Saturday, August 16, 2008


Forty-one minutes.
That was my time for the Saturday morning contest.
Maybe it was because of all the time I have spent this past week watching the Olympics.
Or not.
There were pluses and minuses leading up to todays performance.


Every day this week, I have worked on the house in some way (vents, wall holes, removing wall paper, cleaning, etc.)
Granted I do not work all day.
I can't.
After about two hours, I am tired.
I get sore.
And sometimes, by back starts to hurt.

They there were the weight workouts.
Monday was basic pushes and pulls for chest and back.
Tuesday was squats, lunges and heel raises for legs.
Wednesday was a three mile run.
Thursday was more pushes and pulls.
Friday, I walk in the morning before eating.
This is to burn some calories and lower the level of exertion, to save some strength and recover from the previous efforts.
The reduced load on Friday is to build up for Saturday morning.

But this Friday (yesterday) I spent two hours (or more) on my step stool peeling off wallpaper from my living room.
The work is deceptively tiring.
The key is having to stand on a platform that is about one square foot.
One is constantly pushing, turning, twisting, and bending.
All the while keeping your feet in a very small space.
When I stopped (I am not finished) I was tired.
And my Trainer/Coach said, "you will pay for this."


But I have spent the week watching the Olympics.
Watching people push themselves to their physical limit... and beyond.
It is both inspiring and intimidating.


During the five years that I was running races, I learned that what we perceive as a physical limit is basically imaginary.
I have heard nearly all my life from sports types, that most limitations we perceive about ourselves are mental.
That if we think we can do something, we can do it.

And upon hearing such words, my reaction was always, "yea, yea, blah, blah."
They were just words to get someone or a team jacked up so they would perform well in their sport.
So people would pay money to watch their game.
I basically did not believe such wordage.
Now I do.

My education came early and by accident.
I was running around Ditto Circle and Hughes Circle, practicing for my first race.
I had never measured the distance of the two circles but guessed each of them to be about a mile each.
Since they form an almost perfect figure eight, they were ideal for a measured practice course.
I was very pleased when I completed both circles, thinking I had run about two miles - good enough for my upcoming first race. (at the invitation of a person that I had helped loose 50 pounds and get into shape.)

I did this several times in the following days, getting comfortable with the distance - something new to me at age 55.
Then one day I decided to drive around the two circles in my car to see if I was deceiving myself on the distance.
My fear was that the distance was less than what I estimated.
I did not want to bonk in my first race.
I was wrong.

The distance of the two circles was exactly three miles!
I was stunned.
And pleased.

This was my first lesson in mental vs physical ability.
I thought I was running two miles.
I was actually running three miles.
Suddenly, I was fifty percent stronger than I thought I was.
It is a very strange feeling.
Good, but strange.

The next lesson in this area came near the end of one of my first races (definitely not the first one).
I was about two hundred yards from the finish line.
I was in accelerated breathing, being pulled along by the other runners who always tend to speed up as the end of a race.
I was running as fast as I thought I could and was content to maintain my pace to the end.

Then something inside me kicked in.
It was not a conscious thought.
But I suddenly felt that I could do more for the few seconds remaining in the race.
Suddenly, without thinking about it, my pace increased and I passed four of five runners ahead of me.
I crossed the finish line nearly sprinting.

Again, I was surprised.
No, I was stunned.
I do not know where that came from.
I am not a competitive person.
I have never felt that "winning" was very important.
Finishing, yes.
Winning, no.
That may have come from a lifetime of never winning anything and it was simply a defensive mechanism.
I don't know.

But I found that day that there was something inside me that I did not know was there.
And I used that unknown element at the end of most of the races that I ran after that.
Sometimes I tried to consciously pull it out of me, but that never worked.
That extra burst was driven by something primal inside of me.
Sometimes I would wonder what would trigger the event and would try to analyze what triggered it, but I could never figure it out.
All I know about it is that in the last ten or fifteen seconds of a maximum physical effort, there is something deep within me that can impel me to accomplish much more than I think I am capable of.
To this day, I do not know where it comes from or how or why it shows itself.


When I woke up today, I felt tired.
This was not good.
The Saturday morning run is a big event for me.
To go to my physical limit every time I do it.
So, when I got out of the car this morning at 6:09, I was wondering what sort of party we were about to have.

I felt tired.
It was all my fault and I was a bit amused by it.
Part of the reason I was tired was because I have been staying up late watching the Olympics.

As I started out today, there were twinges of ouch from my left hamstring and by lower back - vestiges from the wallpaper session yesterday.
But just a few minutes later I caught myself daydreaming in the first mile.
That was a good sign.

At the top of Hill One I alternated normal and accelerated breathing, an indicator of my slightly depleted strength.
Half way up Hill Two the accelerated breathing kicked in again.
Not unexpected.
As I motored into mile two I started to daydream again.
Another good sign.

About mid-way through mile three accelerated breathing kicked in and it was to be with me for the rest of the party.
This was early in the journey and not a good indicator for success.

Somewhere early in mile four the wimp in me recommended that we stop and walk for a couple of minutes.
The Runner in me, the Coach, and Running Central all said no to this.
But we all knew that it was going to be a struggle.
I was tired and I was beginning to feel it.

As I ran through the Comcast parking lot, a youngish black lady with an Aunt Jemimah bandanna on her head, leaned out of her car window and said, "That's what I need to be doin'". (I surmise that she was either waiting for her shift to start or she was waiting for someone else whose shift was about to end)
I smiled and gave her a thumbs up.
The thought crossed my mind that she could prolly do what I am doing and prolly beat me at it if she devoted a little time and effort to it.

I crossed Governors Drive West and into my parking lot still breathing hard.
By this time I was determined that I was going to finish the dance running.
As I entered that area between the buildings a few dozen yards from my finish line/crack, I was breathing hard and was ready to be pleased with another completed run.
And then an old friend came for a visit.

About a hundred yards from my finish line I started sprinting.
I don't know where it came from or why, but there I was, pouring out the last drops of my strength.
And when I looked at my watch, it said 6:50.
Forty-one minutes.
Wow, where did that come from?

I think it was the Olympics.

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