While I try to make these missives as broad-based as possible – applicable to anyone engaged in an active lifestyle – the Fall race season is nearly upon us, and I want to direct this to those of you preparing for an upcoming Fall walking or running event, be it one of the Komen for the Cure events, http://ww5.komen.org/, an Avon Breast Cancer event, http://www.avonwalk.org/, the MS Walk Challenge walk or one of the many marathons, 10 milers, 10Ks or 5Ks coming up soon. In fact, many of us have our “A” races coming up – the event we’ve focused on and trained for over much of the season. Most of us have trained mindfully and prudently, have stayed healthy, and are just where we want to be as we prepare for that special event. Some of us have encountered a few challenges along the way.
My wife and I did a race earlier this summer up in Perryville MD, north of Baltimore, the Diamond in the Rough Triathlon. http://www.piranha-sports.com/Race74.aspx It’s one of the better local races, with a beautiful course, superb race management, and fantastic volunteers. We arrived at the race site in a driving rain – which was to continue all day long. With the temperatures rising, the warm rains caused the water temperature in the Susquehanna River to approach the maximum temperature at which wetsuits are allowed. More than a few of the athletes were fretting the possibility of not being able to wear a wetsuit for the swim. Shortly before the race was to start, race management, fearing the number of heat-related casualties if wetsuits were allowed, made the decision to make the race a non-wetsuit event. Almost immediately more than a few athletes packed up for home, unable or unwilling to do the swim without wearing a wetsuit.
As the time for the race approached, the rains intensified, and the driving rain reduced visibility on the river to no more than a few yards. Race management, again concerned about the safety of the athletes, cancelled the swim – substituting a short run and turning the event into a duathlon. Another group of athletes packed up and left – unable or unwilling to do a duathlon instead of the scheduled triathlon.
We saw a similar situation recently at another very famous local race, the Eagleman Half Ironman race in Cambridge MD. http://www.tricolumbia.org/Eagleman/ The water temperatures were borderline, and several athletes abandoned the race because they felt they couldn’t do the 1.2 mile swim without a wetsuit. And I know of more than a few friends who’ve bailed on the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, http://www.cherryblossom.org/, and the Marine Corps Marathon, http://www.marinemarathon.com/, two of the best known and most popular races in the world, because of “bad” weather conditions. How can anyone put in the training some of these athletes do, and that these races require, only to abandon in the face of unexpected circumstances on race day? One of the mantras in sports is to expected the unexpected.
Learning To Run … Again
As I sit here writing this, my right leg is in a cast – the result of some minor surgery on my foot last Friday that will keep me in the cast for a week, and away from any form of exercise for three weeks, till the stitches come out. The real bummer in all this, besides being pretty much sofa-bound (which sounds good initially, but which quickly wears off – like after a day or so!), is not being able to do the Reston Triathlon September 12th. http://restontriathlon.org/tri/ For those of you who’ve done Reston (or tried to get into it), you know how exceedingly difficult it is to get in – it’s probably the best local triathlon, now in its 27th year, and fills up within hours, if not minutes. I was fortunate enough to get a slot this year – and unfortunate enough to have lost it to an ongoing battle with arthritis. I’ve been here before – all dressed up with no place to go. I’m OK with it though, as my perspective on racing has changed in the past 10 years or so, and what I’ll do this year is volunteer – it’s time to pay back a little!
I’ve never been fast, but I have been competitive. Not with others – because I don’t have the speed – but with myself. I started running late in life, in my mid-30’s, and enjoyed the thrill over the years of consistently getting “faster” – setting PR’s (personal records) as my times came down. When I hit my 50’s, I found I wasn’t getting “faster” much anymore, so settled for “minimizing the delta.” This meant that, for example, if I went 10 seconds slower last year than the year before in a particular race, my goal this year would have been to be less than 10 seconds slower. As time went on, even this lost meaning as my times got slower and slower. In 2003 I faced a crisis, and had to quit running for a couple of years. I actually thought I’d never be able to run again and the psychological blow was enormous. I went through the typical macho guy “woe is me” stuff, and actually sunk into a fairly deep depression requiring “outside assistance.”
But – I learned to racewalk and actually did a couple of road races and triathlons – walking the runs – and what I came to realize, is that more than the finishing time, it was the participation, the journey (not only the race itself, but the training), that gave me the most enjoyment. I no longer race with a watch or a cyclometer. Instead, I look at the race as an opportunity to celebrate the fact that I’m still in the game, still able to participate. Most importantly, races have become an opportunity to reconnect with the many dear friends I’ve met through training and racing – people who’ve become a huge part of my life and my extended family. What could be better than that?
Have a great Fall!