Monday, June 20, 2016

Making up My Mind

(Bear Run 5k)
You would think after 9 months I would have somewhat of an idea what I want to do athletically. But the truth is I have no clue. In 2012 I had a plan. Make the Olympic Trials, start trying to have a family, get back into racing shape and race locally. Check, check, and check. After the birth of my second I didn’t have a plan. It was another Olympic year but that was very unrealistic for me. So, what next? I decided to give myself all the time in the world to decide and I took it. My husband, Levi, and I talked about him going for another Olympic Trials in the Pole Vault. We knew realistically that we both couldn’t be pursuing big athletic goals or else our family life would suffer. I encouraged him to go for it and enjoyed my time on the sidelines chasing after kids. But there comes a point when things can begin to get too comfortable. Where the day in and day out of easy running becomes habit and the motivation for anything bigger dwindles.
(Almost a year after my 1st baby, competing at Club Nationals)
After I had Lily in 2013 I came back to racing in 2014. I did local meets and definitely didn’t put in the same workload as I had prior but it was enjoyable and not too taxing. Well, in the beginning I think it might have been as my weight dropped 7 or so pounds below what I normally am. I lost muscle and with breastfeeding was leaning up quickly. I never became iron deficient but made it a goal to eat more and lift more. Check and check.
Okay so where does that leave me in 2016? The original plan was for Levi to focus on track while I focused on the kids and home life. Once his track season was over, I would pick up my training and start racing more. Well it is now the end of June. Track season is coming to an end. And I’ve gotten too comfortable these past 9 months not getting out of my comfort zone. The desire to actually start a training schedule does not sound appealing to this new comfortable me, but there are moments when the old me tries to claw its way out of this life of ease.
(Prior to kids.)
Now don’t get me wrong, when I say life of ease, I’m not talking giant inner tube, lazy river, sipping a cold drink in the sunshine. My days are exhausting but in a different way. By the end of the day mentally, I am spent. Yet I stay up way too late simply to enjoy doing nothing (i.e. watching TV or something). Most days I feel like I’m going nonstop to accomplish what would look like nothing on the outside. Feeding, diapers, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning…Just normal life. But with two little ones it takes forever most days. If I want to get anywhere on time I need to start preparing an hour and a half before we leave. Add another half hour if where we are going requires sunscreen. But when it comes to working out I am not pushing my body like I used to. Nine months of easy running makes you pretty comfortable running short and easy. I don’t have any daily running plans and in a way that can be nice. I don’t want my training schedule to dictate our lives. In 2012, I like to think I was flexible but there’s no way I would have been able to do what I did with kids. I had my workouts, races, and lifting schedule written out every day. Sure there were times I would do an unplanned wake boarding day but it was never on a hard workout day and I never missed my run because of it. I just ran at a different time than usual. If we want to go to the lake on a moment’s notice now, I don’t feel stressed about getting my workout in prior. As I’m merely running because I like to run and some days I don’t feel like it. Some days I just want to sit on the couch and eat ice cream. I’m able to enjoy life as it comes.
(Impromptu lake day)
But the point of this is that there is still a gnawing inside me that I should be, that I need to be doing more. I am fine right now but there is a fear that this will become too comfortable and soon I will find myself becoming lazy. When I lift hard and am sore the next day I relish that feeling. Even if squats make it hard for me to walk down the stairs I enjoy that. I’m using the one body God gave me. I’m still young (though most days I don’t feel it with kids) and I want to set myself up on the best path later in life. I want to be a role model to my girls. Not a, “Back when Mom was young she could blah, blah, blah.”
So that brings me to flipping through the paper a few weeks ago and coming across an ad for a race 15 minutes from my house. I checked Levi’s work schedule. He wasn’t scheduled. So what was the excuse? Immediately I felt nervous and excited just thinking about racing. It was two weeks away. No time to train specifically for it but I’ve always enjoyed racing so why not? Thoughts of winning crossed my mind, my old self clawing its way out again, but Levi, always the voice of reason, helped throw this thought out. Who cares if I won or not? Who cares if I don’t run “fast.” I say “fast” because I know it is all relative. My slow might be someone’s fast and my fast might be someone’s slow. I wasn’t doing it to prove anything to anyone. I was doing it for me.
I got online and signed up for the Bear Run 5k at Lake Wilderness. The next day I immediately got on the treadmill to see if I could run a 5k under 20 minutes. I did a little warm up and started going. With half a mile to go I had to decrease the incline from 2 to .5 it was getting hard. I was hot. It was tough but I mentally held out even though I knew I could stop at any time. I did not want to let comfortable Lois win. I broke 20 minutes. I finished my treadmill 5k in 19:32. Alright I should be able to break 20 minutes in the race. I don’t know why I even cared about my time but having a goal might keep me honest out on the course. I finished my workout with a cool down jog making it 7 miles on the day and my longest run post baby #2.
I did a few 200 meter strides during another treadmill run that week and that was my prep for racing. The night before my race soon came and Levi and I made a tentative plan to have him meet me at the race with the kids so they didn’t have to get up so early. I made a goal to get to bed earlier than I usually do but somehow ended up getting to bed even later…definitely past midnight. I didn’t stress about missing sleep. I’ve been missing sleep for the past 2.5 years so what’s another night?
In the blink of an eye, my alarm was sounding at 6:10am. One snooze push and I was up. I didn’t feel like making oatmeal so I ate a piece of toast with jam, hardboiled egg, and a granola bar for the short drive over. Eve had been waking up around 6:30am the past few days so it would work out perfectly to nurse her then head over just after 7am to get my number. 7am rolled around and still no peep from Eve. I opened her door. A few minutes later I came back and opened her curtains a little. Finally she woke. I tried to nurse her but she decided she didn’t want to. Trying not to get frustrated I waited. Soon hunger kicked in and she got to work. There’s no way I would have raced without at least pumping and I really didn’t want to get my pump out of the closet and do that. I really didn’t have the time and I doubted she would take a bottle anyways. I ended up leaving 40 minutes later than planned but since I know kids are unpredictable I also prepared for something to come up to make me leave later. No stress.
I got to the race and found some free parking. I had no idea this was a part of a big festival weekend complete with carnival rides. Check in to get my packet was easy. I headed off to warm up. I felt terrible. I rarely run in the morning and my body was feeling it. My legs felt like led. I did some drills to help loosen up but it didn’t really seem to help. I figured once the race started I wouldn’t notice.
(Levi and the girls before the start)
Levi and the girls made it with plenty of time before the start and I had fun playing around with them. It’s amazing how relaxed racing becomes when you have kids to distract you. They put everything into perspective. I saw some of the master’s men runners from Club Northwest so it was nice to see some familiar faces. I found out from a few their goal times and knew not to go out with them! They are legit master’s runners.
The first mile was relatively flat with a climbing hill at the end and into mile two. My legs hated the hills. Just under two miles the course entered a flat trail. I felt good. But I didn’t really push too much as I was unsure what I was capable of. Maybe I wussed out a little, I’m not sure. I passed a young boy. He gave me encouragement. I replied in kind. About a half mile from the finish he comes blowing by me telling me good job again. I manage to wheeze out a compliment and watch as the boy, who maybe came up to my shoulder, went sprinting to the finish. I dug deep and turned my legs over faster. I crossed the finish line in 19:24. Good for first place female finisher, which meant a Teddy Bear and some cupcakes. Lily was quite happy about my race spoils.
(Top 3 women in my age group)
(Post race, nursing Eve)
I must admit, the race hurt. It was a pain I hadn’t felt in a long time, but I didn’t hate it. In fact, I sometimes feel it hurts worse when you are unprepared or out of racing/workout shape. It had been so long since my body experienced this type of pain that I forgot what to expect. I hadn’t done grueling workouts, pushing myself out of my comfort zone day in and day out. So when I was out of my comfort zone in the race it was a bit of a shock to my system. If you are truly pushing yourself it hurts the same no matter where you finish. Whether you are the elite running record times or the weekend warrior, racing hurts. But the sense of accomplishment after, the burn in your lungs and legs that scream out, “I’m alive!” makes the pain something you will continue to come back to. So to you beginner runners, I feel for you. I can see why some don’t like it. But I can assure you it gets better. Or maybe it doesn’t, you just get used to it.