You know the old saying, call me what you want just don't call me late for dinner. Well, yes, I beg you, please don't ever call me late for dinner. But what you can call me is ready to Run the Bluegrass.
My training for the half-marathon next Saturday is officially over. I may go for a short jog at some point this week, but that will be it. One thing I learned when I took 5 days off from running when my grandmother died earlier this month was just how good it felt to run on fresh legs. I don't know how alive my legs will feel when I finish the 13.1 mile course of "gently rolling hills", but there won't be any feeling fresher at the starting line.
Talking about wrapping up my training sounds crazy to me. Less than 4 months ago I ran my first half-marathon. I did it with nothing more than a stroll through the park under my belt as a training program. I simply wanted to run one half-marathon to bond with fellow Megsmilers and pay tribute to Meg and the strength she drew from her faith in God.
That first half-marathon didn't kill me. Believe me, there were several points during the race when I wasn't sure I'd be able to write that. For some reason survival ended up being a good enough reason to sign up for a second race, the upcoming Run the Bluegrass.
Not only did I sign up for another half, I also decided to give this whole training thing a shot. Since January 1 I've run 175 miles and biked another 182. This past week I ran my fastest 5 miles ever in 56:27; just three months ago it was my goal to run 5 miles under an hour. Yesterday I wrapped up my Run the Bluegrass preparation with an 8 mile run.
One of the race honorees at this year's Run the Bluegrass is the horse Curlin. Curlin came into the 2007 Kentucky Derby, a race for 3 year olds, lightly raced. In fact, he didn't race at all as a two year old, which is very rare for Derby entrants. In spite of the inexperience, Curlin was favored to win the Derby. Whether it was the inexperience or the crowded field or a combination of both, Curlin didn't win the Derby. He finished third. But his next shot at a triple crown race was a different story. Curlin won the Preakness. He ended up having a great season and was named horse of the year in 2007.
Now I'm not predicting a Curlin-like performance in my second shot at the big-time. But I do feel more prepared. And the good news is in spite of all the hard training I'm still a few pounds over 220 - so I qualify for the Clydesdale division. It's not the triple crown, but a horse race is a horse race.
Curlin in the 2007 Breeder's Cup Classic
I went for a 7 mile run yesterday morning. As I wound my way back through town I passed in front of the old Ashland Theatre that has recently reopened for special presentations. There was a poster in the front window advertising one that had taken place the previous evening: the movie Secretariat.
I've always been a big horse racing fan. Secretariat is my favorite horse. He's considered one of the greatest thoroughbred race horses of all time by most. There's no doubt in my mind. Secretariat set race records in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and Belmont stakes in 1973 on his way to becoming the first triple crown winner in 25 years. All three records still stand today.
Secretariat died in 1989. An autopsy was performed that revealed Secretariat had a heart estimated to be almost 3 times larger than a normal thoroughbred heart. Dr. Thomas Swerczek, head pathologist at the University of Kentucky, stated "We just stood there in stunned silence. We couldn't believe it. The heart was perfect. There was no problem with it. It was just this huge engine."
I was at mile 5 on my run when I saw the Secretariat movie poster. It was a great reminder of how important the heart is to running. It's the dauntless machine that pumps the blood and oxygen through my system I desperately crave over the last two miles of a 7-mile run. Additionally, and for me often more importantly, the heart is the head coach and cheerleader for our minds. It does everything it can to ensure our minds command us to believe we can cover those last two miles and resist the dire thinking it is prone to adopting when the oxygen runs short and fatigue is overflowing.
Over those last two miles I thought of my upcoming 2nd half-marathon. Coincidentally, it's The Run for the Bluegrass around Keeneland - one of our country's most beautiful thoroughbred tracks. The course is challenging, filled with "gently rolling" hills. It will require a heart the size of Secretariat's to finish.
As I finished up the final few hundred yards of my run, I recalled one of the most famous stretch calls in horse racing history. It gives me chills every time I listen to it. I can hear his voice and picture exactly where Secretariat was when the announcer declares he is "moving like a tremendous machine." It didn't quite put the spring in my shoes Secretariat had coming down the stretch in the Belmont Stakes some 40+ years ago, but it got me across the finish line, which was all I was looking for.
I encourage you to watch this clip if you have 4 minutes.
Read previous journal entries.