Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Mental Battle

It's been a while since I've written anything. Actually, the last posting date was 7/9, the day of my last 5k. I think I tried to hide that day in the back of my mind and forget about it. I was on a mission to do at least one per month, but my August race was rescheduled until November due to Hurricane Irene. Thoughts of running and racing are in my head a lot today. I've been looking around for a race to do towards the end of September, even though I've slacked on training. Win or lose, it's ultimately a battle between me, myself, and I that I need to conquer. I reconnected with an old friend today also who lives in Cali. We were in Chicago together over 15 years ago, and I just found out that she is not only a marathoner, but also a triathloner! She reminded me that, again, "Marathons are VERY much mental, it takes more mental endurance than physical."

Deep down inside there has to be something that keeps me going. I haven't figured out exactly what it is yet, but once I can find it, I can learn how to use it repeatedly. Rich and I showed up in Enfield at the Twilight 5k on 7/9 and met up with my sister, who would also be doing the 5k (her first!), my bro-in-law, and my niece. We were earlier than we needed to be, but it's always hard to guage what the traffic/parking situation will be like, especially when the race is part of a town festival. I felt that I had eaten what I'd needed to, I was hydrated enough, I had been able to use the port-a-potty just before the race (don't laugh, this is always a huge concern of mine!), and I got some pre-race stretching in also. I really felt ready! My calves always seem to lock up at the beginning when I push it too much too fast, so I had planned to fast walk the first 5 minutes or so to make sure I was loose enough and then get in a mix of jogging and walking like I had trained with so far. If only things played out in reality like they play out in my head.

I had learned from previous races that the slower ones need to stay towards the back or you'll pretty much get trampled at the sound of the gun. So as I heard the gunshot and people started moving (between 250-300 of us), I was feeling good! It took less than 30 seconds for my confidence level to go straight to the ground. What I would guess was because I was walking at the start (even though I was obviously registered with a bib number and all), the cop cars and bicycle volunteers all went in front of me and behind all the people in front of me. It took less than a minute before they were so far away from me that even if I had started running I wouldn't be able to catch up. As I got to the first turn I could barely see everyone that was in front of me. This ended up being the beginning of my downfall. Luckily I had printed the race route out and tucked it into my sports bra or I'd have been lost somewhere in the middle of Enfield. I found out later that I took the 2nd turn too late and went a whole extra block or two out of the way. I spent the next 55 +/- minutes COMPLETELY ALONE! There was not one runner/walker in sight. Twice during the race I was so worked up between being frustrated on figuring out the smaller turns that weren't really labeled on the map, to just being pissed off that I was left behind, that I could barely breathe. I had to literally stop right where I was and try to concentrate on breathing so that I didn't collapse right there. Because if I did collapse, who would have found me?!?! I'm sure it also goes without saying that the water station wasn't even setup when I had arrived where it should have been.

I encountered a couple angels on the course when I needed them the most. Somewhere around the halfway mark I was crossing a street hoping I was going the right way, and a mother and her two kids were crossing the other way. One of the children (somewhere around 7 or 8 years old maybe?) yelled out "yay! you can do it!" and I wanted to just stop and cry right there. I was caught somewhere between myself, a 30 year old woman, doubting that she could finish, and a young girl who I'd never even met, that not only cheered on me on, but ASSURED ME that I could do this! I needed that at that moment! Also, somewhere around the 2/3 mark I went through a small neighborhood and (what I'd assume to be) a husband and wife were sitting out on their front steps and just started clapping and cheering for me. Again only a little after this I had to stop again for breathing issues, but unfortunately the high from the cheerers only lasted for so long. Soon again after I was feeling horrible, angry, mad, and every nasty word I could think of went through my head.

The best way I can describe it is from all the cartoons when I was younger with the angel on one person's shoulder and the devil on the other. My head almost constantly feels like that during the races. I tell myself that I can do it, that I AM doing it! Then I start feeling horrible for being last, for not being able to run, for having to stop, etc. And I go back and forth. I have never felt pure anger during a run though. And as angry as I was at the police and the organizers for just leaving me there, I was angry at myself for letting others make me feel that way. Jogging, training, whatever you want to call it, is actually very empowering for me. To know that I got the surgery I needed, that I got back out there and started working out, that I had completed races and was no longer letting something hold me back - I love the feeling of it! And these horrible feelings of hatred were keeping me from the high that I should have been feeling.

When I finally got to the end, somewhere around 55 minutes or so, I could see Rich, but had no breath to you tell to him with. Finally he saw me and I told him how mad I was and just kept saying "they left me! they left me!" He told me to keep going and that my sister was still clocking my time for me. I told him I wasn't running through their finish line. And fuck them for leaving me. And fuck them for not giving everyone equal treatment. It wasn't until about 5 minutes later, when I'd had some water and calmed down, that I realized that there actually was no finish line. They had taken it down somewhere shortly after the 46 minute mark when my niece had heard them announce that there were "no more runners out on the course". I felt even angrier at this point! Why, just because I came in 8 minutes or so after the last guy, was I not worth them keeping the finish line up for? No finish line, no official timer, nothing. My name isn't even registered on their race results. I paid the same registration fee as everyone else did and received completely different treatment.

In retrospect, I am actually very happy to have finished. I could have taken a shortcut somewhere in the middle with my small sports bra map and just gone back to the start, but I kept going. And I know that took a lot of mental strength to do that. I ultimately did the race for me, and still completed 3.1 miles whether they clocked it officially or not. But I can't say that I'm not completely disappointed with the Town of Enfield and their race committee. As I do after each race, I can only hope that the next one will be at least a tiny bit better. I am still trying to beat my March PR, and I WILL BEAT IT!

5k time on 7/9/11: Unknown