Sunday, April 13, 2014

Race Day!

As regular readers of this blog know, I set some rather large goals for 2014 - "large" in terms of changing some ingrained habits.  I've been checking in here with progress reports every couple of weeks, both as a way to stay accountable, even when I get off track (instead of doing the much easier thing, which is to slink off into the shadows), and also as a way to hopefully encourage other people to take the plunge.  To paraphrase Buffy Summers, the problem with change is that after you do it, everything is changed.  We often don't really want to do that. Change is hard and it can be uncomfortable, so sometimes, even if our habits aren't especially good ones - well, we know what to expect.

One of my goals was to increase my exercise level this year and I knew this was going to be a tough one.  I've long been a walker and a day-hiker, and I've tried my hand at everything from swimming to spinning, but nothing's ever really stuck.  But I have friends who regularly post about their exercise journeys - deadlifting, running, triathlons (!), roller derby - the list goes on and on. Also - let's face it - I'm getting older and it's harder to stay in shape.  At 20, a couple of nights of dancing and I'd drop four pounds.  Now, I have a much more sedentary lifestyle - I love writing and teaching, but you don't exactly burn calories while you do it and pounds are much more stubborn than they were once-upon-a-time.

So back on Christmas Eve, I committed to my goal of "participating in a 5K race."  My rules were simple - I didn't have to actually run the whole thing, but I had to finish and the race had to be held sometime in 2014.  That was it.  I found a "Couch to 5K" app and podcast and began what I called "training" and some would probably call "seriously?" Due to a subglottic stenosis (a fancy way of saying I have scar tissue in my trachea), getting enough wind for a sustained run was (and continues to be) an issue.  And I'm not sure I'd recommend beginning to train in the dead of winter.  But I did it.  Three times a week, I'd bundle up, plug in, and lumber my way through my (extremely hilly) neighborhood or around a track.  Let me be clear - I didn't always like it.  I had days I wanted to skip.  I had nights I was sore and achy.  I was slow.  It took me longer than the 8 weeks laid out in the podcast, as I had weeks I needed to repeat to feel confident that I was ready to move up to the next level. But I kept going.  Even if I grumbled about it, I kept going.  I began packing my running shoes when I was away from home and slowly, I saw improvement.  At the start of January, two minutes of slow jogging was hard; in mid-March, I could do more than 20 at a go and eventually, that was up to a half hour.  (I felt like a rockstar when that happened, by the way.  I also nearly cried, which rockstars probably don't do.  This was a big goal and I think every week I did at least one training session convinced that I couldn't do this.)

When I reached the next-to-last week of the podcast training, I signed up for my first 5K and my friends backed me up ferociously.  I had "atta girls" and signs of support galore.  Friends made me a race t-shirt and helped me knot a tutu.  My beloved husband never said a word that wasn't supportive and encouraging.  The only dissenting voice in this whole thing was - well, it was mine.  Luckily, I had enough support to tell that voice to shut up and take a hike.

For my first (but not my last!) 5K, I picked a "color run," which is an untimed race on a flat course, with "color stations" set up at different points.  As you pass through the color stations, volunteers spray/toss brightly colored cornstarch on you and at the end of the race, there's a dance party in front of the main stage where you fling your own pack of color into the air.  It's messy, silly, and joyously fun.  I saw little girls in pink tutus.  I saw grown women in sequined tutus.  I saw large men in small tutus.  I saw kids being pushed in strollers and one woman in a wheelchair.  I saw runners and walkers and joggers and limpers. And everyone was welcome.  Everyone.  A little kid complimented me on my homemade tutu and an off-duty cop keeping order on the route slapped my hand in respect of me running my first 5K.  I was covered in purple cornstarch - I even had it on my teeth.  And yeah, I had to walk a little of it here and there - but I finished.

Me. I. Finished. A. Five. Kilometer. Race.

What was my time?  Not a clue.  Somewhere between 35 and 50 minutes, I think.  There will be other races where I worry about the time. And yes - I'm going to keep running.  I'd like to improve my time and my form and - oh, everything.  I've found running (jogging, wobbling, whatever) to be very contemplative.  It really is just you, your head, and the road.

Consider giving it a try.

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