I ran The Man Up 10K race this weekend and I was really disappointed in the whole experience. Sadly, the run was so bad I am having trouble finding motivation to run today for fear that I will feel awful out there again.
Let me tell you the story. The middle school Cross Country team that I coach competed on Wednesday. The kids did well. The Boys team came in 2nd place and the girl’s team got disqualified because one of our girls dropped out midway through the race. However, one of our 7th grade girls won the whole girls side. I left feeling good about the entire team. Thursday was a rest day for the kids and I was comparing their times to the previous weeks. I noticed they had all run strong but some of my weakest runners set Personal Best times and some of my strongest runners finished slower than they are capable of. I felt like I had failed those kids. Maybe I didn’t train them right. Maybe I didn’t motivate them. What ever it was I knew a change was needed. Friday is usually our long run day but I needed to mix it up so we did speed work instead. I tried to do speed work as races so it was fun but still a challenge. I noticed a lot of the strong kids still were not pushing hard. We had plenty of time left so we did an Indian run. Indian runs are always a killer. The pace was too slow for me and I knew it was going to make me sore.
Saturday morning came and as I awoke I was psyched it was race day for me! I hopped out of bed and I was so sore. That slow pace had caught up to me. I tried to stretch and jog out the soreness but it just wasn’t working I was tense and tight and to make matters worse I could feel my Crohn’s disease starting to niggle itself awake. That familiar uneasiness in my gut…I was a bit concerned as I ate my pre race banana. I didn’t want a bathroom emergency along the route. The start of the race was unorganized and that frustrated me. I am pretty laid back but for some events I need discipline and order. I also hate tardiness and it appeared this race was going to start late by a minute or two. You would think a minute or two is no big deal but it is hot in Florida (even in the morning).
The horn sounded and the race began. I started my GPS timer and my watch timer and began what I thought would be an incredible easy (although boring) 10K. As I approached the first mile marker I knew something was wrong. I was really stiff and jogging slow. And according to the marker I just passed I had covered 1 mile already. I thought to myself this couldn’t be right. The course was crowded with 5k runners and 10k runners. At the one mile mark there was a water station but no bathroom. I wondered if that was a bad sign but I kept on going. I could see the 5K turn around point. There was a truck there playing loud music and an aid station. The 5k leaders were just making the turn and I thought to myself “hmm, I may just be running faster than I thought if I am up with the 5k leaders.” I also thought to myself it would be great if the organizers had arranged for entertainment along the route for the 10k runners. Anyway, let me get back to my race report. As we passed the 5k turn around point the course got quiet and the herd had thinned out considerably. I was no longer weaving in and out of running traffic and all I could hear were my footsteps and my breathing. My breathing was easy and my pace was beginning to increase as I saw a runner ahead of me and I decided to pick him off. He was an easy target and I wondered how he got ahead of me either way he was behind me now and I saw my next victim. She was a bit harder to catch but I just maintained my pace and reeled her in. We chatted for a bit and she told me how she is inspired by people with chronic diseases that run and so she decided that she would start running. I wasn’t going to tell her I had Crohn’s but she asked me if I knew any athletes with a chronic disease. So I told her a little bit of my story. Her watched beeped and she said she had to walk wished me good luck and I was on my way never to see her again. I approached the two-mile mark and barely noticed it because I was focused on my next victim. Or should I say victims? I saw 3 runners ahead of me. One single woman and a couple (man and a woman) running side by side wearing headphones. I was still stiff but I could feel the stiffness going away. I knew I was going to have to work to catch these three ahead of me but I was confident I would. I zeroed in on the couple. I blew by them in a breeze. They didn’t even look at me, or each other. They were just trying to get through this race and deal with the heat. I don’t think they realized I was racing them (heck, I don’t think many people realize I am racing them…but I am). As I was approaching the lone woman she veered of course and I heard her ask a guy if she could use his bathroom. Oh, that brought me back to reality fast. It reminded me of my uneasiness that I felt earlier this morning. I was almost 3 miles out and not port a potty in sight. I could see the aide station and the three-mile marker ahead. Two girls dressed like the Mario brothers were ahead of me. I thought, “Are you freaking kidding me? No way can you let these two beat you.” I grabbed a cup of water took a sip and dumped the rest down my neck and back to try and cool down (it didn’t work it just made my shirt wet). I passed “Mario and Luigi” one girl tried to keep up with me but all of a sudden I felt loose and strong. I extended my stride and I extended my lead on her.
I knew there would be no crowd support on this race and it often makes me think that not many people know the loneliness of the long distance runner. I know the 10K isn’t a very long distance but to me it is where distance running begins. It prepares you for the solitude and the challenge against yourself. I always learn something about myself on long runs. Sometimes I have an amazing revelation and other times I am just impressed with my ability to not quit. Maybe that is why a 10 mile bike ride never seems good enough. It has to be at least 25 miles before I begin to say it was a good ride. It’s the same thing with running. I used to have a time when I said I ran 1 mile! Now I say I only ran 6. I love Man vs. Himself challenges. It is easy to go against another but to go out against yourself is hard. Challenging myself to greater mental and physical acts is fantastic.
I got off track there. Let’s get back to the run. I saw 2 men ahead of me they weren’t that far ahead of me but they were running just as fast as me. I had to pick up the pace if I wanted to catch them. I did just that. I ran a bit faster so I could tell I was gaining I started concentrating more on my breathing. I wanted to ensure I used my oxygen wisely. I took deep breaths in through my nose and forced my air out through my mouth. I thought your body is the machine. Make it do what it is capable of. I did just that. I ran passed the first man. He was on the left. The man on the right realized we were racing and so did the guy I just passed. They both picked up their pace. The man I had just passed followed behind me as we passed the second man. My inner voice yelled “What? Are you pacing of me dude? Do not guide this guy all the way in only to let him pass you at the finish.” I picked it up and he fell off I knew he couldn’t keep up I heard him breathing too hard. I saw I had three more victims in front of me. We had just passed mile four and I knew what I had to do. The next girl was easy. I knew she would be. I saw her ahead of me and I remembered her from earlier. When I saw her I thought she went out to fast and was now run/walking. I took her with ease. Heck, I even said hello as I passed her. Ahhh, some times it’s to easy. There she was ahead of me. A strong runner, she was standing tall and taking long even strides. Her form looked strong which made me realize mine probably looked like crap and to get back to work. I chased her down and passed her about 100 meters before five-mile marker. We passed each other back and forth battling for the next mile all the while reeling in our last victim together. We didn’t speak a word but I knew she was struggling to keep up. She fell behind and I was disappointed I was going to have to get this guy on my own. I had no one to help push me to victory. We passed the six-mile marker the last man in front of me was not slowing down. He had better prepared himself for this event. I saw his bright orange shirt make the last turn I still tried to catch him but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I had made my initial move to late. I chased him down the final stretch and I saw him cross the finish line. I forgot about him and enjoyed the moment. I listened to the crowd encouraging me to finish. I smiled at a few friends and I saw my Father, girlfriend and daughter all waiting for me and smiling at me.
I finished the run in officially 55:45 (although I disagree with the official time) and I came in fourth in my age group (I disagree with that as well I think I should have placed third). My split times all got faster at every mile marker and I ran the pace I wanted to for my upcoming half marathon. So, All in all while I didn’t love the race I think it was a success. Oh yeah, and most importantly My Crohn’s decided to leave me alone for that 55 minutes and I didn’t have to bang on some strangers door and ask a stranger if I could use the bathroom.