Cafe de Desiree

July 18, 2011

2 A Runner’s Diary: The Triumphs and Tragedies of a Beginner

Filed under: Athletics — desi83 @ 7:17 am

The Second Race:
(Please read part one below before reading this post)
I was glad to merely finish my first 5K and to be running at the end. I discarded any goals outside of that as I ran without the confidence and preparation that I needed to successfully race against anyone, including myself. I decided that this time, during my second race, I was going to win the race against myself. I finished in just under 32 minutes during the first race. I walked at least five, maybe even ten minutes of it. I didn’t time it, so I am not certain exactly how long I walked up those hills with slumped shoulders and my head hung low. My goal was to beat myself. If I ran under 30 minutes and didn’t walk during the race, I’d feel accomplished. Glen gave me a perfect solution for the problem of not feeling prepared. This was a simple solution that would help us both feel ready this time. I couldn’t believe that we didn’t think of it the first time. He discovered on the website of this particular 5K, the Brentwood Race Against the Spectrum, that there was a map of the run. It was so obvious. We were going to check out the trail ahead of time. If there were hills, we were going to train on them. I refused to be beaten down again by the beginning runner’s enemy, the hill. This was planned last minute, so we were just going to drive there and walk it on this particular day. However, I realized that I had a bag of gym clothes and running shoes in my car from a light work out that I had done the previous day. They weren’t sweaty or stinky, but even if they were, I was going to get them that way after the run regardless. We had planned a run the following day, but we agreed to run the trail that day. It would be the best way to prepare. So, Glen made the long drive to my work, which is close to Brentwood, and I got into his car to go to Crockett Park. We drove through the streets of Brentwood, daydreaming of our future home. We chose a couple of homes that we could be comfortable living in. They were on large plots of land, 2 or three stories high with brick or stone walls around them, and they had the architecture of modern day castles. We passed a sign that said “Starting in the 500’s”. Some day, we thought, it’d be nice to be rich enough for houses like those. We arrived at Crockett Park, which had everything one could imagine having in a park: an especially nice frisbee golf course as Glen pointed out, soccer fields, tennis courts, and a decent outdoor amphitheater. As we neared the amphitheater, we noticed there were several cars pulling into the parking lots, and there were parking lot attendants directing the traffic. “We just came here to run,” Glen said,laughing. We heard “Smooth Criminal” playing from the stage. People were getting out of their cars and herding to the stage with their lounge chairs, coolers, and whining children. “What the hell is going on?” Glen asked rhetorically. “Let’s check it out,” I suggested. We parked and began preparing for the run. Glen strapped on his compression running socks and light weight running shoes. I already had mine on, but I took one last swig of water. We stretched our muscles, which is something that we tend to forget to do. His shoulder tends to bother him, so I try to remind him to stretch his shoulders. We are good for each other in that way. He tends to remind me of a lot of things that I don’t remember for myself. I like to tease him about always being prepared since he was an Eagle scout and is now a scout leader. I love that about him, his always being prepared because I am usually not. I love that he dedicates himself to the scouts as well as other endeavors. He motivates me to have that sort of dedication as I’ve never really had that quality. Running is something immediate and concrete that I can dedicate myself to.
Once we felt ready to run, we made a detour to the stage. We had to know why the entire city of Brentwood had flocked to this amphitheater in the park. What we saw seemed to scare Glen to some extent. A young, black Michael Jackson impersonator wearing black leather pants, a blue shiny, frilly shirt, and a curly ponytail was thrilling the audience with old Michael Jackson favorites. Don’t get me wrong. I adore Michael Jackson’s music. But the impersonator was a bit ridiculous, and we weren’t sure why he was so popular. I mean, there is only one Michael Jackson, and it is futile to attempt to be him as a performer. We left, or rather Glen grabbed me and quickly began walking away. I had to know what this was about, so as we walked past a parking lot attendant, I asked him what was all the hype about. “It’s a free concert in the park that they have every week in the summer,” he replied. Apparently there were several other cover artists who took the stage during the summer. Free entertainment made sense, even in an upscale town like Brentwood.
With our curiosity fed, Glen told me where the run would begin, but we walked a little further until we passed the traffic going into the amphitheater. “Are you ready?” he asked with a smile. I nodded, and we sped off down the concrete path. We sped past the tennis courts and soccer fields. We ran through the woods on a slight downhill slope that gave us temporary relief with shade and a breeze. I was enjoying the trail so far for its scenic beauty and lack of hills. I was actually enjoying the run instead of just suffering through it, as I have during some training sessions. It was about 7pm by then, so the sun wasn’t blazing down on us as much as when we trained in the afternoons previously. My mouth began to feel dry, so I stopped at a water fountain outside of the public restroom just to rinse my mouth. “I’m not going to drink the water, I just need to wet my mouth,” I announced as he turned to see why I had stopped. “I don’t think Brentwood water will hurt you,” he joked. “I just don’t want to get a cramp from drinking too much water,” I explained under my breath. Talking was not easy at that point. “Alright, let’s go then,” he urged. We continued running until we came to a parking lot, and I suddenly stopped. “I have a cramp, and I am melting in this heat,” I cried. “It’s okay, we can walk for a bit. We did a mile and a half, so that’s half-way,” he replied graciously. I love that any time that I have to stop and walk, he never complains or makes me feel bad about it. However, he doesn’t enable me to be lazy either. After a couple of minutes, he asked me if I was ready to run again. I always know that if I say I’m not ready, he’ll give me a couple more minutes. At that point, however, I was ready to push myself a bit further. My cramp had subsided, and I was able to speak clearly again. We pushed ourselves to run that last mile and a half (minus whatever distance we walked). My body began to heat up to the point that the wind felt cold on my skin. I was covered in sweat, which always gives me a sense of accomplishment. I love to feel my body sweat because that tells me that I am pushing it to the limit, and also it cools my skin. I started to get worried, though. The wind felt colder and colder, and I had chill bumps all over my skin. I just felt incredibly uncomfortable. It is a strange feeling, being hot and cold at the same time. I was afraid that this would lead to vomiting. I absolutely did not want to vomit in Crockett Park. I wanted to finish, though, so I told myself that I could make it just a little bit further. For some reason, I thought that we were parked closer than where we had actually parked. That is a terrible feeling for a beginning runner. After we passed the first two parking lots, I finally gave into the fear. “I’m stopping, you keep going, babe,” I shouted. He turned around to look at me, and he continued to run. I never want to hold him back, just as I know he wouldn’t want to hold me back. So, I don’t mind it if I have to walk behind him for a bit. I know that with consistent training, he can be a great runner. I think with more experience, I could say the same for myself. I stopped shivering as I finally approached the car. “I couldn’t do it, I just didn’t feel right,” I lamented. “It’s okay, sweetie, you ran most of the trail. And we have our run tomorrow,” he said sweetly. “I felt cold. I was afraid that I was going to throw up, like I was sick or something,” I explained. “You felt cold because your body became hotter than the wind outside,” he explained, “it’s okay to throw up as a runner, it happens.” “I know, but I didn’t want to throw up ‘here’,” I said as I waved my hands in the air. “True,” he said smiling. He stripped off his sweaty socks and running shoes and slipped into a pair of flip flops. I didn’t have mine with me, so I just dealt with the sweatiness for the time being. “I really want to run the entire race this weekend without stopping to walk,” I complained. “I know, sweetheart. We still have tomorrow to train. I know that you can do it,” he encouraged as he kissed me on the cheek. “So do you want to go home and take a shower before we hang out?” he asked. “It’s getting late, so I guess if you think that I have time,” I replied uncertain. “I mean, we’re both stinky and sweaty, so we can stay that way if you really want to, I don’t care,” he joked.

The night before the race, I took a sleeping pill. We went to bed at 10 pm, so I was sure that I was going to get plenty of rest. I laid there in the bed beside Glen, and I felt my body become heavy. I was so relieved to know that I was going to have a restful night before the race. I continued to lay there, feeling heavy. Yet, sleep did not find me. I didn’t understand how I could feel so drowsy, and yet my mind would not shut off. I was worried that I wouldn’t sleep well, and as a result, I would not run well. I was worried that I wouldn’t improve from the last race. Glen was sound asleep, heavily breathing (but not snoring of course!). I eventually drifted in and out of sleep until 4:30 am when the alarm sounded. After hitting snooze a couple of times, he rolled out of bed. I had asked to sleep until 5 am. I drifted back to sleep until he came into the room and kissed me. “Wakey wakey, eggs and bac-y,” he said softly. “Hmmm,” was all that I got out. “I know, but it’s time to get up and get ready. I don’t want to be late,” he said. “I know, I’m getting up,” I complained. The sleeping pill was still in effect. I felt like I was floating inside of a heavy cloud. Glen started the shower for me, and I slowly made my way to the bathroom with my toiletries and clothes. I stepped into a steamy hot shower, and the heavy cloud began to disappear. I felt alive again. I used to think it was silly to take a shower before a run since I was just going to get sweaty, but Glen made a good point. A hot shower energizes the muscles before a run. I have learned so much, and there is still so much to learn about being a runner that even Glen probably has yet to learn. I had learned from my last race not to eat a heavy breakfast or have coffee right before the race. So, I had a piece of toast with honey and just a couple of sips of coffee rather than a whole cup. I drank as much water as I could hold. I was so ready for this.We made our way to the race with his sister behind the wheel. She raced through the streets to get us there on time, as Glen was very apprehensive about being late. He had every reason to be apprehensive because the gun was to go off right at 7 am, so it wasn’t the type of thing that we could be casually late for. Out of the three of us, none of us are morning people. We were almost there, when we approached a tunnel and had to stop behind a parked truck. “Is there anyone in that truck?” Anna asked. “It doesn’t look like it,” I answered uncertainly. “Oh my gosh, there is a bus stuck in the damn tunnel,” Anna said to the dismay of all of us. “Damn it!” Glen shouted. “It’s okay, it’ll re-route us,” he reminded us. The female computer voice told us where to go from there, and we arrived at Crockett Park, somehow with minutes to spare. We were pre-registered, so other than a quick bathroom break and a warm up jog, we were ready to start. “Where should we line up?” I asked Glen. “We’ll get in the middle of the front section,” he suggested. We lined up behind the pros, and we did our last few stretches. “Are you going to wear your shirt during the race?” he asked. I looked around. “No one else is wearing just a sports bra,” I observed uncomfortably. “Um, look harder. I have seen girls here dressed skimpier than you. You’ll feel better if you take off the shirt,” he suggested. I smiled shyly and removed my shirt. I tucked it in the back of my shorts, and I already felt much cooler. “I hope that I can run the whole thing,” I said desperately. “If you feel like you must stop and walk, count for twenty seconds. Use the timer on Anna’s watch if you have to,” he advised. Anna always lets me borrow her watch. That is something that is on my list of things to buy as a beginning athlete. “Just don’t let yourself walk without timing yourself, and start running again after that twenty seconds is up,” he said looking me straight in the eye. “Okay, I can do that,” I said confidently. This was a much bigger race than the last. It was actually time-chipped, and there was at least three times as many people as the one in Nolensville. The announcer came over the speaker, and the gun went off right at 7 am. We ran together for probably a mile. We ran through the parking lot, through the woods, and finally we came to the small hill that led to a small parking lot near the tennis courts. I had to stop to walk. I remembered what he had told me, so I began to count. Eight seconds went by, and the small hill had now flattened into level ground. I had seen too many runners pass me that were not as fast as me. I decided to run again. Glen had taken off, so I had lost site of him. One day we’ll finish together, I thought. I wanted him to do his best and go as fast as he could, so I wasn’t bothered that he had passed me. I was only bothered that I couldn’t keep up with him just yet. But in that moment, I knew that I had to refocus on my goals. Eight seconds of walking was not bad at all. I was running fast, wanting to make up for the time that I had lost. I had passed the two mile marker, and I was still going strong. I started having trouble breathing about a half a mile from the finish, so I had to stop and walk one last time. Note to self, take a allergy pill before the race next time. I felt my chest tightening, and my nose was terribly congested. My shirt had been threatening to fall out of my shorts throughout the race, so I finally made use out of it. I used it as a handkerchief, and I felt better. I took deep breaths, long breath in, long breath out. I centered myself again, all the while counting to twenty. Once I reached twenty, I really did feel like I could breath again. I knew that I only lacked about a half a mile. A ten year old kid struggled past me. I had seen him run, walk, run walk since I had slowed down. I wanted to tell him to find his pace so that he could finish the race running. I could see that he wanted to run fast more than anything. I also knew that I really didn’t want to be beaten by him. He would go on to win in his age group, by the way. I ran a bit faster than I had run previously in the race, but I found a pace that I could keep. I wanted to finish strong. I pushed myself, seeing the walkers and the joggers struggle up the hill on the other side of the loop. Then, I could see the giant red timer up ahead at the finish line. I ran as hard as I could. It was dejavu from the last race. There was a girl about my age running just a couple of feet in front of me. I heard Glen yell “beat her,” from the crowd just as he had done at the end of the last race. So, I pushed a little bit more. So did she. Bitch. My legs literally would not push me to catch up with her. Was she on skates or something, I wondered. That was a small battle that I accepted as a loss that day. Yet, as I crossed the finish line, I looked up to see 28:10 on the clock. That was all that mattered. I had beat my time by almost four minutes from the last race. Also, I only walked for a total of 28 seconds. I just wish that girl hadn’t gotten in front of me when Anna tried to take my picture. I was actually trying to have a photo-ready facial expression at the finish line this time. I had a big smile of triumph on my face when I crossed that line. I finished at fourth place in my age group for females. The girl who placed first in my age group only beat me by two minutes. So, I had triumphed that day, and I also had a new goal. Glen had finished at a little over 26 minutes, which was near his goal. So, if I could shave off two minutes, that would put me at the same running time as him unless he improves. I hope he does though, because running with someone who is a little faster than me is constant encouragement to get better. Because there is no point in running this race if we ever become satisfied with our performance.

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