It was cold and windy but the mixed bag of precipitation had stopped for the 5K at Daemen on Sunday.
I had a lot of emotions from the past week and was really looking forward to "racing them out." My coach had told me not worry about a personal best, just to run hard. This was a test run for us. I"m not sure what that means exactly, other than it was to give my coach a baseline of where my running is at heading into the 2008-09 season.
When the start finally went off (it seemed liked forever waiting for the starters siren in the cold pack of people) I felt good. I felt strong. I thought I was going at a pretty good clip. With the cold air, I knew I couldn't run too hard or risk side stitches which often come for me when breathing too hard in the cold, but I felt I had a solid, steady pace going.
Midway through the race my heart rate monitor strap started bothering me. Generally speaking, the strap doesn't even register in my consciousness when I'm training. But during the race, well, I could feel it, not so much constricting me, but moving with each huff and puff I took along the 3.1-mile course. This annoyed me to no end -- especially when the course had turned into a nice strong head wind.
At times on the route, I thought of my coworker Tom Borrelli, traumatically injured and in a hospital bed at ECMC. I thought how on Saturdays he would often walk seven miles to help keep his health under control and now he had no movement in his arms and legs. I sent little positive thoughts to him and knew how lucky I was to be able to run at all.
Unfortunately, that thought didn't do enough to temper my disappointment when I saw the clock as I approached the finish line.
I was 40 seconds off my PR.
I was bummed.
Why? I wondered that throughout the day. Probably in part because I felt so great running I wanted to be rewarded with a PR. Probably because I wanted all my emotion of the past week -- anger, sadness, fear, hope -- to be useful for something.
My coach wanted me to slap myself in her absence.
Sunday was not about racing, she reminded me. It was about testing. And the slight drop-off from the PR I set in September? Well, for my coach, that indicates that I indeed took enough rest in the off season and am ready to start building.
I went back and looked at my race times from early 2008.
My first 5K was the Bengal Run in March. By that count, I've only been racing eight months. From that place, I"m already starting 40 seconds faster than where I did in March.
We choose the way we look at things. I could look at Sunday's race as being 40 seconds slower than my PR or starting the season 40 seconds faster than I did last year.
It took a few hours and some intervention from a few friends, but eventually, I chose to see the day as the later.
With no where to go but up.