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Monday, August 13, 2007


This will be a more narrowly self-centered post than usual focused specifically on my ego.

Rewind to 2002. I trained for and ran in the 2002 City2Surf. I got a terrible start and ended up with a 62min time. My target had been to get in under an hour, so I had some unfinished business.

Fast forward to 2007. I trained and ran in the 2007 City2Surf. I got a good start and ended up with a 59.5min time. My target time was still to get in under an hour, so the business is finished. I won't do that again soon, let me tell you. It hurt. It still hurts. And it's going to hurt for a few more days.

Some things of note comparing 2002 to 2007:

  • This is the only race I can ever remember not kicking at the end. I could see from 200m out that I was coming in under 60min, so I just jogged in (making moaning sounds like a wounded moose).

  • I have a visual that compares my 2002 to 2007 run logs. You'll notice both logs tell the story of: training, injury, no training(in blue), race.

  • Identical times if you correct for my very bad start in 2002

  • I was laid out with a terrible sinus headache after the 2002 race (as I used to be after every race), whereas after the 2007 race I went to a birthday party for a 1yr old. I attribute the difference to diet, specifically no sugar. I'm convinced this makes a huge difference to metabolism.

  • shocking, but true, I'm a full five years older than last time. I guess I should shoot for 60min again in 5 years time. That'll be 2012, the future.

One of the things you get to notice in individual sports, specifically distance running, is your ego. You have a lot of time, there's a lot of pain applied, and then there's you. Other people are very separate from you. Their struggle and pain is a lot less evident than yours. Their goals are a mystery. Their motivation, same.

At one point in the run I wanted to blurt out; "who are we all chasing?", but I thought the metaphysical layer of this quip might've gotten lost in the echoing tunnel vision that most of us were suffering from. I thought about it for a while, between 8km and 10km, when it was lost in a bit of panic I'll get to later. Personally I had to be chasing my 2002 self. I was chasing that 62minute time. I was chasing my next door neighbor (literally). And most importantly of all, I was chasing my ordinary life.

In my ordinary life, just like the ordinary life of a huge swaths of the developed world who can be cordoned off by telemarketers in four or five short questions, doesn't have a lot of room for an ego. Nobody wants to see your ego, nor is there much place for one. I've got spare little patches of life, scattered here and there around the house, around town, that I mulch and cultivate now and again. I try to grow something special and personal, robust, not showy. I can imagine it's probably mostly succulents (which is a nice way of saying cactus (which is slang way of saying dead in Australia)).

From the time I left home on Sunday morning, until the time I got home, I was left alone with my ego. I was only concerned with my ego. And it was my ego, while wondering who I was chasing at kilometer 10, that spoke up. It said: hey, you set a goal. If you don't achieve that goal (again!), I'm going to be more than disappointed. I'm going to leave you just a little. And that will leave you just a little more ordinary, a little more diminished, a little less fulfilled in yourself.

Well I said: Hey, isn't that a little harsh? I've been running for 10km pretty solid and I'm knackered. I mean, don't you think that if I could run faster I would?

To which my ego replied, arithmetically: you're at 42minutes at 4kms out. Where are you going to find those extra two minutes?

What two minutes? So then I had to start doing math, running uphill. 42 min at 10km leaves 20 min, minus 2 minutes….oh, ya, 18. And with 4km left that's, um, less than 5, more than 4, so I've only got to nail 4min/km for 4kms and most of that is downhill. By the time this challenging monologue resolved I'd come up on the 12km mark and looking down at my watch I could see things still weren't looking good. This is when panic set in.

I had nothing left in the tank, I still had the side-stitch that'd been with me for most of the race, but constant downhill pounding was making things worse. And I had specifically 8 minutes in which to make 2kms. And I had this voice in the back of my head, wagging a finger at me: "very disappointed"

One of the next things I remember, after reaching the bottom of the hill and having to run uphill to the roundabout that signals 200m to go, was that I started to make these sounds. They were sounds like you hear goats make when they're kidding(is that what you call it when goats give birth?), or Felix Unger make when trying to clear his sinuses (as played by Tony Randall in The Odd Couple). I was starting to suffer for this ego to the point that my body was volunteering sounds of its own making. This was very unattractive. I started wondering if my ego might want me to back off, just to prevent these awful sounds from coming out. To which the ego replied: "clock is ticking, chop, chop.

After rounding the roundabout I knew there'd be a regulation clock ticking somewhere above the finish line. How big does a clock have to be to read it from 200m.? Whatever the size, it turns out, to read it accurately you'd have to stop running. So I read 59:02, quickly followed by something that sounded like the bark of a ringtail lemur in estrous. It was the bark of disappointment.

But further running, made easier by the downhill finish, closer to the clock, I found I'd misread 58 as 59. So, I was only at 58:17 by that time. Plenty of time. Time to relax. And at that very point my ego, satisfied in being self-satisfied, packed up and went back to bed. I wouldn't see a bed for another couple hours, but my ego wouldn't be needed in getting me there.

And this is where my race summary ends. No sprint to the finish. In fact I looked around and saw some dick* coming in full tilt, chest out, winning in his own mind, at just under an hour. Maybe he was, who knows what the voices were telling him.

*aussie slang, different to the american usage, a dick can be roughly described as someone who stands out awkwardly. Syn: Dill, dork. The US usage usually involves a lot more aggro and is more profane.

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