Monday, May 4, 2009

When every race has an asterisk

I'm not talking about an "official" asterisk (if there is such a thing), questioning the validity of a race result due to some fishy business or another. I'm not significant enough for anyone to bother challenging my times. And besides, I've never been involved in any situations that would lead to such questioning.

No, what I am referring to is a personal asterisk, an addendum to every race time that qualifies or explains or apologizes for my results. Usually in the vein of it coulda/shoulda/woulda been better, but.... And this is not just when I think about my results personally, or even when I write about them in the blog, but whenever anyone asks me "how did you do?"

For example.

"How did you do in Bloomsday (this year)?"
"1:12:21 * a lot slower than last year."

"How did you do in Bloomsday (last year)?"
"1:06:xx * a little slower than I'd expected, but at least under 9 minutes/mile."

"5K PR?"
"25:04 * didn't quite make it under 25 minutes."

"10K PR?"
"52:51 * only one second faster than my previous PR."

"Whidbey 2008? Maine Coast Half Marathon?"
"2:00:xx, 2:01:xx * didn't make it under two hours, slower than Whidbey 2007."

That's just a sampling. I could pull out any race in my list, including the ones from last year (*which are so much better than this year), and I would have some complaint, some reaons why I didn't quite measure up, why I was slower than I expected, how I failed just a little bit.

The only race where I had absolutely no complaints, where I was nothing but thrilled with my results, was my first half marathon, Whidbey 2007, where my time was 1:54:30 and I was so excited that I had not only beat my two hour goal but did so by several (5½) minutes. Of course, that also gave me a baseline for numerous future failures to come.

Why, I wonder, do I feel this need to criticize and apologize for not being good enough in every single race? Even the good ones (*last year), not just the bad and mediocre ones (*this year).

The obvious answer is because I am truly disappointed and embarrassed when I don't live up to what I think I should be capable of doing. And because I think other people would feel the same shock and dismay over my times. Whcih, I'm pretty sure, they don't.

So, will I quite analyzing and explaining and trying to figure out the reasons behind my race results, good or bad? HELL NO. I know I can't do that, it's the nature of any runner to want to improve (and self-criticize), no matter what the time.

But I probably will try to rein in the public self-flagellation, especially in front of complete strangers. (That doesn't include in the blog.) The person sitting next to me on the plane? Probably is genuinely impressed that I even ran 7.46 miles. She doesn't care that it was slower than I expected, slower than last year, etc. (Although she did tell me that her daughter did it in around an hour. Maybe she is judging me after all....)


In other running news, I dragged myself out of bed this morning for a post-race run before getting ready to leave Spokane. My legs were still feeling sluggish so I just took it easy. I jogged from the hotel down to Riverside Park but managed to miss getting on the riverside trail, so stayed on the regular sidewalk as it curved around the Convention Center.

As I stood on the overpass looking down at the river and the trail alongside it I knew I had made a mistake. I doubled back and cut onto the trail at the performing arts center. I was okay with the extra distance because I knew it would be a challenge to add up too many miles this morning. So I followed the river until I came to the bridge to Gonzaga. I was only a bit over two miles and I really wanted to top three miles before I crossed the river. I ran down to where the trail joined the road and back. I followed a side trail away from the river and looped back. I ran to the end of the trail again and up the road to the Eastern Washington University campus. I hit three miles there and turned back.

I then crossed over the river to the Gonzaga campus and followed the river back along the other side. During the last mile or so I started pausing the Garmin frequently so I could take pictures of the turbulent river and the power plant. Luckily I'd already gone four miles by then, because I'm sure I didn't get much of a running workout by running 100 yards, then stopping, running and stopping again, etc. But I did get some amazing photos! (I'll post them later.)

I had to do some extra loops around the paths in the park to get to five miles, but once I did I headed over to Madeleine's for my final sugar-free toffee latte before leaving Spokane. (And I also bought the most delicious cinnamon roll ever. Completely moist and a thick coating of cream cheese frosting. Oh, yum.) (*Perhaps cinnamon rolls have something to do with my sucky times, hmm?)

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