It was little under a year ago, July 18th, 2009 to be precise, that I saw many a good friends [Brian, Cal, Ian, Laura, Nils and more] effortlessly run past the (34th Annual) Hancock Canal Run finish line that my mind sew the seeds of being one such in its 35th edition. Training [if it could be so called] ensued and after a considerable amount of it, I did take part in Lake Linden 5k/10k [organized by Rick, Chris and many good friends] and finish it rather successfully [5k – 27:36 min]. Summer soon ended, fall then followed, colors changed, life got busier and the seeds that were once sown soon were buried deep under the snow.
When the Spring 2010 rolled in [yes, for once, there was actually Spring in Houghton/Keewenaw], snow melted and the way certain things transpired in later parts of March forced myself and a dear friend, Sarah, to (re)find structure in life, to regain and be more focused. Many a conversations with Amy, Scott, Lakshmi, aforementioned friends, several members of Michigan Tech Huskies family and of local community started nurturing the once buried seeds of running/completing the [10 mile version of] Hancock Canal Run.
Being the athlete she is, Sarah did all the literature search, had discussions with established runners and dug out few detailed training plans from the depths of internet. Being busy with lives and at the same time not yet having complete control over the events that take place in our lives, we decided to train individually by honor system – keeping each other in check often — in person, or via phone calls or text messages or facebook. And our aim was to
not just finish but be within top ten of our respective age group.
It worked really well for the first few weeks and we stuck to the training plan we had agreed upon. With all that happened from last ten days of May through first ten days of June [procrastination, this, that, and The Legends of Table 23], to say that our training took a back seat is an understatement of cosmological proportions. If not for Terry posting the countdown to the race day and reminding us every single day till the last day, training may have never resumed and this post may have never been written. In spite of skipping few weeks in our training plan and jumping ahead to week six [or seven, I don’t remember], we honored the honor system and still had plenty of fun until the very last evening leading up to the run [see evidence below].
2009-2010 turned out to be the season that I had the most interactions ever with my beloved Huskies. Having never been an athlete but always wanting to emulate one, I decided to follow in their footsteps. While the reasons for which I woke up at about 2:30am on race day are immaterial, I did have my pre-run carb loading meal. Trust me, it did taste good and I have reasons to believe it did its job.
Weather on race day morning was near perfect – a bit chillier with west winds and relatively open areas of McLain State Park exposed to Lake Superior, all but last mile [or thereabouts] was well shaded from the sunshine. And this race re-taught me an important lesson – that there is a real difference between being an athlete and acting like one. Just like the previous & my only race, I started out running at the group pace (~9:10 min/mile) instead of the pace I was comfortable with (~11:30 min/mile). Carrying my trustworthy GPS may have slowed me down a bit but it certainly helped gather useful data.
As is evident from the Google Earth screenshot and Matlab graph generated using the data from my GPS, I did make adjustments to my speed, literally on the run, to conserve just enough energy to complete the run/race in under two hours. While I was [still am] very disappointed that I did not pass a single person during the entire length of the run, that I was the penultimate dude to complete it [121 out of 122 @ 1:52:27] and that there were only five more people who completed it after I did, I very well understand that I didn’t deserve to finish any sooner – given the [erratic] way in which I trained. And I am happy as I ever could be that I did finish it in under two hours as planned and that I wasn’t the last one to do so. Thanks to dear friend, Michael, for showing up on short notice to photograph my sorry you-know-what cross the finish line and one of me with Sarah [#92/35, 10 miles in 1:22:20], sharing the same stage [err, the same sidewalk].
In summary, this one was definitely a case of mind over body and by mind, I mean my super-massive ego – a well-fed super-massive ego. While the training for and running in Canal Run 2010 did do its part in realizing my Thousand Mile Dream in part, it certainly has helped me respect my friends — supreme athletes, runners, swimmers, bikers, triathletes & iron (wo)men and, members of this wonderful community, who yet again helped me realize one more dream — a lot more than I ever have.