, Three, Four -- those were the numbers of my mantra. And they don't go to the beat of my steps...just to the beat that I repeat them in my head. At this point, when I find that counting rhythm, I don't want to be bothered. I even think that I don't want to catch up to Bill to throw me off my rhythm.

Finally, at almost the nine mile marker, there is the turn-around to go back the way I just ran on the ATT. Bill and I greet each other and again, he is off. I take an extra long walk break to the nine mile marker before I start my mantra again. That extra walk did something because after that, Bill was never in my sight and the ATT gives a significant amount of longitude to see ahead of yourself. I NEVER saw Bill. I was quite happy about that because I know he had a plan and I wanted him to make his plan.

So as I run towards the 10th and 11th mile marker, I am still feeling pretty strong. I look at my time and think, you know, I _could_ make close to the time I did last year.

Last year, my goal was to hit under two hours. I did it in 1:59:30. This year, my goal was to train conservatively and finish without an aggressive goal. For me, this was around 2:10 or less.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the time I was doing and considered trying to come in at two hours. I felt a little bit adrenalized and decided I would strive for it.

But once I past mile 11, my legs were just tired. My thighs were telling me they didn't want to go any further. My head was telling me to endure. In my training these past few weeks, the most miles I had run in a long run was 9.3 -- because 0.7 was just too much to do to get to 10. So I was elated that I had my longest run in awhile at this race. I decided, then, to treat this as my long run "in training", as $Bill described it earlier in the race.

During this time of concentrated effort, however, I had to deal with "paul" and his girlfriend or wife.

When I am struggling to keep it all together in the race, I don't like to be distracted. That means, if heavy breathers come around me, they piss me off. If clogging horses come around -- you know, those people who just let their feet fall to the ground with disregard -- they piss me off. People who stop to walk distract me, etc. etc. Pretty much anyone, at the point that I am concentrating to finish, will piss me off because they are interfering with my concentration.

So Paul and his female friend were pissing me off. This was the back and forth effect: I pass them because they are walking and then they pass me running; I pass them, they pass me; repeat. ARRGH! Pick a pace and go -- I'm sick of seeing you two!

But after mile eleven, Paul and mate were struggling with the last few miles too. At one point, Paul's mate was just a few steps ahead of him. Paul was walking. The mate turns around and says "Are you okay?" Paul says nothing. She repeats "Are you okay?" He still says nothing. I'm thinking - leave the poor guy alone. He's struggling here and you're not helping.

She continues and yells "Paul!!! Answer me!!!!!!!" That's how I know his name is Paul.

He finally mumbles, surprisingly without any irritation in his tone, that he is fine.

Anyway, they go through this throughout mile 11 and I am just sick of them. He walks, she walks, they run. It's not their fault, they're struggling like me, but god damn it was annoying.

There were a few other runners around me that did the same thing. But honestly, what inspired me were the people who were coming towards me -- those slower than me -- who were still moving on with their race. These are not the fittest of the bunch and yet, here they were, running 12.4 miles and doing it the way they want to. I knew I would finish but it was pretty enlightening to see other people -- not typical athletes -- continue with their own goals in mind.

My thighs were done. There would be no sprint for me to the finish, although I did pick up the pace towards my family. I asked Mi-Mi to join me in running to the finish, which she was happy to do. I needed that -- it made me appreciate the finish even more.

So I ended with a 2:08:25 finish, within my 2:10 maximum goal. And surprisingly, I felt really great about my race. I didn't hurt too bad -- sure my legs got tired, but I still endured and finished in a fairly decent time (for me). The best part of the race was the beginning and i got to enjoy that with $Bill and then the next part on the ATT seemed to go by fairly quickly. I mean, the mile markers came quicker to me than I felt I was running. Probably doesn't make sense to anyone out there, but it was a fairly do-able feat without any agony on my end.

$Bill made it about five minutes before I did. I thought he rocked. He's probably in the best shape he's been in, in years, so he deserved to make a great time.

Next is Run for the Oaks. I think $Bill is shooting for a very competitive PR time. Me, I made my PR at that race last year. I believe it's that race report that started my blogging... This year, while I don't plan to make it a PR, I do plan to be more aggressive with my goal.

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