Friday, April 27, 2012

2012 Norway Spring Classic 10km

Matthew 5:16 (NIV) In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Giving thanks and praise at the end of the race to He who makes all things possible by pointing to the sky and then to my parents who I was proud to have there watching the finish.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Twelve one hundredths of a second

So often in running, we judge our self-worth based on our accomplishments and our failures.  But should we?

Just because you set a personal best time, or on the flip side, you were last in your age group, does that make you any more or less of a person?  For a long time my self-worth followed closely with my race results and when racing three weekends every month for five years, it was quite an emotional roller coaster.

While I took control of my life and readjusted my priorities in life last summer, I have always struggled with that "feeling" you have after a race.  Sometimes a victory can leave you feeling hollow and empty if the glory of the podium is not placed in its rightful place, with our creator.  Sometimes a victory can make you feel invincible and on top of the world.  I have had every emotional reaction to my 240 career races that you can imagine so I speak from experience.  No matter what your time, or place, it has nothing to do with your value as a person.

This weekend I set out to break five minutes in the mile, a goal that I have had for several years, but the timing was always wrong for few and far between certified mile races in North Alabama.  I didn't put in a full training plan for this race, but I did sharpen my speed over a three week period and other than racing a half marathon in that stretch, I was focused on reaching my goal.

The course included 6 turns and 39' of elevation gain.  Neither of these may sound significant, but in an all out race of pain, the straighter and flatter the route, the faster the outcome.  I knew that the field would be small as a first time event and that there would not be anyone to pace alongside, so I would have to go it alone.  I am reminded about a phrase that my friend Rob Youngren uses often, "You have to be your own man."

I went with my lucky orange singlet, worn just three times (2:43 at California International Marathon, 3rd place at Oak Barrel half marathon and then last fall for my PR 16:29 at Spooktacular 5km) and tucked it in "Heeschen" style to be more aerodynamic.  The shoes of choice where the new blue and orange Nike Lunar Racers, with only 20 miles on them.

With the majority of the climb in the first half and a hill from the start leaving the Children's Advocacy Center, I went out hard, taking the first left into the 400m mark just ahead of plan in 1:13.77.  I could hear some footsteps behind me but I was so focused on my form and staying on pace, that I never once looked back.

The second 400m was a struggle as the course took 3 more turns, (right onto Calhoun, left onto Clinton and left onto White) and topped out on elevation.  I was looking at my watch and the instantaneous pace was reading as slow as 5:10 and I felt like my goal was slipping out of my hands.  My split was 1:18.80, putting me at 2:32.57 so I would have to run 12.21 miles an hour for another half of a mile.

Coming off of the turn onto White, the third 400m section should have been a fast downhill.  In warm ups I visualized myself picking up the pace as my turnover increased and I cruised down to Walker.  In reality, my legs were tired from the slight headwind and climbing in the first half.  I kept pushing but I just couldn't get the pace back down into the 4's.  Making the fifth turn of the race, my split was about the same as my previous, 1:18.76.  Through three-quarters of a mile, I was now 6 seconds off of my pace at 3:51.33.  I would have to run  13.29 miles an hour, or a 68 second quarter mile coming home to make it.

Mentally I began to give up.  Physically I pushed on harder than ever.

I lined up the tangents of the last section and when I hit the final turn back onto Dallas, I was at top speed for the final 200 meters.  As I approached the finish line my friends who showed up to cheer me on (and watch me suffer!) gave me a great lift... I could feel the acid building up in my calves but I just had to hold on for a few more seconds and it would be over.

Crossing the line I saw the clock and thought that I had made it.  I gave a tremendous fist pump and was shouting, something.  I ran hard through the line and moments later laid down in the grass from exhaustion.

Thanks to Carl Smith for the great still captures

I ran the final 400 meters in 68.78 seconds.  To break 5 minutes, I needed to run it in 68.66 seconds.

I missed my mark by twelve one hundredths of a second.

The old me would have moped around, felt sorry for myself, went into hibernation and thought about hanging up my racing flats.  After all, I had failed to reach my goals.

But then I realized something... I had just raced my fastest road mile ever... I had won the race... and I was only twelve one hundredths of a second away.  Saturday April 14th, 2012 was not my day to realize this goal, which just means that when I do break five minutes in the mile, it will taste that much sweeter.  Just like when I ran 3:11:12 at Myrtle Beach marathon in February of 2007, missing qualifying for Boston by 13 seconds... my next marathon was a 3:07:05 and I left no doubt in my mind that I had qualified.  

Do you think that God cares if you run fast?  Do you think that your true friends value your friendship more because you win a race?  I would argue that both of these relationships have strengthened BECAUSE I failed.  I tested myself and came up twelve one hundredths of a second short and the world kept spinning.  My friends didn't disown me, my beagles didn't forget who I was and if anything, I was a stronger and more humble person because of my failures.

Thanks so much to the NCAC for putting on this event, and to Fleet Feet and others for sponsoring it, to the many volunteers who worked the event and to Carl Smith for his precision timing.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Story of Believing

Thanks to a friend for encouraging me to share this... 3 minutes and 59 seconds of video chronicling the changes in my life over the last decade.

Enjoy my friends.