Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sometimes, you just need an Axe to tear down a Mental Wall.

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 144:

It was RACE DAY, BlogLand! An interestingly eventful one, even:

My day began somewhere between the Ass-Crack of Dawn, and the PRE-Ass-Crack of Dawn. What this means is that, when I left my driveway and made a beeline for the Dunkin Donuts down the road for coffee, the moon was still up. No joke. I got up, got coffee (sweet Nectar of Life!), and was on the highway by MOONLIGHT (looked full, even.).

I was headed out to Walter's Run, a 5K race down in West Roxbury, Massachusetts; A smallish run (not chip timed, about 400 people), but local to my GT and Ms. Fit Bee, and a great way to spend a Sunday.

After driving away from home about an hour or so, my phone working as a GPS in it's car mount, I suddenly realize I have NO BATTERY. Commence Panicking. (Why? Well. How else would I get there? A map? I couldn't call for directions, if my phone (with all my numbers in it!) died.) OH no. After some jiggling of wires, I see that I can get my phone to do a little intermittent charging, as long as I don't hit any bumps, and I start running through Plan B in my head. Shortly thereafter, I hit the NH State Liquor Store Rest Stop. After gathering some sustenance (ever try and get a healthy snack out of a vending machine!?), I happened to ask the attendant if he knew if the big Liquor Store might sell phone chargers. I must've had a bit of a Damsel-in-Distress look or something, because after a few questions, he offered to give me his "extra" one in the car. I told him I had no cash. He shrugged it off. He literally GAVE me his car charger, knowing he'd never see it again (I did offer to return it on my way back). Wow. Who knew the kindness of strangers was still alive? I took this as a sign that this day was meant to be a Good one, and off I went.

After a slight detour to pick up My Supreme Awesomeness of a GT, we went searching for the run... which proved to take a bit longer than anticipated, causing us to be skidding into a parking lot, and jumping out before the car even stopped moving (alright, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration...). Really, we had a WHOLE 8 MINUTES before the gun went off. Oh yeah, we were parked a block away, and no, we hadn't picked up our numbers yet. However, again, the Cosmos smiled on me today, and the organizers apparently decided to delay the start a few minutes, because enough people were running late (ha! no pun intended!). This allowed us JUST enough time to find the gym, grab our numbers, get into the starting crowd, and hear the gun just as we were pinning our last pin in place. Woo! Close one.

We started out at a comfortable pace for me, toward the back of the giant mass of people (leading me to think that my *actual* time might be about 15-20 seconds faster than posted...). I'm not a fan of this part. It's hard to find your stride, get some open road, and not run a bunch of people over all at the same time. I suppose that's why the more competitive types start more up front.

This run started on a slight downhill (Yay!), and leveled out nicely; a great relief after last week's Santa 5k hills! Then we turned up our first "hill". Now, I don't mean to pick on you people that live in flat places. My family is from, and I spent much of my younger years in, Massachusetts. However, when we turned up a wee little rolling "hill", and I heard the lady just behind me start bitching about the "hill," I must admit, I rejoiced a little bit. "If this is what they consider a "hill" around here, I'm going to be all set!!" I thought to myself. You see, there is no "flat" run in Vermont. We're the Green Mountain State. There is a reason the Death Race originated here (aside from the Awesome Crazy people...).

I felt pretty good for the first mile and a half-ish. GT helped keep me at a not-too-fast pace, as I am inclined to fall into, in these competitive situations. I was enjoying the change of scenery, the beautiful day, the company, and getting to stretch my legs after 3 hours in the car.

Then the battle began.

I had the first hint of desire to take a walk break. We had gotten past my warm up and entered the land where the actual work began. My breathing had picked up a bit, and I had to focus on getting the job done. GT and I began to talk (... and by "talk", I mean he imparted knowledge, and I panted grunts of affirmative understanding, between sucking in deep breaths.) about the importance of taking deep breaths... shallow breathing would tire me out more quickly, by not getting enough oxygen to my muscles. I kept running.

Then came the hill. Okay, Massachusetts, it would seem you do have a hill. It wasn't a terrible one, but it was late in the run - more than halfway through. Corrected by the GT, I kept my pace at energy-saving short, but quick, strides. I didn't look at the hill. I looked at the feet in front of me. Right, Left, Right, Left. It was hard now. My brain was heavily suggesting that a walk - just a tiny one! - would be a good plan. You know, tiny recovery. Then I tried to remember how frustrated I feel every single time I come back from a 5K distance, knowing I walked a bit. I latched onto that feeling with an iron mind, and focused in on the GT's coaching words. Short Strides. Right, Left, Right, Left.

We crested the hill and a woman informed us that we were less than a mile from the finish! As much as I wanted to be excited about that, and some of me was, I was trying to recover from the hill exertion. That wasn't happening easily. This is where I would walk, if it was just me running. My brain was screaming that a walk was all we could do. Between heavy breaths, I admitted to the GT that now, I wanted to walk. I didn't stop my labored trot, but I said that out loud. I had felt the inner excuses begin swirling around in my head, why it would be okay to walk, how I was still too fat to think I could do this, and on and on, and needed to stop that process. THIS was the proverbial vertical wall that I couldn't figure out how to get over on my own.

Today, however, I wasn't alone. I can't remember exactly what was said, the moment that I panted out my Walk Confession... but the answer I felt, from my invaluable GT, in my brain was a solid, inarguable, rock-like, "No." There would be no walking. He wasn't going to let me continue getting in my own way. Physically, there is no reason I can't run that distance. But I've been failing because of a long-constructed set of mental hurdles that I have been having trouble identifying and getting over on my own. Today, apparently, we were going straight through them. I WANTED to (so badly!), I just needed someone to believe that I could, right then, at that crucial moment when I started to doubt that myself.

We turned a corner... literally, and figuratively. I was STILL RUNNING.

Yep. Mental hurdle? Begone! I was still running, and I had actually recovered a bit. My legs were turning over, I was concentrating on taking deep, refreshing breaths, and we were still moving forward. It didn't feel bad. I didn't feel bad. My lungs had not, in fact, exploded and my legs, in actuality, had not turned to cement blocks.

Then it happened. The Rocky Theme began emanating from the GT's phone. I laughed, realizing that (omg) I was having fun. I didn't die. I could do this. I was doing it. Nothing like a little Rocky to bring you to Life's big revelations.

In the distance, I could see that the crowd had thickened... it was the finish line. FINISH LINE. I hadn't walked. I certainly wasn't walking now. Oh hey, wasn't I here to try and beat my previous times, too? Cue the Sprint to the Finish.

This may be my favorite part of any competition. Races or otherwise. That moment when you don't have to 'save up' anymore,  no more pacing yourself... just go. I kicked it up. I do wish I had really realized that was the finish line in the distance, earlier... I'm thinking I could've done it sooner. But there are always going to be those things to improve upon... At that moment, I was running to the end of a race that I had actually, truly, RUN for the first time in my life.

Wow. If you had said that to me a year ago, I would've laughed in your face. Hard.

Straight into the finish chute I went - happy, smiling and triumphant for more reasons than I could enumerate for you. Coming up along side me, the GT reported in on how he thought we had done "unofficially". Smiles and sweaty hugs were all I had at that moment. Confirmation. Wall, Gone.

Official Results:
Time: 32:40
Ave. Pace:  10:32

That means we hit another goal - finish in less than 34 minutes. I think we did that quite successfully. My previous best time was 34:40... we shaved TWO MINUTES off it. I *averaged* under an 11 minute mile over a multiple-mile distance, for the first time EVER.

There's no excuses now. I have the proof. I CAN do it. I DID do it. Nothing's stopping me now. We're in uncharted territories, and I'm not afraid. Aroo!

To add to the coolness factor of the day, we spotted Colleen Fit Bee, chillin' at the finish, waiting for some more of her friends. (Rumor has it Colleen did it in a ridiculously awesome time, placing 5th?). It was pretty fabulous to meet another one of the Spartan Chicks, in person. That network has been so inspirational, motivational and supportive of me through all of this, that I hope to meet each and every one of them. Colleen's similar major-weight loss journey, to successful marathoner has been nothing short of remarkable. She's living proof that it's possible, if you want it bad enough.

All in all, an excellent day. The only part that went slightly wrong, was the fact that I didn't cool down/stretch enough post-race. Instead, I went and sat and had some lunch (Yum!), then got in the car and sat for another 3 hours. After a solid hour in the car, my knees had begun to stiffen and throb a bit. OW. OWWWW.
Wasn't going to bring me down though... there was too much awesome in today. Came home, worked on re-hydrating, swallowed a handful of Ibuprofen (I may need to buy stock in this company...) and liberally applied the Tiger Balm to my achy knees. Awwww yeeeahhh. Feeling much better already.

....... When's the next race?

With that, BlogLand... I leave you for today. It's time to hit the pillow - Crossfit comes early on Mondays!

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