This post is long overdue… It’s a long story, but the punchline is “Mission Accomplished!”
On December 20th I hit the automatic qualifying standard for the 2016 50k Trials. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, but when the going got tough, the tough–namely my wife, Loretta–told me to put my man pants on, suck it up, and get the job done!
Recovery from the 50k Nationals four weeks earlier took longer than I had hoped. I got in exactly one good workout between the two races, a solid 25k six days before the qualifying race. The following day Murphy’s Law kicked in in the form of a nasty sinus infection. I resisted the urge to take antibiotics, knowing from past experience that they make me feel lousy for at least a month after taking them.
Not one to make things easy for myself, I was the Race Director for the race. The 14-day weather forecast was looking good, so rather than take other race directors up on their offers to host qualifying races in the Carolinas or Southern California, I took a chance and secured a park permit at my “home course” at Rockland Lake State Park, judges, race officials and other competitors–some coming in from as far away as Ohio and Kentucky.
The weather didn’t disappoint. Although rain was in the forecast for several days, race morning dawned clear and unseasonably warm, with a starting temperature in the high 30s and highs in the low 50s with little wind–perfect racing weather!
Most fortuitously, Loretta, my favorite training partner, offered to pace me through 30k. We had done a couple of 30k workouts together (usually I would continue on for another five or 10k) so we knew she would be able to help me through the 30k point.
Amazingly, she not only got me through 30k, she kept on for 40k before bowing out only after I urged her to do so before she hurt herself. By this point I was confident that I would be able to maintain the pace. But of course, this being a 50k, my confidence was misplaced…
At 42k I started hitting the wall, slowing some 30 seconds per kilometer. I had about 2 minutes in the bank (we had been walking about 3 seconds per kilometer under pace for the first 40k) but that quickly evaporated down to “par” by 47k. Working out the math in my head, I realized all I had to do was get back to the pace I had been walking for the first 40k and I would hit the qualifying time. A lap or two earlier I had switched from sports drink to cola, so was feeling the sugar and caffeine rush and was able to kick the pace down to 10-12 seconds per kilometer faster than what was required.
I tell athletes all the the time that walking mile after mile at the same pace burns out that particular “pace gear”. Most people end up slowing down, but the Big Secret is that it’s actually just as easy to speed up. I tried it, it worked, and I managed to finish about 30 seconds under the Olympic Trials automatic qualifying time–enough of a cushion to allow me to stop just short of the finish line for a few seconds to soak it all in.
I was pretty beat up from dehydration, carb.-depletion, and the sinus infection, but with the help of friends and a sturdy chair to lower myself down, I was still able to find the ground.
Before long, pizza and more Coke brought me back to life. My sister uncle, aunt and cousin came out to watch the race, so (after literally being lifted into my car) we drove the mile or so around to the north side of the lake to Gethsemene Cemetery to share the good news with my father, a resident of Gethsemene for the past 30 years.
Recovery has been slow… I’ve had a few fast 15-20km walks, but nothing at any pace over 25k. It’s not easy to get much quality training in after walking two 50s within four weeks….
Training time is running short, as we’re less than four weeks out from the Trials. Although this go-around the goal was just to qualify for Numero Ocho, I’d still like to have a respectable race next month in Santee.
After that, who knows? I haven’t raced at the 20k Trials since 2004, so that would be the next obvious goal. And then…. Nueve? Maybe?
Or maybe it’ll be time to look into golf. Or shuffleboard…
To be continued!