Thrashing through the snow in the Snowstorm Classic 5k was so much fun, that I decided to make the hour and forty minute drive south again to compete in the Snowstorm Classic 10k. Where the 5k offered bone chilling temps and snow covered roads, the 10k presented a gauntlet of new challenges, including hard packed ice on 50% of the course and much stiffer competition. The temperature was a balmy 30 degrees, so naturally many of the runners thought that a t-shirt and shorts were the appropriate attire. My wimpy California blood demanded that I wear two layers on the top and bottom.
Over 100 runners lined up at the start line on the edge of a frozen duck pond. The crowd was abuzz with cheerful conversation and smiling faces. The race started with a quarter mile long uphill into a densely wooded area of the park. The road was completely covered with old snow that had been packed down into ice. Everyone was slipping as they tried to get up the hill. I managed to get into the top 5 without falling and breaking my neck by running on the very edge of the road where there was still crumbly snow to offer some traction. At the top of the hill we were greeted by a very large locked steel arm gate. Some of the runners planted their hands and vaulted over it, only to slip and fall as they landed, others dusted off their baseball skills and slid under it on the ice. I chose option C – to run around it through the knee deep snow. It was perhaps the safest choice but it filled my shoes with very chilly snow. For the next two miles, I ran with the lead pack of 5. We were all taking different tracks on the icy road hoping to get more traction. At the two mile point one of the racers announced that we had run 12:40 for two miles. This was about 50 seconds per mile slower than I wanted to run, but we were moving as fast as we could on the ice.
We finally reached an area of clear pavement at two and a half miles and one runner broke away. He was trying to make up as much time as he could now that we could run at a normal pace, well, normal for running in 30 degree temps with lots of clothing on. I picked up the pace a bit, but for some reason I let him get away – perhaps he was just faster than me, I’m not sure. When I hit the 4 mile mark, he had a 30 second lead over me, and I was about a minute up on 3rd place. I surmised that the man in front of me was a very good runner and had decided that I was comfortable getting second place to him. It was an easy second, and I didn’t have to work that hard to guarantee it.
That’s when I noticed that the road was again changing to ice, and I could see him struggling and slipping far ahead in the distance. A new voice popped into my head. It said, “I’m fast. I’m tough. And this is easy!”. The voice kept repeating these three lines over and over. The clear culprit in this mental coup d’etat was a book that I had started reading a few days prior, called – “The NEW Toughness Training For Sports” by James E. Loehr. Someone on one of the raw food forums had been watching my video blogs apparently and thought that I could use a little toughening up. I’m always open to advice, so I found the book on Amazon and bought it used for $2 bucks. The book essentially breaks every athlete into two halves – The Real Self and the Performer Self, and then goes on to instruct one how to toughen up the Performer Self. Well, the voice I was hearing in my head must have been my unsatisfied Real Self pushing my Performer Self out of the way and taking over the job of moving my legs. It’s amazing how much of the discomfort we experience in life is self-imposed, because once I started listening to the pep-talk that my Real Self was giving me, I began to feel like an entirely different person. I picked up the pace drastically and set my goal to vaporize his 30 second lead and win the race. The ice whizzed beneath my feet as I clocked a low 5 minute pace. Every corner we turned offered up the view of his back – closer than it was before. I began to realize that I wasn’t even feeling tired. The voice just kept repeating those 3 lines, “I’m fast. I’m tough. And this is easy!”. Suddenly it was interrupted by the gorgeous view of the tops of trees and a cloud speckled blue sky – I was horizontal in the air. I hit the ground hard and slid about 15 feet on my back. Before I even came to a stop I was up on my feet again, ignoring the pain and more determined than ever to catch him. The anger and pain of falling was being translated into an even faster pace.
With less than half a mile to go, the road ended and we had to jump a snowbank and run 30 feet on a snowy trail to another road. I was moving so quickly through the trail that I surprised him when I burst out onto the road only 3 feet behind him. He turned around and looked at me with shock and fear in his eyes. It was like a watching a prey animal when it realizes that the predator has snuck up it and is about to make it’s lethal pounce. He found a 5th gear and bolted down the hill ahead. I chased in hot pursuit, there was no way my dinner was going to get away. When we hit the 6 mile mark, we were moving at an all out sprint. There were only two tenths of a mile remaining to see who had the fastest kick. He reached down deep and pulled away from me in the final stretch. I was moving as fast as my legs would carry me and I simply could not keep up. I had run a 1:48 (4:30 pace) for the last four tenths of a mile, he had run a 1:42 (4:20 pace). My second place time of 35:54 translated into 3 miles above 6 minute pace, and 3 miles at close to 5 minute pace. Considering the nature of this course and my initial “laziness” this is a sign of great things to come.
Lessons learned: Never give up, never give in. You feel what you believe you feel. Change your beliefs and you can change your feelings. Never underestimate yourself or your opponent. Always do your best.
Next week I’m going to enter my first ever snowshoe race. I can’t wait.