Sunday, July 14, 2013

Why & How I came to be a runner Part 3

The old me motivates the new me!
The saga continues. For those who are unfamiliar with this never ending story, I've been walking down memory lane starting way back in 2010 when I first started running. In writing this I hope to make sense out of how a two decade smoker and fast food junkie dropped 60lbs and fell in love with ultrarunning. As my story unfolds I hope to impart a few good lessons I have learned and perhaps inspire you to keep pushing your limits. I was never an athlete and never cared until running came along. It didn't happen overnight but the more I ran the more I wanted to run. Eventually I was completely addicted to running long distances and lining up at races all over the place.

Get the full picture by revisiting Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Remember to just have fun out there!

Mary & I weren’t running a race every weekend but we were signing up for one at least once a month. We did the Tilden and Presidio in April and now it was May. Every May an enormous sea of humanity gathers in downtown San Francisco to run one of the oldest races in the United States, The Bay to Breakers 12k. If you haven’t heard of this race it is the Mardi Gras of road running. 90% of the entrants are not there to set a record best but rather party their ass off. Prize money is offered to the winners of the race so really good runners from all around come to claim it but in all honesty very few people (except me) pay any attention to that part of the race. They also offer some sort of prize at a costume contest so more than half of the 50,000 “runners” show up in what could loosely be called a costume. Quite a few people show up wearing only their race bib. Don’t get too excited. It’s mostly men past their prime and way out of shape and that’s an image that you don’t want stuck in your head. A few attractive women here and there could be spotted wearing some form of lingerie but most costumes were just fun and creative. That’s the category Mary and I fell into, sort of. 2011 was the 100 year anniversary of the Bay to Breakers. It was going to be monumental.

Bay to Breakers 2011
We were invited to run the race with Chase & Bern, some other close friends that recently revealed themselves as recreational runners. We were ecstatic to know others enjoyed running like we did. Chase has been one of Mary’s closest friends for over ten years and was one of the first friends of hers that I met on the night Mary and I met. Chase was there at our first date and over the years we grew to be what I would consider good friends. Good enough to want him to be a groomsman in my wedding. We had always known him to be a workout guy but not really a runner. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t doubt his ability to run this 7.5 mile race because he was in great shape, we were just surprised he would want to do something like this. That may have had something to do with his girlfriend Bernadette. She was more of a runner then he was because she used running for years as part of her workout routine and had run this race many times before. She was the leader of our gang that day.
Mary had to do some sort of costume. For her, she was looking to have a good time with friends. I was looking to conquer the Hayes Street Hill and complete this race at 10 minute pace. We were polar opposites in purpose but compromising to be amicable. She was originally looking for an entire get up of one sort or another but finally settled on a giant afro wig and some crazy oversized sun glasses. I simply choose a Lone Ranger style mask akin to the masquerade ball style. This was me being agreeable and sensible. I didn’t want anything obstructing my breathing or dragging me down I just wanted to play along even though I was going to run the hell out of this race. Mary was going to just hang back and enjoy the scenery with Chase & Bern and take in all the sights and sounds of a town gone wild.

We attended the runner’s expo the day before and that was a new experience for sure. It made race day excitement and fun become race weekend excitement and fun. We were downing electrolyte drinks all day and carbo loading at dinner that night. We were developing a race morning routine and we were totally pumped to be toeing the line at the 100th year anniversary of the wildest race on the planet. When the tortillas started to fly through the air and several thousand flour discs rained down in the streets we knew the race was starting.

When I hit that starting gate I was gone. Chase, Bern and Mary, without her giant afro wig that she lost in the parking garage, whooped and hollered and blended in with the crowd of cheerful joggers. They were enjoying themselves and so was I. I rocketed up the infamous Hayes Street Hill and felt awesome at the top turning around and seeing literally an ocean of people stretching out behind me for as far as I could see. The sidewalks were even jammed with spectators in costumes drinking and cheering us on. The houses that lined the streets were one house party after another. People hung out of windows while musicians and bands on the sidewalks competed with Djs and stereos in houses. It was electric but I wasn’t stopping to smell the roses. I paid little to no attention to that which was going on around me. I crested that hill and kept on hauling ass. I was on pace to complete what to me was a massive distance at my goal 10 minute pace. We had only run 8 miles one time previously. It was the weekend prior to this and before that 6 miles was the furthest we had gone. We were just getting comfortable with completing 6 miles let alone pushing for a 10 minute pace and here I was doing just that. Hopefully I could keep it up for the entire 12k. I gave that race everything I had even down to a gut wrenching sprint that lasted almost a half mile at the finish line. I crossed the line in 1:13:00, which is 9:44 per mile. I was a no holds barred, bad ass, ass kicker who was there to kick some ass and I did. I was elated. I loved that post race feeling of trying your guts out and making it happen. I was addicted to it like an alcoholic on a bender and I drank in that runners high while I scanned the horizon for my wife and friends amongst the 1000’s.

I found the 3 of them and they were as pumped as I was. They had the best time just cruising along and taking pictures of all kinds of insanity. They showed me the photos and told me all about the craziness along the way. We may have ran completely different runs that day but we all had a blast and vowed to run this race every year for the rest of our lives.

 Their happiness showed me that you don’t have to race every race to have a good time. In 2012 I could probably crush my time and beam with pride for measurably improving but that’s just one side of having a great run and I do that all the time. For Bay 2 Breakers I want to be a part of the party and see what all the others are raving about. I can’t wait to not “race” this race in 2012. Running for fun can be as satisfying as a new PR. Always pushing for longer runs or faster times can lead to burn out.