Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Struggle is Real

Well, Emily and I finished the Bronx 10 Miler. Finished is all I want to say about the race. It was quite boring, and about 3 miles in, I wanted someone to Tonya Harding me. I hoped that my husband had hired a man to club me in the knee so I wouldn’t have to continue. Unfortunately, he didn’t. The next 7 miles I only kept going because Emily promised we’d go to brunch and I could eat fried food, and because I didn’t want to let Emily down.

While struggling, I realized that struggle is something I very rarely do. If I don’t do well in something, I give up. Take ice- skating for instance. I tried it once when I was in 6th grade. While on the ice, I immediately felt all of my weight and awkwardness intensified. I felt so out of place. When I fell, I tried to get up using my hands, leading to a major bleeding slice in my hand, which came as a relief that I had an excuse to go sit on the sidelines! After that, I never tried again until my husband made me go to outdoor skating in Bryant Park a few months into our relationship. Although I was lighter at that time and being supported by someone who was willing to sort of cart me around on the ice, I felt all of 6th grade insecurities and started freaking out on the ice at Bryant Park while toddlers gave me sideways glances as they scooted around. I am not one to try and prevailed using inner strength.

That’s why this race was important, to see that sometimes, things can be okay, even if they don’t go “my way”. I took the learning experience and am now ready to return to training and try to get a bit better at suffering, and dealing with the struggle. Because running, and that feeling a great run can have, is too good to give up on. I want that feeling back again. (Cue sappy music, I know, I know)

Emily and I will be running a 10 miler in January. We want to train and be our best for the race, not for time, but because at the end of the race is free beer and we want to be able to really take advantage of it without feeling terrible.  Priorities people!  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Signing up isn't Enough?!?!?!?

A few years ago, if I signed up for a race, I trained like it was my job. I  would leave my real job early so that I could run! The training would be enough to get my mindset in the right place. I would eat well in the months and weeks leading up to the race and I would be in fighting condition. The night before the big race, I’d fret to my boyfriend about not breaking my PR or not being able to finish, to which he’d roll his eyes, knowing that I would do fine and that it was just me being me.

The day of the race, I’d do well for myself. I’d never stop running, I’d pass the bathrooms like a pro, drinking water if necessary and personal victory was mine. It felt like it was never going to change.

Fast forward a few years to March, 2014. I have a three year old, a lot of extra weight on me and a boyfriend who has turned into a husband. And I also have 10,000 other excuses to put in here, but really, I’ve lost my edge. We sign up for the race and I feel so motivated. “This is going to be great! It’ll help keep us running through the colder months!” “I’m going to lose like 50 pounds training for this thing.” “I’ll run at 4:30 EVERY MORNING! NO EXCUSES.”

But I didn’t live up to any of those promises, opting instead to spend my time hosting holidays and enjoying watching football (and snacks) on the couch every Sunday when it was prime running time. I’d go for the occasional run, but that was about it. The day before the run, instead of a “You’ve got this” that I normally got from my husband about my fears, I got a “You can always stop if you need to”. We did the run and I finished, but I look back on those pictures, you know the annoying ones they take while you are running the race, and I look….scary. Like a lion trying to chance a gazelle, but the lion has been living in a zoo, you know? Like he hasn’t had to chase prey in a long, long time.

So, I try to break the cycle again by signing up with Emily for the Bronx 10 miler. Again I convinced myself that it was going to be great, keep me training for the whole summer! And I’ll lose the 60 pounds I need to lose while doing it! But those thoughts faded to the background. It is less than a week away, and I’m not ready. I am literally going to search the course map in case I need to make a quick escape. My husband said he would come and wait at the finish line, and I was hesitant. “Just make sure you have your cell phone, in case I need you to pick me up in the Bronx somewhere!”

Signing up is the easy part; doing the work is the hard. It’s time to start putting in that work (I use phrases I’ve learned from my students occasionally as though I am a high school senior). I’ll survive this race…hopefully…and then, I can figure out a plan that is realistic and can work, for me. Or ghost me if I don’t survive the race.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Gift (& Occasional Curse) of a Competitive Nature

It has been suggested, upon friendly Trivial Pursuit matches or backyard badminton games that end in blood, that the word 'competitive' is an adjective that could possibly occasionally sort of maybe sometimes describe my nature.

Blame it on a childhood stuffed with little league tournaments and Saturday viewings of Double Dare. Perhaps it was that I'm the youngest in a family of four that included a two-years-older brother who was my primary playmate and eternal nemesis. Whether it was Nintendo or stuffed animal baseball or even reciting movie quotes, Tim would win virtually any game. I like to think fellow younger sisters-to-older-brothers grow up under similar circumstances, eventually realizing they have two options when it comes to approaching such activities: accept inevitable defeat or continue to try knowing ONE DAY, that glorious ONE DAY, she can declare herself the victor.

At the somewhat adult age of 32, I am now able to temper my competitive nature to a certain respectable extent. If I'm playing Candyland with a five-year-old, I don't NEED to win. (If, on the other hand, the five-year-old in question is cheating, I will insist on stopping the game until justice is reinstalled.) But when it comes to a board game get together, pub trivia, or adult softball league, the fighter inside me cannot be tamed.
So how does this affect my running? In a word, oddly. See, I'll never be the best runner. I'll probably never be the in top half of any race run by two-legged human beings under the age of 75. Unlike other activities that I pride myself on excelling at (such as identifying the plot of any Law & Order: SVU episode within the first 10 seconds of a rerun), I am completely aware that comparatively, I'm not that good. I'll NEVER be that good. 

As you might imagine, competitiveness plays a very specific role in races. Forgetting the insanely fit Adonises who glide through 6 minute miles to win actual trophies, the simple act of running beside hundreds of others is a mind game of its own. 

Allow me to make myself sound like a complete and utter jerk: when it comes to something as challenging as running, it feels really good to be better than someone else. At my second half marathon, I finished with a time of 2:21:33, not a spectacular prize-winning number for a somewhat healthy 31 year old but certainly the sign of someone (especially of my size and lack of experience) who worked hard to earn it. Initially, the number didn't excite me much but when I was able to view it in context with the other participants, I saw a few things that made me proud:
-At 1084th place, there were a good 412 runners who came in after me
-As a female, I finished 665th out of 993, far from the top half, but a decent chunk above the lower 10%
-For my bracket, I was 128th out of 207
-I beat my previous time (which admittedly, was in a half that involved trails and constant hills) by a hefty 8 minutes

I'm not making the all-star team with any of theses numbers, but for some reason, when I was able to see how I fared against other runners, my confidence got a huge boost. It's that similar shot of uppers when I can pass someone that looks like a REAL runner on the sidewalk or outlast a skinnier neighbor on my gym's treadmills.
For many people, exercise is an incredibly personal endeavor. Part of its appeal is that, much like soccer, you can do it anywhere in the world, any time of day, with virtually no accessories or equipment. But for those of us who might originate from more sports-like backgrounds, where a game is played directly against someone else, running can sometimes lack that added element that lights the fire in your feet. Sure, one could treat every workout as chance to improve on the last, but for those who need to SEE the face of the enemy (or, you know, who NEED an enemy in the first place), it's a comfort to know that it's always possible to make one.