Spartan Shape-Up, Day 268:
What a DAY, BlogLand. It turned out to be a beautiful Friday here in VT... warm, but not too warm (like March should be), and sunny. FINALLY.
Today was 5K training with a couple of co-workers/friends, since we're preparing to run the Corporate Cup 5K in mid-may. Prizes include company-wide bragging rights, as well as general race feelings of accomplishment. SO, we train on Friday's after work. Luckily, we have access to a great rec path not too far away, that has marked mileage, as well as lovely little scenic rolling hills. The tourists love this place.
Our training trio also had a tiny addition, today - one of the ladies had brought her (SO CUTE.) daughter in the jogging stroller. She had mentioned that pushing the jogging stroller was quite the effort last time she tried it, and it would be great to be able to switch off. Having never tried running with a loaded stroller, I thought to myself (as I often stupidly do), "how hard could it be? It's on wheels, her little girl isn't that big...." so I volunteered to take that duty. Since a 5K is a pretty usual run for me, I figured any added challenge would be a bonus, and would allow my other two buddies (who are just getting back into running) to focus on what they were trying to accomplish. An excellent plan!
(This is where I must temporarily digress and throw a shout out to Spartan Chick Shaina - remember the one I told you passed me last week in my race, pushing a double jogging stroller? Dear Shaina... I was humbled then.... and now.... holy crap, lady, you are a beast. I am proud to say you passed me.)
If you have never tried running and pushing one of these things before, it seems very simple. However, I soon learned that - like most of these workouts - it is anything but. Yes, it glides along nicely, but you are still pushing against constant resistance. Not to be thwarted, I took off my long sleeves ( it got warm fast...), and settled down to -work-.
I got in the swing of things and how to run well with this stroller after about 1/2 mile or so... just as we hit the first "quaint, rolling hill". This is the point at which I learned just how heavy a jogging stroller and 3 (?) year old are, when they have absolutely no forward momentum of their own, and have gravity working against you. They may look cute, but they are 80 pounds (?) of something that is working against you, while you are trying to keep pace and move it up a hill. But it was early in the run, and I navigated this first hill pretty well.
Soon after, I learned that I could maneuver the stroller with one hand on the flat, freeing my other arm up to swing in stride. That helped the situation, allowing me to get into more of a regular motion that my body is used to. I was warm, and I was ON a MISSION now. There was no way I was going to pass off this duty and be defeated by a sporty yellow stroller and a cherubic, blond tiny chicklette.
On we went. I was in the groove. I figured out it was more efficient to just plow up the hills. While I was still having to push the effort, it was over more quickly... and probably, those weighted hill sprints (I think 6 in total?) were good to break up the run and challenge my muscles a bit more.
I did stumble across the best motivator EVER, though. As we jogged along, the Mom, unfettered by stroller, would sometimes get ahead of us. If she got *too* far ahead - meaning I wasn't busting my butt enough - the mad cuteness in the stroller would start saying things like, "Catch Mommy!!!" and "MOMMY WAIT!". Oh God. If that doesn't make you run faster. How could you say no to that!?!
.... As a reward, apparently when I was keeping up the appropriate pace, the wee one would sing pleasantly to herself.
As came back, when I knew we were in the last mile or so, I figured it was time to push it a bit, and really get some good work in. I've slacked a bit this week with other WODs, so time to push. I picked up the pace.
.... which oddly felt good. (WHAT!? Was I having fun?!)
My body felt really strong running today, so I pushed it more. More speed. We were in the last quarter mile.
Can you do sprints pushing a jogging stroller?
.... OH YES you can.
I challenged the Mom of the Wee Cuteness to a sprint. And by that I mean I said (as I trotted out in front), "Don't let me beat you!!!" In retrospect, it was probably a pretty evil thing to do, as both my running buddies were getting tired.... but, I figure, everyone needs a push and a little incentive sometimes, right? I know I do.
We hauled ass. There is no better way to say that. She busted past me, right as we got to the end.... but I maintain that that was because we hit an uphill and I had to push her baby. LOL. Or she was running like something was chasing her. It was GOOD WORK. 5K, in the books for today, no problemo.
I decided, as I was running the last bit of it, I was enjoying the process of running with the added challenge. I think this means that I'm going to have to start running with Extras (weight vest? log? rock? tire?) more often. It was really nice to feel like I was challenged by something outside of my own body.
After mentioning this excellent workout and my revelation about running with weight, I got the most awesome response. Sparta's own Sergeant Sedlak (you remember way back when, when Todd came to try and kill me on the track?), simply commented:
"Where's that girl who couldn't run three miles without walking?"
... annnd.... I had instant teary eyes (Thanks, Todd! geesh. ;-)). I was suddenly reminded very distinctly of how far I had come. I think I really needed that. I remembered very vividly the extreme frustration because I just *couldn't* seem to get over the hump of running straight through a 5K without walking, no matter how often I did it, or how hard I tried. My own brain was sabotaging me somewhere I couldn't find to tackle. I also remember in extreme clarity, the day that I finally accomplished that run, jumping into a giant hug, sweaty and ecstatic, at the finish line of a little 5K with my GT, who had coached me through running the whole thing - even when I was "sure" I could not.
In between those two moments, I found support and help came from everywhere - even places you never expect. Veritable strangers who are willing to meet you at the crack of dawn to help you start seeing yourself in a different light, hordes of online friends who sent messages and tips to me, who'd they'd never met, acquaintances who'd tell me that they were inspired by my determination, a GT who sticks with me through extreme crazy spells, and (a select few) friends who always listened patiently (even when they didn't care or know what I was talking about), about that day's run... Even the completely random strangers who the Cosmos would sporadically have cross my path and cheer me up a hill, or beep support at me running hard in the city.
I have been beyond lucky, BlogLand. Moments like tonight, when I am reminded of my beginnings and the journey it has been, really reinforce that for me. I'm proud of myself. Not necessarily because I ran today, or I ate an apple instead of a cookie, but because I made the decision to DO THIS. And I am.
I'm not where I want to be, yet (and really, can you ever be "there"?), but I'm having one hell of a journey. It's nerve-wracking at times, I doubt myself, I cry because it hurts, I scream because I still struggle, I wonder if I'll ever make progress..... Then I am reminded that I *KNOW* I will make more progress. Because I have. Because of the most odd-ball fabulous support system, ever. Because I'm not a quitter. Because I didn't come this far to turn back now. Because I CAN (and there are not enough Thank Yous, for those of you who've helped me really believe that).
And I've decided I'm not done, yet.