Sunday, March 17, 2013

34 Minutes to Grace

Grace: a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment
(I like it, I'm going with it) 


"I feel the need....the need for SPEED"
Be still my Iceman heart...
Something really nutty is happening to my running: I’m getting faster - and it doesn't even seem like I'm really trying. It kind of makes me doubt the reliability of my Garmin, but for now, my ego likes to go with the idea. I hadn’t mentioned it because I didn’t want to jinx the whole thing, but now I’m riding the wave like I own it.

My first coach didn't exactly like me racing while building my base.  I get that.  I really do.  Regardless, I snuck (I know "sneaked" is the standard past tense and past participle form of "sneak" - whatever, it's my blog) in a couple 5ks and a half marathon back in the fall.  They were slow.  They messed with my head.  So to torture my ever so fragile slow pace psyche further,  I signed up for a couple more short races this year, just to confirm my slowliness (Webster's soon going to contact me for that brilliant new word).  But I didn't get to do them.  January's 5k was traded for a night on the bathroom floor hugging the toilet (and losing 5 lbs in a weekend - a fair trade-off, if you ask me) and February's 5k, I mistakenly showed up 24 hours early for the race (genius me).  By the following day, race day, I was totally over the race and didn't want to do it anymore, so I didn't (mostly because I had a big bike day planned and since I suck so much on the bike, and have a big biking event in June, I thought the time was better spent on the bike).  Now enter March 10th, and short race #3: a hilly St. Patrick's 7k (I triple checked the date, and confirmed date with a friend - twice).  Whatever microscopic amounts of Irish blood I have in me loves this race.  I love the spirit; I love the camaraderie; I love all the GREEN; I love the challenge of the course; I especially love that it's not a 10k (is there anyone that loves to feel like puking for 6.2 long miles?  If so, you're my hero).  Maybe it's all the free Killigans and corned beef sandwiches post-race, but people are genuinely happy at this race and it's incredibly infectious.  


Because I wasn't able to do those two earlier 5ks this year, I don't have much of an idea how fast I am right now at anything speedy, so I asked my coach, of a whole one week, what my race strategy should be.  I basically did one failed tempo run a week before this race (I thought death would be a better alternative), which is the first speed workout I've done in probably a good 3 years - give or take a year.  I'm sure his guess at a sustainable pace for 4.35ish miles was as good as mine, which was equivalent to throwing darts at some random pace chart and going with whatever pace the dart hit.  8:20s was my given crest.  Gaaaasp.  I have fallen so low.  I told my neighbor, Dennis, who drove us to the race that morning, "Please shoot me and put me out of my misery if I run an 8:20 pace."  Yet in my head, I had no idea if I even COULD run an 8:20, or even close to it.

My B-goal was to beat the guy dressed in all green.
(A-goal was to not get shot by Dennis) 
Dennis made me start up near the front with him.  With people I had no business starting with.  I didn't really have a choice, you see; I had to pee as people were already lined up to run, so when I was done doing my business, I latched onto Dennis' shirt so I wouldn't get stuck in the tail end of 3500 green-clothed souls as he wormed his way through hoards of green masses.  Front line was where he landed (he's fast) and thus I did too (I'm not that fast).  The gun went off, runners were weaving around me, leaving me in the dust so that I felt like I was running in that dream where you don’t move at all even though you’re grinding hard on your feet. 

I was having trouble getting a consistent readout from my piece of crap Garmin, be it the height of downtown buildings or the viaducts we ran under.  I didn't know what my pace was that entire first mile, and as a result, I did the opposite of what my coach advised (as you can see, we're off to a good start!) and I hit mile 1 at 7:33.


Whoops.


If this race were a 10k (or more), this 47 second overzealous pace would have instantly had me  pull back my overzealousness so I could survive to the finish without crying for mercy the last mile.  But I only had 3.35ish miles left, and so what if mile 2 was one continuous ginormous hill and hill running is my weakness - isn't racing about seeing what you have in you and learning what you don't so you can improve upon that for next time?  Maybe not for an A-race you've spent half your life and sacrificed every close relationship you've ever had training for it, but sometimes I like to see what I have inside me and this race was just for fun anyway (see comment above to Dennis about shooting me if I ran too slow).

I felt too good to slow down, so I laughed at my watch and continued on at my neck-breaking pace - wondering at what point my legs were going to be coated in lead with cute little lead sprinkles.  The thing was, I really didn't care - my insatiable desire to run anything above my 145 max HR MAF zone was so strong right now, I was willing to crawl the last mile if need be; just let my damn legs - and my heart - race.  Fast!

I sent my mind to focus onward at whatever I had in me, 8:20s be dammed. 

Mile 2's continuous hill reiterated my weakness moving upwards (coincidentally, I suck biking up hills, too. Yippee).  If I had my HRM on, I'm sure I would have had a heart attack just looking at the number displayed.  Thankfully, I had the foresight to know this ahead of time (for once) and didn't wear it or I know I would have slowed down at the voluminous number displayed.  I slowed moving up this monster hill (a series of two hills, the 2nd being 150' in a half mile - I'd have thought it was Mt. Everest the way I complained about it post-race), but I felt strong and miraculously managed an 8:16.  Mile 3 I started losing some steam, but I also started passing a few of the runners who’d dusted me at the start of the race, which always gives you a kick of energy, and I was holding my first mile pace (even a second faster. Narcissist race reports must always announce to the world every minute molecule of speed).  I was a bit surprised I wasn't doing the proverbial death march by now, by the grace of something, I wasn't.  I think when there is a goal that I want nearly to the point of entitlement, there’s only pursuit.  It can be a big, fat goal, like when I Boston qualified, or it can be a stupid little private determination like the time I averaged 1:40 splits on 20 x 400 meter repeats. The visceral drive makes me weigh them equally because I am in a zone where I will not lose, and if I do, it’s not because I didn’t fight like a bitch.  Mile 4 and change suddenly wasn't going down without a fight even though I felt those leaded sprinkles starting to decorate my quads and my lungs were about to explode (and to add to the fun, two more short hills to boot); I needed to own this race, it became an obsession.  Mile 4: 7:40 (which I contribute to dropping my water cup and stopping to get another - excuses are also part of a high quality race report).  Another .35 miles (.38 according to my trusty Garmin, whom never lies) up the last hill, turned the last corner, and there it was - the finish.

34:02

7:47 pace (take that 8:20!)

Truly, a pure act of grace.  Or badass determination.... take your pick.

Dennis and I and a fellow track mom, Kathy, whom we ran into post race.
No, Dennis and I do not have matching shirts - his is from Moab 1/2 Marathon,
mine is from the Park City Marathon.  Utah race directors must have got a good
deal on neon green that year.
Celebrating post-race with a fellow teacher I just happened to run into
Btw, it has to be DAMN cold for me to wear tights in a race - like sub 19 degrees.
As soon as I crossed the finish line and kissed the nearest green clothed creature (thankfully, it wasn't goal-B man), I rushed in to find Dennis so he didn't get trigger happy, grab his car key so I could run to his car, find my phone, and text the boss that I ran like a big girl and was, indeed, still alive.  And smiling.  He was happy, I think.  

Running fast gets to my core and rocks my world simultaneously from the inside out and the outside in. Calling it therapy doesn’t do it justice. It’s so much better. I don’t know about you, but when I feel the burn on umpteenth mile whatever, I’m thinking less about how much this sucker hurts and more about shredding my muscles to make me stronger. 

For better and mostly worse, I am a competitive person, which gets particularly tricky when I'm  also somewhat wishy washy.  Competitive people aren’t known for being indecisive, but most of the time, I’m not sure of stuff.  My mind is a crockpot full of question marks. You should see me in a new restaurant with a menu.

Because I am so often indecisive, when I do know a thing I want for sure for sure for sure, I will fight the good (and okay, sometimes not so good) fight to achieve it. I want to be a nice girl, I really do. But I also want to kick ass. I suppose my indecision isn’t all that much of a mystery. 

I love racing, even when I don’t think I do, even when it feels like such gut-sinking torture that I want to quit the sport altogether. I am scared of racing, scared of failing and losing the thing I want for sure for sure for sure (right now, it's the Leadville Silver Rush 50-miler in July - my for sure for sure for sure; it scares the shit out of me). And so because I’m compelled to do something scary, I believe in forcing myself to master areas that are scary and potentially fatal.  You really can sum up my approach to life with: “I hate (suck, same thing) running long, vertical, hilly mountains. Thus, I will sign up for the Leadville 50-miler.” (the race has almost 9000' elevation gain, all starting at 10,000').  I’m convinced that racing and competition are intractable traits. They’re qualities that both intimidate me and drive me, almost without my permission. I pin on the bib, stand at the Start, start the run, and the drive takes over.

I think 2013 will be a great year in running for me (can I hear y'all say, "FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!"?), one where my potential, power, and ability in sport matches the lightness of life.  I'm in good hands, I'm loving my new training approach my new coach is giving me, and I feel the drive to succeed taking over.  I am so ready to start a renewed focus on speed work, volume, and the training that gives way to whatever I desire. 

Next up: the Platte River Half Marathon on April 7th.  This will be my last race before I turn 50 (just a reminder: it's on the 19th for all those lavish running related gifts which need to be ordered and mailed to Colorado ahead of time .... ) - I kinda get choked up whenever I think about leaving my 40s.  There were some good years sprinkled in there amongst the mostly bad ones (but that's a post for a later date); but what competitive freak isn't excited about entering a new, and MUCH easier-to-place age group?  Um, that'd be me!

Oh, and one last speedy note: My son, Ryan, had his first track meet of the season Saturday.  It was touch and go if he'd do it as he's been sporting what I was convinced was a stress fracture on the top of his foot.  But race he did....



That was the best run mile race I have EVER watched (and I raced the mile in high school and college - I've witnessed a few 1-mile races in my lifetime!).  I'm not sure if you've ever witnessed a group of 30 or so high school males all fighting for a win, but it is gut wrenching (for me :)) to watch.  Ryan made his move and pulled out in front with about 700m to go and I thought for sure this was too soon and he'd be crawling the last quarter with those lead sprinkles I got in mile 4 of my race.  But low and behold, he held on and won the whole enchilada - with a 5 second PR.   He's never won a varsity race before today.

My heart is singing!

I guess that pretty much sums it up, for now. Now, go kick some ass...

39 comments:

Anne said...

Sounds like I'll be raising a green beer to both you and Ryan,...guess I'll make it a double.

Kate Geisen said...

Oh wow...that's a fast kid!! And a fast momma!!

So happy to hear your tone! We're so similar in some ways (it's terrifying? I'm sure I can't do it? Sign me up!) and is different in others (that whole competitive drive thing). Love to hear the confidence and joy in your words (even if some of those words aren't found in the dictionary ;-D)

Char said...

So happy for you!! Your race was amazing. I'm so glad you guttsed it out and pushed to the end. Fantastic time! And that boy of yours - yeah, I can imagine just how proud you are.

Running Librarian said...

Glad you had a great race! And Ryan must get his speed from you!

Karen said...

Around here, the Female 50-55 age group is the most competitive one, I'd be scared to enter that!!

Great job on your race! You did awesome!

ajh said...

You are so fast and doing so well! And your son too. What a great passion and speed you two share.

brg said...

AWESOME!!!! this post makes me super duper happy. 7:47!!! yeeHAW!!! And I'm super duper happy you won't be 50 yet for the Platte Half. hee...hee...hee... It was sad leaving my 40s, but I discovered a new (to me sport) in my 50s and i'm loving it! see you the 31st!!

Gracie said...

You totally killed your race goals! Amazing! And your son is impressive. Being able to hold onto a lead for 700 m isn't easy - neither is a 4.48, though, right?!

Anne said...

Wooohooo! I am so happy for you...what a great feeling! Congrats to both you and Ryan...I guess speed "runs" in the family ;)

Footfeathers said...

God, I'm good. I think I had something to do with Ryan's mile PR too.

bobbi said...

This post makes me happy - GREAT JOB to both you and Ryan. Amazing, you both are...

Teamarcia said...

The apple does not fall far from the tree! Congrats to both of you Speedy McSpeedersons! I'm thrilled that 2013 is coming together so nicely for both of you. : )

Tasha @Healthy Diva said...

Huge congratulations are in order for you! Awesome race Jill! I think that 2013 is going to be a great year for you! Just remember to double check those race dates ;-)

Congrats to Ryan too. You must be so proud. The high school mile is always exciting to watch. It was my favorite race.

Mike said...

Congrats on crushing our goal time! I'm so happy for you. Great to be feeling so good so early in the racing season. Lots of potential for sure.

Congrats to Ryan too! I bet the race was a nail biter. Smokin fast time too.

Jenny @ The Little J-Bird said...

I am smiling so SO big for you and Ryan right now! So proud of you!! Congrats on an AMAZING race!!
So excited for what the rest of 2013 will bring! :) xoxo

Average Woman Runner said...

WOW - so happy for Parker! What a great thing to witness as a parent :) I"m so happy for your race, so very happy to "see" you this high! I so miss that feeling of pushing hard & kicking some serious ass. 2014 will be my year, in the meantime, I will be inspired during your return-to-victory 2013!

marrymeyoga.com said...

Great post. Nice to catch up on what's happening in your graceful world! Sounds like it already is a great year. Awesome. Remember me? Beth's friend from Virignia?!?!?

Johann said...

I am so happy to read this post Jill! If there is one person that deserves these positive vibes everywhere it is you. You are certainly getting fast, yay! And Ryan...how fantastic is that! This post made my Monday so much better!

Robin said...

Sounds like your season is off to a fantastic start! COngrats on the great race result. I had to laugh when I read that you showed up to a race a day early though. Congrats to your speedy son too!!

SupermomE12 said...

WOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!! Awesome awesome awesome Jill! Rockstar. :) This makes me smile on lots of levels!!!! Hugs!

Coy Martinez said...

This post is filled with nuthin' but GOODNESS. Fast goodness and enjoying the moment! This reminds us all of that moment where everything just fell into place! I hope you build a perfect puzzle this year!

The pic of your son says it all. Both feet wayyyy up off the ground and that look! He owned the win!

Cory Reese said...

Ha ha, Tim's quote is hilarious.

Awesome job on the race! Seriously, that is a huge accomplishment. Nothing better than becoming surprisingly speedy.

And, congrats to your son!

Kandi said...

I'm glad your speedy legs are back! My legs have been feeling speedy lately too. It's an odd feeling I'm not used to...
Congrats to your son! That is awesome to PR and win an event! Back in my high school days I never won an individual varsity event. Only relays and team competitions (which was still awesome to be a part of).

Terzah said...

Wow wow wow!! So happy for you, Jill! I don't know which part of this post is my favorite, but it's all great. I can't wait to see what the rest of "Lucky '13" brings you.

And Ryan....the only thing better than when you do well is when someone you love does well. Hope I have a moment like this watching my kids someday!

Congrats to both of you!

HappyTrails said...

I know I sound like a broken record but Hooray! You are on the Comeback Trail!!! So happy you are getting your ju-ju back! And also SO HAPPY for Ryan's success. He's a proud young man with a very proud mama!!!

mtnrunner2 said...

Way to run! All I could manage on Sunday was to drink some stout that wasn't even Irish, it was from Utah. Go figure.

Your boy is fast. Dayam. Hard work genes, and being a good example, I figure.

Jamoosh said...

Awesomeness abounds. Great job!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Awesome job on the race!! Congrats!!

Raina said...

Congrats on the race and the improvement! How does one race in that kind of outfit- the green over the face one?? Oh my I would DIE.

Thanks for the words on my foot. Darn thing is stubborn!! But getting better I think :)


Amazing son you have! He is going to be unstoppable this year. You must be bursting with pride :))

Amanda RunToTheFinish said...

DANNNNNG Girl, except the only one surprised here is you :)

Can't wait to see what your coach does with this brand new information

Matthew Smith said...

Way to go! BOTH OF YOU! I'm glad you had a good race. That kiddo of yours is pretty awesome! I'm impressed!

GZ said...

Is there anything more fun to watch in sport than the HS mile? (okay, maybe the steeple. Or the 800 ... but the mile ... sweet).

Congrats on so many fronts. Killing the 8:20s. What a breakthrough. Now, time to fess up to what you can really do!

Anonymous said...
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Caroline said...

Wow that is fast! Talking about YOU of course! So very happy to read about your fantastic race!! Love the picture of your son..look on his face says it all

Anonymous said...
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Jesse - Questionably Texan said...

You know that your fast son shares your genes right? And they say that speed, particularly in shorter distances, is largely genetic. So, I would not call the 34 minutes "grace", I opt for the "bad ass determination."

gary said...

sneaked (Source: AP Stylebook)

Preferred as past tense of sneak. Do not use the colloquial snuck.

As a Card-Carrying Copy Editor Drone, I was required to immediately stop reading at the point that you declared you were going to KNOWINGLY VIOLATE AP STYLE!!!!!

I'm sure it was a great post, but rules are rules. sorry.

C2Iowa said...

Congrats - to both of you.

Keep truck'n -- I smell another BQ in the future. Just sayn

btw - I love 10ks; it's too bad that I have retired from running.

Suz and Allan said...

Congratulations to you and to Ryan!