So, I got my mind right and told myself that this would be my best running moment ever. And that was saying something being that I won my last collegiate race back in the day with my 4 x 100 relay teammates to win IC4A championship. Yup, I said this will be better than that because no one will be watching...no huge stadium filled crowd will be cheering. Nope, it will just be me, no ipod, no build up or fanfare...nothing, but me and the road and my destination to hand off to the next leg of our team.
As I received the wrist band signaling it was my time to begin my 5.1 mile leg (leg 28), I took off in a pace that I knew I could handle. I was figuring I could keep a 8:30-9:00 minute mile pace for 5 miles. Well, actually, I was hoping I could make it at least through 3 miles at that pace without walking and then hopefully power walk/run the last two miles. However, again I told myself as I was getting about a half mile into my race that I could do better than that. I told myself that I was strong, powerful and had much better endurance than I was giving myself credit for. About 3 quarters of a mile in I pasted one runner who was this older gentleman who was admiring the trees and plants along the run. We had a quick chat while I was passing him and we wished each other good luck on our run. I remembered thinking that this older guy was really enjoying himself and that I should do the same. This older gentleman was running the best he could while taking in the great weather we were having that day in Las Vegas. It truly was amazing.
As I rounded the corner to turn on to the next road I could see that I was about a mile in and that I was keeping around a 8:30 pace. I was feeling great and did some more positive self talk about how I could do this and how my spirit and drive was up to the challenge. So, I picked up the pace to do more of an 8:00 mile pace. I picked off some more runners and as I was running on that beautiful day I felt my confidence skyrocketing because I felt so positive about my ability to conquer this challenge.
Of note, I had run my previous leg (leg 16) of 3 miles around midnight and the 3 mile one (leg4) before that around 11:00am. I had slept only about an hour and a half in 24 hours and I was starving from only eating trail mix, bagels, and similar based food over that time. Needless to say I was suffering from major sleep deprivation and at one point I really thought I was seeing things in between legs. I was hitting the bottom.
However, I truly believe that when you are at your worst that you can rise to be at your best. At this point I was 2 miles in and I told myself again that I would not short change myself not one bit. It was my 3rd and final leg of the race and I figured why not see what I could do. Again, there was no way I could short change myself on this. I knew I was better than that.
So as it went, with my team van following me here and there to provide me with some water and some nice words of encouragement, I took off and ran my heart out over the last 3.1 miles of the run. I stopped looking at my watch and just smiled and enjoyed the beautiful weather while letting my legs turnover and run towards the final destination for me. I saw the one mile left to go marker and felt and even bigger surge come and I just stepped on the gas some more. I told myself one last time.."You can do this...you have the ability and fitness level to do better than you think."
I rounded the corner and kept up a pretty tough pace. My legs starting to burn and my lungs were on fire as I kept churning. With about a 200 meters to go I saw one of the volunteers with the walkie talkie about ready to ask me what my number was so that he could relay to the exchange zone that I was coming in so that my teammate running the next leg could be ready for the hand off. I yelled out before he could even ask.."136!!". Right after I said that I broke out into a full fledged sprint. Man, it felt good to run that hard again.
Remembering the technical cues from my track and field coach Bill Walton back at James Madison University, I began to lift my legs to that all too familiar 90 degrees and plant my feet underneath my hips. I ran with 90 degrees of flexion on the forward swing with my arms and about 120 degrees on the backward swing. I had a slight body lean and I kept my head straight with my eyes towards the prize...the exchange area for leg 29 where one of my teammates would begin running. As I neared the exchange zone I knew that I had run better than I thought. I did not short change myself for one second.
I stopped in the exchange zone, handed off the wristband and proceeded to check my watch for my average time. I figured that I had run around 7:50 per mile for 5.1 miles. I was so pumped that I had exceeded my expectations. I didn't short change myself and on the way I learned again that the only thing that really stops us as human beings is ourselves.
This is a lesson that we must all learn. We are so much better than what we think, but too many times we let our own negative thoughts and assumptions of what we can't do get in the way of our performance in all phases of our lives. This is especially true in exercise, which I will say can be pretty painful and require a high effort level when you are truly challenging yourself. Everyday I hear from people in the gym how they are too old for this or that they are not athletic enough for that. That is garbage.
Ask yourself this...Why is it that a 65 year old man or woman can go out and run a marathon or do a triathlon while a 25 year old person will say they could in no way do something like that? Or he/she will say something like well I'm more of an anaerobic person versus an aerobic person. The truth is that you are just scared of the pain. And you know what? That is OK! It is OK to be scared and admit that. You are not short changing yourself by saying that you are scared and that you have fears about exercising in general or about running a race of great length. The short changing of one's self is when you make excuses to not do something that are based on lies and not true feelings. I will not feel neither here nor there if someone admits the truth of why they won't do something, but I sure will take issue with someone who does not do something and blames it on some excuse that is trying to cover the truth.
I saw people of all shapes and sizes running at the Ragnar Relays. I saw skinny people, slightly overweight people, very overweight people and I even saw a man who was physically disabled doing his legs of the race in a wheel chair buggy contraption. Really, no one will blame you or chastise you if you admit your deep truths about not doing something. Hell, there isn't one person in this world who will meet every single thrilling challenge that presents itself in this world. I agree that it is not possible to do that. However, don't say you won't do things because of some fake truth. Don't short change yourself!
Thanks for reading everyone and I hope you enjoy your week!