I am someone who often struggles with my own self doubts. Am I good enough? Am I successful? Am I doing the best I can in life? I don't want to say that I get depressed at times, but I do get down on myself for periods that can last minutes or even hours or days. I know that people who are truly depressed constantly fight a battle against themselves. This weekend, I lined up a challenge for myself that until Sunday morning seemed daunting. In all my imperfect moments going forward I can look back at what I accomplished and smile.
I had managed to get most of the week off from work. I wanted time to prepare for Sunday morning, I was able to play my soccer game Friday night, and I was able to spend some time hanging out with my family. I had run a 10 km trial run on Monday and lived to tell of it. Please spend time reading the post I authored after that run if you haven't already. It's here. I ran a slower paced 7 km on Wednesday and that also went well.
On Friday night I suited up in the red and white kit of my mew soccer team "Queensway Auto World" and arrived at the field ready to take on "Eden Spas". I got a fun surprise when a couple of the guys I was going to play with in the recreational league arrived. They were set to play as call ups for our opponent. One of the guys joked about me "ditching them", and assured me that I would pay for my rudeness in the game. All in good fun, Dan is a great soccer player, who could easily play in the league if he wanted to. As expected, he more than held his own against us, providing his team with endless energy in the midfield. I started the game on the bench, as we had a full squad with 4 extras. I came on about 20 minutes in, played striker for a few minutes before shifting back to left wing. Nearing the end of the half our striker had the ball just inside the 18 yard box in the left side. He is shifty and quick, so a second defender moved over to help on him. He quickly moved laterally and fed the ball between the two defenders to me, as my mark had left me to help. I took one touch to control, then blasted a low left footed shot. It skimmed along the turf with an out turn as it headed towards the far side of the net. Having the perfect view, I knew it was in well before it entered the net. The ball clanged off the inside of the goal post and settled into the net. I can't recall the last goal I scored in a soccer game, and the last meaningful soccer goal I scored in a full field soccer game was probably back in high school. (erm, I barely scored any then either, but there must have been at least 1!) I sat again to start the second half but I joined the game about 10 minutes in this time and helped our team hold on to the 1-0 lead. We didn't play great, and neither did Eden Spas. It was an odd game where very little happened. We committed plenty of fouls, but nothing really malicious. As the thoughts I having my goal hold up as the winner were dancing in my head, we conceded a free kick about 30 yards from goal. The ball came in, took a couple of bounces and fell to one of their guys. He hit the ball, it deflected off of a defenders leg and alluded the goalie's diving effort. No chance to save it, and the game was tied. Worst of all, there was 3 minutes left in the game. It took a little shine off of the night, but I still have my goal to remember. I've never played at this level of soccer, so scoring a goal in only my second game of the season was an awesome feeling. I believe there is more to come.
I coached Jasmine's soccer game Saturday afternoon, then planned to take it easy the rest of the day to prepare myself for the next morning. Ian came over and we watched the Bruins and Penguins game. After the game, I threw on a movie "Oz the Great and Powerful" hoping it would interest both the adults and the kids. Meh. It was pretty bad, but Jasmine seemed to like it. My mom, dad and sister all arrived from Quesnel. They were up to watch in the big race in the morning. Sheila had run out to the store and spoiled me with a few protein bars, gatorade drinks and a pedometer that also tracked time and distance. I went to lay down pretty early, hoping to get lots of sleep for the race. I wasn't nervous, but more anxious. I had laid off the junk food for a couple days, chewed a protein bar and had some gatorade. I surfed on the internet, hoping to bore myself to sleep. In the end, it was a fitful night's sleep with only a little rest. I rose at 645 to prepare.
Observations from race day:
-Having a hot shower before running is great. I usually run in the late afternoon when Sheila gets home, but I will have to remember how much energy a shower seems to provide.
-I kept most of my pre-run routine as consistent as possible. I had a half cup of coffee. I ate a few bites of a banana, and bit of a protein bar. Typically, I want to run on an empty or close to empty stomach. I knew that I would need a bit of energy for the race, so I ate a bit. It worked out, I didn't get a stomach cramp, and I had a decent amount of energy.
-My dad drove me down to the track, with the rest of my supporters (it feels good to type that) due to arrive closer to race time. After getting my shoes on, it was nice to walk a few laps with my dad and chat, it took my mind away from the race which was a mere half hour away.
-I had my pedometer, my plan was to use it to run at a steady pace. I was shooting for a time of 50 minutes or 5 minutes per kilometer. I had run at or around that pace throughout most of my training. Without my ipod I thought maybe I would run slower. I was hoping that the competitors ahead of me and my desire to keep up would counteract this.
-I wanted to start the race near the front of the pack. Too close to the back and I would be stuck weaving through people. If I was too close to the front though, having numerous people run by me would probably be demoralising. I just moved onto the track, and people kind of filled in around me. The race organisers counted us down, and we were off.
-We circled half of the track, then left the stadium to begin running the roads of Prince George. I quickly realised that my pedometer had reset, and was currently counting miles and not kilometers. Not a big deal, I still had a timer, but I would now rely on feel and instinct to pace myself.
-One lady ran past me as we left the stadium, and I would soon realise how much I didn't want this to happen during the race. I started up the hill on Massey drive, and soon had someone breathing down my neck. A lady passed me as we neared the top of the hill, but only for a few seconds. As we crested the hill I lengthened my stride and passed her back. I slowly moved away from her and for the next 3 or so kilometers I ran completely by myself. The nearest person ahead of me was probably 200 meters, and while I wasn't looking back often, I could see when I went around corners that I had a comfortable gap behind me as well. I didn't expect this. I thought it would be a tighter race, but with 122 runners of all shapes and sizes, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.
-The caterpillars were out in full force to cheer us on, happily being squished underfoot as they were impossible to avoid completely.
-I'm used to running without any drinks on the road. It was nice to have 3 different drink stations along the course.
-Something that is quickly becoming "my thing" while I run, I said hello or thank you to every single person that was out on the course. There were a handful of spectators, and most of them shouted words of encouragement, or clapped. Every one of them got a "thank you" or "good morning" from me. The volunteers at the drink stations and the crosswalks who made the race possible also got "thank you" from me. It was fun and inspiring at the same time.
-While the support of strangers was nice, it was even more inspiring to have my family there to support me. About 3 km into the race as I gradually gained ground on the woman in front me we came up on one of the local schools. I noticed 3 people sitting in chairs in the parking lot, and I realised as I got closer it was Sheila and my mom and dad. They stood and cheered, I waved and hollered back at them, then got back to racing. Jasmine and Asher both hollered at me from the playground. I looked over to see Jasmine waving from the top of the jungle gym. I would see them again shortly as they jumped in their vehicles and drove by me. My sister Paulette, and Jasmine and Asher were all hollering out the windows as they drove by, with the horns going as well. We covered a few kilometers of Ospika, and I managed to get past the lady I was chasing, before setting my sights on the next runner. He was a good few hundred meters ahead, but he seemed to be slowing somewhat. We ran a short hill as we approached Massey once more, and after we crested I decided to pick up the speed considerably to get by. That might have been the most enjoyable part of the race, passing someone while giving everything I had. We rounded the corner onto 18th, and my family drove past once more, hollering and making a commotion. They stopped up ahead, snapping photos, and my Dad successfully passed me a drink. I got one more drive by as I left the CNC parking lot, and Paulette famously shouted: "GOOOOOO Matt!! You're in first place!!!!" She couldn't see anyone in front of me, and there wasn't anyone. I had a laugh and kept going.
-As I turned onto Westwood for the home stretch I looked at my timer for the first time since the first kilometer. I had run for 40 minutes. I wasn't sure how close to the finish line I was, but I had a feeling that I was running a fast race. I approached Massey and turned the corner towards the stadium. The runners from the 5 km race were coming in from a different direction, but we would all run back down Massey together. A sign was placed near the corner telling us we had 1 km to go. I knew I was running a fast time, and I felt like I had some gas left in the tank. There was a downhill portion, and I relaxed my body, allowing myself to lengthen my stride. I passed at least a dozen runners down the hill, picked the pace up a little more as we approached the track. I entered the track, and decided to leave it all out there. I sprinted the last 250 meters, passing another 5 or 6 runners. I even got a reaction from the race m.c. who couldn't help but notice this crazy man galloping across the line. As it turned out, this isn't normal and I was literally the only person who did a flat out sprint across the line. I felt great. I checked my time and I knew I had clocked in at less than 47 minutes! Sheila and Asher approached, and I got a huge hug from my son. What a feeling!
-I found out a short time later that my official time was 46 minutes and 28 seconds. I had finished 14th out of 122 runners. The 13 people who finished ahead of me were "runners". Most of them were seasoned veterans. I'm more than happy that I could be that competitive when I have only run that distance twice before in my life.
-They handed out medals to the top 3 finishers in each category. I was in the 19-49 year old male category, and I finished a respectable 6th of 22. I was 6 minutes off of the third place time, to which Sheila remarked, "well, it's only 6 minutes. I'm sure you could do that." Very supportive, but a lofty goal no doubt.
-While my time is a great accomplishment, the thing I am most proud of, is that other than 1 lady passing me in the first 200 meters, not a single person passed me during the 10 km race. At the crest of Massey when a different lady passed me for a few seconds, I set that as a goal. No one was going to overtake me as I ran. I kept my pace up and didn't feel like I had too many lulls in the race at all. Other than that brief moment, no one else came close to passing me. Proof that I can run this distance regularly, without suffering.
-Other than some pain in my left shin, which was present before the race, I feel fine today. This makes me think I didn't over do it, and maybe I am capable of doing even better.
-My mom asked me if I got the bug, and honestly, I don't know. The competitor in me wants to do this more often. And I will do it again. In fact, I plan to pull an even more ambitious double in less than 2 weeks. This time was soccer Friday night followed by a 10 km run on Sunday morning. June 14th I play soccer again, followed by a 10 km trail race the morning of June 15th. Why not keep the challenges coming?