I went to bed confident with my training - the running, the nutrition, the amount of sleep, the foam rolling, etc - from especially the past week. I had gone to practice on Tuesday, plowed through a set of 200s in the freezing cold, while being woefully under-dressed. I had done the shakeouts and gone to Thursday night practice where I followed Coach Callum's and Chris Blondin's advice. The one thing I regretted not doing was the shakeout on Friday morning. I felt a little scared about what was going to happen without that under my belt. But I was going. No matter what.
I woke up at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, though I was still in bed; my mind was a blur: "Am I really going to Fresh Pond? I had a good workout at Harvard on Thursday. Most of my times were at least 3 seconds faster than the goal. I can do this. Shouldn't I start going from next week instead? WTF, Mithu if you don't go today, you'll be making these excuses forever." And so on.
Finally by 6:45, after coaxing myself to get up, brushing my teeth and toasting a blueberry waffle so that I could give at least 3 hours before the time trial started, I was kind of ready to get dressed and go. Except for the fact that after I ate the waffle and chugged a bottle of water, I went back to sleep for 15 minutes.
I was oddly calm for most of the train ride to Downtown Crossing where I would switch to the red line going to Alewife. Of course, there were still those intermittent voices in my head, "You can still turn back. Oh, you might as well, you know, you got out late, you're not going to be able to get in a 2.5 mile warm-up and have 15 minutes to chill out before the time trial at 10. This train is slooooowwwwwww...and you got out late; you should turn baaaaaaaaaack noooooooooooooow." But, I didn't. I chugged some more water. The train to Alewife came fairly quickly; many times I've had to wait 10 minutes for the next one. A sign of the times? I didn't know at that point.
As I walked over the footbridge that seemed to be at least a 1/2 mile long, passing the shopping mall, the waffle decided it was going to rear its ugly head in the form of severe GI tract distress. I was sweating bullets at this point. I was crying inside and trying to shut myself up at the same time. I kept telling myself, "You're gonna get there. You're there. You're already there. The water works building is right there...you'll get to the ladies' room in seconds." I got there. With my dignity and guts in tact.
Then came the bombshell: The course had been changed slightly. "WHAT?!??!? How? Where?"
I thought I was mentally prepared for this time trial. I wasn't. Within the 20 minutes remaining before Diane said, "On your mark. Get set. GO!" I went to the ladies' 5 times. I didn't feel like a strong runner. I saw some of my very strong teammates - Kerry, Liz and some guys who looked familiar, but didn't know by name. I saw some other faces I used to see regularly when I had guts and strength every weekend - Johnathan, Gesa and her husband, Joe, Diane and some other folks who I don't know by name, but by face. I kept telling myself that I haven't been here to really RUN in 2.5 years (the last time I went, in April of this year, before I was hospitalised, was to just jog around the pond with Jon Berit and even that was painful for me, because I kept needing to heave every 3 seconds) and so I wasn't expecting anything...I'd just be happy with anything under a 9 minute mile pace.
With the way I was feeling, the doctors would have to perform some major surgery from my throat...because the entire contents of my thoracic cavity was lodged inside it...heart, lungs, stomach and all.
Diane announced that the course was indeed a little different. Instead of going through the woods, on the black-top incline, we all had to take a sharp left on the wood chip-lined trail, before the parking lot. "Oh joy. Where exactly IS that?" I was really scared at this point. And yet, somehow determined to get the job done.
"Hey, this feels easy!
Follow those men!
Why does it feel so easy??
Where is Gesa? Why is she behind me? Am I going too fast? Why is she behind me? She's usually in front of me.
OK, keep going.
Was that a mile?
Oh there she is. I knew it was too good to last, with her being behind me.
Oh, but I can follow her. And she knows where she's going.
Hang on for dear life, because she knows where she's going.
Pleeeeeease, Gesa, DRAG ME WITH YOU!!!!
DRAG ME WITH YOU GESA!!!
I'm hanging onto this iron chain attached to your leg for dear life...pleeeeeeease drag me with you!!!
My legs feel weak.
Don't say that! No, they DON'T FEEL WEAK. Get the eff out of my head you effing creep...
GESA, pleeeeeeeeeease don't leave me....
DRAG ME WITH YOU...GESA...
Oh CRIPES, here comes the turn...
OHHH CRIIIIIIIPES, they weren't kidding when they said wood CHIPS...I was hoping for...shavings...maybe??
FML...I'm going to roll my ankle on one of these chips and sprawl haplessly while Gesa runs away..."
The wood chipped trail finally turned into a pathway of fine gravel/sand/earth...a softer than asphalt surface. YEAH, THANKS...Now that I've probably screwed myself by slowing down on those chips.
"GESA, DRAG ME WITH YOU!!!!!
HANG ON FOR YOUR LIFE
HOW LONG IS THIS COURSE?????
I thought it was supposed to be shorter...?
OH sh*t, you'd better run faster!! Do you really want to run the time for a 2.5 miler on a 2.25 mile course??? THAT would be embarrassing...
Oh look! There's the finish! Kick dammit!
I have no kick today...
Where the hell is my kick???
You have no kick today..."
"20:35????" I goggled. I took the popsicle stick (I was #20) and just walked around in a daze.
I couldn't believe my time...but then there was the doomed question. How long was the course?
"Yep. But the trail was downhill, ya know."
"That downhill meant diddlysquat to me, because I run faster uphill on smooth black top than I do on loose wood chips the size of chestnuts."
Anyway, the fact that it was actually 2.5 miles was great news, because the original course is not even 2.5. It's something like 2.40 miles or something...
I think we should keep the "new" course.
While a man who I didn't know was writing down my name, city, etc. I was thanking Gesa (who gave me a big hug) profusely. She was my lifeline that day.
I walked around on cloud nine for the rest of the day. I was content that I didn't place among the top 5 women because I couldn't imagine that 20:35 wold make it. Besides, it would be a very slow 5th place...I was happy to have something to conquer next week. If I could run an 8:14/mile pace after just 2 weeks of speed work and still have the strength to jog/walk...heck, even jump after that, then I could run even better the following week. I just had to do what I did this week with a little more push.
Later that day, I went to a craft fair which featured a cat café (but the cat café was closed. BOOO!). The craft fair was fun; I bought some unique things as a treat to myself.
Sunday evening I was checking my FB page and a received a message from Jon Berit congratulating me on my 5th place finish. "5th place among the women? WOW. My name's in this week's paper."
My eyes goggled.
"I made 5th place??????????" Even though I was happy without it, I wasn't going to complain...
"...But my time made 5th place?" I was goggling all evening. Even in my sleep.
Stay tuned for FP: Thanksgiving Redux.