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Monday, June 28, 2010

What Kind Of Fool Am I?

Well, I'm glad you asked that question, Mr. Sammy Davis Jr.!

Apparently, I'm the kind of fool that likes to run for beer, even if it hurts. Next up in the LOCO series was race #3: The 29th Annual April Fools 4 Mile Road Race in Salisbury, MA on Saturday, April 3rd 2010. This particular race started at 11:00 a.m. (because the drunks who do these events won't get up any earlier than that) and was sponsored by the fine folks at Harpoon Brewery. I mentioned in my last post how the short races were quite a challenge because you try to run as fast as you possibly can since they are, well, short. I hadn't done anything shorter than a 10K all year. And, to go one step beyond that, hadn't RACED a 4 miler since July of 2008.

In other words, I had no idea what I was doing.

Do I run it like a 5K? But, it's .9 longer. And I have a feeling if I do, that last .9 will be really, really, really, really painful. Do I run it like a 5 miler? Hmmmm, well, then maybe I'll be sandbagging. What IS my 4 mile race pace???

Truly, I didn't know.

So, I figured, what the heck??? I'll show up, get my free T-Shirt (like I need any more of THOSE) and run the race. And have beer. Can't forget about that part.

This race was a mere 14 miles from my house, which is always nice. After my experience driving to Stu's 30K in Clinton, you can understand why I like 'em close and easy to find. I also knew (for once) exactly where I was going, so there was no need to allow extra time.

But, of course, I did.

I believe it was 9:45 a.m. when I pulled into the parking lot at The Winners Circle. I was SO early, that I got a parking space right in front of the building. Score! Getting my #, chip and shirt took all of two minutes, so that meant I had lots of extra time to do...well...nothing.

It was a 4 mile race, after all. I didn't need to do the whole "body glide" thing, nor did I have to apportion the correct amount of gu packets. I had to, simply, pin my # on my shorts, attach my chip to my shoe and...wait.

Coach wanted me to do a 2 mile warm-up before running this race. You see, there is a fine art to timing exactly WHEN to do the warm-up. For one, you don't want to do it too soon, because then you cool down too much and the benefits are greatly diminished. On the other hand, you want to leave enough time to stand in line at the port-a-potties without missing the start.

These are two VERY important details, friends.

I synced up the GPS and checked the time. 10:15. Well, I figured the warm-up would take 18-19 minutes. That brought me to 10:35 or so. I also knew we had to go across the street and walk about 5 minutes to the start. That left 20 minutes to stand in line. And believe me, sometimes you need THAT much time.

I ran my 2 miles in 18:17 and took my place in the line. As predicted, it took a good 15 minutes to get from last to first. Good call, Cyndi Lou.

I had plenty of time to get to the start of the race without rushing, which was nice. I sort of just "followed the crowd" across the busy road, and into the neighborhood where the race would start. Since this was chip timed, I didn't see a need to get as close to the front as possible. I wandered up to the top 1/3rd of the pack and picked a spot to stand in. While waiting for the gun, I chatted with some runners who were next to me. You know, typical stuff: have you ever done this race before? What's the course like? Is it flat? Blah, blah, blah. Basically, I gathered from the peanut gallery that, indeed it was fairly flat and was sort of a 2 miles out, 2 miles back kind of race.

Alrighty, then. Let's get this show on the road.

On your mark, get set and GO! The gun went off about 5 minutes after the scheduled start time. I started the Garmin, powered on the iPod and took off.

Hopefully, you aren't expecting a scenic play by play of my race. As you may or may not remember, I don't really take in my surroundings all that much when I run. I just sort of follow the crowd and focus on running as hard as I can without dying. And I listen to that angry "kill your mother, kill your father" type music while doing so. Remember, this was only a 4 miler; not exactly a "stop and smell the roses" kind of experience.

The first mile of a short race isn't too painful. You are pretty much either gradually accelerating into your race pace or starting off a little conservatively in the hopes of negative splitting it. I'd like to say I had it all planned out, but you already know I didn't. I was flying by the seat of my pants.

Chirp. Mile 1 was a smart 7:27. Hmmm. Okay. I can live with that.

As I got into the second mile, I started getting a little cranky. Wow, this hurts, I thought to myself. I'm panting like a dog, here. I was used to running sub 7:30 pace at the track, but that was only for 800-1200 meters. My body was like, "huh...haven't done THIS in a while...and we haven't missed it much either, Cyndi."

When you run hard and fast like this, you run with your mouth open, because your breath becomes too deep and rapid to do it in and out of your nose. Somewhere between miles 1 and 2, a very opportunistic bug flew RIGHT into my mouth.

I don't know why she swallowed a fly.

Perhaps she'll die?

If only I could have gotten that lucky.

Chirp. 7:19. Ouch.

This is where we turned down a little side street to reverse our direction and head back to the finish. And this is when the voices in my head started clamoring for my attention.

You know, you don't have to run this fast, Cyndi.

You're STILL going to get that jacket. All you have to do is finish.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could stop and walk right now?

I have very unhelpful voices.

As I was debating all of these points between miles 2 and 3, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Bewildered, I turned to see a man running by me with no hair and sunglasses.

"Come on," he said. "Let's go."

And then, I realized it was some guy who went to the gym that I worked at as a personal trainer.

Crap on a cracker!!!

Someone KNOWS me here!

I can't tank it now!


Why what other people will think of us if we quit is more important than what WE will think of ourselves if we quit I do not know. But, I did know this: now is NOT the time to figure it out.

I had to run.

I kept my fleet footed friend in my sights trying to forget the voices as well as the bug that now resided in my GI tract. Perhaps the soothing sounds of "Raining Blood" by Slayer would dull the pain??

Chirp. 7:57.

Oh boy.

Go big or go home, right?

One more mile, Cyndi Lou. Let's just get this @#*&^% thing over with, already.

One more mile, and I could still see the man who was hell bent on keeping me honest, even if he had no idea that's what was happening. I could tell him after the race was over.

As long as I didn't die.

I tried not to look at my watch because I knew that if I did, that mile would have dragged on for an eternity. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other over and over and over again.

Eventually, we turned a corner and a line of orange cones came into view.

Which can only mean one thing.

This race is almost frickin' over!!!

If I had any kind of a kick left, now would be the time to use it.

Just as I was about to find out, I noticed my friend, Jimmie, standing on the sidelines cheering. I had hoped I would see someone I knew and now, as it turns out, I had. Not just one someone either.

I pushed as hard and as fast as I could until I crossed that finish line. I looked down at my watch and noticed I had averaged about a 7 minute pace for the last mile. My official time was 28:58. At the time, I didn't know what that meant in terms of the competition or how many people were behind me or ahead of me. I was just glad to be done! As soon as I finished, a race official handed me a white and blue plastic cup. And then it hit me...

Beer! It's for the beer! I can have a beer now!

But, first things first.

I went in pursuit of the bald man in shades to thank him for giving me a much needed kick in the a$$. He didn't know I was struggling out there, so I guess that means I'm pretty good at faking it (only talking about running at the moment). Turns out, his name is Tim and he finished the race in 28:51. Even though it had been an emotional tug of war for me, I'm glad he came along because it helped me to finish strong.

At this time, Jimmie came over to say hi. He and his friend, Ken, were getting ready to do a cool-down run, so I gladly went along, since Coach wanted me to do one anyway. We took off at a easy, conversational pace and compared notes. Jimmie ran 22:36 and Ken ran 25:42. Thank God for warm-ups and cool-downs or else I never would be able to hang out with these guys. We had a lot of laughs as we lamented the stiffness of our legs. But, we knew there would be some beer to dull the pain.

To The Winners Circle, Batman! There is a Harpoon with my name on it. And I even brought my own cup.

As we waited in the beer line, the race results were posted. We went over to check them out.

Well, what do you know?

Guess who took first in the F35-39 division?

Yup. You guessed it.

Shocker of the century. I could hardly believe it. After all the mental gymnastics, I ended up taking first. The person who came in second was about 50 seconds behind me. Not only did I take first, but it was a fairly comfortable placing at that. Jimmie ended up placing 2nd in his age group, so we both had reason to celebrate.

We ended up running into another friend of ours, Amy, who belongs to the same track club that Jimmie does. Amy is one of their coaches as well as a damn fine runner. Damn FAST runner! In fact, SHE ended up taking first in F30-34 with a stellar time of 25:48. It was shaping up to be quite a party.

I enjoyed chatting and drinking with these much so that I almost missed receiving my age group award: a first placed medal tucked inside a Harpoon pint glass. Oops.

I finished my beverage, said my goodbyes and headed to the car. I was happy and relieved with the way things ended up turning out. I didn't quite understand how I could have so many highs and lows in the span of 28 minutes and 58 seconds, though. Why do I go into these things with such a cavalier attitude and then entertain the notion to throw in the towel when the going gets tough? I ran Boston 2009 a little "too conservatively" and then kicked myself for not PR'ing. I DNF'ed at Hartford and almost crumbled under the weight of disappointment. Am I competitive or just crazy?? I had a feeling this was something that wasn't going to go away until I dealt with that underlying "fear of failure" I mentioned before. But, at that moment I wasn't quite ready to wrestle this demon to the ground. And, besides, it's not as easy to be introspective when you win.

What Kind Of Fool Am I?

I would soon find out in Beer Race #4.

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