Oh how I wish I was Forrest Gump some days. Like the days my gym programs a running workout or when my friends do a trail run. I’m just not a motivated distance runner. I’m more of a short sprint girl.
Hill sprints off and on, no problem. 200 meters, no problem. 400 meters may push my limit. 800 meters just seems overwhelming on most days early in the morning when it’s dark out.
A few weeks ago I strolled into the gym at the wee hours of the morning or more specifically 6 am. A friend called out what are you doing here? It’s a running day she shouted. I giggled because I knew it and still showed up. I had my running shoes on instead of my CrossFit shoes. I felt prepared. I knew I wouldn’t do the run as prescribed for many reasons but I committed to walk/jog/run the entire time. Just keep moving, that was my goal. Lo and behold I did it and felt accomplished.
I had a week off for spring break so I missed the next running segment. Of course I didn’t care because most know I am not an avid runner. Then today came. Another running day. Do I even go to the gym because I could run at my house or the park? Unfortunately, I know I won’t so I go to the gym for accountability and my routine. Sure I was tired. Sure I was not excited about running, but I somehow put my mind to it.
This time was different. We had three options today. Mostly the options had to do with pacing. Meaning I run a lot slower than a 22 year old guy thus I could elect to run for the same time he would and not worry about my distance per se. This was brilliant for me. I didn’t feel discouraged for me slower and I still got my rest time allowing me to maintain my pace.
I got to choose my path or route outside. I had a set run time and off time. I chipped away at the task. I even enjoyed it. Partly because of my music selection but nonetheless this was a big win for me. I even opted for hill sprints for my last 45 second sets. The picture above was snapped for me to hold on to. First I am confident I can do this workout again and improve my pace and distance. Second it’s a starting point for me to say I came back to running this way.
Who knows where my running will take me now but just a few years ago I was able to run a half marathon. That may be ambitious today but everyone starts somewhere. Today I’m celebrating my little run progress and the fact I enjoyed it.
One of 2020 goals was to complete a triathlon. I registered and started training and then, you guessed it, COVID. Postponed until 2021.
A lot of life changed between mid-2020 and now. Still, I kept that race on my calendar and wondered at times if I should still give it a go. The swim was the weakest of my weak spots and I had not really done anything to train it. I happened to be at a lake the week before the race and swam for 20 minutes without touching bottom. It was slow, but I did it. I also completed a 10K successfully the week before the triathlon was scheduled. With those things in mind, I decided to give it a go.
A triathlon is a strange race. So much different than a show-up-and-lace-up-and-get-running 10K. There’s so much equipment, so many rules (a 24-page rule book!) There’s transitions to think about and plan for. There are referees, penalties, even disqualification. All this made me incredibly nervous. I read, made lists, planned, packed, and off I went. Brought my precious facebook marketplace bike in from my car and tucked it in. I was up half the night wondering if my decades-old helmet would meet the standards. Finally, 5:00 am came.
I double checked my list, had some hotel room coffee and off I went. Transition is such a madhouse. By the time I arrived there were already hundreds of bikes hung from racks. A lady saw me in my confusion, forcefully grabbed my bike and told me where to put my towel and transition setup. Everything was tight. You get about 12 x 18 inches to lay out your running shoes, socks, running belt, clothes, and anything else you need. If your space is too big or you block someone else it’s a penalty. Nerve wracking. Timing chip on my left ankle. Race number in permanent ink on both my biceps. My race age on the back of my leg. Now the long wait to start.
One of the reasons I chose this race was the waterslide start. Yes, you waterslide one at a time into a river then start the swim. This made for about a 30 minute wait after the first person started. But, it is better than the scary start-in-a-pack situations I have read about. There were maybe 50 people behind me. I met a couple of other first-time-tri-ers as we waited. We shared out nerves, our whys, and our training for the race. Finally, it was time for me to jump in and hit the course.
I confess, I can move in the water but I only kinda know how to swim in any systematic stroke. I can’t freestyle so I alternated between a sort of breaststroke and backstroke. People passed me many times as I made my way down the course, passing one buoy then another. Just keep going. I finally got out of the water and made my way to transition, being careful not to get hit by bikes on their way out.
I was one of the last to pick up my bike, so it wasn’t very crazy. The first people were already returning from the 14 mile bike. Helmet on almost first thing (that’s a disqualification if you get on your bike with no helmet.) Shirt, shoes, race belt with energy chews, water bottle, etc. etc. Finally I cross the mount line and I am off.
Bike riding is a peace place for me. Just gliding along. Had some energy blocks and hydration. Tried to keep it around 12 miles an hour which is a good pace for me. Looked around. Thanked police and security. Glide glide glide. I missed having my phone but taking pics would have slowed me down. Playing music or having headphones in is cause for disqualification – this was one of the hardest parts!
Finally, the run. This transition was much simpler. Just hang the bike and helmet, grab a water and go. Seeing people who had already finished was sort of hard but also motivating. Just keep going and it will be me, too.
Well, this second transition was logistically simpler, but physically this transition is rough rough rough. Trading the speed and relative ease of biking for the slow plod of running is a shock to the system. I just had to pace it out and keep going. This was hillier than I had anticipated and I just walked up the hills and didn’t worry over it. I met several people who were just walking the whole 5K. It was an out-and-back so I cheered on every one who was still on the course. I passed my two friends from the start line on my way back to the finish. We were going to do it!
Finally, I came up the hill and saw the finish line, so I broke my rule and jogged in. I jumped and slid down the finish slide and got my medal. After a minute to regroup, I went and waited for my new friends at the finish. I cheered them in. What a great feeling, to be a triathlete!
Did I place? No. Do I care? No. I didn’t specifically train, although I am active…but I was still just thankful to have made it through. Completion was the goal. I cheered for the winners. I gathered my things and slowly made my way back to the car.
I have never smelled as bad after a race as I did after this triathlon. It was a long 4 hour drive to the farm. Everyone who saw me in town and on the road seemed to know what I had done. Was it the medal? The numbers on my arms? (The smell?) Who knows. But lots of congratulations. Lots of reasons to smile and feel accomplished.
I would definitely do another one. I’d even train for it. Maybe even take swimming lessons. I have some people I’d like to do one with so that gives me something to look forward to. It was amazing and strange and memorable all in one. And I’ll always be able to say I have done it.
I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do it this year. The Peachtree Road Race. An Atlanta tradition on the Fourth of July. It would be my seventh in a row. I do like streaks but I still wasn’t sure.
It would be different, of course, just like most of life these days. They spread the event over two days. Much smaller crowds. Vaccination checks or virus screenings. I did it last year solo (virtual) and it was not so fun. But I had a friend ask me to join her so I jumped in. I chose July 3 since I figured it would be different anyways, and it worked better with my travel schedule.
The day-before number pickup event was a disappointment. The usual convention hall of shoe and running pouch vendors, waffle samples, music, and ebullience was just a handful of folks with official merch and the public transportation folks to ease race day travels. I left feeling sort of glum.
Waking on race morning is always hard. It often follows a night of broken sleep, anticipating the event and challenge to come. I made it to parking and on to the train. It was so much easier to park and ride, but I did miss the usual crowd of runners we participate with. I made it to the start line and saw my friend, a ray of light! I took my traditional start line pics and we were off and running.
I hadn’t trained in running much so I had no expectations for my performance. The energy was totally different in the race with dramatically fewer people on the course. But it didn’t take long for me to start feeling lifted. The people on the side of the course seemed especially excited. I made eye contact with many of them and smiled. It was more personal this time around.
And then I smiled for the next six miles. My friend was often ahead of me but we still connected a few times. It was surprisingly cool out. With fewer runners there was far less of the usual bobbing and weaving around the different paces. Smooth sailing throughout, really.
It actually felt a little emotional to be there, running and smiling after the grueling mental marathon of Covid-19. I nearly cried at times, but I still never stopped smiling. I thanked the police, the volunteers, the people who came out to hand us water, even all the trash collectors who line their trucks up across the cross streets to keep the runners from being plowed down by anyone who would wish harm on the runners of the World’s Largest 10K.
I watched the miles and milestones tick by. My legs ached. I thought to myself, I am creating the future. I am putting my steps in and my votes in for hope. For health. For persistence. For triumph.
I crossed the line just under 4 minutes faster of my time two years ago. I felt so great for having done it. The one Coke I allow myself each year tasted as sweet as it ever has. It is wonderful to be out challenging myself and participating again. May the miles we still have to go be as joyful.
One of my goals last year was to challenge myself to a duathlon. I ended up registering for a summer triathlon which was pushed back until next year.
I had all but given up on this goal at the end of the summer. After the race was postponed, I lost my excitement and drive to train and learn for the event. It wasn’t until a friend rallied a group of gym women around an engine building cardio challenge that I found the will to run and bike again with any kind of regularity.
I knew I wouldn’t tri this year, but a duathlon wasn’t out of the question. I decided not to register for an official race at year end. But I wanted to at least complete a “ceremonial” sprint duathlon to have a benchmark and a check mark. So I went for it one frigid December morning just after sunrise. Just me, my playlist, my essentials and my mileage counters. On my mark, get set, go.
3.1 mile run. The mist was rising off the lake. Bridges were still slippery from the chill and the dew. Three loops, making my way along. Not too fast, but not too bad
Transition to the bike. Fleece hat off, helmet on. Legs adjusting to the pedals. Skittering along. Ups, downs, loops. The sting of the cold on my face. Losing feeling in my hands as I watch the miles tick, tick, tick away. Singing along while avoiding potholes and traffic. I finally found a quarter mile loop for a soccer field off the beaten path. Rode it again and again and again for about 8 miles. Only a quick stop for a carb boost in the middle. Then back to dancing on the pedals. Saddle soreness set in at mile 8. Toe cramps began at 10. I held on to finish the 12.4 mile stretch. Ended this leg averaging 10.9 mph which is actually a decent pace. If I had been on flats the whole time it would have been quicker. Lifting and loading my bike with frozen hands was a challenge all its own.
Then the final crunch. The one you train for. The one that hurts. Off the bike and into the last run. When I trained for the tri early this year, I read about this transition and how brutal it is. The quick pace of the bike makes that last mile grueling at best. I started pretty well then it quickly deteriorated. As the mile wore on, I just willed myself forward. I passed a committee of vultures. Keep singing. Dodged piles of goose poop on the path. Keep moving. Step after step. One at a time. No stopping. Knees hurting. No breaks. Just all ahead as much as I can.
I finished. No crowds no medals no beers or cokes. No parades or high fives. No banana no T-shirt. But I checked it off. I don’t need festivities to know what I have done. Didn’t quite make it under my two hour goal, but sometimes completion is the victory in that moment. I will get that goal next time. I’ll take my imaginary participation ribbon thankyouverymuch.
A DIY-duathlon gives you a lot of time to think. My mind couldn’t help but wander as I looped around and around. As much discomfort as I felt, I thanked my body for carrying me through those 17-plus miles. My mental and physical stamina made it a successful effort. A year like this one makes me realize all the more how much these different types of health are worth.
I’ve shared many times how much I love words and wordplay here on the blog. In those bike miles, I found my mind playing with the word duathlon. I bet many people didn’t even know that was a word. Then I broke it into do-athlon. Which led to a good long think about the word “DO.” I am such a thinker, often an overthinker, and not always such a do-er. I decided in those miles that my word of 2021 will be DO. It will be my year to jump in and get things done. I’m still settling into this word and what it will mean for me. I hope you’ll read along wherever the path leads.
Most of 2020 has been a cluster fuck including my paid races, competitions and special events. I’ve been muttering through the disappointment.
Just spinning in a new direction to get by. Earlier this year I was to run the Wonder Woman 10k in Nashville. That was a no go but I did it virtual. My time was off and I didn’t like it much.
The lack of crowds. The lack of a defined course was just a lot of blah. I ran slower. I walked some. It was a mental struggle in many ways against the clock and me. I did it because that was the goal but I didn’t enjoy the event.
Fast forward to today. The normal 4th of July Peachtree Road Race was postponed to Thanksgiving Day. Then it was made virtual for the week of Thanksgiving. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. I was on vacation. Would I even have time? Did I even want to do it and so on.
On a whim I did it today. Turkey day. In the Sunshine State. It started out okay up until mile 3. My route was like a hamster wheel of round and round and round again which I didn’t like. No crowds. No race number. No water stations. No mile markers to show progress. The list goes on and on just like this damn pandemic. The picture below even reflects the hamster wheel-like motion we have been on for close to a year. Just blah.
What I did enjoy was my alone time. My ability to drift off and think of what I’m thankful for. What I have to look forward to. What is next on my projects list. I even thought about what 2020 would have looked like without the pandemic.
My slowest 10k time in about 6 years but I finished. I added 6 flights of stairs at the end to simulate cardiac hill that is on the regular course. I kept my annual streak going but since I did the run solo I broke the tradition with my mini. It’s okay but a little disappointing nonetheless.
2021 is sure to have many things I will be excited to accomplish but many things I will say I’ll take a pass on because of the blah in 2020. The Peachtree unfortunately may be one of them.