I wouldn't be fairly depicting my running training if I only talked about the milestones I'm hitting successfully and not the downers of the whole experience. So, I am 35 days away from my half marathon and still mostly on track with my training program. "Mostly" meaning I am still successfully completing the prescribed long run distances on the weekend (7 miles at this point) and running at least twice more during the week. However, logging the prescribed distances on the mid-week runs is hit and miss. I had a week of inconsistent training when I tweaked my back and couldn't run for almost a week - turns out my hips are out of alignment and "I'm weak" - got to love physical therapists and their tactful delivery of such news - so I had to start some physical therapy to strengthen my hips and core which has helped tremendously after only a couple of weeks.
I'm supposed to be running 4.5 miles as my "short" runs during the week but that means a full hour and 15 minutes on the treadmill which - added to the time necessary to stretch, cool down and change my clothes twice - doesn't really fit so easily into my allotted hour of time at the gym during my work day anymore. Finding that kind of time twice during the work week regardless of where I run is a challenge since home life is just as demanding as it has ever been with an 8 month old and a competitive dancing 8 year old. This week I managed a 3.5 mile run in the gym and a 2 mile run last night... at 10:00 pm... in the dark...with my headlamp and flashing tail-light for safety of course! (Yes, I look like a fool but I'm a safe fool nonetheless!)
Last weekend the training plan called for us to run a 5K race. No big deal - that's only half the distance of my last week's run of 6 miles which I finished no sweat. Weeks ago my training/running partner and I had found a free race and registered. The only criteria at that point was a 5K on the specific date. Then we realized it was the same VERY hilly venue of the first 5K we'd run a couple of months earlier to celebrate the end of our walk-to-run program. Neither of us wanted a repeat of those hills - especially since we're training solely for downhill since that's what our half marathon is going to be. So, we came up with a brilliant plan to find a different race that would be flatter and easier. Great idea, right?
Well... all ideas are usually good in theory.
We picked a race that was being put on as part of the local high school's Homecoming/alumni weekend. It was right by the house and thus part of the terrain I've been training on - piece of cake, right? And the price was right: $10 and included breakfast. What could be better? We show up and realize it is a very small event. And by very small I mean there are more people gathered to cook breakfast than it looks like are running the 5K. But that's okay because the entire current cross country team is going to run. So, there are literally a total of about 40 people - 30 of which are twiggy 15-17 year old high school runners. We all line up at the starting line - us "just finish"ers in the back since we are definitely not going to win regardless.
The starting gun goes off, everyone dashes off - including me running a pace there is no way in hell I can maintain which I don't realize for about a 10th of a mile until fellow runner checks our pace and says something (I love running with gadgets, by the way!). Now I've burned through all of my reserves by trying to run a 9-minute mile pace UPHILL and we've already been left in the dust by everyone - and I mean everyone. Oh, and did I mention that the welcoming and familiar terrain I thought was going to be so fabulous is exactly the reverse since we are running the opposite way I assumed we would and now almost the entire thing is a steady uphill run? Oh, I didn't?
Welcome to my own personal Hell.
The next 2.6 miles was me in the very back of the small pack feeling like a complete failure. At the 1-mile marker, I had to stop running and walk because the uphill was killing me. Approaching the aid station for water, I saw the pre-pubescents directly in front of me actually point and say "she's the last one" - to which I wanted to scream "FUCK YOU" and punch them in their faces, but I refrained. I ran the one flat spot in the insanely steep uphill 2nd mile and felt vindicated when the same little snots had stopped to sit on the curb because they couldn't go on. (Teach them to disrespect their elders!) At this point I was so low mentally that I had practically convinced myself that I was not a runner let alone capable of any kind of distance and that I might as well just consider my registration fee gone because I shouldn't consider even attempting a half marathon. Forgotten was my 6-mile straight run 6 days ago - I was a complete loser who had no business even owning a pair of running shoes.
Yeah, I was that low... and more than once close to tears. At one point we ran past an entrance into my neighborhood and I seriously contemplated just turning in and running home with my tail between my legs and hoping no one asked how my 5K had gone.
And then we hit the downhill portion - the final stretch. And I started gaining on the 12-year old and her Dad who had been walking most of the way up the bitch of a hill. And then I passed them while listening to her whine about how hard it was. All I could think was "I'm NOT going to be very last!!" Well, I wasn't - barely. And I finished - which at the end of the day was all I had been aiming for anyway. However, I was still totally down on myself for being last for most of the way and for my slow ass pace which is completely normal at this stage of the game.
It has been a week and I'm still mired in self-doubt and wondering where this competitive nature came from since it has never been about winning for me. There is much to be said about participating in large events with lots of other people at all levels of fitness participating so you get lost in the crowd and can focus on running your own race, competing only with yourself. This is an individual sport and the only person I need to be better than is myself time after time as I build up my endurance. At this point speed doesn't matter, hills don't matter, it only matters that I have the ability to run 13.1 miles... all downhill... in 35 days. Everything else will come later.
Or at least that's what I keep telling myself! We'll see how I feel after another 5K - this time on verified flat terrain - slotted for tomorrow and a 7-mile DOWNHILL run I'm looking forward to on Sunday. Do I still love running? Yes - except for the days that I hate everything about it!