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.

 

Bouncing Back From a Demoralizing Run

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This isn’t a how-to. This is a help-please! A desperate plea to the runners of the world.

I have a 10K race coming up a week from today. In fact, by this point I’ll be home and cleaned up and chilling on the couch. I thought I would be ready by now. But I am not ready. Not even close. I’m sure of that now, after this morning’s disaster of a run.

Instead of settling into a comfortable pace for one last long(ish) run, I struggled and had to stop to walk. Eight times. I even cut my distance short. At least by now I know when I’ve had enough.

Instead of feeling primed and powerful and ready to take on this 10K, I’m feeing like a failure. I’m floundering. Flustered.

So I ask you, oh wise ones of the internets, a week from my race, what should I do?

  • Do I hit the roads hard this week to try to make up for my lackluster long run?
  • Do I take the week off and rest up?
  • Do I carry on as planned and shoot for my original goal?
  • Do I pull up the reins and run a slow race, so long as I can actually run the whole thing and maybe even enjoy it?
  • Do I step down to the 5K?

A Tale of Two 10-Mile Runs

I run the same route for all my 10-milers (boooring, I know), but the last two could not have been any different. Behold:

Date: Oct. 26        Time: 1:38:41       Goal pace: 9:00     Actual pace: 9:38
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^ Ugh. Don’t let the kick at the end distract you from what was a miserable run. You can see the pace start to erode after mile 4, and then things go further south from there. What you can’t see is that I walked four times in the last three miles. My body was toast for the rest of the day after this mangled morning run.

Date: Nov. 9         Time: 1:31:17       Goal pace: 9:00     Actual pace: 8:5510_miles_1109

^ Hooray for negative splits! Hooray for starting strong and finishing stronger! Hooray for having energy to spare by the end! Hooray for not walking! I like this pace plot. A lot.

This is what success looks like for me.

I missed my target for Thursday’s 5-mile tempo run by 15 seconds per mile. That’s quite a bit IMO, but I’m calling it a victory. Here’s why.

  • I pushed through, even though everything in my body said stop (not even halfway!). I still don’t know how I managed to persevere, but I did.
  • As it became clear that I wouldn’t have enough in my tank, my mind drifted to Saturday’s 10-miler and how I could possibly finish that if I was already struggling so much with 5. I stopped that train of thought in its tracks. One thing at a time. I would deal with Saturday’s run on Saturday.

Now, to get ready for those 10 miles.

Maybe My Half-Marathon Goal Is Too Aggressive

Maybe My Half-Marathon Goal Is Too Aggressive

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What is this parasitic blob that has taken up residence in my head?

Ooooh, yeah. It’s doubt. Hello, old friend.

I’d been riding my runner’s high for about seven months, right up until week 1 of my new half-marathon training regimen. In March, I turned in a fantastic race in Washington, D.C., finishing the half in 1:55 after training to break 2:00. I wanted more.

Heck, if I could break 2:00 by five minutes, why couldn’t I break 1:55 by five minutes?

I’ll tell you why: To shave 10 minutes off a half-marathon is to shave 46 seconds off each mile. And lemme tell you, it’s hard. At least for these legs.

Finish time Pace per mile
2:00 9:10
1:55 8:47
1:50 8:24

It took me two years to break 2:00, and that whole time I trained for right around 9:00 miles. These days, to get in under 1:50, I’m training for 8:30 miles—I know 8:30 gives me a 1:51 finish, not 1:50, but I’m expecting to surprise myself.

Well, here’s a surprise: 8:30, at least so far, has proved nearly impossible.

Continue reading “Maybe My Half-Marathon Goal Is Too Aggressive”

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”

Finding Inspiration in an Elite Runner’s Failure

Photos by Aaron Lavinsky/azcentral sports
Photos by Aaron Lavinsky/azcentral sports

I finished my third full marathon two weeks ago. I set a personal record, too, with an asterisk that says *Hit wall at mile 22.5.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about Roosevelt Cook.

Cook finished second in the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. It wasn’t because he couldn’t quite catch up to the winner. Rather, it was his race to win. He was leading the whole thing, comfortably, and then—BAM!—he crashed (bonked, hit the wall, etc.), allowing the eventual winner to pass him around mile 23.

I had a mental picture of Cook simply slowing up, until I saw a photo of him hunched over, hand on his hip and head hanging low. Full stop. An elite marathon runner stopped on the course?!

Continue reading “Finding Inspiration in an Elite Runner’s Failure”