29 February 2012

In Which We Learn How El Doce Got His Name, Part Two

I sent El Doce some information on strength-training exercises for battling ITBS, and I don’t think he missed even a full week of running.  The Jewish Stallion did complete a couple of quality workouts during El Doce’s time off, so he may have been able to catch up a bit.  Even after both men returned to training fully together, though, I don’t recall any reason to believe that The Jewish Stallion had a chance against El Doce.  Actually, I take that back.  There was one thing.

If you recall in my previous post, I say that I grew worried about one or both of them running faster for the half than I had.  One reason for this was that The Jewish Stallion was in the best shape I had seen him in.  Both his long run pace and his workout times were faster than they were when he was training for the Amsterdam half (which he finished only 1:42 off my best), and even though El Doce was running stronger in their workouts and even though I was nervous about not having bragging rights over the half PR, I knew neither El Doce nor the Jewish Stallion were running workouts quite as fast as I had before my local half.  So if The Jewish Stallion was in better shape than he was when he ran 1:34.02 but El Doce was not capable of running under 1:32.20, then, I surmised, this could still be a race.

Let me throw one other confusing element into the mix here.  And while these thoughts may seem to take place in a head infected by a serious neurosis, I do think these kinds of thoughts and performance rationales rush through the heads of most endurance athletes.  Before a race, we are constantly thinking about the what-ifs.  Maybe all endurance athletes are slightly neurotic.

I trained through the half in which I established my PR.  The week preceding that race, I ran 65 miles in a week for the first time in my life, and on Wednesday of that week (the race took place on a Sunday), I completed a 6x1 mile workout at 6:36 per mile (a 400m jog recovery in between each mile).  I did not run the half on fresh legs.  However, both El Doce and The Jewish Stallion would taper for their race, and even though their workouts may not have shown them capable of running under my PR, how they would react to a taper was still an unknown.  Maybe, then, I thought, this won’t be a race and The Jewish Stallion doesn’t have a chance, but maybe one or both men could run faster than I had in the half.  And, as you see, I am now back to my original assumption that The Jewish Stallion would lose the race, but I don’t necessarily have a lot faith in that assumption.

What no one had foreseen or had worked into his race predictions is tragedy striking The Jewish Stallion.  About two weeks out from the race, The Jewish Stallion had a pain in his ribs that made him feel like he had broken a rib.  He couldn’t recall any traumatic experience that could have caused his rib to break, or even his rib cartilage to tear.  The fact remained, however, that he had a sharp pain in his ribs that running only exacerbated.  He struggled through the penultimate week of training and decided to take the entire week before the race off.  No running at all for the seven days before the race.

I consoled The Jewish Stallion with stories of runners getting unplanned rest and performing wonderfully because rest was really what they needed.  He listened, but I think he had given up hope.  In fact, he began to reconsider actually running the race.  If I remember correctly, he tried to run on the Friday before the race, but the pain was too intense for him to get very far.  He decided that he would go to the race and make a game-time decision.

On race day, I drove El Doce and The Jewish Stallion to Breda.  The Jewish Stallion hemmed and hawed the entire way and still had not come to a conclusion about running by the time I parked the car.  On our way to the registration area, The Jewish Stallion tried some light jogging and decided that he’d at least start the race and even joined El Doce for a warm-up jog.

Breda holds its half-marathon on a spectator-friendly course.  Had I been more familiar with its layout, I could probably have seen my friends seven or eight times during the race.  As it was, I would end up seeing them at four points: about one mile in, at the halfway point, at about mile eight, and with about 5k to go.

At one mile in, I was surprised to see The Jewish Stallion going out strong with El Doce.  They were running together and looked relaxed.  At the halfway point, The Jewish Stallion had fallen back a bit and El Doce had opened up about a 10-second gap.  I yelled encouragement to the Jewish Stallion and figured the race was over for him.  He had lost too much fitness during his week off and/or the pain in his ribs was hindering his ability to perform well.  However, by the next time that I saw my training partners, The Jewish Stallion had closed the gap and both men were again running together.  I was shocked.  I was not prepared to see El Doce’s lead disintegrated.  I rushed as quickly as I could to a spot where I could see them again before the end.

Again disappointment for The Jewish Stallion.  Again I thought the race was over.  El Doce had opened up another ten-second gap on The Jewish Stallion.  I encouraged both men, but I shouted, “Make him earn this victory.  Get up there and make him hurt.  Make him earn it,” to The Jewish Stallion.  Later, El Doce would tell me that he thought at that point, “Don’t say that.  Don’t encourage him.  Don’t tell him to run with me.”  It is worth noting here, that I knew at this point—and even by halfway—that El Doce would smash his PR.  I was actually just trying to get The Jewish Stallion to move up and help his friend bust his PR by as many minutes as possible.

Unfortunately, that would be the last time I saw my two friends.  I could not find the finish line in time to see them cross, nor did I know exactly how the course wound its way to the finish line.  The summation that follows is my memory of what The Jewish Stallion and El Doce told me about the last 5k.

The Jewish Stallion once again closed the gap on El Doce, but then El Doce made a curious decision, or a decision consistent with a triathlete’s approach to aide stations during runs.  He walked through the next aide station and made sure he got some fluids in his system.  (I forgot to mention that the day was unseasonably warm, around 21 C or 70 F, and sunny.  El Doce, unlike The Jewish Stallion, is a big guy—for an endurance athlete, so the heat does affect him more.  If you doubt this, go read how often Chris “Macca” McCormack brings this up in I’m Here to Win.)  The Jewish Stallion, on the other hand, rightly chose to keep running and to take advantage of what I considered a foolish error by El Doce.

Surprisingly, El Doce’s risk worked.  El Doce’s brief respite gave him enough of whatever he needed to catch The Jewish Stallion and finish ahead of him by twelve seconds.  And that’s how El Doce got his name.  He beat The Jewish Stallion by twelve seconds and established a new PR of 1:34.16.

In just over ten weeks, The Jewish Stallion v. El Doce II, Double Down on Double the Distance, will take place in Prague.  I’d offer to give you a blow-by-blow account of that race, but I have trouble running while looking behind me.

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