Victory Can Be Temporarily Disguised As Failure

27 Mar
17k Finish Line

17k Finish Line

It was the night before the Kiss Me I’m Irish 17k and I was unreasonably nervous. My stomach turned and I was anxious. I recall fretting about my performance and questioning my abilities to maintain the pace I trained for. I agonized over making a PR. Emphasis on agonized…Let’s repeat…I A-G-O-N-I-Z-E-D over making a PR. My mind became restless. My fiancé knows me well because he took one glance at me and knew I was stressing out. He gave me this one look he always does when I get uneasy to assure me that I’ll do great. His look makes me laugh because he will raise one eyebrow as his way to convey to me that I have no business being nervous. He doesn’t have to say a thing when he looks at me because his eyes do all the talking. His eyes tell me that he believes in me. It is this look that is reserved for only me that melts my nervousness away, but only temporarily until I can’t sleep. Like every race, I don’t believe in myself until the clock starts and that was 10 hours away. I did my best to bury my head in my pillow and to think of nothing. But nothing manifested into everything.

Did I charge my Garmin? Did I charge my iPod? Will I have enough time in the morning to get to the race? Go to bed, Val, you have 9 hours before the race which gives you only 7 hours of sleep. If you fall asleep now you’ll have 6 hours of sleep. The list continues.

My thoughts became irrational. I had pleaded for the Sandman to visit me in hopes he would sprinkle his magical sand to aide me in attaining restful sleep. I enjoyed the childlike amusement I got from thinking about the mythical character, however fleeting the moment was and I giggled.

And moments later like magic, I fell asleep. Before I knew it the alarm buzzed and I sprang out of bed ready to conquer the race. I was ready to go. My heart was pounding and that my friends is a feeling I relish in. It’s like a pre-run high but a high nonetheless. You want to talk about magic, well I tell you this, it is magic. Race day mornings elicit this kind of supernatural thrill that runs through my body and induces these jitters I’ve grown addicted to. It is the magic that reminds me I am alive!

Paul looked at me, puzzled I’m sure, as to how I was enjoying the five o’clock hour on a Saturday and gearing to go. I was chipper and remarkably energetic without coffee. I knew Paul was silently cursing the morning, maybe even me (lol), questioning why he had agreed to participate in the race when he could be tucked under the covers. But he was a trooper. Paul was going to run the 8k (4.96 miles) with our boxer pup named Silas as well as be accompanied by his brother Scott and his boxer, Black Jack, as I ran the 17k (10.563miles) solo. The 17k is an odd race distance but it was for St. Patrick’s Day, hence the Kiss Me I’m Irish Race title.

As I was changing into my running attire I turned on the news. I was in disbelief over the weather. How could the weekend before be sunny and warm and on race day it’s rainy, cloudy and miserable? I had watched the news all week forecasting March 9th’s weather so I was mentally prepared for the miserable cold but I had a glimmer of hope that the weather would change and cooperate. Joke’s on me. I had even purchased a new green tank top by Under Armour to match my new bright green socks to fit in with the whole St. Patrick’s Day motif in faith the weather would be warmer. What a shame I had to cover up! I pulled my bright pink Nike sweater over my green tank. I recollected when Paul bought the sweater for me and I beamed because of his thoughtfulness. It was a Christmas gift from 2011. He saw me eyeballing the sweater at Sports Authority one day and he remembered that I had wanted to get it but refused to pay the outlandish cost (little did I know then that the money is worth it-not outlandish at all). I was shocked when I opened the present up to see it so neatly folded and pristine staring right at me! The booger got it for me! He had specifically purchased it for me to wear in the P.F. Chang’s Rock n’ Roll Marathon of 2012 to keep me warm. It even has pockets for my fingers to keep them warm! This was an exciting revelation!!! (What an incredible man I have!) Unfortunately I never had a chance to wear it because I was stricken with the flu that year. Alas, I was going to wear it for a race! About time! I glimpsed in the mirror and smirked. I was donning bright colors so at the very least I still felt like me. I was me plus freezing. Absolutely ridiculous! I reminisced how I got a tan the year prior when running this race and laughed at the fact I was freezing my rear off this year. It was well beyond cold, especially for Phoenix.

When we got to the race I noticed it was a sea of green! Some were in shorts and tanks, others wearing almost nothing while some were dressed for a snow day. Please understand this is Phoenix, Arizona and cold temperatures are a rarity. The runners in the Phoenix metropolitan area are not accustomed to cold temperatures and we don’t often have to dress appropriately for it. If we layer it’s cold. Hello, I layered!!!

I questioned whether or not to take off my sweater because I knew I would heat up when I started running but I didn’t know how or when that would happen. I have never trained in 30-40 degree temperatures in the rain. I am not built for the cold for goodness sake. I’m that girl that gets cold when it’s 70 degrees out. Add a slight breeze and I’ll turn into an icicle and my fingers will turn white and feel like ice to the touch, literally. So I kept questioning sweater or no sweater. It was suddenly too late to speculate anymore because the race was starting. I literally had seconds to take off my sweater and de-tangle my earbuds if I wanted to run without it. So I said screw it!

I started running. I raised the right sleeve of my sweater up a bit to start my Garmin when a chill came about me due to my exposed skin. Damn it was cold. I remember praising myself for leaving my sweater on. After mile two I was getting a tidbit warm yet my face was numb. I remember questioning why almost fifteen minutes prior I was praising myself for leaving this heat trap on. I was getting hot! Well only the part of my body that was covered. Mile three I saw a woman in front of me fuss over her sweater. Her sunglasses and earbuds appeared to be deliberately tangled as she tried to take off her sweater. After the battle with her earbuds she successfully tucked her sweater behind her through her water belt. A novel idea until I noticed every few minutes it would unravel and she’d have to slow down and fix it again. At one point her sweater fell off completely and another runner picked it up and assisted her with looping it and tying it around her water belt. What a debacle! After seeing this unfold in front of me I opted to leave my sweater on. Despite being slightly warm I didn’t want to fuss over it because I knew I’d get tangled as well. I didn’t want to have to wrap my sweater around my waist to have to re-tighten it every few minutes. That would be a waste of the precious energy I was trying to conserve and an inconvenient distraction from the race. I didn’t want to do anything that would hinder my speed. I mean come on, I was there to race. No bathroom breaks, no earbud untangling fiasco. Just me and the race. So there I was with my sweater on and my sleeves rolled up as far as they could go. I wasn’t cold but I wasn’t warm either. I was numb. I was comfortably numb if that makes sense. I couldn’t feel my fingers and that was okay. I was still moving forward.

So I just kept running the race. My pace was good. I was averaging an 8 minute/mile pace with slight fluctuations in speed. I was going to beat my last years’ time no problem! PR baby! I continued to glance at my Garmin and was ecstatic that I was faster, especially after having to take two months off to heal an injury. My training paid off! I remember thinking that if I could maintain this pace for 10.56 miles, I could probably maintain it for 2.54 miles more which would be equivalent to a half marathon. And if that were the case, I would be faster than my previous half. Acknowledging that my pace was faster as well as sustainable continued to motivate me to endure the cold and the slight aches in my joints and lungs. Nothing was in between me and my goal of a PR! The year prior my pace was 8:23/mile and during this race I guessed that with all the fluctuations between hills I was at about 8:07/mile. I was on track to get a new PR. I kept telling myself that I was going to kill my previous time of 1:24:48. I continued to run.

Then I gasped at mile 8 when I saw my Garmin’s time. My time was reflecting that I’d be a few minutes off of 1:24:48 and not on the end I wanted to be. I remember cursing under my breath that the dang course must be longer this year for that to happen. What bullcrap! There goes my PR. I continued with my pace but was eager to speed up a little. I was uneasy to go too much faster because I didn’t want to lose energy for the final sprint. I deliberated between going faster or to maintain my current speed when suddenly my Garmin flashed that I had just hit mile 9. I had a mile and a half left. It was now or never. I picked up my pace a little but I would still be off from my previous race time. Dang it!!!  I was exasperated as to how that could be! I couldn’t let it go! I couldn’t fathom the possibilities as to why. I kept playing it over and over in my head. Then I said screw it and just focused on the race I was running.

That last mile and half was a struggle. I think the last mile in any race is a struggle because you are so close to the end. It’s an all or nothing mentality. My legs grew tired and achy from the cold weather and my lungs were burning because the cold air! It hurt but it hurt so good. I told myself to stay motivated despite the time. Finish strong! A few songs came on my iPod with a tempo that did nothing for my motivation. My hands were too dang numb to hit next without guidance from my eyes so I glanced down to where my iPod resided on my sweater and I pushed the small button twice to get to the next song. I must have pushed too hard because my iPod fell off my sweater and dangled in the air. Shittttt!!!! I was thinking the iPod would become unattached from the earbud cord and fall onto the ground making me have to stop and pick it up (which would add more seconds to my final time, adding insult to having a slower time from the year prior). But my iPod didn’t fall and my worry dissolved as I grabbed it effortlessly while it dangled in front of me. I grabbed it in my hand and hit next and casually clipped it back on my sweater. I breathed a deep sigh of relief as one of my favorite songs to run to played through my earbuds. It was the Jay-Z/Lincoln Park remix, 99 Problems. The song afforded me the tempo I needed to push through my achy joints and lungs. I ran faster and harder. When I saw the finish line, I recognized that the time of 1:24:48 just passed on my Garmin but I didn’t give up. I told myself to go hard and finish strong. I told myself I had 99 problems and this bitch (the race) ain’t one! (The silly things I find myself saying to push me! They work!)

I used all my reserved energy to sprint to the finish line! I crossed that finish line and sweet adrenaline came over me as well as the feelings of accomplishment. I caught my breath and reminded myself that I had two months off from running due to an injury in an effort to accept my time. Regardless of what I told myself, I was still disappointed and miffed on how I maintained a faster pace but a slower time. What gives! It didn’t make sense! Paul, Scott, the pups and I walked to my truck for a perfect post-race refreshment for a little bit of a carb-reload. Nothing better than a beer, a Kilt Lifter at that (one of my favorites), after a race! As we were walking to my truck I had a sudden suspicion that I must have the wrong time stuck in my head from the previous race. How else could you explain that I was faster yet slower? Again, it didn’t make sense! So when we got to the truck I hopped on the internet from my iPhone and looked up my times. I gasped! I let out a little shriek in excitement! I had merged some of my previous race times together and 1:24:48 was not my finishing time in 2012. My finishing time was 1:28:42 and that means I PR’d by two minutes and thirty five seconds! 2 minutes and 35 seconds, people!!! Yessss! I finished the 2013 Kiss Me I’m Irish Race in 1:26:07! And that was after taking two months off. I was faster. I knew! It makes sense that I messed up my times. I did maintain a faster pace which resulted in a faster finish time-like it should!I messed up in my favor!!! I PR’d!

We opened the beers and cheers’d to my PR! And I cheers’d to the fact that I didn’t give up when faced with erroneous defeat.I was rewarded after thinking I had failed myself! Lesson learned, run the race that is set before you. Be strong and courageous enough to fail trying because your work will be rewarded. Finish strong, no matter what your circumstance as sometimes victory can be temporarily disguised as failure. Cheers to victory!!!

GO OUT THERE AN PR!!!

XO

Valerie

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