Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Agony of Victory

“The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” is a well-known cliché in the world of sports, particularly during BIG events, like the Olympics or the World Series. But, no one ever talks about the agony of victory… victory in my case meaning finishing the half marathon at my chosen four-minute run/two-minute walk pace.

To get to that potential victory, there have been a number of small victories (and a few defeats) along the way. When I finished the Shamrock Shuffle (an 8K) in March or April, I can’t exactly remember when (just for reader understanding, I just finished a 12 mile run/walk about an hour ago and my mental clarity is still dicey, at best), five miles seemed like a distance further than any other, something so insurmountable that I was my own hero for a day, just having run the race at a measly 12-minute per mile pace.

But, now… now… five miles is nothing. A five-mile run is a cakewalk, a joke, a good day compared to, oh I don’t know, let’s say today… a 12-mile run.

Ahh… the agony of victory. And it’s honestly not the mileage so much in this case; it’s the heat. Most of us know, firsthand or from news coverage, that a large part of the country has been experiencing heat waves. Now, Chicago isn’t as bad as other places, but 12 miles in 90-degree heat isn’t pretty.

But I felt good and I felt strong. For a while I was in a “zone,” in part thanks to my iPod.

Then came mile 10. The only problem with the run/walk program, is the farther you go, the harder it is to start running once you’ve stopped. Around mile 10, I really started to feel my legs tighten up and the thought of another four minute running interval became daunting. But I kept going.

Then came mile 11. My stomach started to hurt in an, “I’ve had too much water and Gatorade” kind of way. That was uncomfortable. I keep removing my hydration belt during the walking intervals to see if that gave me any relief. It didn’t.

Then came mile 12. The last mile. From our group of about 18 people who started with us, we were down to six. “I think I’m out.” The remaining groups members convinced me though; we were almost done and I could make it.

And I did. I felt nauseous, slightly confused and immediately left the group at the end of the run. I couldn’t handle being around people. I just needed to sit by myself.

Agony and victory… not so unrelated my friends.

Am I glad I finished the 12-mile run despite the pain? Yes. It gives me confidence. Will I finish the half marathon? Yes. Is it possible that I will be crawling across the finish line? Sure. Could I have gone another mile in this heat? Yes, but I could not have run it.

This is the home stretch. The half marathon is a mere two weeks away. If I could have control over one factor, I would choose to control the weather. The heat is a killer. So whatever it is you do… if you pray, or chant, or light candles, or cross your fingers, or send positive vibes… think of me once or twice over the next couple weeks and hope for cool weather on August 13. It’s a tall order, I know. But, 60 degrees would do wonders for my mind, body and spirit. Here’s to hoping!

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