It was bright and sunny. The temperature was 20 degrees. The wind was gusting to 40 MPH out of the North. Lake Hefner was nothing but whitecaps.
This, my friends, was a gauntlet being thrown down by the running Gods.
I had every excuse in the book to just run this race easy. The oathe I took and published to the world for one. The weather was not what you would call PR weather since the course was an out-and-back with most of it heading North directly into the wind.
But as I pulled up to the park and got ready to run that little voice in my head was telling me this was a challenge. This weather was nothing more than the Running Gods taunting me. They were telling me that I shouldn't back down from this. Don't let them win, don't do the smart thing, live fearlessly and tempt fate. Be ALIVE.
I really did start out supressing that voice and resisting the urge to run hard. From the very beginning I knew this race was going to be more about strategy than shear guts and brute force. The first 4 miles were directly into the wind and it was brutal. I quickly decided that I would find a pack and stay with that pack no matter what kind of pace they were running. I was not braving this alone. Luckily I found a pack of large males (larger than me) who were running 8/min pace. I tucked up under them easily and effortlessly ran through the wind. Being a courteous runner I tried to lead for awhile so they could rest but everytime I tried to pass them, they would speed up and keep me behind. Fine! OK by me if you guys want to handle this wind for the rest of us. I tried.
Once we turned so that the wind was at our sides it became a challenge just to run over each other. We were being tossed around like ragdolls. Trying to stay in a tight pack we bumped into each other a lot and it became comical after while.
It was when we turned again and had the wind somewhat at our backs that the voices started again. The knee was fine and I was easily running sub-8 minute pace. There was a bit of a breakaway at the front of our pack and it was decision time. Of course you know what I chose. I went. With the wind at my back I was pounding out 7:30's or better. I left the pack and ran with just one other guy who also broke away and we began catching others.
It was amazing, that old feeling of actually racing again. No pain, no mental blocks, just my legs turning over as fast as I could get them going. The wind was pushing so hard and I wanted to get all I could out of it. This is the part where you use what the Gods put against you to your advantage and it's such a grand feeling.
We made it to the turn around and were hit with the wind again. It slowed my pace and I didn't have the group to block it for me now. They were far behind. I used the one other person who broke away to help me get through the wind and we shared the lead as we could. I hit a low spot in energy somewhere around mile 9 and was worried I had spent myself too early.
This is when that old Willie spirit returned and I remembered why I do this. The pain and fatigue that set in during a really good run are my penance for not being the man I know I should be. I don't have confession, I don't have any other way to get rid of my sins and failures other than this pain. It's at those times when I'm the lowest in my runs that I think about all the times I've failed myself, my family, my friends, even my dog and I have those thoughts that say this is what I deserve. I'm lower than pond-scum in my own eyes and that feeling builds daily until I'm out on mile 15 or mile 9, in this case, and I get to leave some of those feelings behind. I suffer and, for a moment, I actually feel like I'm OK. I've suffered like I should for some of the things I've done and that weight on my shoulders lightens just a little.
By mile 11 I was back up and running strong again. This is when I first thought about breaking 2 hours in this run. I intentionally didn't check my time from last year because I just wanted to run my race and see where I stood without chasing a time. I did, however, remember that I did not break 2 hours in this race last year and I now had a goal for the last 4 miles.
We turned off the dam road (still hate it BTW) and had the wind at our backs again. Time to hammer down! Time to throw caution to the wind (get the pun??) and run fearlessly. 5 miles to go is nothing! The challenge was set and I had already stepped up to the plate, now it was time to go. Be alive or accept mediocrity and stay dead. Yes, I'm very dramatic when I'm in that zone and I've got that look in my eye. Sorry, it's just who I am.
I put the hammer down and let my legs go. I looked at Paula every now and then and she said I was running 7:20 pace or better. Damn that's an awesome thing to see! I knew it was mostly the wind but it still felt good to see those kind of numbers on Paula. She has never seen them before since I've been hurt since I got her. I think I impressed her a little. She seemed to snuggle up to my wrist a little more than usual!
I came around the lake and turned toward the park and realized that the evil race course planners were going to force us to run one more stretch directly into the wind before we got to finish. I heard the Gods laughing, they thought they had me. I turned into the wind again and it hit me like a brick wall. I went from 7:20 to 9:40 pace. The guy in front of me started walking! Less than half a mile from the finish and he was walking (and I wasn't really catching him)! That's how bad it was. Put my head down and pushed forward. Continuous forward motion, continuous forward motion.
I made it through that and came up to the finish line and realized I wasn't going to break 2 hours. It was already ready 2:00:something. I was only mildly dissapointed though. I had run one hell of a race if I do say so myself and it was so freakin' fun!
I ended up 17th overall but because I'm in an amazingly fast age group, I was 5th out of 9 in that category. I was extremely happy with a top 20 finish though. I'll just have to get older if I want an age group award. Oh wait, the overall winner was 41! Damn fast old people.
I may not have beat the Gods (I never will) but I accepted their challenge and I didn't back down. I left a lot of demons out on that course today and I've got a little spring in my step to show for it. I did break my oathe. I know this. I accept this. I hope you can too.
I took some pictures of the wind washing the lake over the shore but I had to use a friend's camera. I'll post them as soon as I get them.
Thanks for listening
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Now that I’m on the backside of most of my problems I’m laying out my plan to get to a respectable time for the Memorial Marathon. I’ve got 9 weeks, including this one, to get back in marathon running form. That’s not enough. I know this. I’ll do the best I can with what I’ve got though and honestly I'll be happy if I can just run the marathon without a hint of knee pain. That's all I really want.
My first step on this journey is to get some miles under my belt. Nice, easy, slow miles just to get my body used to running for 3-4 hours again. I’ve planned a week (this one) of nothing but easy 4-5 mile runs, some on the treadmill and some on the Elliptical, just to get reacquainted with long running. (“Hello Mr. Fatigue, I’m Willie, nice to see you again, how’s the family?”) I’m also doing this to give my knee one more week of easy running just to put some icing on that whole injury recovery cake. I’ll finish off the week with a long run at the Beacon on the Bay 25K this Saturday. See below for my oath
I, insert name, Oops I mean, Willie, do hereby solemnly swear NOT to race the Beacon on the Bay. I vow to use this as a training run and not push myself risking further injury and therefore subjecting the poor readers of this blog to further wimpy whining, moaning, and crying like a little school girl. So help me running Gods
Next week I will throw in some moderate Tempo runs to gently stretch out the legs. Nothing extreme, maybe just some 1-2 mile pick-ups during one of my easy runs. I would like to get another good week of solid mileage, finishing off the week by running MOST of the 20 miler planned for the training group.
The third week of my plan and beyond, I hope to be back on my normal schedule of Tuesday Speedwork, Thursday Tempo, Friday Easy, Sunday Long run. I’ll continue this with some minor variations until my final 20 miler (which I may turn into a 26 miler) on April 5th. If you remember last year, April 5th was the last 20 miler for the training group and was also the date of the Red Bud Classic 10k which starts in the afternoon. I did both last year and it was an amazing challenge and a great way to “peak” marathon training before the taper begins. Those dates have aligned again this year so I’ll be tempted again. Damn stars! Why must they align like that?
So that’s it, that’s the extent of my ability to plan. Will it happen like this? Probably not, OK, definitely not! If I’ve learned anything about myself over the years, it’s that as soon as I plan something, I can be sure that it will NOT happen like the plan. But that’s also what makes me tick and keeps my fire burning. I know it’s important to plan but I also think it’s important not to plan yourself out of enjoying the roller coaster that life’s going to throw at you. I’m not a religious man but I believe that the creator didn’t intend for us to worry our lives away or for us to spend our lives planning every detail. I like to think God has an adventurous side and he gave us the ability to adapt and overcome because he knows how much fun it is! Otherwise why didn’t he give us a Rand McNally roadmap and a Microsoft* Project Gantt chart when we came into begin?
Here’s a question I throw out to cyberspace, If someone had the ability to tell you when all the bad things that are going to happen to you throughout the rest of your life, would you want them to tell you? What about all the good things? I don't think there is a wrong answer to this. It's your own style and your own choice.
*Yes I’m aware that Microsoft and our heavenly father are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I don't think Apple makes a project-like application so I didn't have a heavenly-approved application to reference.
Update: Here's my progress so far on this plan. I'm pretty proud of this, BTW, I'm 3 days in and I haven't deviated from it yet. Yea me!
Sunday - 4 miles on the treadmill @ 8:30 pace
Monday - 45 Minutes on the Elliptical
Tuesday - 4 miles on the streets @ 8:20 pace.
I'm trying to ice and stretch after each workout and this seems to make the following day's workout less painful. I won't say my knee isn't bothering me but it isn't hurting either. The ice really helps reduce the pain. I have noticed that downhills really aggravate it so I've avoided them at all cost. I even walked down a small incline near my house tonight. Pretty damn proud of that, thank you very much! Who says I'm stubborn? Ha! I laugh in your general direction.
Thanks for listening
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I have been fighting a head cold since I ran through the night with Reese in his Ultra. After that run I hit the van for some sleep and woke up with severe allergy problems. I thought it was just because I was drained and I was in the Texas woods. It seems I've never really gotten rid of those problems. My head was stuffed every night this week and I had trouble sleeping. Add this to a late night on Tuesday and it pushed my body over the edge into a full blown head cold. I suppose I didn't have time to have a cold Thursday so it waited until Friday to fully set in. My eyes are itchy and red and my head feels like a lead balloon.
I was able to get a run in Thursday night. 4 miles around my house ending at the gym where I took full advantage of the wonders of the hot tub. God bless hot tubs and all the joyous bubbly goodness they offer.
Friday I had way to many hours to stay at work all day so I took off after lunch and headed for the Oklahoma ocean known as Lake Hefner. I was under the influence of many different cold and allergy pills so my head felt pretty good. I decided I'd run a full lap and just spend the day on the trails. Those blessed Oklahoma wind Gods were giving us their best out of the SouthWest so it made for some difficult and slow running. But it was running none the less and I was happy to be able to do it. I got my 9 miles in with some very slow running and some even slower walking.
Once I made it home the full force of the my cold hit and I was out. I fell asleep around 5, woke up every now and then, but was basically worthless for the rest of the evening. At some point I took some Nyquil and lost consciousness in a recliner. I woke up around 1 AM and felt worse.
I was planning to run 12 miles with the training group this morning but never made it out of the chair until late morning still feeling bad. No running for Willie today. We'll see how tomorrow works out.
I hope to get back on a normal schedule very soon. I should be worried about what kind of time I'm going to run at the OKC Memorial Marathon but what I really want, what I really miss is that feeling of being able to train the way I want to. To go out and run speedwork or a tempo run and not worry about every little pain I feel. To run around a turn at full stride. To be in the middle of a run and not have to resist the urge to pick up the pace when the feeling hits. I want to chase those demons away again, outrun them and leave them behind. I want my heart back.
I'll get there. Baby steps, baby steps.
Thanks for listening
Sunday, February 15, 2009
I spent more time preparing for this run than I have spent for some marathons. I even brought some E-Gel. E-Gel for a 16 mile run! Yea I was a little excited.
I had trouble sleeping because I was excited. I was up at 4 AM so I decided to begin hydrating. I did manage to get a few minutes of sleep before I was up and out the door at 6 AM. I had planned on hitting the bathroom before the run since the run was hosted by the Bass Pro Shop and I figured they would have their doors open so we could use the facilities and stay warm before the run. Well I figured wrong. They were only planning to open the building after the run so I was a little water-logged at the beginning of the run. I knew there was a McDonald's just after mile 3 so I wasn't too worried. McDonalds only had their drive-through open. Now I could be in real trouble. Next stop would be a porta-potty that USED to be at a construction site a few miles away. Must have finished the construction. Back teeth now having boat races.
GOD BLESS 7-ELEVEN! Salvation in the Slurpee heaven.
The run was uneventful from there on until I got to mile 14. This was on the finishing road of the Memorial marathon course and it has portions that are paved with bricks. I am hoping that is what caused the pain in my knee to begin. I stopped at the water station at mile 14 and figured that was enough and didn't want to push any amount of pain. I walked across town, down through the bar district, along the river walk and came up near the ballpark which is right next to Bass Pro. I jogged the last 1/2 mile just to see if the pain returned. It didn't.
Now I'm laying in bed suffering. This is AWESOME! I haven't been sore from a 14 mile run in a long time. My thighs are sore, my calfs are sore, I have that old beat-up feeling. I love it!! This is like when you give up coffee for awhile and how that first cup gives you the high again.
Gotta go suffer some more. Love it!!!
Thanks for listening
Saturday, February 14, 2009
If you look to the right and down a bit you'll see my time from the Frigid Five last year. It was 39:01. I was coming off an injury at the time but I was still pretty happy with that and I don't think I could have done much better this year. I tell you this only because, well, you see....
The Big One ran a 38:12!!
He hasn't trained since Cross Country finished last fall and he went out and beat my time! I'm torn. On one hand I'm extremely proud and excited for him. He has a lot of natural talent and I can't wait to see what he can do once he starts training for track this Spring. I'm also excited that I have a new speedwork partner that I can use and abuse in the next few weeks.
On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm ready for my baby to be beating his old man at the one thing his old man holds near and dear. I've never been good at anything and I've always worried that he'd be embarrassed that his dad was just a average, normal, screw-up while his friends dad's were athletic and stand-outs at some sport. I take a lot of pride in my running and was hoping that would be the one thing I could keep ahead of him in and therefore keep some dignity in his eyes.
Then again, I knew this day would come. It happens to all fathers I guess. That balance between pride in your offspring and your own self esteem is just another challenge that we face while attempting to raise a kid. I guess if I had to pick one person in the world I would be OK with kicking my arse, it'd be him. He's not doing or dealing drugs, he hasn't committed mass murder, he doesn't have tattoos all over his body (yet), and he's generally a better person at heart than I am so it's the least I can do to put my own ego aside and be happy for him that he's easily out-pacing his pops. Yea, I'm OK with that.
With that said, he's not getting a free pass. Dad will train harder and make him earn this little feather in his cap. No freebies here! He may be naturally faster, but I have racing experience and that will balance the field.
At least for a little while.....
Thanks for listening.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
A journey of 100 miles begins with a single step....
Followed by a s^@#load more!
I was privileged this weekend to help Reese through his first 100 mile ultra-marathon. Please read his report before continuing.
I'd like to say he asked me to help him but the truth is I kinda forced myself on him last weekend. I am not sure he was ever excited about the prospect of me joining him in his journey but I'm an asshole and pretty pushing when I want to be. In an effort to give Reese some confidence, and because he's a really super cool guy, I asked Bill, another runner from the club to join me and he gladly accepted. Bill is amazingly fast and amazingly nice and loves to run anytime, anywhere so I knew he'd be in the minute I called him. He brought many more years of running experience with him and I think that helped in the end. He's also great to hang out with and we had some serious fun the whole weekend.
I won't cover the race in detail because that's for Reese to do. I do need to share my experiences though because, well, I was moved.
Remember my impressions at the Redman last year? I had the same feelings this weekend. I felt so unbelievable unworthy to call myself a long-distance runner after watching these athletes. I couldn't get my mind wrapped around the distance. 100 miles! How do you do that? I always break a long run down into pieces but I just couldn't find a way to make it work in my head. When I thought about it, the thought that 50 miles was only 1/2 way actually sounded a lot longer than 100 miles all together!
I debated all day how many miles I would run with Reese given my knee problems. After watching Reese and the other runners come through 20 miles, then 40 miles, I came to the conclusion that I needed to run as much as I could no matter how much it hurt. No race I had planned for this year was worth missing out on getting a piece of this experience. These people were suffering in a way I could never imagine. My knee problems didn't seem all that significant after watching this for a few hours.
As soon as the sun went down I joined Reese on the trail. It was about 6:30 PM (I think) and I began at about mile 56. Reese was in great spirits which 1)impressed me, and 2)relieved my nerves because I was afraid he would need significant encouragement and I was worried I wouldn't be able to give him what he needed. The fact is, he appeared to not need me at all. He was a rock. I kept making the mistake of asking him if he had any pain. He would just laugh and tell me "yes, everywhere, but nothing significant". I felt stupid for asking but he always made me feel OK about it. He's cool like that.
I had no idea what to do for him. I really didn't. I was so out of my league in this event. After awhile I gave up trying to be something I'm not and did what I know best. I annoyed him. I'm REALLY good at that and it comes so natural. I figured the best way to help him was to keep his mind working and not thinking about the pain. I talked incessantly, I told bad jokes, I tripped on roots and tried to knock him over. In general, I made a nuisance of myself.
Reese spent less time in aid stations than anyone I saw all day. He was focused. He'd stop and get what he needed and then take off again. I actually held him up at most of them because I was very hungry and wanted to eat everything in sight! He had to wait on me at almost every stop. Yea, I'm a GOOOOOOD helper!
Reese never wavered. I know he was hurting because he would tell me every now and then that his energy was down. If he hadn't told me though I would never have known. I'm not exaggerating here either. His demeanor and mood never went bad. His emotional state was steady, no frustration, no anger, no bitching. He was a rock. Either that or he played it well, but I doubt that since he has never held back his feelings toward me even when he hasn't run 65+ miles! He's cool like that also.
My knee never even hinted at pain for the entire 25 miles. By the end of my lap with him, however, I was dead. I was really struggling and sore. My heels were very sore and each step was somewhat painful. My head was lost in fatigue and for some reason my shoulders were extremely tight and sore. I struggled through the last few miles and we made it to the start/finish aid station around 1:30 in the morning I think. Reese took a few minutes to sit down which scared me because he had told me one rule of ultra-ing was "beware the chair". I shouldn't have worried because he was out of it just as quickly as he got in it and he and Bill hit the trail for his last lap. He had run 80 miles. It was 1:30 in the morning. It was getting colder. He'd been up since 4:30 in the morning. He was in a warm tent with plenty of food and places to rest. There was a van with an air mattress in it not more than 50 feet away. Only a few people would know, and they would understand completely, if he gave in to the pain and quit.
Reese ran out of the start/finish area and started his last 20 mile lap.
I almost cried (shut up, I know I'm a sap). It was emotional and inspiring. Reese never acknowledged the facts I stated above. There was never a hint of doubt in his face or his words. He had a goal to achieve and he was going to do it. It was all so mechanical to him. Get up. Run. For a sap like me it was a monumental moment that deserved a background soundtrack with angels and violins. He impressed me. I remember thinking, "This is Reese's world, I'm just living in it".
As I stumbled back to the van to take a nap I pondered whether I could have done it. I had only run 1 lap with him but I could not have turned around and gone back out on that trail for anything. It's hard to explain but remember it was 1:30 in the morning, cold, and I was dirty and sore. Even as I sit here and write this I'm thinking, "sure you could have done it", but I remember clearly thinking that I couldn't at that time. It was surreal. I guess that's the difference between thinking about something and actually being there.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Anyone know what star/planet is currently very bright and low in the western sky? I first noticed it a few weeks ago when I was in the high desert of California and I just noticed it again tonight.
I'm off tomorrow on an adventure. I won't tell you where or what yet but I'll have some great new stories when I get back next week. If you get a moment though, send some good vibes southward towards southern Texas this weekend.
Everyone run well this weekend and I want to hear all about you long runs.
Thanks for listening
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Did you hear that left knee??? You are directly responsible for depriving poor, sick children.
Let me explain,
Assuming the human body has similar density as water and given that 1 cubic foot of water weighs 62 pounds, you can figure that my body occupied 2.87 cubic feet of space before my knee started hurting (No way I'm giving out my weight without making you do some ciphering!). Now since I'm 4 pounds heavier I'm occupying .77 cubic inches more space in this world than I was before.
There Mr. Left knee, how does that make you feel? Huh? That's .77 cubic inches that some poor, sick child could be using. Sleep well with that on your conscious! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
Oh yea, and don't give me that crap that it's MY fault for eating all that crap lately. I've always eaten that stuff and always been able to run it off. So there is a direct link back to YOU as the root cause of this.
Ok enough of that, I know you are tired of hearing my whining.
I have discovered a wonderful new piece of equipment and the gym. The Elliptical thingy! That thing burns over 1000 calories an hour just like running but without the impact on the legs. Perfect for gimps like me. So now I've got the pool (which I did Tuesday night, 1/2 mile) and the stationary bike (did that too, 30 minutes) and the Elliptical thingy which I did tonight. That should get me through another 2 weeks of no running. I think. Maybe. Sorta.
Thanks for listening