Friday, January 28, 2011

A Better Half

The day after the hat tournament I had a half marathon. More than a few friends had suggested that if they were going through something like this they would go to therapy. I had consistently disregarded this as I felt that my friends were more than enough ears and advice. I had also continued to do the running (cheaper and in my opinion better than the talking cure). Each run was getting a little easier but I still wanted to keep a conservative goal of keeping about a 6:50 pace and finish in approximately 90 minutes. The year before I had done the same half at 91:37 so I figured taking off approximately two minutes was a reasonable goal, a little over 10 seconds per mile. Besides my marathon schedule required a 17 mile run that day so when the run was over I was going to have to get back on the course and run an additional 4 miles. The joke had been made a few times that I was running away from my brain cancer… well it that was true then the tumor better be fast.

I started, as is my custom, much too fast but usually I correct that somewhere between the half and 1.5 mile mark. I did not correct it at and at mile two I was still going at about a 6:35 pace. The training group I was part of, the Ship of Fools, had the first water station and we cheered each other on. On this very hilly course and for the next several miles there were these 5 guys who kept passing me up on every down hill and I would pass them on every up hill. After a couple of back to back tough hills around the eight mile mark, I never saw them again and I was still holding that 6:35 pace.

At about mile 10 ½ I started to cramp up and slowed down very dramatically. I got passed up by two guys and I pride myself in not getting passed in races but I really blew it off. I started accepted that I had made that running rookie mistake of starting too fast, the old fly and die. I’d finish this race and that would be that… I put my head down and just started jogging till I noticed my wrist and caught my Livestrong bracelet in the corner of my eye. Then I took in my entire outfit and it turned into one of those strange coincidences that almost seemed to be by design. The shirt I was wearing was my Ship of Fools shirt, the group that was helping me train and was being kind enough of to pick me up for every workout and take me home after, I caught my wedding band and thought of my wife who was being amazingly supportive and so realistic. I looked at an arm band I was wearing, a VC one and at my cap, a Riverside Ultimate one and remembered the ultimate community that had carried me so high the day before. These guys weren’t helping me so that I’d pansy out. Right about then my Ipod started playing Valio La Pena, a song that translates into It Was Worth It.

So I turned it back on, passed those two guys and finished in 1:26.10 (five minutes faster than the previous year and a personal record). Immediately after finishing, I turned around and ran the four more miles. When I got back in the second time my friend Jonathan comes up and says “Hey you want some good news?” I shrugged yes and he said “You won your age group!” I’d never done that. The wins kept coming. That day I made a decision that this marathon training was all of a sudden the parable of my life, I had to keep it up get to that Austin Marathon and finish it. There would be hills and challenges and literal pain but you had to leave it out there and then perhaps do something extra at the end. Perhaps a bit after the extra, you’d learn that you had exceeded your own expectations, your own hopes and had victories that you hadn’t even dared to dream of.

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