Just time time for Valentine’s Day, on Friday night I went to a chair dancing workshop.
Fear not (or perhaps, shed a tear), this post is not about chair dancing. But before I say anything else, sit on your hands. I’ll sum up my experience up by saying I did it for a friend. A friend wouldn’t go unless I went and I was merely there as a supportive friend. Yeah, something like that. And another friend was teaching the class. That particular friend is actually a certified pole fitness instructor. You’d think after spending all of this time in sports that I might have been good at something that involved fitness. Turns out there’s a big difference between moving your body and moooooooooooooooving your body. But after two hours of shaking, bending, snapping, milkshaking & sexy hands-ing, it’s safe to say my milkshake will bring all the boys to the yard.
This post is actually about doing something far less sexy for Valetine's. Two days after my chair dancing marathon, with sore hips and bruised kneecaps, I did a 5K.
I wanted to race another 5K to assess my progress. Kurt warned me that I wouldn’t see much progress. Let me retrace my steps. A few weeks ago, I asked Kurt if we could work together again. He responded with a very fair question: what can Coach Kurt do for you? I’ll ignore how he frequently talks about himself in the third person. Instead, I answered him, fairly. I got myself where I wanted to go last year and now I don’t want to think for myself. In all honesty, right now I just want to “do” without having to think about the details.
But with the shared understanding that I would (and should) provide my own input! I suspected that I would see some progress at this race so I talked him into letting me do the 5K. You see, I’ve come back from a few setbacks and the curve of progression is steep at first before it flattens out. This curve is motivating, self-reinforcing. Earlier this week, I did another bike test and gained 14 watts since 4 weeks ago. Like I said, the gains are quick at first before they get smaller and you get back to the usual I’m now going to have to bust my ass for every single watt or second. So I’m enjoying this period of rapid progress while it lasts.
Hence why I drove an hour north to run a 5K. I also think you should race in the winter. It’s easy to fall into the trap of train train train, alone, in your basement, on the dark streets and that becomes very mentally draining. It’s good to get out there and work through the art of racing. Pack your race bag, eat your race breakfast, experiment. Learn to race well now so at the big races, you’ve got your rhythm and formula.
My legs felt great on the warm up and the course looked to be a good one. It had some long gradual inclines and was mostly protected from the wind. I lined up at the start in my usual shorts and tank top. Everyone else seemed to be decked out in hearts and Valentine redness. Some guy shouted LOOK AT THAT GIRL! as if I were the unusual one dressed normally. And, for the first time ever, I felt like I was underdressed in my tank and shorts. It was 33 degrees and I was really cold out there!
I lined up at the front next to 2 other gals. The gun goes off and the 2 gals bolted. I held back and within ¼ mile, then passed them. At that point, we had to run through the thick crowds from the 10K like a mess of moving Valentine’s cards. If you’re wearing a headband with hearts attached to a spring, you’re probably not moving very fast! COMING THROUGH! I wove through them with the feeling of moving through an open water swim start. It was annoying but at the same time, technical and invigorating! I hit mile 1 at a decent pace. I just needed to hold it. (hint: I didn’t but that’s what makes a 5K just oh so special – and painful).
This was the first time ever that I raced with music. I’ve done this sport long enough that I know a lot of what works for me. At this point, I enjoy becoming my own science experiment. I’ve never raced with music and rarely train with it unless I’m on the treadmill. I wanted to see what it was like. While it easily distracted me from the uncomfortable shock of the first mile, I found it very distracting for the rest of the way. I couldn’t hear myself breathe, I wasn’t plugged into the race – I was out there running to music. In fact, I felt like I lost a little bit of my GRRR because I wasn’t feeling the pain. If you’re someone who likes to be distracted away from the pain, use music. But I’ll be honest, I wait for the pain and welcome it – in something like a 5K, the pain means I’m doing it right. Once I find it, I make friends with it and talk myself through it. That’s what I enjoy most about racing. That’s what makes you mentally tougher to get through other obstacles in training and racing. So, my conclusion: it definitely decreases your perceived effort but I think it disconnects you from the race. When I finished, I knew I had raced but I honestly wasn’t sure if I had given it everything – I don’t remember FEELING anything. Is that good? I don’t think so.
Back to the race. The two women dangled in front of me for about a mile and then we hit the last mile. It was very icy – I was slipping, afraid that I was going to fall, blow out a knee. So, I played it safe, too safe, because in the end, the 2nd place gal finished 7 seconds in front of me. I ended up 3rd overall.
Since my last 5K 3 weeks ago, I dropped about 50 seconds. The strange thing is that I seem to be on the same course of progress as when I came back from having Max. Except back then I took nearly 4 months off of running whereas now I’m coming back from taking off for 2 months. I’m still thinking about what all of that means. I’ve been running since I was 15 – maybe I just have a base of fitness and baseline of biomechanical efficiency that even with time off, I can regain the top end speed in less time than I think. I know a lot of athletes fear time off or worry that a few missed run workouts either as prevention or due to injury will have a big impact on their fitness. I’ve learned from own experience that this simply isn’t the case. You might be rusty at the top end but it takes a lot to undo YEARS of fitness. Relax about it and free yourself to perform. What we think can be more limiting than any actual change in our fitness.
In other news, I went to the doctor last week and found out that I still have HCG in my system. That means technically, if I took a home pregnancy test right now, it would still be positive! Through this entire process (and this process started back in SEPTEMBER!?), the hardest part has been finding clarity. But first, I need closure. I need my body to return to normal. Every day I feel a little more like me, my weight is finally moving (and this was difficult, for about 6 weeks my weight didn’t budge no matter what I was doing) and I feel like my potential is translating into performance again. But I’m not there yet. I sense that in another 8 weeks, I’ll be closer to where I left off in September so I’m trying to be patient.
I had a few second opinion appointments, a few more tests done and got further confirmation that there’s nothing wrong with me other than my combined age/egg quality (and thank goodness, I found out I do not have celiac disease - it can cause recurrent loss - I think I would have cried cinnamon raisin bagels!). The best advice I was given was that if more children are in our future, to just keep trying. At some point, something will stick. I’ve been trying to process that. Because right now the idea of putting myself into that realm of huge risk and uncertainty does not sound enticing. I know it’s supposed to be hard and the most worthwhile things in life usually involve the most risk but…this is also my life. At some point, I need to move beyond risk and worry – I need to just enjoy the life I have and myself. I’m trying to give myself some space and time to enjoy that and hope that through leading my normal life, I’ll find the clarity to know, in my heart, what the best direction for us will be.
Until then, many more happy and hard miles ahead!