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Friday, June 15, 2012

If you never try, then you'll never know.

that's right, I quoted Coldplay. Tough.

So after my last race one of my club mates asked me a simple question that I wasn't able to answer.

The question:
How do you run a fast last lap in a track race? I just don't know how you do it...
has made me spend some time thinking about my answer, and to form an answer I had to spend time actually thinking about why I was so successful at running fast at the end of a race. I had never heard his perspective, or at least thought about it from someone else's shoes, so when I began thinking about it, it became apparent the answer wouldn't be easy to elicit.

So what made me successful at running fast at the end of a race? Is it purely training? Mental ability? Drive? Reckless disregard? Fear?

It's probably a little bit of each of those, and other topics I didn't even list. But then I started thinking about how I handle pain, and I'm confident that my ability to manage pain plays a large part in my success at the end of a race.  To be truly successful in that last lap of a track race, you've got to be able to handle the level of discomfort needed to lay it all out. So I'm going to focus on the effect of pain, handling pain and the runner's ability to run a fast last lap.

Pain is a signal to the brain that we should stop a certain activity before we do any permanent damage. So logic dictates that if you feel pain, you should stop. That's exactly what I don't do. At what cost? Who knows, so far I haven't had any adverse effects (other than tight/sore muscles).

So now I'm wondering how pain levels work, and if it can be looked at in the same light as the speed of sound.  Take for example a supersonic air fighter. It crosses the sound barrier, and all of a sudden, you can't hear anything. Is it possible that the same thing happens with pain and the receptors within the body? Can we overload the brain to a point where it can no longer understand the pain signals, it cannot keep up with the deluge of signals, so that it just can't read any pain signals at all?

When I'm hammering away on my last lap, I don't ever remember feeling anything. I forget about my breathing. I forget about how much my lungs are burning. I forget about how heavy my legs get. I just run. Regardless of pain, I keep running. I push myself to see if I can handle just a little more pain...a little more....a little more....and what I've found is I don't ever get to a point where my body says "That's the end idiot, stop pushing".

And that's why I can run a fast last lap at the end of a track race.

Race Recap: 2012 RCLDS #2 The London Distance Classic

This was to be my 5000m track debut, and what a debut it was. I had booked the day off from work so I could rest up. My only twilight meet last summer was a bit of a mess, seems it's hard to 'perform' after 8 to 10 hours at the office. So I figured I'd err on the side of caution this time...except I found myself at CBI health at 9:30 that morning getting my shin looked at by the very best of the best, Rob Wingert.

I've been dealing with some tenderness in my shin/calf for the past 10 or so days, and after an easy workout on Monday, the rolling terrain mixed with speed work mangled my shin to the point where merely walking hurt. So I rolled into CBI that morning fearing the worst, but I had my worries put at ease nearly instantly when I was reassured it was likely not a stress fracture. From there we moved onto some general poking and prodding, ultrasound and taping. I left the appointment feeling optimistic that I would be able to race that night, but I still had quite a bit of work to do on the shin before I would know for sure.

So I spent the afternoon relaxing, stretching, reading, and massaging the crap out of my right shin.  Every hour I spent 10-15 minutes digging an ice cup into my shin. It wasn't until later that I would find out if my efforts would pay off, but I figured it was worth the effort to at least try. As I was leaving CBI I was told I'd be able to race that night, but that I shouldn't expect a great effort out of my leg. I was determined to prove that wrong.

The rest of the day was uneventful...I rested, stretched and read a book while the hours ticked by.  Before I knew it I was at the track, had picked up my racing kit and was chilling on the infield with other clubmates. LRDC fo'life yo! The night had other races lined up, you can see videos of all the races at

The goals for the race were pretty simple:
  • Work with Leslie Sexton
  • Run 3:10/km for as long as we could
  • Hang on for dear life
The race kicked off and we started rolling. I was boxed in early by two Speed River gents pacing their ladies, it would have been nice if they weren't taking up two lanes. So we clicked through the first km in 3:12, a touch off our goal pace, but within a decent margin.

....The next km was run in 3:15. UhOh.
....The next km was run in 3:17. Uhoh.

And so it continued until I finished in 16:21.  It wasn't a great race overall, but there were many positives to take from it. Most importantly, I just went for it and hung on as long as I could. I don't typically race this way and I knew it was risky, but in order to be great, one must take risks...and sometimes they don't always pan out.  This was one of those times.

Oh, and I got a new PB, so I guess it wasn't that bad of a race after all. I also want to thank everyone that showed up to cheer me on. 16 minutes is a long time to stare at me running around a track. You guys rock!

Stay tuned for my next race report, I crank out my first 1500m race of the season....

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