I’ve been having fun. Doing what I want when I want. It’s been refreshing to go with the flow and just focus on staying fit – without the pressure of “working” toward something.
While I might be off the leash, I’m still an athlete. And something in me just urges me to compete. I’ve gone back and forth about do I want to do more triathlons – do I not - and realized… I’m still full on triathlons for now. Next year. But I’ve got to find some place to channel my competitiveness into something or else find myself having more outings like this:
Monday, entered Trader Joe’s at 3:43 pm.
Monday, exited Trader Joe’s with 80 dollars worth of groceries at 3:59 pm.
That would be a new personal best of least amount of time spent in grocery store.
(not only that but it cost me 5 bucks for every minute I was in that store!)
Nevermind that I nearly knocked over two older women who were talking by the cart corral (get out of my way) or took out another woman who was trying to choose a loaf of bread (you, in my way, out of it, now) or rearended a small child with one of those little shopper carts (it’s a close call as to whether I use one of those or an adult cart if we are talking based on size alone).
This could get very ugly and I could find myself behaving very socially inappropriate if I do not put this competitive fire someplace else – NOW.
So I’ve set some running goals. Actually they are non-goal goals. If I achieve them – great. If I don’t, I won’t cry over myself. This is just a hobby. If I get up and it’s running and raining – I don’t have to go. No one pays me to go running. If I feel like swimming instead (yes, it happens), I’m there.
Totally, flexible, schedule.
Running goals = running more = track. I found myself on Wednesday night at the track. I was going to run 30 minutes in the morning – because what could be more fun than running once a day. How about twice a day! Then I realized that running twice a day in the rain cancels the fun out of that equation so I said – no. I’ll just watch it rain instead and then every minute it ticks closer to track I’ll come up with 100 excuses why I don’t need to go.
You don’t need to do this, you are not “really” working toward a goal, you have every right to blow this off.
But you know what – I can’t. Dammit I cannot blow this off even if it’s raining because…it’s track.
You don’t blow off track or else it will come back to haunt you.
That’s called karma, my friends.
I arrived at the track wondering if anyone else would be crazy enough to run track in the pouring rain. As I walk up to the fieldhouse I catch a glimpse of a white hat bobbing up and down on the far section of the track and realize there is at least one crazy runner out there and that means I’m doing it.
In fact, there were several crazy runners out there warming up. I find myself in lane 8, pouring rain, warming up. I realize for the first time in over a week my legs feel good. No residual half Ironman pain. No heavy cycling miles lingering in my legs. I could get used to being a runner. It feels very light and free.
A few strides, some skips and it’s time to go.
The workout was a good one: 2x (1600, 800, 400) with an easy 400 in between each. Easy when you are at track is easy. “Embarrassingly slow” in case you haven’t heard. You shuffle. The space between doesn’t mean as much as what you do when it’s on. And when it’s on – it’s on. You do not hold back.
The first 1600 I position myself near KL. He’s terribly well-paced and has the smallest stride I’ve ever seen. I set my sights on his red shirt and just hang comfortably behind him. I coast in at a time that is not bad. I’m surprised I have that in my legs but I don’t think about it too much. It’s track – you take it. You don’t question it, take a HR or bring your GPS. You just run. A guy at the end of the 400 calls out your splits and you trust him. You know that unless you feel your stomach churning in the last 200, you’re not going hard enough. You move into lane 3 on the final 100 because you have Prefontaine visions of yourself finish the final 100 of a 10,000 meter race at some big track meet – that you are winning.
Even though the possibility of that is complete bullshit.
The 800 is next. I come in at a time that is blah. My typical 800 time. Ho hum.
I’m shuffling – embarrassingly slow – on my recovery 400 when I see one of the guys from Group 1 run by. He is getting it. I mean, getting it. Like his legs are pounding that track and bouncing back up again to propel him forward. Not only that but huzzah this guy has 6-pack abs. Just incredible to watch. He’s got some other guy (with shirt, unfortunately) hot on his heels and together they buzz by me like they’re going 20 mph and I’m going….10.
They hit the 800 at 2:22. 2 minutes, 22 seconds. GETTING IT! I want that. Well, not that I will ever run a 2:22 for a 800, that’s sort of like having a Prefontaine Pipe Dream – bullshit. But I can still get after it! Somewhere in the middle of 400 meters easy I decide it’s time to change. Screw this steady pacing hum drum pace that too much long course racing has locked my legs into. Time to breakthrough, shake it up and quit running that same stale pace.
At the line before the 400 I decide I will be a 400 runner tonight. Know why? Because I’ve spent years running bad 400s. Typically I run my 400 in the same pace I split my 800 at – that is not good. So I take off and I’m right up there with the big boys. I feel like I’m running on top of the air and my only regret is eating an entire package of flax crackers in the past day.
But I cross the line in a damn good 400 time.
Ok, giddy up. It’s coming back. Forget the shopping cart competition, it’s here, now, on this track. It’s going down. Everything else vs. legs; who will win today? Not the pouring rain. Not the pain in my core from deciding yesterday “let’s do strength training after a 2 month hiatus!” Not the hurt in my legs or turn in my stomach. Not the voice in my head that says “this hurts.” OF COURSE this hurts – it’s track. It’s supposed to hurt. That’s why you’re here.
1600 is up next. Just follow the guy in the red shirt. Pace with him. We’ve slowed down. Whatever. I could care less about miles right now. Right now I consider a mile “long course”.
The guy with the watch starts us, all set?
The correct answer is you bet and then you take off. By now, my shoes are so filled with water they squish squish squish with each short, choppy step. I am right behind KL and focus on his red shirt through the first lap. Loose, stay loose I say to myself. Rounding the curve in the straightaway I pull up right behind him wondering if I should charge now. Too far to go, don’t risk it yet. We come around the 500 mark when I see myself running right behind him. Here I am again, I say to myself. Behind someone, playing it safe. Do you want to be Elizabeth who is always behind or do you want to be the one that takes charge, takes a risk and leads it out, proving that you can hold it until the end.
(you should know that this entire conversation played out in my head in under 100 meters)
And that is what I said to myself MAKE YOUR MOVE. Do it, NOW. I come up around him for the pass and plant myself right in front of him. TURNOVER TURNOVER and hold it. Hold it! He is there, I hear him but he is falling back. Pick it up. CHARGE. Hard charge to the line. Stomach hurts so bad right now! It was like a burning pain in my stomach. OUCH. And – done. Crossed the line in FINALLY a good 800 time.
One more to go. Easy 400 meter jog. Someone comes up to me and says nice kick.
400 – for the first time ever I am looking forward to this. Did you know that a 400 is 70 percent anaerobic? An 800 is 43 percent anaerobic? And, a 1600 is about 20 percent anaerobic? As a contrast, the 10K is 3 percent anaerobic and the marathon? A full 1 percent anaerobic effort.
We have limitations about ourselves and our strength. I’ve always thought – you’re no good at short stuff. Yet you won’t get good at it until you let yourself try. So I let myself try on this last 400. Just tap into it – don’t think about it or let the pain even register. Focus on the guy in front of you. Focus on getting to the front.
They bolt. The first 200 they bolt and I am right behind until I start to slowly make my way next to and then in front of them – stomp hard on the ground and push off. Push off in front of them and then I see the lead guy. He is right there. In the last 100 meters I am in lane 3 and chasing him. The line is ahead. I push as hard as I can and cross in a time that I have only done one other time in my life.
I cooled down thinking about the why. Why did this have to go so well? Because that makes me hungry again. I found it out there – the animal. The drive that makes us hungry for competition, for possession of our goals. Makes us want to chase after it, to focus on the guy in front of us or the line. To crave the numbers the guy holding the stopwatch will shout at us. To hear him rolling off the splits, knowing that if we bust ass we’ll get in with a new personal best time.
I need to go to track again. I need to go 5 days a week. I know that’s impossible but the point is I will be back. I will be a better 800 runner, 400 runner. One day I want to just run a 1600 all out and see what I come up with. There’s so much I have to do now. Well, not really have to do but so much I want to do. And that’s what it’s all about. Do what you want. Do as you please. When it comes to you, seize it and then start getting after it.