About a year ago, I ran the Athletics Ontario 10,000m Championships in 35:17.71 and was very happy with my result. This year, I ran the same race in 35:16.13, and I was very disappointed with how the race had gone. I guess this comparison might offer some insight into my fitness gains over the past year and my changing expectations as a result. It was rather frustrating to suffer through twenty-five laps only to run a personal best by about one-and-a-half seconds. Still, as people keep telling me, a personal best is a personal best.
I can definitely say that I was happy with the first half of the race. The plan was to run the first 5k in 17:20 and negative split the race in order to hit my goal of running 34:30. The secondary goal was to break 35. I knew that this was possible after doing a solid workout of 5 X 2k a few weeks ago on a windy day on the bike path and averaging just under seven minutes (35 flat pace) for each. Anyway, I had a great setup on race day, as my teammate Ian “Raging Bull” Turnbull was pacing me for the entire race. He did an amazing job, taking me through the 5,000m mark in about 17:22. Unfortunately, the first half didn’t feel as good as it should have, and shortly after, things started to crack. I fell way off pace over the second half of the race, feeling awful for most of that 5k stretch. The six kilometer mark was a really bad patch for me. It’s rough passing the lap counter while feeling horrible and seeing that you still have ten laps to go. I had some serious thoughts of dropping out, but I figured that I could still run a personal best if I didn’t run too terribly and of course I wanted my shiny awesome Athletics Ontario medal, so I hung in there. Turnbull was very helpful at this point. He slowed down so as not to drop me, but he ran fast enough that he kept me pushing.
In the end, I ran 35:16.13, taking the silver behind Megan Brown. The time certainly wasn’t what I had hoped for, but I’m glad I took a risk and really went for it. This is the only 10,000m I will run in 2011, so it was worth going out on pace for my top-end goal. The race was also a decent confidence-booster. Two weeks ago, I had a bad race at the Downtown 5k, running 17:34. To be able to run the first half of the 10,000m faster (even though I faded after that point) made me much more confident about my current fitness level.
Of course, these are all attempts at seeing the bright side of an unpleasant race. That is unacceptable. This is a Leslie Sexton blog, where everything is about pain and suffering and sadness. As Steve Boyd wrote on TnFnorth, “Track 10s are just brutally hard, and really easy to bail on when things aren’t going as planned. They’re the most dropped-out-of kind of race next to the marathon.” I certainly learned this on Sunday. But dropping out wasn’t an option. No, as soon as I started running poorly, I forced myself to finish the bloody race, because the only fitting punishment for running slowly would be to suffer through the agony of the last 3-4km of a 10,000m race. Dropping out is easy. Finishing what one starts on a bad day requires some toughness. So I’ll call this a “character-building” race, as it was one of the most difficult mental battles I’ve ever been through while racing.
I would like to end on a happy note, so let’s go with a song that makes me happy. You would think this song might have the opposite effect, but this song always puts me in a better mood. For years, every time I play Self Esteem or I hear it on the radio, I need to sing along at the top of my lungs. One in university I found it on someone’s ipod at a party, so I changed the song right away. After the initial cries of disappointment because I had turned off some awful top-40 dance tune, it turned out that about four other people knew the words, so we all started singing along and playing air guitar, with Walmsley and I leading the way (ie. singing the loudest). After that fateful night, Self Esteem got played at almost every subsequent party. It never really caught on as an everybody-gets-up-and-sings-along thing like Don’t Stop Believing or the Bohemian Rhapsody, but we kept it going with the efforts of a few key people. I made sure to request it at the XC nationals after-party in Guelph last year, just for old times’ sake. So remember that awesome song you heard that night? Yeah, that was Walmsley and I. You’re welcome.