Archive for June, 2012


BUMMED OUT RUNNER

06.25.2012

Now there is a title you don’t often see!  However, all runners feel this way from time to time, I believe.  You might ask why, or maybe you already have your own ideas.  There are a lot of reasons and I guess the big issue is less that you do feel this way, but more how you deal with the feeling.

Why would your intrepid editor pose such a question?  Well, for one thing, at the moment he is kind of counting himself in the category of ‘bummed out runner’.  As readers would have guessed by now, getting older and going slower have been accepted as gracefully as a competitive type can manage.  However, most of 2011 was spent dealing with injury and neither running or racing as much as hoped.  And, when races were entered it was not to achieve the best possible result but rather to complete the event for some personal reason.  2012 started well enough, but a recent non-running (well, not directly anyway) injury is now jamming up the works relative to the nicely developing plan for the 2012 race year.

Since part of my personal complaint stems from the recently completed Winthrop Marathon, I guess I should give a proper shout-out to that event.  I am not sure I’ve ever run a course that is so fabulous.  The organization was great and the pre- and post-race programs just excellent.  The marathon itself, or should I say MY marathon, was not up to expectation, but that was my own doing.  I have accepted that and proudly count Winthrop as my 16th marathon.  Clearly, I did not manage my hydration well enough and paid the price of cramping later in the race – a bit of a cautionery lesson in itself.  I realized, too late, that I had not equipped myself with pre-race hydration options for the bus ride and wait at the start.  I did avail myself (what I thought was) generously, of water and electrolyte at every opportunity along the course.  It probably would have been OK, except that the weather was deceptively hot.  A cooling breeze made it feel quite pleasant most of the way, yet it was also rapidly drying the sweat and triggering even more perspiration to flow.  By the time I realized what was up, it was kind of late.  I did recover by using the electrolyte capsules that were available, but it took unto Mile 25 before I could run again.  I had been pretty much walking from around Mile 18.  But, that is racing and although I should be experienced enough to have avoided this, such things do happen.  Disappointed re what I had been hoping to do, but ready to accept that is how it goes.

What then, has inspired this post?  Well, after the marathon, I thought a soak in a nice cool bath was in order.  Unfortunately, when I decided I had soaked enough and went to arise from the tub, my wet hand slipped on the side and I crashed down on my ribs.  Great discomfort ensued along with some ungentlemanly exclamations in regard to the situation.  And THAT, is what I am ‘bummed out’ about.  I have another race in a few days.  I have hardly run since Winthrop (about 10 days ago), but am not too worried about that since there was a lot of training went into the marathon, as well as the actual race itself, so I am reasonably well trained for the half marathon looming on the horizon.  The problem is the discomfort of running.  Now, things are getting better and I did run a couple of short but decent distances with only mild discomfort.  The question lingers though, whether that is indicative of what might happen if I go 4-5 times as far.

I had great hopes for doing my next race, the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon, better than the last time I ran it in 2010. Part of my problem is the cummulative effect of an almost non-year in 2011 as far as racing goes, and now a silly accident that is messing up at least part of 2012!  Well, whatever, I will take on the challenge and do my best.  The only competition is really with myself and the goal I had set, admittedly before smacking my ribs on that tub.  One thing I found out for sure in the last days is that said ribs were neither broken nor even cracked.  That makes the ‘discomfort’ much more bearable, and to be honest it is subsiding.

More ‘bumming’ than all of it though is the matter of yet another impediment to doing my best.  That is the issue for discussion.

I don’t really have the answers.  I feel that it is important to recall (often) just why we run.  Mostly, we run because it is something we enjoy.  In this particular situation, the ribs have not totally stopped me from running.  They have stopped me from running how I would like to run.  That is different.  Using my own example, I am running the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon at least partly because two other family members are doing it, and for one, it is his very first half marathon.  I was pleased with my half marathon at the BMO Vancouver (Half) Marathon, especially in comparison to anything done in the last 18-20 months.  However, I also feel like I could run a bit faster than that time, especially on the Scotiabank course.  Or more correctly – COULD have.  I suppose we will soon find out.

Technically, I guess I shouldn’t even be racing on June 24, it being only two weeks post-marathon.  But, I didn’t really totally RUN a marathon.  I ran a hard working 15 miles or so, after which the muscle spasms reduced me to a lot of walking.  The fact that I haven’t run much in the last two weeks may just serve to let my legs recover.  Regardless of what happens in this next race, it is the feeling of being bummed out that needs consideration, because even if the next race turns out to be fabulously successful and beyond my expectations, it is not how I am feeling pre-race.

As I said, we mostly run because we enjoy it.  Yes for some, racing is part of the enjoyment, but it is not the only thing.  Backing off and letting things happen can be quite satisfying.  I’m not sure how many times I’ve been asked what I thought about some part of a race route, only to reply that at 19 miles my eyes were full of sweat and my legs were complaining about the strain, so I really didn’t actually notice this lovely feature.  Well, if you are just out for a run, or even if you are ‘racing’ as I did several times in 2011 simply to finish because the race had a bigger meaning than any particular finish time, you tend to be able to appreciate some of these things a great deal more than when you are pushing for a result.  It doesn’t matter if your time doesn’t impress anyone but you, if you are pushing your limit – well, you are pushing your limit.  So, to back off and just participate, can actually be quite pleasant if you just get your head around it.  Therein lies the rub!  In my own case, I felt I had done this fairly well through much of 2011, understanding what I had to do with respect to repair and recovery, and doing it.  Having got things back on track in 2012 and seeing performances returning to an expected range, it was therefore doubly frustrating to blow my own race management in the latest marathon and then sustain what felt like a serious injury that just might preclude decent running for some time.  In fact, it is beginning to look like that is not so, but the question is raised nonetheless.

It seems like the best advice, not necessarily easily followed, is to just take a deep breath.  Well, except if you have whacked yourself in the ribs, in which case it might be a bit more of a shallow breath, but I imagine you get my meaning.  Patience.  Give things a chance and make the best of what you have available.  Some day we are probably all going to face the decision of stopping entirely.  While that will be a sad day, it won’t be the end of the world.  I presently associate with a club group that has many members who were once very good runners but now (in their 70’s for the most part) are periodic runners, sometime walkers and only rarely racers.  They seem a happy enough bunch and all are active with things like biking, walking, running, golfing and a good many other pursuits.  It is good to be around these folks while feeling the frustration that is the subject of this article.

I decided to wait to complete this piece until after running the Scotiabank Half Marathon.  I have no idea how it will unfold.  There are so many factors involved.  It could be a bit of a disaster or it could be far better than I even hoped.  Or, it could be somewhere in the middle.  The real reason for waiting is to see where it leaves my mental appreciation of it all.  Will the ‘bum-out’ be over?  Will it be worse?  Will it be in a new perspective, with new revelations to help me finish what I have started here?  I guess we will be able to tell, soon enough.  As I write, the race is tomorrow.  My goal tomorrow will be a controlled run, taking advantage of the course as appropriate and showing respect to the parts that I know from experience (I think this is the 7th time I’ve done this event) can jump up and get you!

Finishing the Scotiabank Half Marathon 2012

One Day Post Race.  Well, here I am back again, with one more half marathon in the record books.  For the record, in said record books, I met my goal of running better than in my last appearance in 2010.  That wasn’t hard as, although 2010 was one of my best recent running years, I tweaked a hamstring at about 10km (bottom of a long, steep hill, well known to anyone who has run this event) and while it proved not to be too serious, ended any idea of a good time for that outing.  As far as running my best half for 2012 went – not so much.  The best official time remains the BMO Vancouver Marathon event in early May, exceeded unofficially by the half split at Winthrop a month later.  So, one goal achieved and one missed.

The big question though, is where is my “seasoned” runner’s head at this point?  I am happy to report that it seems to be in a better place, and I hope that I have learned some things as a result.  I guess that all along I had my wishful goal (go faster than BMO Half) and my reaslistic goal (go a couple of minutes slower than that).  It was evident fairly early on that a marathon (or significant part thereof) just two weeks previous, was still in my legs.  Nothing awful, just a lack of ‘spring in the step’.  I was very pleased at my early pace management because the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon course has some enticingly sneaky early bits and some harder than you would think parts as well.  So, it was good for my runner’s mind to know I had managed these effectively.  It was also good to cruise down the long steep hill between 8 and 10K and hit the bottom with both hamstrings feeling fine!  Following the downhill is a long straight bit along one of Vancouver’s beaches, with amazing views of the Northshore mountains and up Howe Sound to the even bigger and still snow-capped peaks near Squamish.  Actually, I guess my first clue that the old legs weren’t quite ready for the challenge was that this long straight stretch seemed inordinately long.  This is especially true because I have run it going one direction or the other, or both (sometimes part of an out and back training route) more than a hundred times.  Cue the ominous “Jaws” music!  Still, my pace maintained pretty well along that bit, until we headed up a relatively small but particularly testing hill between 13 and 14km.  It is neither very long nor really very steep, but I know very few runners who have anything nice to say about it.  I had nothing nice to say about it yesterday. Nothing.

In fact, it was on that hill that an arch rival (and good friend) named Ben  passed me, a bit.  He was running at the time, while I was power-walking. I was actually fairly pleased because by the time we crested the hill and started down the other side, I was still close enough that my running pace (when being practiced) took me by him again.  It is my habit never to look back, so once Ben was behind me, I had no idea how far back he actually was.  Might have been a metre, or 20, or more.  I do know that when I slid over for water/electrolyte/gel, he got by me.  From there I lost ground and while I may not have been a long way back, I could not spot him as he had cleverly camouflaged himself by wearing the official race shirt, as had so many others. Truth be told, it wouldn’t have made much difference, because somewhere around 15km my legs were done.  Nothing awful, just tired.  I never ‘fell off a cliff’ re my pace, but I just started to go slower.  The good news was that I was quite satisfied with the situation at that point.  I knew I would finish.  I knew my time would be OK. I was even happy that Ben was going to be ahead this time, because he had run well and taken me when he had the chance.  (We usually run much smaller races and are of similar ability, so usually know where the other is, which is not all that far ahead or behind.  It makes running fun, as it lets us compete.) As strange as it may sound, although I was running slower and slower, and had just been overtaken and beaten by my #1 rival, that was probably the point where I became ‘unbummed’.  I was looking at it in perspective.  Here I was doing what I love to do on a fabulous day on an amazing race route, with a satisfying outcome looming from the best effort I could have put in on that particular day.  How much better could it have been?

There is even a funny little post-script to this.  Arch Rival Ben, did beat me on the official placings (gun time as always).  He was 18th and I was 20th in our age category (he is one week older than me).  But, when I looked up our actual elapsed ‘chip’ times, I had beaten him by 11 seconds!  We have already exchanged notes on this and he pointed out to me that our time difference was even less than the 12 seconds separating the winner, Reid Coolsaet, and second place Kip Kangogo!  As he also pointed out, their race may have been a little more exciting and crowd pleasing, as they were running shoulder to shoulder right through the race, until very near the end.  Oh, and they were a bit more than an hour ahead of us, too.  Not that it matters, but just in case anyone is trying to figure out how all this could have worked, I decided to have a pre-race insurance visit to the porto-potties.  Lines were long, but I got in and out just before the race start.  Ben had managed to place himself where he belonged in our assigned corral, but me being ‘just in time’, I had slipped into the back of that grouping.  Although I have no idea when, I must have made up the difference and passed him somewhere in the early going, only to be passed later, as already described.  I’m sure if he’d known or had a little bit more distance to run, he’d have got those 11 seconds too.  But, such is racing and I am happy to say (as I said to him).  You beat me – you WON.  But wait, I beat you – I WON.  We were BOTH winners! And when you get right down to the fact that we are still out there at 67, doing what we love, there is no doubt at all that we are indeed both winners, regardless of place or time!