This past weekend I raced in my final 10K of the 2010 season. I came face to face with my limit.
I started running this year as a way to escape and challenge myself. I needed an outlet and something to help me reduce the speed at which my brain circles thoughts. - on a quick side note, I have come to the conclusion that this is just the way I am and in order to stay sane, I must accept the fact that my brain doesn't stop. It's just a part of my reality. Anyway, I have found that running helps me resolve issues, make plans, get a clearer state of mind and become more effective and efficient in my non-running life. It has become a source of comfort as well and a pretty positive "go-to" when I feel like things are spinning out of control and I am going to lose my mind.
I ran my first 10K race ever at the beginning of May. I was pretty new to the scene and didn't really know what to expect. I asked my friend and fellow Canadian Olympic Champion, Simon Whitfield, what a good 10K time was. He said something crazy like '32 minutes'. So I had to ask him again about what a good 10K time for a "recently retired ex-gymnast running newbie who broke both of his legs" was. He said 39 mins. Damn Simon and his high running standards. So I took what he said and I thought that I would aim for under an hour. Under Promise and Over Deliver is a great technique to keep yourself and the people around you happy!
I ran the race and started out slow. I didn't want to lose steam as I hadn't actually ran a full 10K distance yet. I wanted to save something for the end. The race made me fall in love with the chase. I liked picking people out of the crowd and chasing them down. I like passing people. I liked pacing with someone for a while, watching them fade and then have a burst of energy and leave them in my dust. During the last 3K of the race, I had tons of reserves. I was picking up speed and running almost twice as fast as I started out. The last Km was intense and I was in a foot race with some dude who at the end, in the final moments before the finish line, ended up staring at my finishing kick. I felt like a champ. I felt a huge sense of victory and accomplishment. I felt so proud of myself that I ran a whole 10K and didn't die.
After the race my legs were jello for a good 10 minutes. I walked it out, stretched it out, but I knew that I would be feeling the after affects of that final push for the next week. But I knew that I was hooked and I couldn't wait to look in the paper the next day and see my name and my time. As it turns out, I came in just around 49:00 mins. I had surpassed my goal. Destroyed it in fact. And now I had a gage of where I stood. I knew that I could improve on 49:00 mins.
I trained for another race at the beginning of July. At this race I felt like I had a better sense of what 10K would feel like and I was also looking forward to the adrenaline rush that I knew would come as I would pick my victims and pass them!
I made a couple of critical mistakes during this race. First, I didn't wear a watch so I didn't really know where I was at in terms of time. Secondly, I went out WAY too fast. The first 5K were fine. I felt like they flew by and that's probably because they did. I was motoring. In the lead was my buddy Devon Kershaw, Olympic cross country skier, and he was f.a.s.t., but he also has legs that are 3 times the size of mine so I wouldn't expect anything less! I went out too fast and I started to fade between 5K and 6K and then I felt like my legs were smashing into the concrete for the next 3K. It was painful, but I kept pushing. I was chasing my previous 49:00 and I knew that I was on pace to beating it. I didn't have a visual, but inside I had a feeling. I turned it on in the last kilometre and sprinted my heart out. I knew that there was a Stampede breakfast waiting for me at the finish line and I didn't want to look back and have a regret that I could have pushed myself more. I was surprised at how much I had left at the end of the race. I was impressed that I finished so strong, but I was disappointed that I could have pushed harder. My time was just over 46:00. I was happy, but I was mad at myself that I struggled so much from 5K-9K. But I got over it quick and enjoyed some delicious pancakes as my reward.
My last race was this past weekend and it had special meaning because it was a fundraiser for Alzheimers and Dimentia, which has taken a lot of my grandma away in the past few years. Very sad. But it was good motivation! I also convinced Kristin and a big group of our friends to sign up too so we had a huge gang of runners.
The gun went off and I was ready. I trained hard over the summer. I had the nerves and I had a plan. I wore a watch and my goal was to beat my July time. I wanted to end off the season with a PB! I planned to run 4:00-4:30 Km's for as long as I could and then find something crazy inside of myself to keep on pushing. At the one Km mark I looked at my watch. 4:00. Good. At the next Km I looked again (I've become that watch glancing runner that I used to laugh at!) and I was on the same pace. Sweet! I did this for 2 more Km's and then I got a rude awakening. I hadn't trained hard enough for this and you can't expect miracles on race day. I dropped to 4:45 Km's. At the half way point there was a turn around and this gave me a much needed energy injection. I got to high five all of my friends as I ran past and they inspired me to keep pushing. I kept telling myself, "You can do this. You are more than half way there. How bad do you want it?!". I was like a friggin' Nike commercial, live and in person.
Kilometre #8 kicked my ass. I didn't know how my legs were going to keep moving, but I told them to keep going and keep going quickly. And then, I came face to face with my inner deamons.
There was a voice inside of my head that kept telling me to walk. It wanted me to walk so badly. It was screaming in agony. It was finding excuses left, right and centre. But then there was the voice that said, "Kyle, this race is a reflection of your life. This is simply a struggle. Enjoy it. Pay attention to the way you feel because right now you are facing a crossroads. You can give up if you want. You will still survive. But will you respect yourself?".
It was one of those emotional and raw moments that we don't often get to experience in our lifetimes.
I kept pushing and listening to the battle going on in my head. But I was determined to suck every ounce of anything I had left in myself, my mind and my muscles in order to get my fastest time possible.
I ran across the line, lungs almost exploding, legs aching, at 43:08. My new 10K PB! And all I felt, besides cramping in my legs, was satsifaction. This was real. This was me. This was a test and I passed. I could not have gone a millisecond faster. At this point in my running career, 43:08 is my absolute limit and I say that with full confidence. There was nothing left in the tank. I left it all out on the course.
Pushing through the struggle and coming out on the other side is where the reward lies. The struggle is where we learn and grow. The struggle is where we find our new thresholds. The struggle is where we learn what we are capable of. The struggle, simply put, is a pretty beautiful thing. I hate it when I'm in it, but I love it when I look back on it and know that I persevered.
Running has been an incredible addition to my life and I am looking forward to next season where I will push for a new 10K PB! Can I go under 40:00 mins? I also have plans of taking on a couple of new physical challenges next year: 1. Complete my first half marathon and 2. Compete in my first triathlon. I better get training!
Until next time: Push it. Push it good. Push it real good,