Monday, April 26, 2010

Where I Stand

I spent lunch time today eating things covered in powdered sugar (donuts and banana cake for the most part, but I also tried a Chocolate Chip Cookie that way, I think I may need counseling) and analyzing my 5k race times. It's the sort of thing the obsessed and deranged do. But I saw a pattern of improvement emerging.

Here are my times for the nine 5k's I've done since I began running (now almost 8 months ago can you believe it?) :
32:23
29:48
29:59
25:15
27:50
26:44
39:08
27:18
25:02

If you take away the Girl's On The Run Race that I do not believe was a real 5k (how else can you explain my 25:15 time?) and the two trail runs I did in February you see this list of numbers:
32:23
29:48
29:59
27:50
26:44
25:02

When I look at it like that, I see a marked improvement on my 5k street races over the past six months (the first was run in October). You see, I spend alot of time looking at numbers. ALOT of time, time I don't even have. I study my numbers, I study other people's numbers, I cross reference years of races in my age division and then study those numbers.

I see it now. I could never run for exercise. I just don't care enough about weight or bulge to make any change to my lifestyle on those factors alone. But call it training, sign me up for a competitive event, and you will see a whole new side of me. I knew I was a little competitive, but at times I disgust even myself.

My wonderful husband lectures me on competing with myself, beating my own personal records and striving to do the best for myself. That's wonderful. I even understand what he's saying. However, I want to compete. I want to pass the person in front of me and I want to place. I am becoming increasingly competitive actually. To the point that if I don't think I am going to run very well, or didn't get decent training in, I don't even want to run.

Two weeks ago we had a big run. I had been looking forward to it ALL YEAR LONG. I cross referenced the numbers. I got a tummyache. I worried that I hadn't trained enough. I went out two days before the race and did my first ever true speedwork out. A slow mile. 4x400's with two minutes jogging in between. I calculated splits even. When on the last 400 I maintained a pace under 7 minutes, I threw my hands up in the air like I was an Olympic Gold Medalist. It was pathetic. But I was confident. I was ready to set a new PR.

And then I got sick. Really, really sick. The kind where you lose five pounds you really didn't want to lose so you go around the whole next week eating everything you can covered in sugar. The worst thing about getting sick. I didn't get to run in that race.

Lots of people I know would have swallowed their loss and moved on. I couldn't. I can't. I am still depressed that I didn't get to run that race. There is something about racing that makes me pick up the pace, makes me work myself harder. And then there were my rivals, a couple of girls who ran cross country in high school were running it (I also study entry lists, sick I know). I was looking forward to competing with them.

I have a theory about why this running hang-up. You see when I was younger I liked to run. Actually, what I really liked to do was sprint. I thought I was fast. I thought, with training and determination, I could be even faster. I thought about joining the track team. Or trying out anyways. I shared my dreams with my father and a few friends. All of them told me I couldn't do it. They told me that I couldn't just decide in high school to pick up running, that those people already on the track team had been running for too long and I could never catch up. The one I remember the most was my dad though, he told me that I couldn't do it and that he didn't even really think I would stick to it so basically, why bother. So instead of proving him wrong, I listened to him. I couldn't be a runner I decided, it was too late for me. I started instead, to tell myself I couldn't run. I told myself that for over the next ten years.

In the past six months I've learned a lot about myself. I've learned that I have a competitive streak sure, but I've also learned that I can endure a good bit of pain and discomfort. I've learned that I can commit to something and stick to it. I've learned that having something, especially as a parent, that is just a tad bit selfish, is good for your well being. I've learned that I can be a hard worker, that I am determined and stubborn. I've learned that it takes me two miles to get warmed up completely, and then I'm good for five to seven miles before I start getting physically exhausted. I am still learning, both about racing and about myself. I'm also learning about parenting. My father should never have told me I can't. He should have been my biggest cheerleader. He should have told me, even if he didn't believe it, that I could make it happen if I really wanted it.

I got sick and didn't run for ten days. I rested and napped when the kids napped. Yesterday Todd took me running and his mom watched our clan. Todd pushed me to run further than I had ever run, 13.5 miles. Today, I can barely walk, but I feel incredible. A year ago I told myself I couldn't run 200m, yesterday I ran further than a half marathon. I'm starting to tell myself that I CAN run a marathon. That I can endure. That I am strong.

Whether or not I'm crazy or fast, running is one of the best things to ever happen to me.

And to us. Todd has always loved running. Now it's something we can do together (even though I am still a bit slower than him and I can't quite tackle the distances he can). We can go to dinner with the kids, and we can watch movies at bedtime and talk on the phone at lunchtime. But going running together, stuck out there alone for hours at a time on the trail, I really think it's brought us even closer together.

He is after all the one person who has always, always said that I could run. I guess I just didn't want to believe him.

I guess one more time admitting he was right won't hurt me.