The past few weeks have been nothing short of a ferocious roller coast ride. In many ways, I’ve felt like my life went from over-the-moon greatness to the crummiest of crummy and back again (I think). Usually, I turn to running when life gets crazy, but even that’s been touch-and-go. I’ve felt sluggish; I’ve been frustrated about not being able to keep up with my new group; I’ve missed my favorite running buddy, because Brad is still nursing a nasty ankle sprain; and, to top it all off, I’ve been battling a respiratory infection. Super-dee-duper fun.
I’ve been so negative about my running lately that it’s about time I shared an upbeat story . . .
Instead of sleeping in Saturday morning, I got up early to meet my running group at the Hot Chocolate 10k. We weren’t there to race, though. We were there to do a lactate threshold test under race conditions. The plan: Start the race at a very easy, jogging pace; at 30 minutes to go, hit the lap timer and pick it up to the fastest pace we think we can sustain for 30 minutes; after 10 minutes of the 30-minute test, hit lap timer again so that we can record our average heart rate (HR); if we still have course left at the end of the 30-minute test, hit the lap timer again and jog, walk or limp to the finish line.
I was ridiculously, irrationally nervous I was about this test. I’ve done threshold tests on the bike, but never running. I hadn’t run hard since my marathon last October. I’m a long-distance endurance runner, not a speedster, so I had no idea how to pace myself for an ‘all-out, leave nothing’ 30-minute effort, especially when my breathing was hampered by a massive sinus headache! I had nightmares of pressing the stop button when I was supposed to press the lap button, puking on course, or running so slow that Coach questioned whether I should be in the class.
When we huddled together to discuss the test, my nervousness turned to joy and laughter. Everyone was freaked out about pressing the right button, not going out too fast, how fast they’d be able to run, where we would meet afterwards; you name it, and we were fretting about it. In that moment, I realized that I was exactly where I’m supposed to be — surrounded by Type A runners who obsess about planning and are steadfastly focused on performing their best. In their company, I feel ‘normal’. 🙂
The run itself was mediocre. I found my lactate threshold HR without puking, but my average pace was not what I’d hoped for. (Of course, what could I except when I had to slow down every 5 minutes to hack up a lung?) Even though I somehow finished 4th in my age group, it was frustrating to feel like I could have done better.
Nonetheless, it was exactly what I needed. I love the way I feel after a hard effort. The burst of speed is invigorating and (an added bonus) worked wonders for my sinuses. I love running local events. The course is littered with familiar faces, and you can’t run 5 minutes without exchanging a nod, wave, or “Great run!” with someone. I love seeing my friends run well. One won overall female in the 5k, one won male masters in the 10k, and five others won awards in their age group for the 10k. Seriously inspiring!
By the end of the morning, I finally had my head and my body back in the game. It’s a good thing, too. This week, we will run 41 training miles. In prior training seasons, that’s about where I peaked three weeks before my goal race — not three weeks into training. I’ll need all the positive energy I can get!
Lesson Learned :: Sometimes the best way to move forward is to break out of your comfort zone.