Finishing

For the first time, I have had an achievement where a “runner high” was not present at the end. My satisfaction of completing was non-existent right away, and only came later, after much processing and encouragement by my husband.

So, the last two days I have been mulling over, in my head, how to best approach recapping this race, which was equally awesome and difficult for me. So I apologize if this is heavy.

The race I ran was approximately 6k on a cyclocross course, held at an old equestrian park here in Ottawa. It was laid out like a Gordian knot, snaking over grass paddocks, with some hills thrown in, and marked by thousands-upon-thousands of wooden stakes and yellow caution tape. The guy who set this up, he gets mad props, cuz his shoulders likely rival Paul Bunyan by now.

Oh, and there was lots of slippery, clay mud too, especially on the hairpin turns around wooden stakes and on hills we ran sideways across. I need trail shoes.

Most of the course was positioned at the front of the park, circling around the Grand Prix ring, sand warm up rings, and front grass rings. It started and ended on a gravel service road at the side of the Grand Prix ring. I must say I was a small bit disappointed we didn’t get to run in the ring, but equally glad the expensive footing would remain undisturbed. Let me tell you, memories everywhere as I ran.

This event, by the way, was really well-run, and I recommend it for something different than a road race, but not a full-fledged trail race. The organizers were really nice, and all smiles despite the rain. I was impressed. My husband won running socks in the door prizes, so that helped too. Heh. http://www.ridewithrendall.com/events/anvil-on-foot/ – Mark your calendars for next year!

We got to run the course before the bikes took to it, thankfully, since that would have made for extra mud and fun. My husband and I left the warmth of our heated seats, met up with our new running friend, shivered our butts off in the rainy, 1 degree Celcius weather waiting for the start, after a short jog and some bouncing around to attempt a warm up. I was not nervous, at first. I just wanted to get going, and not be so *@$#% cold.

But as I was looking around, there were a LOT of elite-looking runners, quite a few biking later in the day, from the chatter around us in the tent we were graciously allowed to huddle under. A lot of triathletes, some competitive cross-country runners, some trail runners rounded out the group of about 50 or so participants. I wondered (casually) if there were any nationally ranked athletes amongst the tank-top-and-shorts-wearing crazy people warming up by sprinting around in the rain as we all wore our parkas and shivered. Yes, indeed, there were a couple, which I found out later at the awards ceremony.

Suddenly, I was intimidated. Me, Garmin-less, with my Wal-mart special shirt, rainbow socks and extra jiggle felt out of place. And yes, I know in truth I wasn’t, and no one needs to reiterate that I had every right to be there… I guess a better way to describe it would be that I felt out of my league. No need to tell me feeling that was Bull#@$*… It was how I felt, no excuses or apologies. My inner critic suddenly pulled out the “You’re the only fat one here” and I spiralled from there. I hate it when I stop being able to control my inner critic. Bad timing, that. I was also regretting not bringing my ear buds. I had wondered if they would be allowed, as on most trail races you can’t wear them… But a couple of runners had them in. In hindsight, I needed music on this run, and I ran it all without it. That may have made it harder, since I am used to either chatting with a runner beside me, or having beats in my head.

So, when we migrated to the start line, and the informal “Off you go” sounded from the guy with the megaphone, the entire pack shot off like a cannon, and I did what I hatehatehate doing. I shot off too. Before I had taken 20 steps, I was sucking wind, my lungs were burning, my knees screaming, and an “uh oh” echoed through my head.

My husband was way ahead of me right from the start (and he says he’s not fast… Riiiight) and my friend, a much peppier runner than me, quickly outpaced me, which was ok, I wanted her to do really well. I realized, as I looked around, I was the Very. Last. Runner. Talk about demotivating? That, right there, was it. I think my Inner Critic was doing a victory dance before I’d even run a kilometre.

For the entire first lap, I struggled with my pace, my breathing, my motivation, reaching for some sort of speed I could maintain a little easier, being too hot, then having chills, then being too hot again. I wanted to stop. I wanted to quit. I felt embarrassed as folks, when we met up at cross-points on the course, would catch my eye and then look quickly away, not smile back as I smiled at them. I suppose even though I felt miserable, I tried my best to pull out of the suck and one way to do that is to smile and grab what motivation you can from those around you. My friend, meeting me on the cross-points, kept me moving. I hope she knows that if not for her, I would not have. Her waving, her smiles, her encouragement meant the world to me right then. Because of her, I did not stop. I can’t remember if I told her that after the race, or not. It was all kind of fuzzy.

Just before completing my first lap, the winner of the race steamed past me (on his second lap), splattering me with muddy sand from his running cleats as he passed within inches of me. I was all the way over to the right, to let the elite runners pass, and he was the only one who ran so close to me I could count his arm hairs. I spit the sand from my mouth and wiped the slurry from my face, hung my head, blinked back tears, and kept going. I didn’t want to feel any lower right then, and I certainly did not want to have anyone see me cry.

Incidentally, the second and third place men both said thank you to me (for moving over, I assume), and the fourth place guy gave me a Thumbs Up and a big smile. I suppose the guy who won was just focused, but it was kind of a dick thing to do, IMHO. My husband says I should let it go, it happens. OK… I will. *shake*

As I crossed the start/finish and headed out for the second lap, I finally passed a young girl who was doing a walk/run, and the suck lifted a little bit. I just kept repeating “keep going” under my breath. I just kept thinking “You can do this” in my head. I could feel my energy seeping away, and my legs started to hurt from the uneven ground and the extra balancing necessary not to go down on my kiester. I tried speeding up, immediately feeling pain in my feet and calves, and slowed back down. Eventually I found a pace that I was able to handle and my erratic breathing calmed down, but the twisty-turny course, the instability of the slippery grass with my road shoes, and my own mistakes of bad fueling and going out too hard had meant the tank was almost empty. By the time I hit the back end of my second lap, I realized I was starting to have a low blood sugar.

Those suck when you run, just for the record, and I had no fuel on course with me, since, well, a 6k run doesn’t normally need Gu.

Lesson learned, Diabetes Beast. Lesson learned (again, since this happened on my Dune run… DOH!). *shakes fist* I think perhaps an emergency source of sugar shall be henceforth carried upon my body for all my runs.

My husband and friend were waiting for me, and cheering me on to finish, so I powered through (I still have no idea how), and hit the finish line with a chip time of 44:37. I wasn’t last, which, even though it isn’t very sportsmanlike, made me feel a lot better. I downed a sugar cube proffered to me from somewhere, then some hot chocolate that my friend somehow got for me (I was a bit fuzzy at that point) and my husband sprinted to the car to get my parka. I was shaking, tired, embarrassed and feeling so mentally low I just wanted to hide. I attempted a few good run remarks to some milling-about runners, but mostly they just looked at me and didn’t respond. Wow… It was frosty, and I don’t mean the temperature! I did get some compliments on my rainbow socks, and some of the women there were really quite nice, so it wasn’t all snobbery, thank God.

When we left, we went for coffee with our friend, and the exhaustion and wiggles from the low blood sugar lifted. I felt better, and was happy we had gone and run. My husband ran in 31 minutes, which I think is really great, and my friend’s time was 37 minutesand change. Both awesome, and it helped to hear their success.

I was still feeling down about my performance in general, but I wasn’t upset I had run. Later on in the day, while beating myself uptalking with my husband, I said maybe my achievement was that I powered through the SUCK and finished.

He agreed.

So now, a few days later, I am equally proud of myself and disappointed in myself. I am proud I finished despite having a bad run. I am proud I did not quit. But… I wanted to be faster. I wanted to run better. It is only my second race, and I need to be less hard on myself. But my competitive side was really on, and it irked me I couldn’t have pulled it out.

Next time, I will do better. Next time, I will try again.

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6 thoughts on “Finishing

  1. we all have bad runs, it makes the good ones better. What is important, you did it. You pushed past your comfort zone and won! I think that is a huge point in the win column. Allyson

    • Thank you Allyson. The push was so hard! It was as hard as when I started out this past Spring. This is one of the things I love about running. The constant learning process. I don’t think I will ever stop having new levels to push through. It is hard to see when you are in the moment though… That voice is really LOUD! I’m blessed to have a supportive husband who pokes holes in that voice all the time. 🙂

  2. Thank-you for sharing, for being so honest, because we all have those RUNS…the SUCK as you call it, and that stupid inner ciritic beating us up….somehow nice to know we are not alone. I am PROUD OF YOU…I think it was a lot harder to run through the SUCK and finish, then it would be to kill an awesome time in top form feeling great. YOU did it…and you didn’t let your inner critic win. And for the record…I am so thankful for the day I met you this summer at Saunder’s…your pretty freaking amazing girl and I am so glad to call you friend.

    • Thank you Katie. I get a little emotional, thinking about how much this summer has meant. You are right, to have done what I did on Sunday was an incredible mental achievement. Even if the thought process to get to that realization took a couple of days. 🙂 I am glad I showed up to Saunder’s too. A lot. I am glad to call you friend as well. I am thankful, so thankful.

  3. This post surprised me, having seen you during and after, and I’ve been thinking about what to reply. You got dealt a rough hand and I wonder how things would have been different if you had not been facing a worst-case scenario – what if it was a beautiful day with great tunes and stable blood sugar on a straightforward course in a location with no emotional/psychological resonance for you? How much faster would you have been, really? Not that much. But you certainly would have been processing the experience in a different way. And if it had come easy for you (which it certainly seemed to do from the outside!) it would not have been such a victory that you finished. So now you know how bad things can get, and that faced with the suck, you outrun it.

  4. I’m surprised (but glad) I looked ok from the outside! I have a hard time, sometimes, showing others I need help, or asking for it. I also have a really hard time not looking competent and skillfull. I think my fear of embarrassment of not finishing (perceived, of course, there is no embarrassment with trying and having trouble in a race) fueled me to just keep moving. I used to do that in competition with my horses, or paintball. I would be struggling and screaming on the inside, but outwardly, show calmness and quietness, not wanting to disappoint or need help and be labelled weak or incompetent. If I failed, people wouldn’t like me, is the weird mental connection I made (and sometimes still make).

    It was perhaps not ideal conditions, but… I have to learn how to race in all types of conditions, so I did try my best to outrun the suck. I can learn from it that way. As I said to a friend yesterday “Well, the next race will be better, since I know what a bad one feels like!”

    Your support on Sunday was so important, and I am really, really, really happy we did this together. To the next one!

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