Sunday, September 16, 2012

In re: Running

Yes, I'm working on a race report for Ironman Wisconsin.  It'll be up soon.  Maybe.

In the mean time.  I'm back in Ohio for a brief stint, staying with my parents in the house in which I grew up.  Usually, my Ohio trips are quick in and outs, for holidays or a wedding or what not.

OSU game- essential to any fall visit
But this time, it's been slower.  I've had time to lounge around and visit with friends.  I'm working out very little, allowing myself to recover.  There's been a little biking, and that's about it, unless you count walking.   I'm at that point where, yeah, I most definitely count walking.   I've been told not to run yet, not this soon after Ironman.  I've listened.
Visiting with Meg, who has been a friend since 1996 and just got engaged, woot woot.

It wasn't necessarily a smooth start.  Seventh grade, I joined the track team, convinced (like everyone else) that I was going to run the 100 meters.  And maybe the hurdles (yeah right, says anyone who has ever met me).   A face plant or two later, the hurdles were ruled out.  Then, after a workout comprised of a 30 minute continuous run on the track in which I lapped the boys multiple times, the 100 was out, too.  I was deemed a "distance" runner.  I started running the 800 and the mile, "distance events" when you're in middle school.

That next summer, I got the idea that since I was now a "distance" runner, maybe it would be a good idea to do a little running on my own.  But I had no idea how one really went about running outside on sidewalks, away from the confined space of a track.  I figured the first step, naturally, was acquiring the appropriate clothes.  I'd seen people out running--  adults-- and none of them seemed to be sporting the Umbro shorts and oversized t-shirt-the-size-of-a-dress uniform all us 7th grade girls rocked.   I needed some fancy running duds.  So off to the Nike Outlet store we went.  I picked out some shoes (Air Pegasus's--- remember those?? They were purple and teal!).  Some running tights (never mind that it was June).  A pretty teal jacket that matched the shoes (still, June).  And of course, shorts to put OVER the running tights, because.....well, just because.  

A few days later, on a very, very humid, summer morning, I set my alarm for early in the morning (all the adults seemed into early morning running), put on my running tights, my shorts over those tights (duh), a long sleeve shirt, my running jacket, my new pretty shoes, and went on my way.

I started running, at almost a full sprint, because I didn't really know better.   Then I saw a car, and was intensely embarrassed.  I must have looked so silly out there, just running for no particular reason!  So I stopped, and walked, and pretended to be looking at some flowers.  When the car passed, I tried to run again.  Until another car came within my eyesight, and I stopped.  Then, I realized this was dumb, who cares what these other people think?  So I told myself to just keep running, which I did....until about 3 minutes later when I realized I was incredibly overdressed.  So again, I slowed to a walk.  I think I got in about 3 VERY slow miles around Northam Park that first day.

But I kept at it, and tried again a few days later, wearing appropriate clothes and disregarding what I was sure were judgmental stares from folks in the cars.  Quickly, I got hooked, and learned to love running.  Years went by, and I ran longer, faster, more frequently, expanding my running horizons from the area around my home to the surrounding suburbs.  I started to challenge myself-- can I run an hour without stopping?  How about two hours?  More? And I began using running almost as an escape--- when life stressed me out, no matter the time of night, no matter how many miles I'd already run that day, I laced up my shoes and got back out there.  I craved the endorphins.  And yeah, at times the love turned into obsession-- I ran myself until I was injured, emaciated, broken.  But I always found a way to eventually right the ship, re-find my way, regain the love.

Running in the formative years.  Nice scrunchie.
Now, I drive around my hometown, and every street has a memory of a run.  I remember the streets I ran on the day before the State track meet, when I felt like a million bucks and just knew I was going to run out of my mind the next day (I did).  I remember the run I did in the middle of a blizzard, when snowflakes froze to my eyelashes.  I remember that run on Christmas day, right after I'd gotten some cool, boot-leg running pants, when I tripped on my pant leg and wiped out not once, but TWICE , within a single mile.  I remember that perfect fall day, when the leaves had all changed, the sky was blue, suddenly, everything felt effortless and I just kept running, around and around and around the same block because I never wanted to stop.  I remember the time, days after I'd broken up with the man I thought I was going to marry, when I cried during the entire last 5 miles of my run, snotting and choking and not caring who saw me, but finished feeling so much better, so ready to deal with my new situation.  I remember (even a little fondly) the summer before my freshman year of college, when, scholarship in hand, I was so desparate to impress my new track/ cross country coach that I promptly threw away his pre-season plan and ran 395 miles in ONE month, never with fuel, never with water, just stopping at a library here and there when I was thirsty.  One guess how well that little experiment worked (hint: it did not).
These memories, however, make me a little sad.  Because a week after my last race of the season, and I'm very well aware that right now, the running leg of the triathlon is my weakness.   The run training is that which I dread the most, that which causes me the most anxiety. It no longer feels natural.  I no longer derive any joy.  I wear my Garmin, obsess over my splits and often bring music to block out my own thoughts.  In races, I get to the last few miles of the bike, and I'm scared of what comes next.  I train (relatively) fast, and then, for whatever reason, probably mostly mental, race (relatively) slow.  I tell myself that I can't keep up with the other girls, that they're REAL runners and I am not.  For someone who truly was once a runner, who used to love to run, need to run, and run...well, a whole lot better than I do now.... that's a hard place to be in.

So I think tomorrow, against all advice to the contrary, I'm going to get out there and do a little run on the roads where I first started. No Garmin.  No plan.  I need to channel that 13-year old, the one who had no clue about running, who did everything wrong, who didn't own appropriate clothing for the weather or know ANYTHING about pacing, but just got out there to run because it felt good and seemed like a decent idea.  I need to remember those days when I started a run with no destination and no watch--- I'll just head that-a-way, until I get tired, and then I'll run home.  I'm going to seek out the joy, try to regain the love that I first felt almost 20 years ago.

And then, maybe, I'll finish up that damn race report. &nbsp

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