Saturday, May 31, 2014

Falling Off The Wagon - Running of the Bulls 8K

The first race back after a long injury layoff is a peculiar event. You are filled with fear, excitement, doubt, hope, and more fear. Sometimes I think a physical injury in a runner requires 90% mental recovery and 10% physical recovery.

Standing in the starting corral for the 2014 Running of the Bulls 8K, I felt about 20% recovered mentally, and about 7.5% recovered physically. So, just about normal for me. As the race began and the crowd swelled up the first hill, I temporarily lost my my mind and broke into a strong run. Luckily, my body has a new alarm signal to inform the racing insanity center of my brain. My cranky right knee sent a few level 7 pain signals firing into my adrenaline addled brain, and I settled down to a stately walk. Going up hills is a big problem for my right knee, which I guess is lucky for me, because I hate hills.

Walking along as the crowd surged past me, I settled into the normal mental debate mode that my brain seems to occupy during a race. Debate team A consists of the ever optimistic, bright siders who live near the endorphin production factory in my brain. Debate team Z consists of the cynical, cranky old people who live near the pain receptor facility in my brain. The debate consistently goes like this:

Team A: Woo hoo! Race time! Giddy up mud butt! Let's pass some people and set a PR!

Team Z: Shut. Up. Feel that twinge from your right knee. In a mile or so that will be a tsunami of pain.

Team A: Run while you are feeling good! Maybe you'll make it all the way to the end! Besides we can surf the pain tsunami to a new PR! Wooo!

Team Z: You guys are IDIOTS. You don't surf pain waves. You are swallowed by them. You are pounded into so much hamburger on the reef of reality.  And then you are eaten by the injury shark.

Team A: Hey, that old woman and that 9 year old kid just passed you! You can't let that happen! Crush that old lady! Pummel that kid into the pavement with your awesome speed! Pain is just weakness leaving your body! Yee Hawwwww!!!!!

Team Z: Aww hell, we give up! We'll talk again during your next visit to the physical therapist. Pass that annoying little kid!

One day, I hope Team Z will actually win this debate. One day...

Before I knew it, I had passed about 100 old ladies and a dozen or so annoying kids, and I was closing in on the finish line. Not a PR by any means (well, maybe a pain PR, but I purposely do not track those), but I had run-walked most of the race. Glad to be done and still in relatively one piece, I picked up the pace around the outside of the ball field which served as the finishing chute for the race. I imagined that I was flying. Surfing along on an endorphin wave of victory, I ripped turns on the foamy pain break near the top of the wave.

And then I tripped over the finish line timing mat. I sailed downwards towards the  hard, red, infield dirt. Thumping the ground, I knocked the breath out of my heaving lungs, and dust and dirt filled my watery eyes. For a moment I couldn't see or breath and panic engulfed my brain.

Finally managing to open my eyes, I was confused by a white sky which moments before been clear blue. I shook my head and a ceiling fan came into focus. I had been dreaming. I had fallen out of bed. My knee throbbing, I crawled back into bed to dream about bitter beer and sweet, pain free running. Soon. Hopefully soon.