Sunday, April 22, 2007

Well, I did it

Yep, I got up at 6.45am (not 6.30), told myself not to get worked up, managed to halve the number of trips to the bathroom (sorry if that's too much information), ate my usual breakfast, read a magazine, got in the car, drove one and a half hours to Levin, registered, sat in my car reading the paper, sipping on Gatorade and keeping warm, trotted around the reserve where the event was held a couple of times, joined the 10km runners at the startline, and ran 10km without feeling sick or hurling.


This day was a success in a number of ways, and I think it will mark a turning point in my eventing. It wasn't that I ran a particularly fast time. In fact I still ran four minutes slower than I would have liked. But I finished in under an hour, and I ran the whole thing.

More than that though, it was the way I conducted myself that I think marks this as a significant day. I still woke around an hour before the alarm, but I didn't let myself lie there and fixate. I made myself think about something else, and managed to drift in and out of sleep until I needed to get up. I didn't let myself get overly nervous. I didn't worry about not being able to find the reserve where the event was located.

I'd already laid out my gear the night before, as always, and I followed my usual morning routine. I listened to the radio the whole way up, got to Levin, didn't freak out when the reserve turned out to be a good deal further away from State Highway 1 than I'd imagined, found the event without any real difficulty, parked and registered, all without any problems.

As I was approaching the event I passed a few 'runners' signs. I thought to myself 'hey, this isn't undulating - this is a hill', as I drove down to the start line. A few inquiries, and it turned out that the race actually carried on further down the road, not back up the hill I'd just driven down.

Gladstone Reserve turned out to be a scenic little spot beside the river, with a view out towards the Tararuas. As suspected, this was a very small event, put on by the local Harriers club. There was no half marathon event, just 5 and 10km walks and runs. It was so small that the 10km eventers weren't issued with race numbers.

A few people seemed to be warming up, so I jogged lightly around the reserve a couple of times. I think I'm going to have to be a little more proactive with my warmup in the future. I hadn't run since Monday, and I think that a little refresher in the art of running might well have helped me out a bit.

It was immediately obvious as we assembled at the start-line that the pack did not consist of too many beginners. The field consisted primarily of Levin Harriers members, with a few Lower Hutt marathon clinic participants for good measure. This was a good thing. I figured I could quite easily be tail end Charlie. That took a lot of pressure off me straight away. I wouldn't worry about trying to keep up with the field. No one there knew me and I could run my own race. This was a training run, nothing more.

The course was, as described, undulating. The road followed the river, and the kilometre or so before the turn-around was firmly packed metal. There was plenty of shade. After the first couple of hundred metres we ran up a small incline, and I remember thinking "there's the sprint for glory on the way home". I did the first kilometre in five and a half minutes. I thought "hmm, good pace - now try to maintain that".

After a short while I started to feel the stitch coming on. I glanced at my watch - 15 minutes. Right on queue. At least I'm predictable. The two and a half kilometre mark came and went, with a lovely woman offering water at a drink stop. I declined the water, and continued on. Water at 2.5km?

I wasn't feeling terribly strong, so I allowed myself myself to ease off a little. It was at that point that things got interesting. It's fair to say I battled for the next few kilometres. At one point a voice in my head told me quite firmly to quit. Not just this event, but all events. The strength of conviction in that voice scared me, badly. To my credit, the voice that reasoned that I'd feel worse if I stopped (and that recognised how important this event was for my self-belief) was stronger, and I kept going.

The last kilometre before the turn-around was up an incline. I was plodding by this point, but everyone on their way back was extremely encouraging. This was by far the friendliest event I've ever taken part in. The 'it's just around the next corner' reassurances were fantastic. I walked the short distance between the drink stop and the turn-around cone, then it was time to head back.

The long down-hill stretch after the turn-around was heaven. Looking at my watch I knew I wasn't going to be personal besting today, but I wasn't going to worry about that either. However something finally clicked into place as I approached the 40 minute mark. These are the two milestone times in my run - 15 and 40 minutes. If I'm going to feel bad, it will be at the former. If I'm suddenly going to feel good, it will be at the latter. It occurred to me that I could still run a sub-sixty (for goodness sake, I'm capable of much less than that). I flew down the hills, I attacked the uphill stretches. I ran the second five kilometres several minutes faster than the first.

I was overtaking walkers now, giving them encouragement and being encouraged in return. There was the 9km marker. Now was the time to push (as if I wasn't already). I was racing against my watch now. It was suddenly extremely important to do sub-sixty after all. I pushed it up the hill, and then there was that 'sprint for glory' I'd been anticipating. I was really watching my watch now. I knew I wasn't going to make it within my 'outer' target time, but I wasn't far off. In fact, I was only 15 seconds off.

I made it over the finish line, handed in my place tag, and walked slowly back to my car. Half way there it occurred to me that, despite my time, which was still slower than I'm capable of, this was a real achievement for me. The significance of the mental battle I won today can not be underestimated. I was so happy that I had to stop myself from tearing up, because I didn't want anyone to think I was distressed.

So that was it. I talked to one of the marathoners, who tried to convince me to head back to the Harriers clubrooms for the scheduled barbeque. I seriously contemplated it, but in the end my desire to just get home and shower won over. I flew the whole way back to Wellington, cheesy commercial music on the radio and a little less of my attention on the road than might have been prudent.

A shower, some lentil and vegetable soup, some fruit and a cider, and the rest of the afternoon will be spent in a leisurely fashion on the sofa. I guess I've earned it, and I've got a session with Duck at 7am to rest up for!

1 comment:

chocolate covered musings said...

that is definitely the most amazing thing in this post. the fact that you kept on going when you could have so easily given up (after all, who would have known right? only you). well done. i hope you realise how amazing you are and just how far you have come. so proud of you.