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Sunday, May 25, 2014

It Is Time...

I just signed up for the Army 10 Miler. What in the heck did I just get myself into?! Between homeschooling my children, going to college at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division (majoring in Photography), supporting my husband in his endeavors of finishing Grad School while at the same time training for Ironman Chattanooga, and being an Active Duty Army Wife (all while trying to kick-start my photography business) I just can't commit to one of Fleet Feet's awesome training programs right now. We have to change our schedule every week to accommodate all of the craziness!

But I'm committed to not only finishing the Army Ten Miler this year, but to feel good after finishing it. You see, I'm a Disabled Veteran from the Army. My VA rating is 50%, and most of the issues are for my ankles, hips, and back. Not a great recipe for being a runner, right? But I like to call myself a "runner". "Running" is a term that I like to use quite loosely. Whether I'm out for a 18:00 mile stroll, or interval work, I say that I went for a "run" that day. The quotation marks are very important, right?

I've never enjoyed running. Not one single day of my life have I ever woken up and said, "Oh goodness. Before I do anything today, I need to get a quick run in." In fact, I've been known to say things like "Yeah, sure... I'll go for a run. But first, let me organize my closet, wash 5 loads and laundry (and put them away), and vacuum and mop my entire house." I have loved the effects of running... after I put on the proper attire and get my butt out that front door. But before the run? My husband basically has to kick me out of the house and tell me to not come back for at least 30 minutes.

So how did I go from "I'd rather drive 10 miles" to hitting refresh no less than a 80,000 times in 2 hours so I could register for a 10 mile race? Peer pressure, I suppose. When most of your friends are training for the next big race, the excitement can be quite addicting. But it hasn't always been that way.

Since 2011, I have done three 5K races,  two duathlons that had at least one 5K in each race (one of the dus had a 5K to start and another 5K to finish the race), two triathlons that finished with a 5K, and one 10K race. The one thing I have figured out in all of these races that I have done is that I am not a fan of the 5K distance. It's not long enough for me to enjoy the run. And when you don't like 5K, why in the world would any normal person say to themselves, "Golly... let's run farther to see if that is better!" My body is usually telling me that I could be doing half a million other things in the first mile or so (think: hand scrubbing ever dish in my cabinets). The next two miles are great as I have found my rhythm, and then it's over. My body wants more, but at the same time it doesn't.

I have also realized (by watching many of my friends in their running endeavors) that at a certain distance, all finishers get a medal to take home. Look at most 5K races; only the overall and age-group winners bring home the bling. The same generally goes for 10K races. But step from the just over 6 miles to the 10 mile races and usually everybody gets a finisher's medal. Here's where the peer pressure sets in. When the twentieth person says "Oh, I hated the 5K as well! It really does get easier when you further. And just look at this pretty piece of hardware I got to take home!"

Call me silly, but I want some bling! We have two Christmas trees in our house: one is for our traditional Christmas ornaments, the other is our "racing tree". In our house, I'm literally the only person who is not represented on that tree. At first, I was okay with it. "You're supporting them on the sidelines", "Your body can't handle the training", "You have absolutely no time to get in a run on a regular basis". My inner voice (I have named her Krista) was gently telling me that it was okay for me to not be on that tree.

But then, when I got comfortable with not regularly working out, Krista got ugly: "Oh good. You stopped trying. You don't deserve to be on that tree", "Do you really want to put on spandex and run... in public? Have you looked in the mirror lately?!", "You'll never be fast enough to even have a running partner. And if your friends volunteer to run with you, you know you'll just be ruining your friends' workout for the day." Man, Krista knows how to cut me deep. But she was right. Or was she?

It's a good thing I have such good friends! Some of them are Race Directors. And when they say that they don't sweep runners off their course so long as they are making progress, they mean it. Did I believe them at first? No. Krista is pretty convincing: "They say they won't sweep you off... but you know all they really want to do is break down the course and go home. But you'll still be out there, wasting their time."

Then came my first opportunity to put more than 3.1 miles on my feet. At the Team Rocket Triathlon Club's end of the season party last year, I won a door prize: one free entry to the Tick Ridge Trek 10K/25K trail race. Krista was quick to chime in: "Seriously??? You couldn't win an entry to the Paint the Streets 5K? Give your husband the entry and volunteer like you always do." So I did. We put the comp code away for the winter and went about our lives.

Then my darling husband came home one day and announced that he would be going out of town for his job, and the dates were during the Tick Ridge race. Being a penny pincher, and not wanting to waste a free entry, I sent a message to the race director and asked how serious he was about not sweeping the course. After several messages of my saying "...but seriously, are you sure? I mean, I'm not just not fast... I'm s l o w!" we decided that I would be coming in from the 10K before half of the runners in the 25K would be coming in. So I signed up. (I'll put in my own perspectives on races in separate blog entries, so keep an eye out for them).

Tick Ridge did three things for me:

1. It showed me how serious the local race directors are when they say to c'mon out and give it a try. Tony was genuinely excited to see my swallow my fears and give it a go. And that was very comforting to me!

2. It showed me that when my friends say that they'll pace me on the course, they are legitimately happy to do so. Sure, my buddy runs at a pace that is seriously 4-5 minutes per mile faster than myself, but never once did I feel like I was wasting her time when we were on the course.

3. It showed me that the running community is always happy to bring in new crazies. Races only succeed when enough people sign up for them; and if the demand is only coming from elite runners, supply will dwindle for everybody. Sure, there are snobby runners; but there are also snobby soccer players, snobby tennis players, snobby swimmers, and the list goes on.

Krista is loud in my mind right now. She's reminding me of every race I wanted to do last year but had to pass on because my hips weren't playing well with others. She's showing me how I look in neon spandex, and asking if I really want my neighbors to see me wearing that on training days. She's cruel, and when I do what I can to shut her up she gets louder and meaner.

But I have found that after 2 miles she's too damn tired to keep the chatter up. In fact, she doesn't come back for a few days after a 3 mile run. So perhaps if I were to find some sort of rhythm, some schedule that I can stick to that keeps Krista at bay... perhaps I can actually train for a 10 mile race. And if I'm really persistent, maybe I'll love running before I slip on my shoes. I could have overly high expectations of myself, but all I do know is that it is time for me to stop having low expectations for myself.

So here's my journey to Washington D.C. as I train to be successful in the Army Ten Miler. As Krista gets loud, I'll run her to silence. And I'll share my fun with previous races because I did oh-so-many things wrong with each of them. But in the end, I have never quit a race. So that's a win, right?

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