Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Blacksburg Classic 10 Mile Race, Blacksburg, VA, February 12, 2017 ... (Time: 1:49:52)

Not every race can be a PR. Some races have to be disasters. This race was the down side of the scale. This race was a disaster ... both for me and for Lucky, too, and we both look forward to moving on from it and hopefully doing better next time.

Not that we're blameless as per our bad results.

Lucky and I had a delicious, big, carb-load lunch on the day before this race. We decided that we would probably both like to have some sushi for dinner later that night. So we went to a super-market in our area that happens to make and sell fantastic sushi. Where we made our mistake was in riding around and running errands for several hours after we picked up the sushi. By the time we got home, the sushi was... well, warm. It didn't even smell very appetizing. But I insisted, because I wanted it to be true, that unless sushi stinks, it is fine to eat.

Given the next day's issues, I may have been entirely wrong.

The next morning I had concerns. Because the race was in the afternoon I had time for more than my usual single cup of coffee. I had two cups, in an effort to speed up my standard pre-race bathroom trip. Once my digestive system did wake up, things seemed off. My standard single trip to the bathroom had became two trips, and then three, and the last one was particularly violent. Not to get graphic, but there was cause for alarm. But an hour or so later things seemed fine. Then there was an uneventful 90 minute car ride to Blacksburg. I decided that all was probably OK.

At a little past 1:00 PM the gunshot signaled the start of the Blacksburg Classic, and only half a mile in my guts began to twist and knot. Nothing was OK, and there was no denying it. I ran back to the elementary school where the race began. I hustled to the men's room, where a great many memorable things happened to me in the first stall. I will spare you the details. After a minute or two I decided that I was going to survive, and it was probably OK to try to start the race again. I knew my final time would be way off the previous year's race, but I could not live with the idea of not finishing at all. So I left the school, bolted down the street where the race began, and promptly made the wrong turn.

After another half a mile or so I realized that I'd gotten way off course. So I turned back, retraced my steps, and asked a volunteer to point me in the right direction. At this point I was well over twenty minutes into the official race time, and I'd covered maybe half a mile of the official course.

I decided at this point that my only real goal was to catch Lucky. I'm close to a foot taller than my girlfriend, my stride is longer and I'm naturally a little faster. I thought it was possible that if I ran hard for a few miles, I might catch her. After something like five miles I did manage to do just that. And, when I caught her, I found that she was as miserable as I was. Her own body had betrayed her, causing her to blow up early and run out of steam. I asked her for permission to simply pace off of her for the rest of the race, given the possibility that I'd not fall out again, and see if I could finish near to her own pace. Nearly two hours after the gun we both rolled across the finish line in some physical distress, but more or less alive. My running app said that I'd run 11.7 miles during what was supposed to be a 10 mile race. This is the advantage of turning around into the first mile and running back, and then getting lost. At least I'd gotten a few extra calories burned in the end. And I'd spent the afternoon with Lucky. We had made the best of a bad race, and we'd entertained and encouraged each other. We had survived.

Later, a member of our running club sent us a picture of the two of us gutting it out. I don't know if I've ever seen more misery on either of our faces.

So the lesson, which I apparently need to relearn from time to time, is to not stray at all from a very familiar menu the night before the race. Maybe skip sushi entirely. And skip that second cup of coffee on race morning.

But, in the event that I again give up hopes of a PR for a given race, there are far worse things in the world than toughing it out with my favorite runner in the world.

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