Thursday, May 28, 2015

Life Lessons in a Course Preview

I have run the GBMC Father's Day race either 4 or 5 times now.  It benefits the NICU at the medical center.  Once, I ran it with all three of my sons.  The youngest took great joy in coming in ahead of the oldest.  For the first several years I ran it, the race was in Hunt Valley on a relatively flat course.  For the last two years, the course was much hillier--going from the medical center campus out to Osler, through Rogers Force (hilly!), and back onto the campus.  Two different ways.  Two different courses.  Driven by construction.

So, I have registered myself for the race.  I will register my two younger kids for the race.  And I will run as part of a team with my adopted daughter for the day as I did a year ago.  She is just young enough to be my daughter and I serve as a training partner, mentor, and friend.  We had the good fortune of taking the Father-Daughter competition last year.

With this year's website, it was unclear how the course would be structured.  So I wrote to Charm City Run's race management arm and asked.  And pleasantly to my surprise, less than four hours later when I got off the plan last night, I found the course description.  It is a bit of a hybrid between the two courses of the last two years.  It looks like it won't be short as it was two years ago but we won't have to double back as we did last year.

Still hilly.

This morning, for my workout, I decided to preview much of the course.  I've run most of it dozens of times over the last nine years.  But I hadn't run it in a while and I wanted to remind myself.

I've mentioned several times that the course is hilly.  Up Osler in the first mile.  Up at the end of the race.  Up Stevenson after coming off a nice downhill on Stanmore.  Up Bellona to Charles before beginning the nice descent.  All of those are notable.

But in my mind, the hardest part of the course is when I finish running up the long-slow hill on Osler, turn the corner onto Steven, and have to continue to climb toward Stanmore.  I just thought as I previewed that this morning about all the times in lie when I have turned a corner hoping for something better, something easier, and found instead that the road ahead was actually harder for some time.

That is the point in the race at which each runner will have to decide one of two things--either "this is a hard course and I might as well coast the rest of the way" or "I'm taking this head on and working even harder."  This morning, I took the first path.  I'd run an 8:30ish first mile.  then surprised myself by coming down under 7:50.  Then under 7:40 as I ran down Towsontown.  Then, climbing Osler and around back up over 7:40.  Then, for the run down Stanmore, up Stevenson, and up Bellona toward Charles, I ran 7:14.  Then, I eased up for one mile and took it back down to a sub-8 to finish.

The key was that I ended up with a slightly slower time in mile 4.  But I didn't give in.  Even on a workout a morning after returning from Texas and running by myself and thinking "the course is testing me rather than me testing the course," I ran one of my strongest workout performances in a while and could say, when all was said and done, that I had tested the course.  I'd like to do it a few more times before the race--just to make absolutely sure I know how it feels.  And I can say with certainty that I know how the race can feel if I just take it in stride and work on it.

The lesson for life is to do the same with any other task for which I end up on a similar topographical trajectory.

And to share with others the joy of the sense of accomplishment that one can get when achieving that goal.

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