Thursday, May 31, 2012

Soldier Field 10 2012

On Friday night, I was nervous. Will my body hold up? Will I be able to set a new ten mile personal record at Soldier Field 10? I tossed and turned. I could not sleep. Eventually, I did and woke up a few hours later. It was not time to get up just yet so I slept some more. Finally, at 5 o'clock, I jumped up and prepared myself. I sported my Imerman Angels top and my usual trusty triathlon shorts. I laced up my Brooks Running shoes, grabbed a sweater, and bag to head out to the race. Michael Crissie showed up and off we went to Soldier Field. I was sick and tired. My back was hurting for some reason. I wondered if at some point in the night I pulled a muscle while coughing. Michael told me he and his wife, Alison, had prepared a sign which he wore on the back of his shirt. It read Blind Runner. It was bright road tape so people should see it. Maybe we would not get any strange looks or mutters under people's breath assuming we are homosexuals or something for being tethered together. Traffic was plenty on this Saturday morning. We have never been caught in traffic like this before on route to previous Soldier Field 10 races. It took longer than normal to arrive to our parking spot. We made our way to the meeting place where we would meet other runners from the Imerman Angels team. We met them. We then rushed to gear check then to the starting area. We listened to the anthem and some announcements as we made final preparations. The gun sounded. We inched our way to the start line.

We crossed the start and we were off and running. It took a while for me to feel comfortable. We raced through a tunnel which is always tough for me as I lose my sense of direction and acute hearing while in there, but we managed it quite well. Then I suddenly had the desire to use the rest room. Oh great. Would I be able to hold it in until we completed this race or will I need to go at some point. It soon became clear, I would have to stop somewhere along the course. We went along. Wherever we could, Michael pushed us. Very quickly, I noticed that Michael's sign was in fact helping as people would comment to one another "There goes a blind runner." I heard one woman say, "Oh gees. That young man is blind. It shows me I never have anything to complain about." People seem to be more understanding instead of glaring at us. Some began to compliment me and Michael. One man told Michael what he was doing was so inspiring. I agreed. Before I knew it, Michael informed me we had completed three miles. That was fast. We kept going. We soon reached the turn-around just before the five mile mark and we were greeted by a harsh headwind. Whoa. Michael kept the charge going, but soon, he noticed a rest room so we stopped then regrouped. After a pause, I was feeling much better and felt I could truly begin to turn up the speed. As we made our way through the course, people kept cheering. Several women yelled out Sexy Isra! I gave a thumbs up. They laughed. A couple women told me in spanish that I was cute and hot. I was feeling good. Prior to the race, I kept telling myself I was going to challenge myself to embrace the pain then run through it. Up to this point in the race, I had not felt any pain as I normally would. We reached mile seven which is when my throat felt a little pain, but it quickly disappeared. I had not felt any problems as a result of my illness until that point. Then we ran into a woman. Michael yelled out, "Blind runner on your left. Excuse me, lady." He shouted. No response. No movement. Within a few feet of her, he realized she was wearing earbuds. I crashed into her. Her knee seem to buckle. she slowed down. She was shocked. Michael yelled at her that he had attempted to warn her and that maybe next time she would hear if she isn't wearing earbuds. Another woman helped her out. I felt bad that we hit her, but I had also begun to feel annoyance by so many people listening to music and did not seem to be paying attention. We kept on. The burn was not coming. Just before mile nine, I heard a man laughing and saying, "Hey, Sexy Isra." Then he put his hand on my shoulder as he ran by us. It was Erwin, a great friend whom I met about three years ago who had spent a few months teaching me to swim. We exchanged pleasantries as he passed by and moved ahead of us. One mile to go. It was time to go. I tried pushing. Michael navigated me through the crowd. I kept wanting to let it all hang out, but Michael kept telling me to slow down as to not run into people. We would hit some nice stretches before we would have to slow down. Throughout this race, I kept thinking of friends, Jenny and Kimberly, who have guided me before. There are moments where I am glad they don't tell me my pace based on their GPS Garmin tracker because when I hear that I am moving faster than I had planned, I get scared and fight to hold back. Then there are times where I hear how I have slowed down and I start to lose confidence before regaining said confidence when I am told my speed has improved once more. It truly is a mind game. On this day, I did not have the luxury of their Garmin so I had not a clue how fast or slow we were moving. I had my feeling and it felt to me as Michael and I had run the course much faster than ever before. We neared the stadium. We entered. We ran down the players' tunnel and heard some cheers. Any second now, we would pop out by one of the end zones. There! We were out and on to the field. Michael told me he would try to line us up so we could sprint right down the center of the field as we raced the final fifty yards to cross at the fifty yard line on the Chicago Bears logo. We did it! For the third consecutive year, Michael Crissie had unselfishly and courageously guided me through ten miles of the SF10. Best of all, we had crushed our personal record. I was not sure by how much, but I was certain by at least thirteen minutes. It felt like that. I was not certain, but I was very confident. In fact, we may have even crushed it by more than that.

A few days went by and I was satisfied with our performance. There were no Wow Moments which leaped out at me, but we had run a steady race. The pain never came, but it was probably because of how great a shape I had achieved in training for this event. For the first time in a long time, if not ever, I had a true sense of direction with my daily workouts. I had guidance from an amazing professional who has shine on some of the biggest stages in this country and the world. Tired of waiting for an e-mail with my official time, I went digging online. I found it. I read through my results. I reached my official finishing time. This would be the icing on the cake. I had run a fun race. I saw some friends. I even met an athlete and writer named Kate with whom I am friends on Facebook. It was time to learn how great we had performed and by how much we had shattered the previous time. 1:39:09. What? I read the time over and over. My heart sank. Instantly, the joy I had been feeling for a few days disappeared and was replaced by disappointment and disgust. That is why I never felt the pain! I had set my new ten mile best by six minutes. It was not by as much as I thought or by as much as I wanted. I had failed Michael. I had failed Jenna. Above all, I was angry at myself. So many runners complained about the wind. I could complain that I was not 100%, but I was not about to do that. No excuses! I did not perform to my best. Again, I was heart broken. I thought I had made major improvements. I had. My training was the best it has been since the days I trained my body to get into tip top fighting shape in order to star in performances of my theater piece, In The Dark, where there was a scene late in the show where I was on stage shirtless. I was ready to shine. Yet, it turns out, I really was not able to deliver what I believe I should. It hurt. It also hurt as I began to wonder, what if that is exactly the best I could have done on that day? What if on that day, I was not good enough to have run faster? Clearly, that is the case since I did not run faster. I had improved my time from last year yet I felt that I had taken a big step backwards. I wanted to share my feelings immediately on this site, but I decided to let those feelings sit inside of me for a day as I attempt to make sense of them and the situation. Today, I feel much better. I embrace the results as they are and will move on to the next race. Special thanks to Michael for guiding me to another PR. Thank you to Jenna for guiding and preparing me for this race. Congratulations to her on her mad dash sprint to the finish for fourth place on Monday at the Capitol Of Texas Triathlon in Austin which is part of the Race To The Toyota Cup.

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