Monday, April 16, 2012

How much are you willing to suffer?

Matt Fitzgerald's book "Run - The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel" uses the term "suffering" quite a bit when referring to what runner's experience during running. It seemed like a strange term to use, but, as I thought about it, it makes sense. When I'm running hard, even if I am enjoying the experience, my body is suffering to some degree. My breathing is labored, muscles fatigue, knees are aching, nose running (yuck), my legs are taking a pounding - my body really is suffering and it sends messages to my brain letting it know - hey, this isn't cool!

The thing is, there is another part of my brain which is rationalizing this "suffering". As a result of this suffering, there will be a benefit. I can make my body stronger. I can go faster.  In every runner, there is a battle going on in his or her head - a kind of a risk / reward proposition.

I was thinking about this even before I started my race at the Big House Big Heart 5k. How much was I willing to suffer today? The answer, for better or worse was "Not a whole lot more than it takes to get this race over with".

I woke up my family early because this was the race that everyone would be able to attend (they generally like to go to races, but it just hasn't worked out in our schedule). Unfortunately, it was pouring. We left just a few minutes later than planned and hoped it would stop raining on the way there. It didn't. We arrived and saw signs for parking for $5. I wasn't surprised that we would need to pay for parking, just a bit disappointed. As most people paid to run for a charity (I won an entry, so I can't whine too much), it just didn't seem right to charge more to park, but hopefully that will at least go to charity too.

We grabbed our umbrellas and headed to the Renewal by Andersen booth. They sponsored the contest where I won the race entry and provided a tech shirt to race in (I can always use more tech shirts!). I picked up my race number and t-shirt and hung out in the tunnel for a while as it continued to rain.

It was about 60 degrees out, but didn't feel like it. Our feet and legs were wet despite the umbrellas and the tunnel was drafty. We did get to check out the stadium a little, until it rained harder and chased us back inside. I felt bad for the kids, but they didn't complain much.

Near race time, we headed down near the start line. I didn't really feel like running much. Sounds strange after taking an hour to drive there and waiting for over an hour to start, but I just wasn't feeling it. My legs were tight, my feet were soaked, I didn't want to get wetter. I didn't consider not running, but I didn't have the attitude I had my last 3 races. I was more interested in being comfortable that going fast.

Amazingly, once I handed over my umbrella to get in line, it stopped raining! Once the race started, the course was still very wet and everyone was trying to dodge the puddles. I had forgotten my watch at home (the horror) so I was just running "by feel". I was feeling that I wanted to race, but, as mentioned, I wasn't willing to "suffer" all that much. I just decided to keep an even pace and figured I was running at about an 8 min/mi pace.

The highlight of the race was near the end. It was fun running through the tunnel and then onto the field. I had way too much left in the tank and decided to almost sprint from the end zone to the finish on the 50 yard line. I finished in 24:30, about a minute slower than last week's race.

I was neither disappointed nor thrilled with the result. It was about what I expected (though I was happy it wasn't much slower that that). As I made it to the area with the snacks and the sun started to peek out, the whole mood of the place changed. Just outside the stadium, the pro team mascots (Rory from the Lions, Paws from the Tigers) were out taking pictures and a band was playing, accompanied by people in other animal costumes. In a way, I would have liked to have hung out there for a while, but the family and I were wet and tired.

We've been blessed with weather that has been pretty good overall lately, but the rain was just a bummer. I don't think we got the full Big House Big Heart experience. That said, I don't know if I'll be returning to this race. It is expensive for a 5k (if you need to pay your fee), far from home and, while cool, finishing on the football field just didn't feel as "special" as I thought it would be.

I think I've raced 4 of the last 5 or 6 weeks and will be taking a couple weeks off from racing. I love to race, but I would like to get back to some longer runs (plus, I have some responsibilities around the house). When I hit the race course again, I plan to be ready to PR and beyond!


  1. glad you didn't chicken out and still had a great time despite the erratic weather! I definitely could see how you would want some time off from racing. Your legs probably agree :)

  2. Kudos for braving the weather, I'm not sure I would have done it ;) And great job on a strong finish. As runners, we certainly are gluttons for pain. I'm not sure if you have to be crazy to run or if running makes you crazy...