You’ve all heard the old one about the guy who says he’s just flown in from (pick your favorite distant location), and man, are his arms tired! Closing out the year, admittedly I felt a little of that, though not necessarily in my arms. Somehow I managed to eke a run into the schedule every day of 2012, stretching the three-mile-minimum-per-day streak to five-ninety-three when the ball dropped in Times Square. In doing so, the log tells me that I covered over twenty-seven-hundred miles, toed the race starting line twenty-two times, and notched personal bests in ten of those contests. Nice numbers, but other than the streak, they got reset to zero last night at midnight. It’s a new year and we start our obsessive counting all over again.
So after all that, man, are my legs tired! Or so it seemed for the last few weeks following the rapid-fire four-races-in-twenty-one-days episode of personal abuse that culminated at Nationals in Kentucky. I’ve shied away from the early winter indoor track meets, thinking, probably rightly, that the legs needed some downtime, and knowing for sure that the pesky Achilles did. But when January First rolls around, it is, after all, our duty as runners to uphold our own special version of insanity, and race on New Year’s Day. For me, tradition says it’s time to head back to my old neighborhood from the eighties and race the Freezer Five.
A part of me wanted to turn the unofficial personal best I pegged at the five-mile split in my Mill Cities leg last month into a real live “it counts” personal best at the truly five mile Freezer. The bulk of me, however, knew that the creakiness index of my bones over the past two weeks put that possibility pretty much out of the question. Mother Nature effectively sealed that assumption this morning by delivering a significantly nasty west wind, chillingly saturated with drifting snow, assuring that the opening westbound miles of the Freezer’s out-and-back-with-a-lollipop course would cure just about everyone of dreams of exceptional speediness. While you’d like to think you’d get it all back on the tail-wind-assisted return trip, we all know it just doesn’t work that way.
Piling on top of this, it seemed the Zombies ate my brain, causing me to lose sunglasses – on my head, run to the starting line without my racing shoes, and generally just not to be mentally engaged in the task. Suffice to say that I wasn’t expecting an A-Team performance. But what emerged turned out to be good enough, and a nice start to the year.
Two races embarked into the bitter wind from the starting line: the guy who won it by such an obscene margin that he was ten yards out front before we’d covered a hundred, and everyone else. Ignoring him, the rest of us actually had a competitive, hard-fought, and rather enjoyable (save the pain, of course) good-ole’-fashioned road fracas. Knowing one rival who generally plasters me to the nearest utility pole whenever we meet was out with an injury – never the way you want to get ahead, but when it happens, you factor it in – I was still rather surprised to find just myself and two others setting the pace (remember, we’re going to completely ignore the guy who won it).
In fairness, I tried to take my turn cutting through the abusive wind of miles one and two. In truth, I couldn’t quite summon the gear needed to take get out front of our mini-pack more than about a quarter of the time. It was too early to expend that level of energy, and for what purpose? The real first place was gone, well out of reach, the footsteps around me hinted that our pack was small, and those I’d seen were all youngsters. Let’s face it: in the masters racing game, if you ain’t old, it’s nice to beat you but I really don’t care if I don’t. And further, there were no mile markers on the course, (shame!), so we had no idea of our pace, and with that wind, no expectations of excellence. It was a day for good enough, race the ones you’re with, and the time will be what it may.
Circling the mini-loop at the far end of this course brings the fun of getting to see the field on their outbound leg, and for them, getting to see and cheer on the leaders. This being Freezer Five Number Five for me, it’s become an annual reunion of sorts, resulting in plenty of hoots of support from the midpack. Indeed, enough of them knew who’s who that several reported to me later a rather surprising tidbit: whereas I’d thought there were only three or four of us in our virtual leaders pack, in fact, they said, there was at least eight, ten, perhaps a dozen, all in hot pursuit of some old guy, a pied piper of sorts, leading the charge up the small rise to Sterling Airport. Had I known, I might have shouted “BURMA” and panicked. Ignorance is bliss.
One youngster broke free on that rise, and while I couldn’t hold him, in trying to maintain some contact I managed to break free from the rest of the gaggle. The leading gap widened, the trailing footsteps faded, and it looked like the finishing order was set, so long as I could summons good enough to stave off any late challenges. At roughly where I thought the mile-to-go mark should be, a watch check confirmed my expectation that nothing special was happening in the time department, only adding to the feeling that good enough would be good enough. Killing it probably wouldn’t catch the guy in front (who wasn’t’ an old guy anyway), and even if it did, he was minutes behind the real winner, the one with mutant DNA. Killing it wouldn’t hit that personal best time, barring sudden lapses in the laws of physics. So why kill it? Bring it home, good enough.
One-hundred-ten percent effort? Nope. Call it ninety-five, but ninety-five on a day when I wasn’t sure I could summons up eighty, and it was good enough. Good enough to take the masters win for the first time in this race. Good enough for my best placing in this race. Good enough that my time , while not special, wasn’t too disappointing, either. Good enough to start the year on a good enough note.
Some days, good enough is good enough, and we can be happy about that.