Friday, October 21, 2011

we are all the same

I hope I can find the right words to describe what I am thinking about.  If there is any question on my intent then I got the wording wrong and have failed.  I am just open and honest and like to share what I am thinking and appreciate your comments.  I hope I am not just rambling!

Recently someone said that I was an elite runner and that it was an honor to talk with me about running.  I have thought long and hard about what this means.  Just like I look up to faster runners as elite, this person probably does the same to me.  While none of us are going to the Olympics any time soon, I appreciated the kind words, but I also realize that it takes nothing more than going to a big time race to be humbled as to where we fit with our abilities.  I appreciate the fact that they look up to me and I will admit that selfishly it does feel good to be recognized for something, but should it be an honor to have me dispense some running advice?  No.

Please don't be afraid to talk to me at a race or any other time about running or life.  I put my shoes on just like you do.  I paid the same race entry fee as you do.  Regardless of finishing time, we both put forth the same effort during the race.  If you ran as hard as you could and you are proud of that effort, then I would love to hear about it.  I am always looking to talk to people before and after races; I love to hear the stories of where people are from, the adversity of their training and other stories that help bring as closer together as athletes.  Its no more of a privilege to talk with a faster runner than it would be to talk with someone who has a higher rank at work; we are all people at heart and when you take running away, we are the same.

I have been taught by some of the best guys in town and I would love nothing more than to be able to pass this on to the up and coming runners.  If I kept it all to myself then it was a waste for those who taught me.  I want to teach you so that you can teach others and pay it forward.  I'd love to have a beer with you sometime and talk about running or anything but running.  I love it when people ask me for help on training or something running related where I can leverage what I have learned to help them out.

Just because I may run fast doesn't mean that I am any different than you.  I respect the fact that you are out there doing it and trying your best.  I am not above running with or talking to anyone.  If anything; the opposite.  People think that because you are fast that all you do is run fast.  I love to run with friends of all paces and really I just enjoy the company of running with other people.  If I am training for a goal race I will find a time for my quality running.  Not many people enjoy running alone day after day and I am no different; sometimes I'd rather sacrifice a key workout just to not run alone.  After all, we are just human first and runners much further down the list.

Now I will be honest to say that after I warm up before a race, and lower the sunglasses, that is how I go to that mental state that I need to be in order to race my best.  Some athletes use heavy rock music on their ipod to take them there; for me lowering the sunglasses puts me into the zone.  So please don't take this as being elitest; its just what I need to be at the top of my game.  The second the race is over, I get more enjoyment from seeing people finish and with a joyful tone talk about how exciting  it was to race.  I was able to help you in your training, with coaching or to even just encourage you with my words or cheering during the race, then that is greater than any medal or reward I could receive for my own efforts.

If I have ever made you feel unimportant at a race, then I apologize.  I used to be a jerk.  I used to be a jerk with an ego thinking that I was hot stuff, when in the grand scheme of things, I was just a jerk.  If that is who you still think that I am, then you are welcome to your opinion, but I invite you to strike up a conversation with me now and let's start over.  I think you will be surprised.  I pray that someday I will be known for who I am, my beliefs and maybe how I impacted your life in a positive way, not because I ran a fast race once upon a time.

So if you are a 5 minute miler or a 9 minute miler; a 40 mile a week person or an 80 mile a week person; a 10 mile runner or a 100 mile runner; we are all the same, you and I.  We are runners.  We are athletes.  We all suffer the same during races, hurt after hard workouts, have occasional injuries and smile from ear to ear when we cross the finish line, knowing that we have given our best effort.  We all look up to people who are faster than us.  None of us are elite.

After all, we are the same, you and I.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

2011 Liz Hurley 5km

I have always loved this race and 2011 was no exception.  There is something about being motivated by the overall cause of supporting breast cancer awareness, the cool temperatures, the fast course, the competitive field and being able to cheer on the women in their separate race afterward.   This was the 4th year in a row that I have run this race, and maybe it is the time of year, but I have always faired well.  Starting with a 17:04 in 2008 (10th), 17:01 in 2009 (5th) and a personal best 16:36 last year (7th).  

I had thoughts leading into the race of trying to hold 5:20 pace and run faster than 2009, but with a recently ailing right knee, I just hoped to have a solid run without much pain.  This was also three weeks out from the New York marathon, so sandwiched around the race I needed to log 20 miles.  I met with Dr. Culpepper on Thursday and he said there was nothing structurally wrong with my knee but that he wasn't sure what the problem was, so he just prescribed some anti-inflammatories.  I'm hoping the knee responds positively to give me confidence in the marathon.  I appreciate the thoughts and prayers I have received; there are so many people that need those prayers more than me so it meant a lot to me that people would pray for my health to compete in a foot race.

The weather was great to start in the low 50's and after a few delays at the line, we were off.  The pack thinned out faster than in previous years and I was able to run the tangents through the s-curves of Lowe before the turn to Madison.  As we climbed up toward the square, I settled into a nice pace behind Brad Schroeder and I was running in 4th.  I knew there was a ton of talented guys just seconds behind me and at anytime I could easily slip out of the top ten if I slowed.  Brad opened up the gap coming off of the square and just before the first mile marker, good friend George Heeschen passed me as we clocked a 5:18.  George and I joked last night over beers that neither of us felt like racing!

I felt a little bit of the bear jump on my back in the second mile, which at 5km pace I have described as 'unforgiving' with the turns and slowly gradual hills.  It was nice to see Anne and her pups on the corner of Randolph and White as I was able to snap out of my zone and refocus.  If I were going to make a charge at sub 17, I would have to capitalize on the fast downhill of Randolph.  My second mile split was a slow 5:32, which put me at 10:50 overall.  George had pulled away and would go on to have a great race.

The two-turn combination of Lincoln and Williams is always taxing and I let up just enough that Nike Fleet Feet Racing Team mates Donald Bowman and Erik Debolt nearly pulled even.  We topped out on Adams and after a very fast recovery, picked up the cadence and dropped the pace.  We were running along at about 5-minute pace and Erik was right with me.  He was in great shape coming off of the Army 10 miler last weekend and I knew that he would out kick me if we stayed together until the final tenth of a mile.  I decided to push the pace early, instead of waiting, and dropped it down to around 4:50.  I put a little gap between us, but as we crossed Lowe and neared the end, he closed in. We were both running all out, pulling each other along.  Somehow I managed to hold on and together we ran 16:56 and 16:57.

(All photos courtesy of Carolyn Derting)

Later Erik and I joked that neither of us probably would have broken 17 alone but together we did it!  It wasn't 5:20 pace or a personal best, but on a day when I wasn't fully healthy and on that relentless rolling hill course, I am happy with the results and of my effort.  Breaking 17 might be easy for some people, but I really have to be in good shape and work very hard to get there.

I was happy to see that all of my friends ran so well today!  As always, I am very thankful that I was able to compete and am proud of my 5th place finish, but I hope in the process I was able to remember that the glory of this day is all His.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Year Later

I had just run past the aid station before mile 5 near Monte Sano Elementary of the Fleet Feet 15km.  I was pacing along at 5:45 min/miles when suddenly I just lost the will to run.  I calmly stopped and walked off the course and started to make my way back to the park.  I was going through some very difficult times in my personal life leading into the race and emotionally I had no business racing.  It was one of my worst days ever.

That was one year ago today.

Now a year later, what I thought was one of my worst days ever, turned out to be one of my best days ever.  It was the first day of the rest of my life and the last year has been more amazing than the previous thirty-four.  I am no longer the same person I was last year, having grown spiritually to where running no longer runs my life.  I still enjoy it, but it has its place and time further down the list where it should be.

So when I ran past the aid station this morning averaging the same 5:45 pace, I did not stop; I did not walk off the course.  I felt a little devine breeze which made me smile and I managed to stayed strong for the second half of the race.

On a challenging couse around Panorama, I was able to set a personal record of 54:59.87.  I am very proud of my effort not only with the time, but that I put to rest any thoughts of last year.  I didn't win the race today but I did have an amazing emotional victory.

I continue to feel blessed that I have been given this great opportunity to turn my life around.  I owe much to the people around me that have been there through the good and bad times.  I feel like I am on the right road, but far from complete.  God is not done with me yet and I trust in his plan.

While the personal record feels great I know that the glory of this day is all His.