June 27, 2011

Effort, Renewed

Oh, hi. Is anyone still here?

I've been a lazy, lazy blogger. But, in my defense, aside from one very bizarre thunderstorm last week that resulted in three inches of snow (thundersnow!), it's been so very warm and beautiful here in the mountains that I have wanted to do little but be outside. My house is dirrrrty and I haven't been cooking much, but you know, where I live, when you run across a night warm enough to sit on the front porch after the sun goes down and enjoy a sweet tea vodka and lemonade, it's hard to get as worked up about my routine as I normally would. I just love summer.

I ran the second trail race a couple of weeks ago. Again, the courses (each of these races has two, a long and a short) were re-routed to an area with dry trails (all relative, of course, as I did at one point fully submerge my shoe into mud).  The new course followed a loop that's a nordic ski trail in the winter. Perfect, I thought. It'll be easier - cross country trails can't be that steep. I felt relaxed, strong, and even a little cocky as my friend Cathy and I warmed up at the start. Maybe I'll just keep going after the end of the short course and do the long course. Just for the hell of it.

You can see where this is going, of course.This race was tough. I'd go so far as to call it a motherfucking bitch, even. It was by far one of the hardest runs I've done in a long time. A deceptively mellow start quickly turned into what felt like an unending nightmare of long, steep grades, with downhills that felt no longer than a flight of stairs and offered little chance for recovery. It was only three miles, but it felt like ten. It sucked. My friend Julie, volunteering as a course marshal, was stationed near the end of the course and as I approached her, exhausted, she sweetly shouted out a few words of encouragement. As I passed her all I could manage was a mumbled, "I think I'm gonna throw up."

I didn't puke, though, and I somehow (just barely) finished in the top half of my age group, but I was thoroughly humbled. Since then I've worked harder in my weights classes and made a concerted effort to get out running at least three times a week, which has meant allowing myself to be dragged out on a couple of early morning runs (not my favorite time of day). Last night my husband's band played at a local music festival, and we had a few beers and a late night. All day today I felt lethargic and lazy, and kept finding excuses not to work out (yard work, grocery shopping, plucking my eyebrows). Finally, at 6:30pm, I had a stern little talk with myself and decided I'd just put on my running clothes and go, even if all I did was walk for half an hour. And I did walk for the first few minutes, but then I felt like running. And it was one of the strongest, fastest runs I've had this year. Go figure.

I'll keep going. I feel good. I've got another race this Wednesday, and I'm excited for it. But hey, cut me some slack, because I've got a lot of other things going on:

the weeds ... THE WEEDS!

the dogs and children need walking ...

little lettuce sprouts need tending ...

our state flower needs cultivation ... 

... and this boy's hair must be brought under control.

June 1, 2011

Break on Through

So tonight was the first in the aforementioned trail race series. There's still lots of lingering snow on our local trails, so they had to re-route the race, resulting in a shorter and less steep course. I wasn't complaining.

When the start gun went off and I began running, I felt terrible. Heavy, achy, slow. Got passed by dozens of people. I started feeling a little sorry for myself, wondering, why does this feel so much harder when I'm doing a race versus a regular everyday run? My arms felt heavy and started to go numb. What the hell?

And then I just ... let it go. So I'll be slow. Whatever. I might come in DFL (dead fucking last). It's okay. I just want to make it the whole way without walking. That's my goal.

When I got to the first steep hill, something clicked. I started feeling stronger, faster. I passed some of the people who had passed me. I pushed a little harder, and soon I was at the top of the hill. My lungs were burning a little, but I kept pushing, knowing a big downhill was ahead. The downhill is my happy place. I'm not hesitant going down steep, rocky hills; I fly. I flew.

At the bottom of the course, I caught up to a woman who had passed me early on. We were on a single track, and every time I thought about passing her, she sped up the tiniest bit. When the trail spilled onto to the road, I dug deep for a last bit of energy and passed her, sprinting toward the finish. I sensed her gaining on me again and saw that she was sprinting, too. She caught up to me and for a moment our arms pumped in perfect unison, legs flying. We crossed the finish line at exactly the same time. Afterward, we looked at each other and grinned.

I'm not a terribly competitive person. I don't much care if others are faster than me. I do like to challenge myself, however, and get a lot of satisfaction out of doing better than I did last time. For the past two years in this series, I've been solidly in the middle of the pack (or below) for my age group. This year, I promised myself I'd break that barrier and finish in the top half.

They posted the results at the end of the after party at a local restaurant. I scanned the list, looking for my name. There were about 16 people in my age group. And then I saw that I'd tied with my finish-line friend for  ... sixth place. I did it. I kicked the ass out of that top half.

It's gonna be a great season.