October 4, 2010

The worst and best

Horror stories abound in the running community, tails of poor runners with full bladders and angry stomachs. On an every day run, that is not such a bad thing. You can stop, take care of business, and move on. But in a race, when minutes, even seconds count, you cannot stop.

And so it was that yesterday morning, I consumed only five ounces of the coffee I had purchased. I had 9.4 miles to run, and that would take long enough as is. If I had to stop, hop off the trail, hide behind some tree, relieve myself, things would only get worse.

This was the right decision. I still cramped ever so slightly at about the halfway point. But that's to be expected, frankly. Running stimulates the digestive system, thus when you're stomach is basically empty (as mine was) you cramp a bit. Better than having it be full and... well, never mind.

And so finished with a time I was pleased with, a little over 1:12. My place wasn't so lovely, but then this was a competitive field. Had I run this well in smaller 5ks, I probably would have won them. This is not to say that I'm some looming prodigy. I am, instead, just some in shape guy, who can beat other, less in shape guys, but not real runners.

Having mauled myself thoroughly, I inhaled two Great Harvest honey wheat rolls, stumbled to my car, and chugged the tepid coffee I had left there, almost two hours before. At most any other time, I would have turned my nose at the very thought of consuming room temperature coffee. Abysmal. Tragic. Obscene. And yet I committed that beautiful blasphemy, guzzling it eagerly.

I was thirsty, after all. I didn't bring in water with me, nor did I stop to drink any at the stations. I figured that, while I might not be as fast as many of the other runners, I was probably more willing to do serious harm to myself. So I didn't drink. Nor did I slow a bit down the many hills. Instead, I launched myself down them, content to pound my quads and feet in to oblivion. I cannot describe these as good decisions, per se, but I do think they helped my time. So take that for what it's worth.

In any case, by the time I consumed that coffee, I was thirsty enough to drink other, much less tolerable liquids. And any sort of stimulation, caffeine or otherwise, was welcome, given my complete bonkness at the time. And so I drank, and felt much better for it. Even still, a lesson learned, perhaps it's time to invest in a thermos.

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