Friday, April 29, 2011

Testosterone Loses a Race

Happy Friday! We've made it another week. I hope everyone's training is going well. I'm on pace to hit about 23 miles this week..depending on my long run distance on Saturday...which I plan to do with the same group as last week. If you are an avid reader of this blog,  (and I know you all are) you may remember that I signed up for a race last week. I was excited about the format and terrain...so I give you the...

Leftovers Prediction 5K Run Race Report
Leftovers Prediction? That's the worst race name in the history of race names, right? Well maybe not in the entire history. Let me tell you what it means. Each year at races, there are left over T-shirts and awards that go unclaimed by people who register or win something at the race. These leftovers take up a lot of space. So, in an effort to clear out the inventory, our Track Club is now on its 3rd annual Leftovers Prediction Run. The course is a mysterious mix of roads and trails, and there are NO WATCHES ALLOWED. In order to win the race, you must predict your time, then be the closest racer to that time. So in effect the person who finishes dead last, could actually be the first. A pretty neat concept, and my first race of this kind.

It was also the first trail run I've ever done (in practice or racing) so I had no idea what to expect. I signed up with the predicted time of 25:38. My PR at the 5K distance is 21:55 which I set in January on a flat/downhill road course. My rationale was 1) it will be much warmer, 2) I don't know what to expect with the hills/trail terrain, 3) since it was my first race of this type, I'd run it as a "fun run".

Let me just stop here and say that if you know anything about foreshadowing, based on that last sentence, the title of this blog may be coming a bit more into focus now.

The race is held at the former home of the Greenville Braves, our once mighty AA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. The Stadium area is now being turned into a nature park with trails by our county's recreation department, and it is coming along nicely. Christy and I arrived early and had plenty of time to get moving, and get our shirts and bibs. We received a couple of tech tees from a 10K earlier in March that we missed due to injury..plus a reusable grocery bag...bringing our total of those bags up to 256. (Yet somehow we never have them when we're inside the grocery store)

SWAG from the Reedy River Run...which we did not run

The race started right on time, and since it was a small race (60 people) I decided to line up at the front. This is where testosterone kicked in. After only a few hundred yards, I was in third, in a breakaway pack. Let me just say that to a mid-packer like me, being that close to the front (for any run) is a tremendous thrill, so quickly any ideas of "fun run" went right out the window. We ran about .3 mi (guesstimate) on pavement before we hit the trails. By the time my feet hit dirt, I was still in 3rd, but I knew I was running way too fast. By mile 1 (the only place they called out a split time) I was at 7:12 pace...which is about the pace I would be doing on a road course 5K. WAY TOO FAST.

As I was running through the woods, it occurred to me that this sensation was very familiar..it was just like playing army men as a kid (except I wasn't carrying a stick for a gun). I had a blast on the trails...I think I'm completely hooked on trail running. For most of the time out there I was alone, and it was so quiet and peaceful (with the notable exception of when I swallowed a bug and coughed and spit uncontrollably). Otherwise being on the trails felt great. I didn't expect to like it quite as much as I did. Keep in mind that these are probably not mountain trails or anything, but the experience was great nevertheless.

After the first mile the guys in front of me disappeared into the trail, so I slowed a little to try to get back into the "fun run" mode, and was soon passed by a father and son...wait, a child just passed me? Seriously? I was huffing but I was bound and determined this kid, who I found out later was 12, would not leave me behind.

Guess what? The kid and his dad left me behind. I got them back in sight once we hit pavement to make the return back to the finish line. I closed on that kid...his dad was cheering him on, but little by little I was reeling him in. It did cross my mind that I am a 38 year old man, and I want to rip a 4th place finish out of a little boy's grasp during a fun run...but that was only a fleeting thought. All I had to do was catch him. Screw the prediction..this was now my mission.

You will be happy to know that I did not catch him, and he finished ahead of me. Gracious in defeat, I congratulated my pre-teen nemesis while getting water. As I patted him on the back and told him what a great job he did, he responded..."It wasn't my best time." and walked away. Ouch...thanks kid...I'll respond to that when I can catch my breath here. The event results are not up yet, but I was the fifth finisher (not the point) and came in at 23:39, just shy of 2 minutes early. When you consider that the top 10  predicted their time within 20 seconds...I would not win a prize today.

All in all this was a great race, and we had a blast! Christy came in 12th, hitting her time within 28 seconds. (she won a commemorative plate from a race in 2008 haha). This was a fun night, and I would suggest to anyone in the upstate to give this run a try next year, you are sure to enjoy its laid back feel. Also if you've never tried trails, a race like this is perfect to stick a toe in the water. As for me, I'll just have to lick my wounds, secure in the knowledge that the 12 year old will be old like me one day. I wish you all a great weekend, and for those of you with races this weekend, may you conquer your nemesis on the course, be they 12 or 50!
Christy and I after the race.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Transparency

Wanna know what the most terrifying part of blogging is?

-That you're not good at it
-You're a horrible writer
-You spell like a 3rd grader
-You don't have an original thought in your brain

-Scary Internet bullies and their anonymous comments
-You use too many commas
-People would rather read warning labels than this blog
-You're trying too hard to be funny (Thanks Sis)


Maybe I should re-phrase this....do you want to know what is the most terrifying part of blogging for me?

Transparency

I read a lot of blogs, and the ones that I can't wait to read..the ones that draw me in like a great story...the ones that you wait with anticipation for the next installment, I find are often the ones that are the most transparent.These bloggers drop any level of facade into their lives and present it to you, often in graphic detail. These blogs take you "behind the scenes" in the good, bad and ugly of their lives, and it makes for fascinating reading. I find myself thinking..."why would they say that?!?!", yet I never think worse of them for saying it.

For those of you who know me personally, you already know I tend to be extremely private and guarded. Only the closest to me see me truly transparent. Some upon meeting me for the first time have even mistaken my lack of dialogue for arrogance (INTJ). Once you get to know me this quickly fades...but I can be a tough nut to crack. Without the love and support of my lovely wife, I'd be an eccentric recluse living in a shack deep in the woods. Scratch that...I don't like the woods, I'd probably be an eccentric recluse living in the wooded suburbs not too far from a retail development...which includes a Chick-Fil-A, Red Robin and Chipotle. I also know that I can mask transparency with humor (in case you've not noticed that by the previous posts).

Knowing that by my nature, I'm private, and knowing that the blogs I find so interesting are transparent...why in the world am I even attempting this blog thing, and why would I write a blog post called transparency? Good question, I'm glad you asked. Get ready for a trip inside the mind of a crazy man...

The one element that I've discovered that bridges the gap between privacy and transparency for me?

Running.

When I run, I can be no one else. It is truly a part of my life that strips away all pretense and ego. It's just me and the road. My time, my goals, my pace. The clock does not allow for me to fade into the background. The miles do not allow me to procrastinate. My ability in any given circumstance depends completely on the amount of training that I have done along with my God-given abilities. Running does not allow you to fake it to keep up with the Joneses.

This thought began ruminating in my head this weekend during my long run. I joined some folks from the Greenville Track Club this weekend for a group run. I didn't really know what to expect. The emails I exchanged were often a bit cryptic, and in my Type A brain, I needed specifics on when, where, how fast and how long. I received none of that, but I went anyway. In every aspect of my life, prior to this point, I would have made some excuse not to go to save myself the social awkwardness of meeting new people in an unfamiliar situation. I went anyway.

The folks I met didn't care who I was, didn't care what I had done in the past, they didn't judge me. They simply asked how far I wanted to run..."Twelve? Ok we'll do twelve today"...and off we went. Over the next hour and forty-five minutes I got to speak with a great group of people, and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time. For the first 18 months or so of my running "career" I approached running like I had every other thing in life..I'm going to do my own thing...alone..and I did. In the run-up to my marathon last December every single run, with one lone exception was done completely alone. It wasn't until this year that I discovered how easy it is to meet and get to know people while you're running with them. Let's be honest, I'm a bore at a cocktail party. I've found however that there is something about running with someone that changes the dynamic to make me a conversationalist. The funny thing is that the topics are often not-running related!

Could it be that at age 38 that I've stumbled upon the thing that is the key to changing the way I relate to people...the the key that allows people in to see the "real" me? Has this been the real me covered up by a sedentary lifestyle for all these years, just waiting to be discovered?  Maybe...I guess you'll just have to stay tuned to find out what happens next...

Note: Just to demonstrate how I've grown in my ability to be transparent, I had my wife proofread my blog on transparency and ask her if I was being too transparent. (sigh) Some habits die hard I guess.