Right off the bat, I have to say that I was positively surprised and overwhelmed by friends and family offering congratulations after last weekend's race. I felt great about my effort and execution, but there's a natural tendency to want to kick one's self and play "what if" in a race that came down to the final seconds. I think I've got a pretty healthy outlook on those races when one comes up a little short, but all the good energy squelched any bit of self-doubt or negative thoughts that could have crept in to my brain.
In the days following the race, I had a recovery week unlike any other before. I don't know if it's being slightly older now, or the sprint at the end of a marathon, but I've never been as physically and mentally drained the day after a race as I was last Sunday. My whole body hurt and my brain-well, let's just say that basic thought patterns were a challenge. I am lucky enough to have a gig cleaning in trade at a local hot yoga studio; the cleaning job there should take about 45 minutes tops, and really can be done in a little over half an hour. This Sunday, it took me close to an hour because things like "moving the laundry from the dryer by lifting them out with your hands" and "now you pick up that broom that you've been staring at for five minutes but can't see, and push it around the floor" were incredibly complicated concepts.
By Tuesday, though, I was feeling human-like again. I did a fast-hike up and slow run down Serpents Trail on Tuesday morning, and when the opportunity to learn a good downhill speed training route that same night presented itself, I said "what the heck-go for it." Then, on Wednesday, I hit the second meeting of our new local speed work group at the high school track. I knew our fearless leader wouldn't be there but thought someone else was in charge. As it turned out, he hadn't necessarily planned on being a solo substitute leader, so I co-hosted practice with him. It was surprisingly fun even though I hadn't expected to be leading any drills or intervals, and nobody revolted when I said that YES, we were going to do that last interval and not wuss out early. On Thursday, I did another short early run, and seemed to be feeling the effects of running more, and with a higher intensity than I have post-marathon any other time. Friday off was a no-brainer.
Saturday brought a local prediction run called the Tom Turkey Prediction Run. This is one of several long-standing events in our running club; it's a low-cost, no frills event with a twist. The prizes-actual Thanksgiving turkeys donated by a generous local grocery store-do not go to the fastest runners. The five turkeys go to the runners who guess closest to their actual finish time, and no watches or Garmins are allowed to help with that pacing. I did this run in 2007, in my first year of running, and loved the concept, though I was such a new runner that I missed my mark by over two minutes. I got up on Saturday morning still unsure if I'd do this run, but after coffee, decided that punishing myself a bit would reap greater benefits than laying around. I was pretty dead-legged and completely lacking mojo, but hey. Possibility of a free turkey! I dressed warmly, swung my oldest daughter out to a dance rehearsal, and then swung back over to Larry's house, the start and finish of the 6-mile prediction run.
Right away, I saw a lot of the usual suspects. There were several of us there who had run Rim Rock the previous weekend, and I thought "oh, good. So my thought process was normal in thinking this was a great idea." Denial. It's a great thing. I ponied up my dollar, and asked myself "how slow are you going to run this after a week of random post-marathon speed work, and trying to throw in a race?" I figured somewhere in the 44 minute range, but somehow 44:14 sounded good. I wrote down my prediction, lightly warmed up, and joined everyone at the starting line a few minutes later. When Larry asked if anyone had any last minute questions, I asked "is it too late to back out?" I had NO idea why I thought this would be a good idea. Oh, wait. Turkey. A few seconds later, we hit the ground running with no concept of time or distance.
From the second we started, there was no denying it-I was TIRED. This was HARD. I thought that just stopping, going home and having some coffee might be really, really yummy. But wait. I'd paid my dollar. This was good speed work even if I felt like crap. And hey. Possibility of free food. So, on I trudged. I hit a point that kind of felt like the end of the first mile and resisted the urge to think about how I had five more miles to go.
Now that I was warmed up, the temperature felt quite comfortable. I almost wished that I'd worn shorts, but had felt too lazy to look at weather forecasts and plan in any kind of detail what to wear. Oh well, too late to do anything about that. What was mostly on my mind now was WOW, this was a really TERRIBLE idea today. I knew it was a terrible idea and I convinced myself otherwise. Did I have to do this? Couldn't I just lay down and take a nap? Oh, wait. No. Turkey. And I had to get back to my car eventually. I ran across a section of dirt road and tried to find line that didn't feel uneven and challenging. Couldn't really find that place today, though. Shoot. Onward on the uneven hardpacked dirt.
Hitting road again, my mind started wandering to other places but inevitably would come back to the fact that WOW. That marathon, and the speed work this week? Yeah. I feel it. Awesome! I mean, "AWESOME!" By which I mean, "S#it. This hurts." My brain tried to remember how to get the body to run with good, relaxed form. That did help a little bit, even though I kind of felt like I was going in slow motion and backwards. I hit a point on the course that seemed like we were probably about four miles in, and there was a little glimmer of hope that I was not, in fact, going to die out here today. Don't confuse that with feeling good-but it appeared that a search and rescue party would not be necessary.
Turning onto a long, straight, stretch of road, it seemed like the road went on forever. Finally, I could see Bryan, a local runner and member of the Marathon Maniacs with 75 marathons to his credit, make a left turn a good minute ahead of me. Sweet. The end was approaching. Maybe. I finally made it to the same corner, and then fondly remembered how much it sucked to climb a hill at the very end five years ago. It was time to tuck my head and just finish this thing out. My turnover felt okay, considering that my mojo was out the door. I wasn't moving as fast as I could fully rested and recovered, but this was amounting to a pretty good run with a very tired body. I kind of had my first tiny spark of energy and started playing the "run to the telephone pole" game I do to break up the courses on country roads in this neck of the woods. Finally, I crested the hill and could see that I just had the last half mile to go, and then would be back at La Casa De Larry. Go girl go. Run for the Turkey.
Oh, crap. This felt like one of those dreams where the road stretches out, and your destination moves further away the harder and faster you run toward it. Wow. This was an awesomely bad idea except for that whole free bird thing. I realized it would be kind of stupid to walk now, though, and just made friends with the pain. Or, frenemies. Finally, I hit the promised land...the edge of Larry's driveway. I did my usual gasp-and-stagger that causes people to ask if I'm okay after a hard effort ("No, this is totally normal! Carry on! Nothing to see here!"). Larry shouted over that as of now, I was the best guesser. I walked over and saw that I finished in 44:23, just nine seconds off my prediction. Well, how's that for a bad idea? I might be in the running for free food!
As other runners came in, I continued to be at the top of the prediction board.I'd finished about seventh overall and second woman, and once I'd regained normal breathing, I did a cooldown jog with the first handful of finishers, cheering in runners on their way in. When we got back, we didn't have to wait long before Larry hopped up in the back of his truck and started passing out turkeys. He seemed to mostly be working through reverse order from worst to best guesses, and finally we got to the turkey winners circle. Suzie, one of several regulars, nabbed the first turkey, and sack of extras/sides. I believe it was about a 14 lb bird. Moving up through the order, I still hadn't been called, and was pretty sure now that I'd guesstimated closest. It finally came down to the last two of us, and the second best guesser had come within ten seconds, so I was indeed the prediction winner. Woohoo! I met Larry at his truck to receive my turkey time card, 19-lb bird, and bag of stuffing mix, gravy, and canned cranberry. Pay a dollar, run a painful race, win turkey. A beneficial arrangement all the way around.
This week was fun and crazy with the running. Part of me wants to say I'm not racing again until the Winter Sun 10K, but I can't say that for sure. There's are two area Turkey Trots coming up-one on Thanksgiving locally, and a new one the Saturday after in neighboring Delta, Colorado, and that just might be good to keep waking up the speed now that I'm truly back in the habit of putting myself into that level of pain. Making sure I'm getting balanced training, and playing the racing by ear seem to be paying dividends right now, though, so that's how I will proceed for now.