Sunday, April 26, 2009

Running Out of Gas

It has been an odd day, as seen from the 14th floor. Woke up this morning and looked out the window. It was cloudy and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds. The reflection on the water looked a bit like the moon's reflection on a clear night. The sun has come and gone and it has rained a couple of times during the day. Currently the sun is once again trying to peek out from behind the clouds and is creating that moonlit night effect in its reflections on the water. When I came back from the grocery store, it was 57 degrees at the Mini.

Yesterday morning was the Lakefront 10, a 10 mile race along the, you guessed it, lakefront in Chicago. I signed up for the race and I actually appeared to run it, but sadly I did not have what it took for that one yesterday. I have been obsessing about this ever since. My training has suffered a bit lately. I was sick for a while. I still have a cold and some congestion in my chest. I had spring break a couple of weeks back and took a trip to Miami. Needless to say, I was not regular about running during vacation. My weight is up from what it needs to be, to be running successful 10 mile races. All of these things, and a breakdown in mental focus, may have contributed to my running out of gas before I finished the race yesterday and my packing it in early.

At any rate I was on pace for 4 miles and about then I realized that my legs were not going to keep that pace up for another 6 miles. During that 4 miles, I ran strong, but I began to obsess about my ability to finish and about my huffing and puffing. I had to stop and blow copious amounts of mucous out of my nose 3 or 4 times along the way, so that I could breathe halfway normally. At the mile 4 clock, I got so disgusted that I stopped, pulled my race number off, and began walking back to turn in my timing chip.

While I was walking back to the start/finish point of the race, I ran into 2 or 3 friends who had been behind me, and they stopped and acted very concerned. "Are you alright?" I had to admit that I was actually alright. I just was not going to finish the race in anywhere near the time that I normally do. I suppose I could have finished the race, but it would not have been pretty. After explaining that to my friends, they went off to finish the race, shaking their heads and trying to shout some encouraging words to me. I walked on, and tried to cope with the fact that I had dropped out of a race for the first time in my life. Did I defeat myself mentally? Should I have toughed it out despite my flagging energy and taken the attitude, "Well at least I finished the race."?

All of these things and more went through my head while I was walking my way back to the finish and watched the sea of people passing me, continuing the race. This sea of people was a sea of people who run at a slower pace than I. Many of them run a great deal slower than I, yet they continued on. One particular woman stopped and asked me, "Do we have to run back to the start?" I could see the realization dawning on her that not only did she have to run 5 miles out, but she then had to run 5 miles back. I expained to her, "The race course goes down as far as Fullerton Ave. and then it loops around and comes back. The mile 4 marker is just up there a little way." She looked ready to pack it in, but she drew on some inner reserve and took off running again.

It occurred to me that I probably would have finished ahead of a great many of them, even if I did not finish in the time I wanted to or in a time a bit slower than I am accustomed to. It occurred to me that I may have wussed out and should be ashamed of myself. It occurred to me that kicking everyone's ass in a 10 mile race might not be what it is all about in light of the sea of really slow people just pushing onward and being proud of the fact that they finished a 10 mile race. I began to feel a bit ashamed of myself for stopping at mile 4. I took my number and threw it in the trash. I gave my race shirt to someone else, because I had not earned it.

Then I got to the finish line just as the 2nd place finisher overall was crossing the finish line in 54 minutes. Had I continued on, I would have been somewhere around mile 6 at that point and he was the 2nd place guy. The 1st place guy had already finished a minute or two before. To these guys, I, even on my good days when I finish strong, I am one of those really slow people who plod along by their standards. Six years ago I finished the Lake Front 10 in 1 hour and 25 minutes, almost twice as long as it took those two fast guys to finish this race. That, to me, was an incredible accomplishment. I averaged 8:30 per mile that day. These guys were running 5 minute miles for the entire 10 miles.

Yesterday, I didn't even have it in me to run 9 minute miles for 10 miles and it disgusted me. I think it's time to rethink the whole motivation thing. I think it's time to get back on the horse and renew my running program. I'm not exactly proud of yesterday, but I think I learned something. Hey, fat old guys can run too. They just need to recognize that sometimes you might not have a good day and you're going to run out of gas. They need to recognize that sometimes, just finishing is good enough. Sometimes, that in itself is a victory, even if it doesn't win one a medal.

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