From Aluminum to Tin Man

I graduated today. After running 20 miles for the first time and shaving 11 minutes off my previous Firecracker 10k time two years ago, I am giving myself a diploma. (Btw, if you're interested, my race results are here.)

I'm turning the tassel from being an "aluminum-man" to being a "tin man."

What do I mean?

I can now run up to 20 miles, which this morning included a difficult 10k with more than half the distance covered being uphill, at a fairly easy pace.  That means I know I can complete a marathon with 100% certainty.  For a guy who used to have to ice his legs down after a 10k just a couple years ago, this is a huge accomplishment for me.

Second, I'm ready to train tomorrow.  Mentally, I'm there. Physically, I may be a bit shot. I'm sore.  I hit a bit of a wall around mile 18 on my run today, which occurred towards the top of Elysian Park overlooking Dodger Stadium. My legs barked.  My back tightened.  My pace slowed slightly.  I needed to walk up a hill to lower my heart-rate.  But sheer willpower and the desire to finish strong carried me through the final two miles of the 10k and the overall run.  And I was able to sprint the final 200 yards.

Ah yes, the pre-race run.  Just a few weeks ago, I thought Coach Gerardo and his brother Ray were crazy for running 14 miles before completing a 10k.  Then, I became one of the crazies myself.

Funny what this sport does to you.

The pre-dawn run was absolutely serene and beautiful.  My partners in crime, Christina and Paul, joined me at 5:45 a.m. at the Universal Studios metro stop.  From there we snaked through Burbank, Glendale, Griffith Park, Los Feliz, Silverlake, downtown and Chinatown before arriving at the Firecracker 10k with minutes to spare before the starting gun.  Running with a full moon for an hour followed by a sunrise and the beginning of a bustling day was surreal.  The city sparkled to life in front of our eyes, literally.  By the time the race started, the sunshine was dazzling -- without a cloud in a sky.  What a way to begin a Sunday!

Another reason I graduated today: I accomplished something I previously thought was crazy and beyond my reach.  I smashed a mental barrier.

What's the next grade level?  What will I graduate to next?  I think from tin we progress to metal.  The graduation ceremony will occur on July 18, 2010, at the Vineman Half-Ironman.

Mark it down.

I'm on a mission.

268 days and counting.