Why is it that we learn lessons better the hard way? I read, I listen to seasoned athletes, I solicit medical advice. But, the lessons that stick with me are the ones that I learn from bad runs/races. And, it seems I've had a lot of those lately. Hmmm, I guess God thinks I need some refining.
The race started well. My favorite wingman was pacing me. Gary and I and 22,000 of our closest friends packed into the narrow streets of Jackson Square and were heralded by The United States Marine Corp band, first with the national anthem, them an impromptu version of "The Saints Go Marching In." Very inspirational. I always put God in charge of my Ipod by putting the music mix on shuffle, and He never fails to play just what I need when I need it. True to form, right after the Marine Corps Band played, Cece Winans sang "Amazing Grace", then Jonah 33 belted out "This Is It" (a new favorite). I was ready to roll. Unfortunately, we were so far back in the crowd it took us over 12 minutes to get to the starting line after the starting cannon boomed. No worries, the CCC is a chipped race now for everyone, so our time didn't start until we stepped across the start line.
The first mile was a maze of trying to jog through walkers and find my pace. My wingman blazed a trail, though, and the pace stayed steady. Mile two was still pretty congested and the heat and humidity started to work on me. By mile three, I had to walk some. I was dizzy and a little queasy and I do know the signs of heat exhaustion, so I slowed down and grabbed some water at the Mile 3 water table.
If you've never run a road race in New Orleans, you really need to. The crowd support is fun and frenzied. There is usually a table with free beer somewhere along the route if you're so inclined (I am not), and the Crescent City Classic is such a long established tradition that it brings out lots of crazy, kooky people and sights. Mile 4 included a group of runners pulling a couple of coolers in wagons that contained frozen jello shots which they threw into the crowd of runners at various intervals. Again, not really into alcohol on a run, but I did entertain the thought of snagging one to put in my clothes for the cooling value. I was concerned they weren't well put together, though, and I really didn't want jello and booze dripping down my back. So, I forged ahead. The jello shot runners were wearing shirts that said "It's not like you're going to win it, anyway." True that.
Miles 3 and 4 were mostly walking miles for me. I knew by then I wasn't going to set a PR, and the heat really was hurting me. This was my first run of the season in heat/humidity this high. So, I resigned myself to it and just tried to enjoy it after the initial disappointment flooded through. I'm trying to take my own advice and realize that some days are diamonds and some days are stones. This was a stone day, for the most part. But, it had it's moments. On Mile 4, God shuffled my Ipod and Jeremy Camp sang "God, we need your power". This brought fresh wind to my sails & I ran with arm raised to the heavens as Cece brought me "On Calvary". And, no, a woman in pink shirt and running skirt with arms raised, singing (or huffing the words) is not strange enough in the CCC to even elicit a stare or comment. It's a weird race. Tried to at least pick up the pace on mile 5 to the end and was somewhat successful, thanks to my wingman. I finished, upright and breathing. Some days, that's enough.
Lessons learned? One: It's summertime in the south. Get acclimated to the heat. I'll be adding some late day walks to my training to help with that process. Two: Not all hydration is created equal. I'm a water drinker. I've never been a fan of Gatorade type products. Mostly because they taste awful. But, on the bus ride back to the hotel, my legs started cramping viciously. I poured water (and coffee) down while we showered and packed up, but they wouldn't quit. I constantly moved them on the ride home, until we stopped for gas. Gary told me to get a Gatorade for him and that I needed one, too. I begrudgingly drank one, and almost like magic, the cramps went away. I really hate it when he's right. Doesn't happen that often, though, so I'll let him win this one.
All in all, not an awful day. It wasn't a great run, but at least I know why. Sometimes, I have bad runs and can't identify the cause. Those runs wig me out a little, because they chip away at my fragile confidence. At least, when I can identify the cause, I can identify the solution.
And that brings me back to my original question. Why do we have to learn everything the hard way? All the best lessons of my life have been carried in on a tidal wave of angst. I know that this is a product of living in a fallen world, so I'm making my peace with it. I'll be glad when that new Heaven and new Earth are here, but until then, I'll just keep plodding along.