The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Return of the Cross Country Runner

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I’ve spent time the last three Thanksgivings posting updates on my running life. This is quite deliberate since it was on Thanksgiving Day in 2007 that I injured my Achilles tendon running a 5K. In 2008, I wrote about almost having fully recovered from the injury. Last year I wrote about the same thing after facing setbacks in my rehabilitation. This year, I’m writing the complete opposite. I am back. This morning was the proof.

For the second year in a row, I ran the Turkey Stampede in Elkhart, Indiana. The day was a carbon copy of last year– chilly and rainy. The 40 degree temperature was perfect for running. As I also wrote last year, it’s the kind of stuff that makes cross country runners’ mouths water. We have always loved to romp through mud and rain in cold weather. We were weaned on it at an early age, and it’s what helped build the mindset we need to run. I can hardly think of a time I didn’t run at least a halfway decent race in the same conditions.

The weather, though, is where the similarities to last year end. I’m a different runner now, perhaps even the polar opposite of what I was last year. I’m 25 pounds lighter, have built more upper-body strength than I’ve ever had in my life, and am on the longest pain-free streak of the last 12 years. To the outside observer (if there is anybody who really gives a damn about my running!), the difference can be seen in the results. Last year I ran 29:57. I was happy to finish, and fought off the urge to outsprint people at the end. I fought calf soreness throughout the race. This year, if the chip timer is to be believed, I ran 23:15.

I didn’t fight the urge to outsprint anybody this year. The reason for that is simple: I couldn’t have run any harder than I already was. Whereas for years I used to straggle along and throw all caution to the wind at the end and be happy to finish in less than 30 minutes, now I am pushing myself hard throughout and wanting to keep things in the 25-minute range. I am doing warm-up runs beforehand, hydrating myself days ahead of time, and am wanting to hit consistent 8-8 1/2 minute miles. This is a huge shift for me, and it has a lot to do with maturity. I used to want the glorious finish, the hard sprint to prove I was never so far down that I couldn’t bust ass when it mattered and pass people in the homestretch. I became addicted to that. It was all so rah-rah Rocky-like. But it was also how I came to hurt myself, and how I came close to never being able to run again. Now I understand the importance of preparation, pushing hard throughout the race, the importance of consistency, of starting strong, staying strong, and finishing strong without getting my ego involved in a pissing match with other runners. Those other runners I would have tried to pass in the homestretch are so far behind me now that I’m cooling off and drinking water as they finish.

I have reached my Zen.

I couldn’t possibly have run a 23:15. That would have been 1:40 off my best time from last summer, which was a 24:54.  I had to workout 6 days a week for 3 months to reach that summit. I’m working out 3 times a week now; 4 if I’m lucky and my work schedule falls just right. Hell, I hadn’t even run for 6 days before today. Even though I felt like I ran real tough, I don’t think I ran that tough. When I crossed the finish line, the clock read 28:57, but it was the same clock used for the 10K race that started a few minutes before the 5K and wasn’t reset. But 23:15? Please! My only other explanation is that the course is not a true 5K. Based on my time, it might be more like 2.9 miles than 3.1. But it was the same exact course as last year, which could mean that I was a lot slower last year than I thought I was.

Anyhow… I’m back. We’ll see what I write on Thanksgiving Day 2011. I don’t know how long my Zen will last, but I plan on running out the string for as long as I can.

Written by seeker70

November 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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