Monday, February 27, 2012

Running On Empty

COOg taking a leg from Polly in Rouge Orleans
I am trying to re-engage with my inner runner. You know, the one that was supposed to be there naturally from birth? Somewhere between last Spring and Now my love for running got lost in the deep woods of life and has been having difficulty finding it's way back towards the light of day.

Never having considered myself a runner, there was a time not too long ago when I truly enjoyed getting out for a long run to clear my mind. Once I had trained my body past the wheezing and leg aches of the first few miles I learned to find the zen and to anticipate the endorphins that always came along farther down the road. I went from heavy pounding elephant steps to light gazelle footwork  (at least in my mind) and I could run a moderate pace, keep a conversation with a friend, and maintain a heart rate that didn't warrant a trip to the ER. And then life reared its ugly head and detoured me for a bit and my run bit the dust. I'm trying to get it back.

Rouge Orleans was probably not the best place to start the process. Yes, of course I had been building back my run prior to the race, but my confidence was faltering and my body played right into it. I managed the first two legs of my five assigned legs of the 126.2 mile relay well. I kept a good pace on the rough gravel path and was pleased with my run. But by the time I hit the third leg I was starting to battle a de-conditioned body that mile by mile was falling apart on me. A touch of asthma after one leg, some disturbing GI issues that persisted throughout, and finally a painful knee hobbled me by the end. I finished my portion, albeit in an ugly fashion, and it did nothing to help build any confidence in my run. I was just glad it ended and I was still able to move, even if it was in an embarrassing fashion. It was unfortunate because I had a great team, but I just didn't enjoy the misery this year. It did reinforce one thing for me. I need to rebuild my run, and soon.

Fast forward two weeks to Mardi Gras Mambo, a popular local 10k race. I decided to sign up at the last minute since my training plan had me doing a long run that day anyway. I had been working on my run since Rouge Orleans, but still struggling with it.  I am really slow this season and it has been very demoralizing after having worked so hard the past two years to improve. I feel I am almost back to starting over and I swore I would never let that happen. It is so easy to lose the conditioning, but mentally it is so hard to keep the training up when life gets hard.

As the Mambo began, I wanted to keep pace with my fellow FitBirds, but when I realized that by running their pace I would never make it past a few miles, I forced myself to fall back and just run my own race against myself. I did well following my coach's race plan. Each mile had a different agenda whether it be to "take it easy", focus on breathing or cadence, or to build my speed. I was pleased that I made it to the end without stopping and had a pace that was better than that which I had held in training.

This weekend I run in the New Orleans Rock n Roll Half Marathon. I'm looking forward to it because there will be a huge group of friends running along with me, but I am slightly fearful of the outcome. This is the third year I have run it, and the last two I was pleased with my performance and got faster each time. This year I feel the pressure to better my time, but know that I am nowhere near the weight or shape that I was in two years ago. It is hard to set a goal that is slower than where I had hoped to be this year. I still struggle with "expectations" for myself and I tend to see myself where I would like to be, not where I currently am.

I have to remind myself that I am basically starting over. This is a training race and I am using this to get stronger and to get ready for my "A" race in the spring. I am going to have to be okay with whatever I manage to achieve on Sunday. I'd love it if I could pull out some miraculous pace that blows away my performance from last year, but let's be real... it would really have to be a miracle.

"I can do this and I will do this, it just may hurt a bit more than usual. Pain is temporary." These are the thoughts going through my mind as I approach this weekend. This is one more opportunity to work on my mental toughness. To learn to endure. To learn to persevere. To not quit.

So if you run past me during this race, give me a slap on my ass, throw me a Gu and a kind word, and be ready to hand me an ice cold beer and carry me to the ice dip for my legs at the finish!

I will see you there!

1 comment: