Why I Spent $24.95 on This Awful Race Photo

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I received the email with my official marathon photos. You know the one. I clicked the link to access the proofs, knowing full well I wouldn’t like what I saw.

In this case, it was proof that I was indeed suffering during the race. This was January 2013.

One particular image so finely epitomized my experience that I grabbed a screen shot of it—though I couldn’t bring myself to pay for the download. The screen grab stayed where I saved it, on my computer desktop, for over three years. Occasionally I’d call it up and look at it, and I’d recall the misery of that moment.

It was past mile 20, after I’d hit the wall. I’d given up on my plan to walk only through the water stations and was instead willing my body to keep moving at all. I’d also given up on my time goal, cursing my failure to achieve what I worked so hard for. I hated the taste of my gels. I hated a lot of things. I was past the point of exhaustion—physical and psychological—and I had an eternity to go before I could be done with it all (and, not surprisingly, go directly to the medical tent).

I look at the picture now, and the pain is as real as it was then.

This week, I finally paid for the digital download. $24.95 on my credit card. Three years after the fact.

Why in the world would I keep the screen shot on my desktop for so long—or maybe more curious, why would I ever spend hard-earned cash on such a forgettable photo?

Because I don’t want to forget what happened. I don’t want to forget how I failed, or how I felt. Ever.

Two weeks ago, I ran the marathon of my life, and I have all the happy pictures to prove it. (I bought them right away.) I’ll cherish these photos, along with the memories they evoke, for as long as I have room for them in my brain and on my hard drive. But I’d better not forget that awful 26.2 in 2013, either. And now I’ll always have that picture to look back on—in unsightly 300 dots per inch. I want to zoom in and see the anguish in my face and remember the wall and the water stations and the wayward goals. I want to remember what went so terribly wrong on the racecourse that day.

It’s by reflecting on our failures—and learning from them—that we lay the groundwork for improvement. I’ve elevated every aspect of my running since 2013, I’m pleased to say, and with this awful picture now in my possession, I’ll know by exactly how much.

 

I’m Not Very Fast (So Say ‘Serious’ Runners)

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This month I finished my second 5K summer series. In the last race, I missed a PR by 36 seconds! So you could say I was feeling pretty good about myself. Oh, but not today.

No, today, because I was feeling so good about myself, I searched for what people consider a “serious” 5K time. I had in my head 25 minutes, which I can do (I hesitate to say easily) just about every time I toe the starting line these days. Boy, was I wrong, according to “serious” runners on the internets.

The “serious” runners think that any 5K over 20 minutes is not serious. That serious runners could cover 5,000 meters in 20 minutes as a warm-up nursing an injury on an off month. Never mind that I may never get to that easiest of thresholdshealthy, in the best shape of my lifeno matter how much I train.

I’m sure these “serious” runners would prefer that I join the Clydesdales.

See, there is talk among these “serious” runners that seriousness is a result of effort. Because I haven’t broken 20 minutes, naturally I’m just not trying hard enough. Maybe that’s it, “serious” runners. Or maybe it’s genetics.

At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds on a good day, I’m not built like a runner. I’m more like Jimmy Graham than Galen Rupp. I would venture to say the Saints tight end can’t run a 5K in 20 minutes, either.

Look, guy, let’s not be so negative.

Deep breath. After grinding my teeth a bit, I turned my frown upside down by thinking about how far I’ve come in 5K Land. In 2004 I finished my first one in 28:20, after kinda-sorta training on the treadmill for all of eight days. I remember feeling this monumental sense of accomplishmentand also rewarding myself with utter laziness for the rest of the weekend. I ran another race in 2007 (29:26) and another in 2008 (33:49) before finally cracking the 25-minute mark in 2010, when I caught the running bug.

Continue reading “I’m Not Very Fast (So Say ‘Serious’ Runners)”

9 Numbers That Defined My Year in Running

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This is my 2013 retrospective. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Oh, 2013, you were a beauty. My family and I were tremendously blessed with health, stability and security. I loved watching my toddler start to turn into a little man. My wife and I found out that our family would grow again, by one, in 2014.

2013, you were also one for the record books. I ran hundreds of miles training for races in five different distances, and I was surprised to realize I bested my time in all of them in the last 12 months!

To see my number of PRs, and other stats, check out my list below.

627

  • Total miles run

98

  • Miles run in January (most)

17

  • Miles run in September (least)

8:58

  • Average pace per mile (Nike+ calls it “fast & furious”)

7

  • Medals earned

5

2

1

  • Marathon run
  • 15k race run
  • 4.2m race run (third consecutive Pat’s Run)
  • 4m race run

0

  • Injuries

With 2013 in the books, I hope you have a happy new (running) year!

» What About You?
Do you have any 2013 numbers you’re particularly proud of? Do you have any running goals for 2014?

Good Vibes from a Good Run

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This morning, I had a good run. It didn’t strike me just how much a good run affects my day until I sat down to write this piece. Today, even without that realization, I had pep in my step and a hunger in my belly. (Literally, as in I can’t eat enough food!)

I’m shooting for 8:15 miles for my Thursday tempo runs, and today I nailed it. I’ve only done that a few times for my tempo runs since I started training almost two months ago. If you don’t run, it’s difficult to describe the feeling of meeting a running goal. If you do run, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Nice, right?

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^ I seem to always start off herky-jerky as I settle into a comfortable pace. By mile 4, I was in a groove.

Anyway, studies have shown that running and other exercise is good for the brain. After a good run—heck, after a bad run—my brain takes a bath in endorphins and other feel-good hormones. Accomplishing a goal during said run (like meeting a certain pace) is icing on the physiological cake.

Plus, it’s such a pleasant change from a few weeks ago, when I was struggling to meet my new, aggressive goals while training for a faster half-marathon finish. I’m not struggling any more! It seems I’ve turned a corner.

That feels good.

Gonna Make You Sweat: My First Arizona Road Racers Summer Series

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I’m as fit as I’ve ever been in August.

This revelation came the day that I finished the last of five races in the Arizona Road Racers Summer Series, “the Valley’s one and only summer race series.” Included were four 5Ks and one 4-miler, spanning May 25 to Aug. 11.

I signed up thinking it was a great way to stay active during the summer, when I usually join the rest of the Phoenicians under a collective rock. Most important, my continued training would take me through my 20-year high school reunion at the end of July. (Read: I’d be in the peak physical condition requisite for gloating around my classmates.)

It all seemed simple enough.

In fact, coming off my best season of running yet—during which I set PRs at 5k, 4.2 miles (Pat’s Run), 15k, half-marathon and marathon—I set some fairly simple, yet aggressive goals.

Continue reading “Gonna Make You Sweat: My First Arizona Road Racers Summer Series”