Thursday, November 30, 2006

Slow and Steady Literally Won the Race

My competitive nature never ceases to surprise me. Every time I feel like I’ve reached a place of acceptance regarding my running pace, I’m thrown into a situation where I am compelled to “keep up” with the running masses.

Case in point, Wednesday evening CES training consisted of a 5K predictor race. In a predictor race, you “predict” your time then run a 5K “race” sans watch. The goal is to finish as close to your predicted time as possible. It’s basically an exercise in knowing how to pace yourself, which for long distance running is important.

Prior to the run, I wrote down my time as 35 minutes, which seemed reasonable, considering in the last 5K predictor I ran with CES over the summer, I finished at 37 minutes. I figured 35 minutes was a solid estimate taking into consideration my improvement as well as my current easy pace.

Of course, this was an individual run; we didn’t stick with our pace groups and when the “gun” went off at the start line the entire CES crew was huddled in one big mass. I was determined to stay with the middle of the pack. Every time another person passed me, I told myself that I would just follow her pace, but I kept falling farther and farther behind. My legs were tired (thanks to the Spin class I took on Tuesday), the weather was unpleasant to say the least and classic late-fall Chicago, windy, rainy and cold, conditions that I, to be quite frank, have never run in before. I was struggling to keep up.

Once again (yes, again), I had to have the internal discussion about not measuring myself in relation to other people’s running ability, but to focus on my own successes, measure myself based on my goals and how far I’ve come. How many times do I have to tell myself this? “Enjoy the run,” I told myself, “despite the rain, the cold and the wind, if I slow down, I’ll enjoy the run.” And finally I reached my Zen-like place where I can accept the truth; I gave in to my ability, my body, slowed down and enjoyed the run.

When I crossed the finish line, the coach yelled out my time… 35 minutes on the freaking money friends, which meant, I won the race… literally, there was a prize for the person who came closest to his/her predicted time. Not only did I get an awesome CES baseball hat, a free burrito, and a pack of shot blocks (little gummy blocks of energy people eat during long runs), but I also got the praise of the CES coaches (which on the “feel good” scale was only second to the hat… I really wanted that hat).

I have realized that with every run, there is a lesson, often a humbling lesson about one's limits, about the elements, about one's ability to overcome obstacles. Wednesday night's taught me that it sure is nice to win. What? Me? Competitive? No...

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Great post Lou. While reading it I experienced similar feelings you went through yesterday evening during your run. At first I was worried for you, and then I was content with your decision to slow down your pace and I too felt at peace; my heart rate maybe dropped a little bit as a result. Then when you won the contest I was excited and filled with joy. It was a rollercoaster of emotions! Somebody give me a Xanex.