Last week was not the best one for me. One of our dogs got ill and a visit to the vet revealed he had a very nasty form of cancer, hemangiosarcoma. I spent the week taking him to vet appointments and keeping a close eye on him at home, never leaving him alone. I didn’t get much sleep and didn’t have time to exercise since I was completely focused on him. I was so stunned by how quickly things unraveled that I couldn’t eat. The story did not have a happy ending. We ended up losing him. He was only 6 1/2 years old – way too early to leave us. It may seem swift but that is how hemangiosarcoma goes. I hate that disease.
I needed to find a way to cheer up. Running has always been a good way for me to deal with stress and depression. Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness. I was very depressed about losing a much-loved part of our family. I needed a shot of endorphins. I knew that running would be the best anti-depressant that I could take. I found a 5k and entered it.
On Sunday I headed to the race knowing that it would be a small one. Only 95 people had registered for the event. That made me a bit sad because, like all the other races I run, this one was to benefit a charity. Fewer runners meant fewer proceeds for the charity.
As I drove there, it occurred to me with a field that small, I might have a shot at a placement. Let’s be honest. I may not be among the last finishers of a race but I certainly am not out in the front. Small races are my only opportunity to be on the podium.
The Wall Street Journal had an article back in June 2007 about “How to Win a Marathon.” Apparently there are people who are so focused on winning that they will search for obscure races and triathlons, analyze the results, and enter the ones that give them the best chances at winning. The race results are usually good indicators of what to expect the next time since some athletes come back the following year to do the same event. Coolrunning.com and Athlinks.com are two web sites that list race results. Athlinks also has the ability to search other athletes in a particular age group and geographic area to find out who the competition is and compare/analyze race performances. It all sounds like a lot of work to me and I am not really that competitive. But for anyone who is, the resources are there to pick races with winning in mind.
The race I ran on Sunday was so small that the timing was done by a stop watch. The real serious runners headed up front for the start. There were a bunch of little kids in a pack behind them. When the horn sounded, they all took off. The kids were running as fast as they could. The winner in each category got a pie and these kids had pie on their minds.
The odds were stacked against me. In addition to barely sleeping or eating and having no exercise for a week, I showed up to the race without my Garmin. Coach Jenny Hadfield recommends ditching the technology and running by how you feel. On Sunday I had no choice.
I took off a bit too fast and had to rein myself in by the time we hit the first mile. The lack of sleep and poor diet came back to haunt me. I tried focusing on a runner in front of me that seemed to be keeping a good pace. Since the race was a butterfly course (out and back one direction and then out and back the other), I was able to see the other runners and gauge where I was in relation to the leaders. I didn’t see anyone I thought was as old as me. I pushed myself as hard as I could. I had hope.
When I finished the race, I decided to wait for the awards, just in case I won something (they wouldn’t be mailing pies out to the winners). As expected, the hotly contested 19-and under category was won by an 11-year old with a time of 21:29, only 3 minutes behind the 53-year old guy who won the race. Apparently, pie is one heck of a motivator! But much to his mother’s disappointment, he traded his pie in for a Dunkin Donuts hat (the second place prize).
When they got to my category, I held my breath. I had my eyes on a Scottish Apple with Whiskey Plumped Raisins pie. Alas, I came in second. It was a Dunkin Donuts hat for me.
As I headed back to the car, I noticed my heart did not feel so heavy. My steps had a bit more bounce in them. The endorphins had kicked in. My beloved dog was still gone but I had a clearer head to come to terms with his passing. Time will heal the rest of my sadness.