On July 4th I crossed a finish line wearing a bib for the first time since… December? November? Whenever it was, it was too damn long ago.
momma oual, too! sub 25, a PR, and 2nd AG for that cool lady that made me
What kept me away from racing so long? Well, the nagging hip tendinosis, for one. As I cautiously progressed (and regressed, and progressed again) through the pains of “recovery”* – I was determined not to rush back. I wanted to feel 100% better and put this injury crap behind me before moving forward.
*new doc/treatment in the works
But mostly? When I finally sat down and honestly asked why I was dragging it out so long?
I was scared to be tested.
It was so easy to use the psuedo injury as a scapegoat every time someone asked what I was training for, or if I wanted to go for a run, or why I was still carrying those five extra “zero miles” pounds.
“Oh, I’ve still got this hip thing… trying to be smart, you know!”
“You guys go ahead, I’m just running slow… out of shape from the recovery, you know!”
I wasn’t ready to have something validate just how far away I’d slipped from my old self, and in turn, how much work was in store if I wanted to get back there.
Coming back is tough. You have to accept that the you of old is now a far off goal, that those easy runs you used to breeze through are now going to feel like long runs. Paces you used to run will seem unattainable. And just when you start gaining some momentum and feeling good, an evil little voice in your head will say, “yeah, but remember when you used to run that fast twice as far??”
You always hear that a person should never compare themselves to someone else, only to their own best self.
Well fuck if you think that’s going to help me at all right now.
Going into the 5k – not only my first race in more than half a year but also my first hard-effort run in nearly that long – I had to figure out a way to motivate myself without setting myself up for failure. So many times our we stack up races against past performance, with our obsession of PRs taking the holy grail of success.
So what do you do when that unrelenting neon clock is so eager to quantify your out of shape, on the mend self vs. that Best Self you’re told to/not to compare yourself to?
Well, I don’t have an answer, because I was still pondering it and grasping at secondary goal straws standing in the corral that morning. When the gun went off I said “fuck it” and just ran.
And actually, I ran pretty well. You know, for Current Self.
*mental note to replace with full download once they send it <source>
I didn’t wear a watch. Well I mean I did, because security blanket much?, but I didn’t use it. The first mile has a slight decline, and when I saw the split time I let it roll over my head without processing.
(it actually said 7:22 but I was :14 behind gun time and thank god because I’m pretty sure seeing a 708 would’ve made me poop my pants)
The course is out-and-back and the leaders started coming through… I busied myself studying every single one – who looked smooth, who was grimacing, who looked hungry – until lead female passed and I gave her a “GO GIRL!” We made the hairpin turn and I gave myself a gold star for getting to the second half with some life in my legs, air in my lungs, and a few smiles to toss at mom and Tiffany when they ran by. We hit the mile two marker (missed the clock) just as that nice decline from earlier turned into a final mile gradual climb. It’s probably only 40 or 50 feet of climbing, but when it’s stretched out in a straight shot in front of you and your out of shape body has suddenly hit red line, it hurts.
I chugged and chugged and chugged, every time my brain thought “this hurts” I made it think about how my arms were swinging or my footfall. I told myself this is the beauty of the short races – digging deep and gutting out the final stretch when your body’s screaming NO FUCKING MORE YOU LUNATIC! I might have slowed down, but without a watch barking paces at me all I had to judge on was how hard it felt like I was pushing.
It felt pretty damn hard.
Mile three came into view and I realized that this was the win of the race. I was wrung out and completely at my ceiling. I eeked out a “GRANDMA!” between wheezes, made the turn, and begged my legs for one last gear through finish.
They didn’t have it. And actually, that’s fine. Great, even.
Because even though I didn’t run near my fastest time, I know that I ran as fast as I could that day. And maybe that’s the secret. Not comparing yourself to your Best-Ever Self, but your Best-Current Self.
“Just because I’m not in the place I want to be doesn’t mean I can’t race like the champion I am inside… I felt a weight lift off my heart that gave me one more gear. This is who I am. Winning or not.”
-Lauren Fleshman, Peachtree 10k Recap
Yeah, I’d like to get back to PR form and feel like the fit “real runner” I used to claim to be. I don’t know how long it will take to get there, but it makes the mountain seem much more surmountable knowing there’s room to claim a few summit flags up along the way.
… ok the analogy has gone a little too far I think. <source>
So, in the spirit of theoretical mountain summiting and literal running, I’ll be running a 10k in Ohio this weekend. One more step in the right direction.
And then the half in Eugene on the 27th.
^^^ damnit, Eugene, I can’t quit you!!!