Friday, October 30, 2009

Running With Myself

Finish time: 6:04:09

This is where it started, you know. It started with running.

It started those years ago now, alone and early in the sweaty Houston mornings, when two sticky miles around the sleeping neighborhood at 11 minute pace was "cardio." That was when it was hard. Really slow, really alone, and really hard.

It started with the achy knees and the shin splints and the 800 calorie breakfast after the 400 calorie jog. Quitting running, starting again, getting injured, starting again, running well, running poorly, weighing 169 pounds.

Doesn't it always start that way? Faltering efforts on one's own, pain and foolishness. Pain and failure, glimpses of success, endorphins and thrill followed by the loneliness of the long distance runner when you wonder why you're the only one out in the cold rain on a Sunday morning. Even through the windshields, you see the looks of drivers on a morning like that. They think you're a fool.

Even as children, we scarcely learn to walk before we are walking fast and bobbling then running--usually away from the worried grownups who try and fail (as they must) to prevent us from running into things, falling and starting again.

I suppose it would seem like foolishness for a two-year-old to run from safety to skinned up knees. But, after all, that's how growth happens--for two-year-olds and for forty three-year-olds. Foolish and necessary all at the same time.

"I pray--for fashion's word is out
And prayer comes round again--
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man."*

Off the bike this fool jumped in T2, and despite some lollygagging and habitual complaining, it felt good to get out into the sun and onto the run. My legs were not overtired and I was not overworried about completing the day's training task. I was blissfully ignorant about the features of the three loop course save the downhill and up between the arena where T2 and the finish were located to the lake park where the turnaround was. So, I practiced Ironman pace and decided to run past the first aid stations until a mile or two was under my belt.

Whisk-whisk-whisk-whisk. Light and easy were the quick steps that began to chew up little bites of feet and yards and miles. 138 pounds now--31 pounds down from a younger and slower self. The hills just meant smaller steps and slower pace but also the fun of gliding down the other side. The sun came and went behind sticky, humid clouds, but the warmth did not drain my energy. Steady on, and on with ease, one small landmark at a time, breeze sometimes but not at others.

There were lots of people on the run course, and the out and back nature of the route meant you would see them over and over. And there were lots of bands and music and entertainment and hooplah. Honestly, though, I was quiet inside, almost like I was out for one of those runs in the dark. I was out for a run by myself. Whisk-whisk-whisk-whisk. Smooth and steady--an occasional walk through an aid station and once to handle a side stitch on a hill that will not exist in Cozumel.

And then it was three laps done. Whisk-whisk-whisk-whisk. Two hours and a fraction and the knowledge that I could have gone much further still without going to the well. Thirteen minutes faster than my previous best when I tried hard and worried. 13 minutes faster as a passionate, and relaxed, fool.

I don't guess it matters how many Iron Distance races one has done. I always wonder at points in the year, "Who was that guy? Because there is no way it could have been me. I'm never going to do this."

But then at different points I know--at that point I knew--anything is possible for "a foolish, passionate man."* Cozumel awaits.

*William Butler Yeats, A Full Moon In March (1935). A Prayer for Old Age, st. 3.


Benson said...

Stud your are.

that is all

Coach Liz said...

what a great day at the races!

Nat said...

It's amazing how much we can improve when we truly push ourselves. Great job!

Trishie said...

dude. awesome.