Saturday, August 29, 2009

Percy Warner Park hates me

I could have sworn after knocking out 17 miles at Percy Warner Park and 2 days of 11 milers that Percy Warner Park and I had come to an understanding. No longer would I be intimidated by its steep grades or its quick switchbacks all along a punishing 11.2 mile route. Instead I would appreciate its fine natural beauty on the edge of Nashville and sing its praises as the ultimate training/proving ground. After all if you could not get faster or stronger running PWP, it just would not be happening for you.

Nope, despite this tacit agreement, PWP gave me a gigantic middle finger and told me that I still have much to learn before I could claim a truce with this Nashvillian site. To those close to me, I have voiced a wistfully hopeful desire to one day qualify to run the Boston Marathon. After several strong finishes in smaller races and 9:40/mile paces around PWP on my 11 mile runs, I actually considered that this goal might be reachable fairly soon. But, to quote Jeff Horowitz in My First 100 Marathons, "Man plans and God laughs."

My first 11 miles went by uneventfully and quickly. I had managed 9:15/miles and gleefully believed that if I could maintain this pace at PWP, then surely a Boston qualifying time could not be far away. On my second lap, I stopped at my car, re-filled my water bottle, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and chased it all with some energy gels to keep my strength up. Then off I went back to my previous pace, aware that it could all go wrong at any moment, but hopeful that it would not.

It was at mile 13 that I realized I was going to be in trouble. I was hitting one of PWP's upward slopes when I glanced down at my water bottle. My usual technique for hydration is to sip on my Gatorade before each hill, however my body must have been more depleted than I had realized at the 1/2 way mark. When I examined my bottle, I realized that I had already drank over a 1/3 of my Gatorade with still over 9 miles to go. Not a good sign because, despite the shadowed route, the temperature would continue to go up and I would become even more dehydrated. Ugh.

At mile 14, I was almost 1/2 way through my water bottle. I was hitting the downslope of PWP, so I figured I would be okay for the next few miles, especially if I caught a nice breeze. As I rounded another curve, I heard the voices of young ladies behind me chatting easily but quickly coming up on me. I assumed from their pace that they must be on bikes as I myself was clipping along at an 8:30/mile pace and they were moving fast. I didn't look back to avoid tripping over myself or losing precious seconds on my time, but I figured that they would pass me soon. I was correct. They did pass me quickly and easily. However, they weren't on bikes. They were runners, in their teens, like me out for their morning run chatting about this and that as they left me in the dust. Unlike me, they seemed to glide in perfect synchronization down the hills while I sucked in every last breath of oxygen and literally begged my legs to stop embarrassing this old geezer in front of these young ladies (by this time I was well behind them and I don't think that they even noticed I was there except that they had to run around me like I was a stump in the middle of the road). Alas, I would not be able to make ground on these evil nymphs placed on this earth to mock my efforts, so I resigned myself to my pace and trudged onward, confident that I would get my pace.

Around mile 15 and after foolishly trying to up my pace, my water bottle was 1/2 empty, and I received the 1st real sign of my downfall. I began to feel a slight twitch in my left quad. I didn't panic, but I assessed my situation. I was feeling sore, tired, and out of breath, so I decided to slow down. If I cramped up any more, it might end my day, and I still had over 7 miles of up-slopes till I would reach my car. This strategy of speeding up and slowing down when I felt bad worked well until I hit another downhill and took it too quickly. My leg cramped up like a window blind getting yanked up to the top. This little bit of painful ecstacy pulled me up short and I had to massage out my calf before I could move forward. I played this little game of "Where's the cramp" for the next 5 miles. In the meantime, my water bottle got dangerously low till I had 2 sips left for my last mile.

At several points of my last few miles, I noticed several other people walking or jogging in the opposite direction of my route. Several were elderly women holding 1/2 full bottles of water. I had briefly considered buying those bottles off of them, but I realized I didn't have any money. I then considered mugging them for their water. After all, it was survival of the fittest and surely they didn't have many years left, right? Of course, I could barely move my legs, much less pimp-slap an old broad, so it became clear to me that I would probably be the one laid out on the ground. I swear that I could hear the news report now, "Local runner bitch-slapped by a blue-haired walker." See...not good.

In any case, I made my last mile on my last bit of Gatorade. You would think after this little misadventure, I might be deterred from attempting this again. You would be wrong. Instead I did what I always do, I considered what I would need to do to beat my time. Clearly by upping my fluids, I would have made it much easier and faster. Therefore if I add in more fluids, I should be able to run an extra 4 miles! I like that plan. This is why my wife says that I'm not so bright. That's it for now. Later kids.

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