A couple nights ago, I was watching my Arizona Wildcats pummel Duke at a local taco shop, exhausted after a tough swim workout. My Fortius friends were there too and just as they arrived, I took a giant bite of my taco, only to realize that I hadn't chewed enough. It slithered painfully slow down my esophagus. And stayed there for about an hour and a half while I dry heaved and paced painfully in the hallway at home. That was after my teammates and friends, Mike and Karen drove me home because I became pale and light-headed. This isn't the first time that's happened to me.
I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew, literally and metaphorically.
But I wonder is that a bad thing? Which leads me to my race report today from what was supposed to be the Cheseboro Half Marathon, as part of the Great Race of Agoura. Instead, the trail race was cancelled and funneled into the Pacific Half Marathon road race -- which I completed two years ago to the tune of 1:50:19.
Honestly, I didn't want to run the Pacific Half. I had run four times this week already, was experiencing mild discomfort in my calves and Achilles area, and generally didn't feel fresh or loose. But, Coach Gerardo said I should do it, and I knew I was slightly behind on the running aspect of my training.
So I ran. And what was supposed to be a "training run" turned into a personal vendetta to not only beat my 2009 Pacific Half time, but also to see if I could break my previous best finish at a half marathon, 1:45:59 at Surf City last year.
I did it, by more than a minute -- 1:44:52 by the official chip time. An 8:01/mile pace.
I didn't expect to PR. Not today. Not with weather in the mid 30's at race start. Not after eating a bacon cheeseburger for dinner last night, and an ice cream sandwich for dessert after lunch. And most definitely not because at first, I simply didn't believe I could do it.
Then, the race started. And I stopped worrying about it. I remembered my interview for Lava Magazine I had recently with Tim Bomba, who runs the LA Tri Club's "Ocean 101" circuit. He told me the best race he ever had was when he stopped caring about the results, essentially turned off the watch, and just had fun.
So that's what I tried to do today, within reason. I never knew what my actual race pace was. Instead, I focused on heart rate but didn't let myself care too much if it exceeded my pre-game mental threshold of approximately 155 bpm. If I felt like running hard, I did. If I felt like slowing down, I did that too. But the one thing I WOULD NOT DO was stop. That was the only promise I made to myself, and of course, it wasn't a difficult promise to keep. As you can see with the elevation profile on the course, it's not the flattest course around. Especially with a nearly one-mile climb at the three-mile mark. But I know that based on my training, I recover well. My heart-rate can drop pretty quick, so why not let it ride a bit?
It worked. And so did the lessons I learned from my buddy Greg Moe, who coached me through a run workout last week where we focused on cadence, downhill running and arm movement. I practiced all three today, with downhill running primarily being responsible for me hitting my new PR. I used to brake on downhills, afraid that I'd be hurting my quad muscles or IT bands. Since I now am better at forefoot striking, it's less of an issue. Once I got to the top of the peak climb during the race, I leaned forward and simply let the hill carry me down -- to the tune of a 6:42 mile. I would not have even attempted to go that fast in the past for fear of blowing up later in the run. Not caring as much if I did, while trusting that I'd recover quickly enough not to, were both key in ensuring that my heart-rate remained consistent throughout the race.
Until the final mile.
Then, I let it out. My heart felt like it was cramping but I pushed forward as best I could, catching up to people in front of me who dogged me through the entire race. All I saw was their sweaty backs throughout the morning, until the very end. I can honestly say I didn't leave a thing extra from within on that course. It was my best effort, and it feels good.
So much for a training run though. Once again, I over-bit. Once again though, I think I over-achieved beyond my expectations. Sometimes biting off more than one can chew hurts. Sometimes you have to cough it back up. And sometimes when that happens, you have to clean up the vomit, wipe off your mouth, and ask for seconds. I literally ate the meal I couldn't get down Thursday night for breakfast on Friday morning. I had to finish what I started, I suppose.
Now, the question will be how well I recover, as tomorrow I do it all over again -- this time on the bike for a five-hour climb-fest with my buddy Caleb. Then, I'll be swimming if I have anything extra left in the tank. I'm not counting on it, but I will try.
For now, I'm still wearing my finisher's medal. I'm going to savor today just a bit longer.
87 days and counting.