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