The cackling and giggling coming from my cube was both unintentional and deserved. Out of curiosity, I found the race photo from the 10K on Saturday on the internet. I've been needing a new profile picture and was kind of hoping this one would do the trick.
The near hysterical laughter was an indciator of... you guessed it... no!
Being a good boy, all things considered, I've been getting a decent amount of rest, and the semi taper leading up to the 10K helped. As a matter of fact, I felt good enough to wait for Dee Dee to come home from work Friday night before hitting the bed. I probably would've tossed and turned waiting for her anyways. By the time she got home, ate, and got ready for bed, it was past midnight. I'm used to getting very little sleep the night before a race and have learned not to worry about it. No worries!!
The alarm clock went off at 5 AM, and I allowed myself 15 minutes of slothfulness. After a few near misses dozing off, I jumped out of bed and got myself dressed. Prepping for a road race is so much easier than a triathlon. I wore my singlet from the Disney World Marathon, my black Mizuno shorts, Umbro socks, and my Mizuno Wave Inspire 4s. Downstairs, the coffee was already made. I let the dogs out while I ate my breakfast. The plan was to arrive at the race site at 6 AM for a 7 AM start. I left the house while it was still dark, only to turn around because I had forgotten the check book. I had been getting these emails all week about how my registration was still pending, due to debit card issues, and I was unsure if I would have to write them a check or not.
I drove to the general vicinity of the race site, only to realize that I had forgotten specifically where it was at. It was only about 30 minutes from my house, and I knew the area rather well. I figured, even if it took me 15 to 20 minutes to find it, I would be fine. I saw a road with a familiar name and turned on to it. It took me directly to the race start. Bulls eye!
There was plenty of parking at the various office buildings around the race site. I just picked one, not knowing if any particular place was the right place to be. I made my way down to the registration table. Sure enough. They had not processed my registration. I had to fill out the form to get a race number, even though they did not make me pay again. We agreed to resolve the payment issue after the race.
As the sky lightened, more and more runners arrived at the race. I got in and out of the port-a-potty line early. Like a lot of people, I have GI issues when I run. I have taken special pains to ensure that I do not have problems during the race, and today turned out to be a good day as well. By the time I got back from my twenty minute warm up, the line was long. Not wanting to sit still, I walked around for the final ten minutes before the race started. With minutes to go, I made my way to the front of the line and to the left. This wasn't a big race. Being in the front of the line was not a problem for me. There was plenty of room on the three lane road for faster runners. With almost no warning, the pistol fired and the race got underway.
My body felt good and strong as I started out on the slight downhill. I didn't know much about this course, but I figured it would be fairly flat. I kept checking my Garmin to make sure I was not blowing myself out in the first couple of miles. Coach's words kept reverbrating in my head... HOLD BACK HOLD BACK HOLD BACK. I winced visibly when I saw an average pace of 8:15 at the half mile mark. TOO FAST TOO FAST TOO FAST. I reigned myself in. I was almost gleeful when Garmin reported my pace at 8:45 for the second half of the first mile, which I crossed at 8:30 according to my watch. About fifteen seconds later, I crossed the official line.
It was here, at the start of the second mile that we encountered our only real "hill" of the day. It was about 70 feet of elevation change over three quarters of a mile. It took a lot more out of me than I care to admit. My focus was on good form and keeping my pace in the 8:30 to 8:45 range. I identified a couple of "bunnies" that I could chase here and did my best to keep up with them. The downhill for mile three was nice, and I just let my legs run free. I knew I needed to take advantage of this downhill slide if I was going to achieve the time I wanted. Besides, mile 3 was just ahead, and I needed to get ready to CHARGE! LOL...
After passing the third mile marker, I told myself to CHARGE! but my body would not respond. The little up hill section had my entire focus, and I was struggling to maintain my nine minute per mile pace. When I reached the flat section before mile 4, I was able to relax a bit, but in my mind, I knew that the hill was looming again. I struggled to catch my breath and keep up with my bunnies.
The second time up the hill was even worse than the first. I looked at my Garmin and my HR was climbing into the low 170s. My pace was at a nine minute mile, still. This was very discouraging for me. I cursed under my breath and kept running. At the top of the hill, I celebrated and vowed to pick up the pace and recover while running. Unfortunately for me, I just could not seem to get my pace below 9 minutes. This was disappointing for me and a far cry from the PR pace I had planned. As my average pace crept closer and closer to a nine minute mile, my heart sank.
I made the turn around before the six mile marker and glanced down one more time at my Garmin. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, I thought my 10K PR was 54 minutes. When I saw the Garmin already had a 54 on it, I decided that I wasn't going to bust my ass anymore. That lasted for a couple of hundred meters before I changed my mind. It sounded too much like quitting, and I am not a quitter. I dug deep and picked up the pace. I made the left hand turn back onto Vaughn, anticipating the finish line.
Pick your head up. Smile. The race photographer is just ahead...
A car parked on the side of the road played this through a loud speaker over and over again. I looked up. I tried to smile. The result was laughable. I'm not going to share that picture here. If you want to see it, go find it yourself.
The final right hand turn was into the parking lot and under the finish line banner. I crossed the line in 56:45, and boy was I sweaty and tired. I made my way over to the table to get some water before walking back to the main registration area. I picked up my "goody bag" (LOL) , race shirt, a banana, and some water and walked back to the car. In a moment of brilliance, I swapped my sweaty singlet out for the race shirt, thus avoiding stinking up the upholstery in my car.
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I smiled. That was fun, I thought. I am ready to do it again.
When I got home, I uploaded the Garmin data to the laptop, and I was a bit pissed to see the mileage come across as 6.35 on both the 205 and the 50. To verify, I ran the race route through g-maps and it came out to 6.5. WTH?!? This just made me furious.
I guess this was kind of the kicker to the swirl of emotions that flooded in after the race. I was a little disappointed that I didn't PR, a little afraid that I had disappointed my coach. Angry that my progress in this sport just seems to have slowed down so much.
Over a couple of beers, I made peace with my race effort. I HAD done my best. I had fun. It was my best effort on this day, and I am not at all ashamed of that.
At this point in my life, my body is as fit, if not fitter than it was at the peak of my Ironman training, yet the improvements are just not coming. My conversation with Liz about this, and it has not been the first, went well. We both want the same thing. I want to be the best athlete that I can be. We (everybody) share a passion for the sport we love. It might take years to see the improvement that I want to see.
As of right now, what I know, fer shoor, is that I am going to accomplish my goals, on my terms. Love me for who I am, or don't love me at all...