“You have to want it, you have to plan for it, you have to fit it into a busy day, you have to be mentally tough, you have to use others to help you. The hard part isn't getting your body in shape. The hard part is getting your mind in shape.”
This weekend was definitely a test I am fairly proud of accomplishing. This was not only my first weekend running back to back events; it also forced me to work through some mental challenges. I went into the half marathon on Saturday pretty confident but there are always the haunting voices of past mistakes and failures. This started when I realized my running shoes were more worn that I thought they would be at this point. They are the same model as my old shoes but the sole must be a lot softer because they did not wear well. I take out my old shoes and compare them; they all have around the same mileage on them. This alone breaks a major race rule to never change anything on race day. Looking back I would just wear the shoes I have been wearing and not think about it…by now you already know that I tend to over think things.
I drove to the parking lot and boarded the shuttle to the race site. I took my ear buds with me for my pre- race music and the “Rise and Shine” video to get my mind ready, if you have not seen this video I highly recommend it. Shortly after beginning my warm up I start thinking about the shoes which causes me to retie them a little tighter, another thing I never do but they felt funny. Now people are starting the slow approach to the starting line which resembles cattle being loaded into a chute. After a brief address from the race director the horn sounds and we are off. I start the timer on my watch but have decided to leave the GPS behind and not look at the time until I hit the split button at the halfway point.
The first five miles goes quietly running at a comfortable pace and enjoying the views of the park. The course on a paved trail and the elevation graph looks like a U with a long hill at the turn around point and at the finish. Feeling tired but not bad I head back on the return trip. All is going well until I get to mile eight or so where I begin to feel a sharp twinge on the inside of my left calf and shortly after in my right. Instant flashbacks of the death march from my first attempt lead to a flash of frustration which almost leads to my water bottle being thrown but I luckily realize I am going to need it so I had better chill out. Once it eases I start running until it flares up again and I realize I must repeat this process for the rest of the race until I see the big hill that is the last half to three quarters of a mile to the finish line. I am running to the finish and that is all there is to it. So I finish better than last time but not as well as I wanted. It is time to head over into the long line for the shuttle back to my vehicle. Day one complete!
Sunday the alarm goes off and I slowly dress to give the four mile trail run a try. I will go out and see how I feel and if I don’t feel like I can go I will cheer my wife on and suffer in silence. We walk around a little and slowly run a little taking an assessment as I go I make the decision to give it a go. This time I do not even start my timer I am just happy to be able to be in the excited crowd honoring the Veterans, Fire and Police who are in attendance. The brief address from Ben, the Trail Nerds race director (the same RD as yesterday) and the horn sounds and here we go up the hill leading to the trail. I feel relieved to be off the pavement and running at a slow comfortable pace through the woods. I get caught behind a group on the single track that is moving slower than I like at first but I quickly remind myself what today is all about. Completing back to back runs and enjoying nature on a beautiful fall morning. This is a newer trail with just enough turns and obstacles to keep your attention and some views of the lake from time to time. At one point we came out of the trail to a clearing and miss judging where we were I thought the finish was closer and I powered up the hill passing a few people only to realize we were heading back for another stretch of trail and not as close as I thought. Luckily I still felt good and was able to finish strong with my wife who had already finished running up the last hill with me.
In summary, if I had not run today it would have become another “what if” moment in my life. Even though the half did not unfold “according to plan” I made the adjustment needed to finish and did not injure myself in the process. I proved that I can bounce back and recover quicker than I used to in fact my wife commented that she could remember not too long ago when I could not run back to back two mile runs. Comparing the two days reinforces that I love running on trails and will tolerate pavement if I have to. Another thought that came to me on the trail today is that I am not even taking my running shoes on vacation with me so I will not be tempted. I need this rest time before getting into the long haul I have waiting for me on my return. The quest of testing myself beyond any past physical and mental challenge I have faced to date. The training that will take me full circle from Flabby to 50K!
Thank you for joining me on this journey!