Why do we make decisions that may not be wise? Emotions?
My recovery after last weeks run was not going well both emotionally and physically. Besides my body giving me signals by way of weak legs, creaky joints and my heart twitching (which is nothing new for me after hard efforts), I was second guessing my decision to DNF at the Nueces 50 last week. I shared my physical condition with a good friend who advised me not to run the 10 mile Prickly Pear race I was contemplating. Maybe I should wait another few days to run.
Showing up at the race site Saturday to volunteer, I met with many in our group for what I thought would be 5 hours of cheering fellow runners on at the 50K and 10 mile event. As we were setting up and greeting the lead 50K runners, another friend shows up with his race packet and says, " I thought you were running the 10 miler Tony."
Telling him I decided not to, someone says, "Go ahead and run Tony, We have enough help here." Others, were also encouraging as the first guy winked his eye at me. "We can run easy and coast without blowing up." He said. I did not have running shorts with me and stated that only to be offered shorts by someone who had a pair in their car. "OK" I said. " You talked me into it.".
At the start line I talked and laughed with friends wondering how I should run this race. I run because I enjoy the feeling it gives me but the competitive spirit lives in us all. As runners we want to compete with ourselves as well as others. Most of us do. That's why we toe the line. In my mind I was thinking I would start easy but when the gun goes off the machine starts churning.
Early on my legs felt weak and rubbery. Talking with Sandy was calming as we ran the first mile on smooth asphalt only to separate as we reached the rocky nature trails. Less than 2 miles in and the trail for the rest of the race is smooth dirt with very short, very slight inclines now and then. I had covered two miles in just over 16 minutes. At about mile 4 my legs were now warmed up and feeling strong but I was beginning to feel a little tired. A girl I had been leap frogging with was now ahead of me so I locked my sight on to her feet and fed off her pace. This was great until mile 6 where she was about to go off course. I yelled, "Hey, Hey!" she stopped and turned back around as I now took the lead with her in tow. I began passing people which only gave me more energy. Reaching the 7.5 mile aid station to cheers from the Rockhopper group I drank two cups of gatorade and received hugs and encouragement. I was surprised that I was running so well and felt good. From the beginning I was listening to my heart, and cognizant of my back which was also an issue the prior week.
With 2 1/2 miles to go the thought of placing in my age group crossed my mind. Why not? I've got to go for it. I may be well off but I don't remember too many, if any, old guys ahead of me and feeling as well as I did I decided I'd run as fast as possible with out "Blowing up." Setting my eyes on a runner up ahead I picked up the pace, catching her just before reaching the 9 mile mark. Again I locked in on her pace. Suddenly I heard breathing behind me. As I turned I saw a grey haired dude about my age! No way! Can't let this guy catch or pass me. Wait, He's not trying. He's biding his time. I'll watch him.
Come on, who doesn't feel this way? No matter your skill level. At P.E. in the elementary school yard, didn't you want to beat the kid running next to you?
Thinking I'd turn it on after we come out of the wooded trails and into the clearing I wondered if I still had enough energy in the tank. The girl in front of me was moving well and the dude behind me was now literally breathing down my neck. After coming out into the clearing the finish line is about 100 yards up the trail with a narrowing between two boulders half way there. Ten yards from those boulders I sprinted around the girl and through the gap giving it all I had. Surprisingly I still had fuel in the tank. More surprisingly the other old guy did too! I heard him right behind me! I crossed the finish line with him four seconds back at 1:25:34. Turns out I was in his age group! Later as I was awarded the first place mug and he the second place, he would say to me, "That's the first time that has ever happened to me. Damn it!" All in fun of course.!
Was it wise for me to push this hard after what I was experiencing this past week? Maybe not. But it felt good crossing a finish line. Emotionally I'm in a better state. 24 hours later, my legs and heart have not rebelled.
At the finish line table I thanked the girl ahead of me for the ride. She thanked me for the push, and the other girl I was feeding off earlier came in and thanked me for getting her back on course. Most runners are cool people. Cool? That's old dude speak.