Saturday, October 11, 2008

Harvest Moon 10k

Wow, my first race in almost two years and first race as a Tennessee resident. I was browsing the internet and saw information about this race a little over a week before it was to take place. It was in White House, TN, which is the town I work in and it went down their greenway. I saw the men's and women's winner won $100 and usually the male winner would run around 39-40:00, so I thought I could have a decent shot at winning.

At this point, I've only been running a few times a month, which consisted of a 2.3 mile route from my apartment that I use to help exercise Roxy. I became so slow and out-of-shape, I even dubbed the main hill on my route "fat man's hill" because to anyone besides a fat man, it would not be a hill.

I still wasn't fully on board, so I started running nearly every day and within a few days, worked myself up to an easy six miles. I knew I couldn't really make any lasting physiological changes in my body in such a short period of time but I could get in better shape neuromuscularly and make my body a little more efficient at the running motion.

My big make it or break it test was a few days before the race. I decided that if I could run two miles on the treadmill at 6:00 pace, I would be fit enough to run sub 40 for 10k. It wasn't too hard for the first mile, despite the slip and near treadmill death when I was admiring my biceps and shoulders in the mirror from all the weight work I was doing. After 12 minutes it was over, I survived and my fate was sealed.

On race day, my plan was to hang with the male leader (he won the past few years, so I thought no one else would come) and try to leave him the last couple of miles. I even wore my Kenyan National Team warm-up to help give myself the eye of the tiger.

When the gun went off, I got out a little too quick and hit the first mile a little over 5:40. There was a girl from South Africa who was somewhat legit and at this point in my life, I haven't been beaten by a girl since the Snowman Run 8k in 1995, so I didn't want the streak to end.

We ran down the White House Greenway and made some small talk for the first few miles. We were under 18:00 at the three mile marker and I was feeling pretty good. The 2nd place male was a good bit behind, so I thought I had the victory sealed. However, fatigue quickly started to rear its ugly head, I tried to play off the "tough guy" routine and told the girl that I was going to hang back a bit and she could go on without me.

Each mile got progressively worse and on the way back, I passed a sign that said "Challenging Incline Ahead." That sign did not lie and I absolutely died on that hill. I had several dry heaves running up it and decided to name this hill "Puke Hill" for all of eternity. I was dying really quickly, so I backed off somewhat in case I needed another gear for later on.

Luckily, I crossed the line as the first male in 39:27 (the girl smoked me by 2:13 the last 3.5 miles) and was over 30 seconds ahead of the guy behind me.

The next day, my legs were TRASHED. I tried to use it as motivation to start running again and tried running the next day but failed miserably. I decided to take a week off and give it another go but it felt like my calves were severely strained, so that killed all of my motivation for quite a while.

Most importantly, the thing I learned about this race is that I may have decent talent but that talent is worthless without the training. Too often people will shrug off potential running goals or landmarks and say they aren't talented enough without even taking a stab at it. Instead of hitting the roads as many days a week as they can and making big sacrifices, they curse their genetics without realizing how much they could accomplish if they made themselves have the will. I've been fortunate enough to have some success in my prior running life and my talent surely made it possible but the real secret really isn't a secret at all. It was year after year of weekly 18-20 mile long runs combined with many 100 mile weeks.

"And too there were the questions: What did he eat? Did he believe in isometrics? Isotonics? Ice and heat? How about aerobics, est, ESP, STP? What did he have to say about yoga, yogurt, Yogi Berra? What was his pulse rate, his blood pressure, his time for the 100-yard dash? What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials. How could they be expected to understand that?"- Once a Runner