I was so glad that I went. This was my first race of the season and my first really significant run since my Calf Injury of 2011 (the calf injury was so severe that I've decided it needs a formal name). I just started running again about six weeks ago and because I'd taken so much time off from December until February, my re-training has had its ups and downs. So I wasn't counting on much of a good run for the 10k...
I was wrong...
It was a wonderful race...but it was the perfect way to welcome the spring and shake the dust off my fitness and training. And the perfect way to don my Irish running attire:
|One added perk of St. Paddy's Day: It gives me an excuse to wear any and every color of green - my favorite color...|
|One of the bridges we ran across. It was a little bouncy! This is a fall picture taken from the Prince William Forest website.|
|Another pic of PWF when it's in full green...It wasn't this full yesterday, but it's getting there...|
After the race I felt exhilarated, partly because my calf felt great (although I had some tight hips), partly because the race was better than expected, and partly because I'd spent the morning re-connecting with spring and nature...What a great way to spend St. Paddy's Day!
The rejuvenation with which I left the race got me thinking about some things I'd learned during my St. Paddy's Day Irish run:
- Cheap beer really does taste awesome after a run: God bless the Marines, because they had green beer after the run. All participants got one free green beer, that I'm sure was Budweiser or something similar. Normally, I can't stand Bud, Coors, or any similar cheap, piss-water beer. But I think because of it's near-water consistency, that cheap beer always hits the spot after a run!
- Never leave a child behind: There were 17 children (4 girls and 13 boys) under the age of 14 who ran the 10k. I remember at that age that it was a struggle for me to make it through the 1-mile run of the President's Physical Fitness Test, so the thought of running a 10k at that age never even occurred to me. My Leprechaun Hat's off to these amazing kids. There was one young lady who was running with her mom, who kept giving her daughter running tips. The daughter was 13-years-old and adorable, with her long blonde hair pulled back in a braid and a green shamrock painted on her right cheek. They were running by me for about the first three miles, where the majority of the long uphills were. About half way through the last significant uphill (which was about 3/4-mile long), the mom took off ahead of the daughter. The daughter, gasping for breath, tried calling out to her mom, but she was too exhausted. She stopped and started walking. I slowed up, jogged over to her, and said "no, no, come on, let's keep going." She said ok and off we went. I tried to give her a couple tips - breathe deeply, lean into the hill. She made it all the way uphill without walking. I high-five'd her at the top and when I knew she wasn't going to fall over, I was on my way. The mother was about 25 yards ahead and I couldn't help but think "What the hell is wrong with you?? Never leave your child behind, struggling on a hill!" I saw the girl and the mom at the end - they both finished and I congratulated the daughter, telling her how fierce she was. The mother just smiled and walked away....I hope that someday that girl can outrun her mother and leave her behind struggling up a hill.
- Remember what it's like to run as a child downhill: Most of the young boys in the race, like typical boys, were running like a bat outta hell!! Uphill, downhill, didn't matter. They'd been let loose to run in a forest - they were in heaven! There were two young boys - probably closer to 9-years-old (the youngest participants), who were flying down the wooded hills like they're just been set on fire. Their big feet clomping down the trail like it was made of rubber. I kept holding my breath waiting for one of them to go tumbling down hill. But as I gingerly made my way around the rocks and tree roots, I noticed that the little boys seemed oblivious to the hidden dangers in the dirt. And they were faster because of it. As children, we know very little fear. We learn fear the older we get. As an adult, I fear that by running on trails, I can twist my ankle, fall and bang the crap out of my knee, or possibly break something. So I concentrate and take every step carefully, often tripping - probably because that's what I expect to happen. These young boys don't know that fear - they don't expect to fall. And they rarely do. So because of that fearlessness, they fly down the hill like a deer. My old, fearful ass isn't about to try to keep up with them. But it made me realize how much I need to let go of that fear and remember how it feels to run like a child. When you don't know enough to fear anything, you don't run the risk of having your greatest fears come true.
- Trails feel good: Yesterday was a great introduction for me into trail running. I've been wanting to try trail running for some time now, but the fear described above, along with the hassle of trying to find some suitable trail shoes, has held me back. (And harkening back to an earlier blog post, yes, I am sidelining myself with respect to trail running!). But you know what - I actually loved it. And for my first real experience, I did a pretty good job - I only twisted my ankle very slightly on one little rock. More importantly, I realized how amazing it feels to run on trails instead of pavement. Going up and downhill, while technical and nerve-racking, was exhilarating and pain-free. My form actually felt better. So now, with my first taste of trail running, I'm feeling the urge to go find some trail shoes and start to dip my toes into this new frontier...
- There's nothing like a race to get your juices flowing: It's been four months since Ironman, and before that, it'd been over a year since my last race. In 2010, I did probably 15 or more races - duathlons, triathlons, cycling, and running. I'd forgotten how much I love racing. I don't love it because I'm particularly good at it. I love it because of the energy, the sense of competition, the feeling of thousands of competitors all sharing one common goal - to be better than they were before the race started. I love the beginning of the race when everyone is warming up, the music is playing, the energy is coursing through everyone, and there's that anticipation of what's ahead of you. It's the culmination of your training, your chance to make a comeback, your chance to honor a loved one...whatever it is, it's your chance to shine. God, I've missed that. Now, after doing that race, I finally feel like I'm out of my winter training slumber. It's time to join the ranks of athletes again. Time to get the dust out of the muscles and lungs. Spring is here, and with it comes life...and the race season...
What did you learn from your last race? What's the first race you're signed up for this year?