Ginger With a J: No looking back now, ya hear?

How I felt many of days this past winter.

When my boyfriend began meeting with a friend to help her train for the Olympic Trials, I came along for the ride, although I did my own thing. This process helped us both get into a groove. Before I knew it, I was logging 35-40 miles each week. Initially, I was apprehensive to dip into the 40s, since the most I had done to date averaged around 25 miles a week. Not to mention, our groove began on the cusp of old man winter. But with the winter we had this year, I had the upper hand in remaining consistent during what is usually a challenging kind of time.

Excited about how my new training level was going, I decided to enter a 5k on New Years Eve to see where I was at. The naive self I had mentioned in my first blog post was alive and well. I was expecting to break 22 minutes. And maybe even 21 minutes. In fact, I had planned my Facebook status update weeks in advance: “I finally broke 22! And 21!”. The results were as follows:

Former PR (circa 2003)

22:11

New PR (circa 2011)

22:04

Weeks and weeks of more mileage than I had ever done and all I could muster up was a 7 second PR! Well, it was a rolling course with an uphill finish. And I had only done a few track workouts. Plus it was raining. And I forgot how far away I was from the finish to kick. And how the heck could I only run 7 seconds faster than 8 years ago, when I was only doing 15 miles a week? It must be age.  I didn’t know how to race yet either. That 22:04 felt pretty easy. 5ks aren’t supposed to feel easy so I must have ran it wrong.

Ugh! Shut up,  said my rational self.

I came up with reason after reason until I realized that it didn’t matter the reason. The result was what it was. The road ahead was going to be longer than I had imagined.

After a few days of silencing my mind, I moved on. Naturally, the track workouts began happening every week once my boyfriend joined the new elite development group that Salty is also a member of. I started to see huge improvements in my repeat times, even ending a workout in an 84 second 400, and not feeling exhausted like I had in high school. New training wasn’t so much the challenge as was trying not to over analyze. I attributed the increase in daily endorphins to helping me shut that part of my mind up. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am an anxious one.

Someday this will be me, except I will be still be a female. Image courtesy of 43things.com

I am a firm believer that one must overcome this mental challenge first before getting any faster, ala take a few lessons from Lindsay Lohan. It might not be as pretty or exciting as one would imagine. For me, it’s been quite ugly: still getting passed by baby strollers and 12 year old girls and setting seven second PRs. But when you aren’t genetically blessed, you learn to appreciate the little things that lead you to a faster path, like feeling an ab muscle pop out, out of nowhere while laying in bed or shaving 10 seconds off your unusually high resting heart rate. The process is what it is. Why you perform one way or another when you toe the line is going to have multiple rhymes and reasons. Hypothesizing these reasons helps us to learn from our experiences but there comes a point when you must move forward with the process, accepting whatever it may bring. I’m ready to accept it now, even if it means I have to go back  and read this post when I attempt another 5k, expecting to break 22. And maybe even 21.

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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3 comments

  1. I gotta wonder how much your relative lack of recent race experience played into the “disappointing” performance. 5ks are really hard to nail and it takes a few to get it down. They hurt a lot and if you’re not used to it or don’t expect that hurtin’ you won’t be able to come close to your true potential finish time. I say we should pick a little 5k in the next few weeks and run it together and I can try to push you along until you appear to be in the appropriate amount of discomfort :)

  2. Ginger with a J, take Salty up on her offer. I once paced a friend through her first 2 marathons. I watched a flightless bird begin to soar like an eagle. Sometimes we need a little wind beneath our wings.
    Love from Cincinnati- Heidi