Tonight, I opted to break my New Years Resolution of "going to the track every Tuesday night." I did have a fabulous excuse: my schedule called for 4 miles + strides, and in no part of my body could I even eek out an image of me running around the track 16 + times. In the wind. In the cold. In the dark.
But, keeping true to this new-fangled schedule thing, I did get my run in. At 4:00 when it was still windy and cold, but not dark. And I did it on base, which meant lots of space to stretch my running legs. And, of course, I didn't have to feel like I was stuck on one of those baggage turnstiles.
When I started the run I did what I always do: start out too fast. When I noticed my watch pacing me at a 9:00 minute mile (and HR about 172) I downshifted to a 10-ish minute mile. And tried to continually slow myself down, based mostly on HR. And what I noticed was that my HR began to get more and more steady (160ish range) even running at a 10:15 pace. I think I ended up averaging a 10:19 overall for the 4 miles. And, as usual, I was amazed at my progress. Because technically I was supposed to be running an 11:00 minute mile at that same HR.
Back in 2005, when I got crazy and decided I should run a marathon, running the marathon - and finishing - was all I cared about. Actually, for all intents and purposes, I was at my top performance in running, only because I had never ever done it before. Every run was a new adventure, and every race was a PR. I was on cloud nine all the time. I thought I was invincible when it came to running...especially when people would give me that cock-eyed look and say "couldn't you just drive 26.2 miles?" I loved every minute of it.
And then I ran my 2nd marathon, and on my own terms, failed miserably. I just wanted to break 5 hours, which would have given me a PR and put me back on that cloud that was starting to look more like a six than a nine. I didn't do it. I disappointed myself mostly because I knew I was capable of it, and because I went into that race thinking I was invincible...that I had run a 5:00:49 marathon once, I could surely shave 50 seconds off somewhere in that 26.2 miles. It was at that moment that I realized that I was completely ignorant about this running thing. Up until that point, I thought I knew it all. I thought by sheer force I could will myself to breaking 5 hours, because by sheer force I willed myself to stop smoking and run that first marathon.
So, I spent the next 2 years becoming completely obsessed with what I should be, could be, or needed to be doing. If you've been around here long, I'm surely you vaguely remember my "over analyzation period". Every week I had a new plan on where I was going, how I was going to get there, and how fast it would take me. I never followed through with any of the plans for more than a week or so. None of them seemed to stick....
And for the life of me I could not figure out why. The only conclusion that I could come to was that I was trying to live up to other peoples dreams. I knew I wanted to run faster and I knew how fast the really fast people ran, and how often they ran and I wanted to be like them. Well, not exactly like them, but I wanted to run fast too! When I got discouraged with that, I decided that maybe it was my destiny to just run far. A bunch of marathons. And become a Maniac like all my other ultra-marathoner friends. And that was a quick discouragement because as my mileage increased, so did my time in the physical therapists office.
Then I gave up...I said I'm done with all of this...I'll just run to stay healthy and skinny. Forget about how fast or how far. It will just be a form of exercise, like FitCamp or hiking, or getting on the elliptical. Just exercise. Pure and simple.
I had given up on it all.
And then RC posted to our track club forum that one of his New Years Resolutions was to coach some people. I immediately replied and said "SIGN ME UP!" It's ironic because looking back on it now, I didn't even give it a second thought. I never stopped to analyze what RC might bring to the table, what he might require of me, or whether or not it was something that I would be able to do. I just didn't analyze it one bit.
And now, a full month into this thing called training...I am seeing results, not only in my HR and my average pace, but also in my discipline. I get to the end of the week and am shocked to see that I didn't make any excuses in my running. I run each and every run with a purpose. I am finding that I am getting less distracted by thoughts of "when will this run be over?" and having more thoughts about running with my back straight, striking my heel at the appropriate moment, or recognizing that my HR is up without even having to look at my watch.
For once, I am actually enjoying this thing totally on my own terms. Of course, those terms are greatly enhanced by all the great coaching I'm getting from RC. But, for once not only am I having a blast running, I am actually feeling like I control it. I am learning that I may not be invincible, but I am certainly more capable than I ever thought I could be.
I am finally...just running for me!