Sunday, May 06, 2007


That is the dilemma I now face. I'm talking about the 25k I signed up for, which takes place on May 11. I have a lot of hangups about this race, mainly in my head. Its also a hard distance for me physically. Its not that I haven't done this race before, and in fact have run it many times in the past, but I haven't run the 25k in at least 6 years. Its been so long, I really can't remember, and I don't want to remind myself of my performance by looking up my time.

This has been bugging me all year so far, and its the main goal I feel I need to accomplish before my other events of the year. I believe my success at my other events depends on my success at accomplishing this distance.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fairly confident I could reach the 25k mark without too much more difficulty after my two hour run. But without realizing it, that run took a lot out of me, and then last weekend's fiasco started letting the doubts creep in.

Yesterday, I again set out to do at least 2 hours, with the hope of going even a little longer. Mentally, I was ready. And I felt I was reasonably ready physically as well. It had been a particularly grueling week at work, and I was suffering from some sort of allergy attack, but otherwise, I felt I was ready. The reason I feel I need to go longer in time is because I am still very slow, and I know it will take me at least 3 hours to go the whole 25k. If I can get more time in on my feet, I will feel more ready, more confident.

The weather yesterday was supposed to be warm and sunny, but in fact it was cool, windy, and mostly cloudy. I was on the road before 7:30 am to be finished in time for another soccer game. I chose a route I could do loops on again, but this time the loops would be on the actual race course. Part of the course is completely flat; the other is hills and rolling hills before flattening out again for the last couple of miles. I was choosing most of the first part and the harder middle part.

I planned to drive to Millenium Park, which is a park on the race course. It is what I call landlocked, since there is no easy access from any highway to get there. So its a drive. I missed a turn to go directly to the park from the main road, so had to double back almost all the way to the beginning, where I didn't want to be, since the time was inching towards 7:30 now, instead of the planned 7:15. And then I got behind someone out doing who knows what at that hour of the day, but definitely driving at a snail's pace, and there was no way to pass. So I was forced to tailgate this nitwit until I got to the park, where, as expected, he/she pulled into the drive as well. Great, I thought, now this person can give me the evil vibes for following so close. But this person saw, as I did, that the gate to the park was still closed! I really thought the park opened at 7 am, so I was confused and irritated over the locked gate. That person did a U-turn and headed back the other way, while I continued onto the next park.

The race course goes past or through a series of 3 parks, all spaced about 2-3 miles apart, and the planners eventually want to link all the parks together, which will make it bigger than Central Park. One of the parks is also on the river, and there are several small, inland lakes that have formed over the years within Millenium Park.

But this locked gate messed up my plans somewhat, and it was getting later in the morning. So once I reached the other park, I quickly headed out. I was glad to have a jacket, because the winds were out of the north and east, making it briskly chilly. I was hoping that I wouldn't run into too many people either, figuring most of the regulars were either sensible about tapering for next week, unlike me, or were doing the bike/run workout that the tri group was doing. And I was starting earlier than most.

I had noticed water jugs along the way as I drove past the parks, so I knew there was probably a Team in Training going on. Since I was forced to change my route somewhat, I considered doing one big loop and just getting water from them as needed, something I hadn't planned on but which would probably work to my advantage.

For this type of distance, I am still in a run/walk mode: 8 min. run, 2 min. walk. This seems to work well-- it keeps me from getting too tired, keeps my heart rate where it should be, and makes the time go fairly quick in my mind. This time, I was really surprised when I got to a turnaround point that I was already at the 40 min. mark. Going past Millenium Park, I noticed the gate was now open. Thanks, whoever you are, for being late.

I was also seeing other runners now, probably, as I said a Team in Training group, since they seemed to know each other. They were all running the opposite way as me. When I got low on water, I just restocked from their jugs. Before you start thinking I was cashing in on their stuff, be assured that there were 10 jugs within a 6 mile loop.

After I did the first part of the route, I was not feeling too well. My stomach was getting queasy, and I really needed a bathroom. Since the one park had been locked, I missed all opportunities to use their facilities until it was too late. So I had to hit the bushes. Not once, but 3 times!

Okay, that's just what I needed to throw me off my game. I had scratched my legs up badly on brambles, so both legs had trickles of blood running down them, my stomach was still a little crampy, and the wind now was steady and unrelenting. I started mentally changing the route, making bargains so to speak, on how far I would run before I would walk. I was still keeping on the 8/2 pace, but I was starting to mentally lose it.

And at this point, I was afraid what would happen if I went back to my car for refueling. I got tough though and decided yes, I would stop, get a gel, and keep going. If I had just taken an extra minute when I started, I would have had something with me and never would have had to go back to my car. So I decided I would do the flat part, turn and head back and be done. However, by the time I got within the last half mile before my car, my left foot started getting numb and aching. Because I have had this problem in the past and let it get out of hand, I decided right then and there to make this the end. I convinced myself if I continued on, my foot would be a mess, and I would be in trouble for the rest of the season. Part of the problem is this particular course. It is all paved, but you are forced so often to get on the gravel (gravel and rock) shoulder, which is quite slanted, that I end up having some foot trauma every time I run on it, which is why I don't like to use it as a training course any more often than necessary.

So that was it. I gave in, headed to my car, and then started noticing groups of runners coming from every direction. Whew, I got out of there just in time! These are people who run this course week after week, year in, year out. I didn't want to deal with them today, that's all there was to it. I had run 1 hour 15 min., half of the time I really wanted to run. I headed home, first stopping for gas, and then getting home before 9 am. I still had at least 45 minutes before I needed to get ready for the soccer game. Maybe I could run another 30 min. on the treadmill?

Crazy as it was, that's what I did, although I didn't run 30 minutes, I ran 40. Surprisingly, my foot felt okay, I felt okay, my stomach felt okay. It seemed like it took forever, but I made the whole 40 minutes, none the worse for extra wear. My feet were both hurting a little, but nothing any worse than usual after that much time.

So the question still remains: should I take a chance on running this race with only two 2 hour runs under my belt, or forego that and do the 5k? I'm taking votes.


bunnygirl said...

I think you've got what it takes to do the 25K. But perhaps the bigger question is whether you'll have fun doing it.

If it's not going to be fun or fulfill a chersished goal, you might want to do the 5K and sign up for a different 25K on some other day, when you can be sure of your mental game.

But it sounds to me like you can get through the longer distance if you really want to. Just be sure to take an Immodium the day before. That's how I stay out of the port-a-potty line during long races.

Flo said...

I agree with bunnygirl, if it's not going to be fun why bother. I know you have lots of reasons for doing this race but it may not be the right time. I'm sure you could do it physically but maybe you're just not ready mentally.

Immodium is definitely your friend :)

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Do whatever makes you happy. I believe you can do the 25K, but I think you should do it because *want* to do it and not because you think you *need* to do it.

Whatever you decide, try to have fun with it!

Shelley said...

If your heart isn't really into it, I would bag the race and focus on your long runs or rides...don't put pressure on yourself to do something you may not really want to do 100%...if you do decided to do it, just take it easy, do your own thing and have FUN!! :-))

Phoenix said...

Two questions to ask yourself:

Why do I feel its necessary to complete this race in order to be successful this season?

How will I feel if I decide not to do the race?

I don't think the question is whether you can or not. You can. You can at least start - maybe the cards wouldn't be for finishing that day, or maybe you would walk the last half, there's no way to know how something will end. But you could start if it were important to you. So is it? Is it just some arbitrary goal you set to punish yourself or is it something that, deep down, you really want to prove you can do - or at least attempt. You have to answer that for yourself.

If you decide not to do it, its not a failure, it does not doom the rest of the season - but only you can say how it will effect you mentally and emotionally to say no to the race. If you really want to say no and will only feel relief, then by all means, skip the freaking race!