Sunday, March 13, 2011
Mirrors and the 8K
It seems grown-up fairy tales are all the rage in Hollywood right now. I recently heard two Snow White versions are in the works. Apparently Julia Roberts is cast to be the evil queen, who is most famous for the line: "Mirror, mirror on the wall... who is the fairest of them all?" The mirror being magical and accurate answers truthfully, and sadly for the queen, the answer is Snow White. (In say, 10 years, when I let my daughter use the internet, she may read this and comment below if I got that wrong, but I think that is generally correct).
Oddly enough, for most people, myself included, the "reflection" we see in the mirror of life is not always the truth. Rather we have a very distorted vision of who we are and rarely do we have a magical mirror that speaks truth into our lives. I am thankful for that most of the time.
I think the area most people fail to see correctly is their physical image. People who are thin think they are fat, and many people who are overweight somehow don't see it. My parents were kind enough to remind me the other day that when I played softball I had a knack for swinging at pitches far above my head. I recall more than a few occasions hearing from the stands while at bat: "You couldn't have hit that if you were standing on a ladder." Oh the love in my family. Being one of the shortest people my age, I must have had a tall person complex.
Age seems to be another area where we avoid the truth. My husband laughs because it takes me quite a few minutes to recall how old I am. I did a triathlon once where I accidentally gave the wrong age to the volunteer marking competitors. My husband asked why I had a 29 on my leg and I said "that's my age" to which he quickly corrected me. (For the record, my error did not change my age class or impact any results) In my opinion, age is overrated and an inaccurate description of my health. Young people try to act old and older people often act young and immature.
This weekend, I faced the truth of speed. Saturday was the Juana Run 8K.
Ok, let me insert here that I have not seriously raced short distance (under the marathon) in quite some time. Before having children, I raced often and all distances. However, over the years, I got married, had three kids, moved across the country several times, and started focusing on longer distances. I wasn't racing shorter distances, I wasn't training for speed, and I lost touch with how I was really running. So when I signed up for the Juana Run 8K, I was excited to get back into speed training and use this race as a baseline to measure future races of similar distances.
On race day, it looked like it was going to remain below 50 degrees until afternoon, so I opted to leave the kids at home with their grandmother. The plan had been to bring them along and enter at least one in one of the kids races, but plans changed. So I arrived alone, checked in and warmed up. I noticed quite a number of fast runners warming up as well, possibly representing some local teams. I was excited there would be a fast contingent. The sun was out and I started to question the weather report so I checked the car thermometer. Sure enough: 50 degrees. That is my shorts cutoff so I changed and headed for the start line. I always think it is funny when guys (and gals) in their 1980s sneakers and sweatpants are standing on the starting line while the announcer is asking slower people to back up and faster people to the stay at the front. Maybe those people need a magical mirror more than I do, but alas, I can only focus on bettering myself right now.
Having not raced the 8K distance and honestly not exactly knowing how many miles it was (I guessed around 5, though it turns out it is 4.97), I started out pretty hard and did the best I could to maintain that pace as long as possible. As I soon discovered, I was not going to keep up with the elite, so I just held to the fastest pace I could. At some point before the first mile marker, I admitted to myself this pace probably would not last the entire race. I prefer to race negative splits, so it frustrates me to no end when I go out too hard. Darn it. Anyhow, I hit mile 1 and heard the volunteer announce 6:45. Yikes! If this was the best mile I was going to have, this race was not going to be my best experience ever. I don't recall my splits for the remaining miles and I wasn't keeping them on my watch, but my time ended up being 35:16. When I crossed the finish and saw this number, it was my magical mirror moment. You see, somewhere in my head, I was thinking this race was going to take 30 minutes. So one minute per mile slower was not anticipated.
Over the rest of the weekend as I reflected on this moment of truth, I came to terms with a lot of issues. I still think I am as fast as I was before I had kids. I mean, thanks to running and CrossFit, I look like I did back then, so why shouldn't I be as fast? I am stronger than I was back then, I am wiser and hopefully more mature. So why am I not faster? How could I have been so naive? How could I have thought so much of myself to set a standard I was not able to achieve?
Well, here is the obvious statement: I have not been training to be fast. I have not been focusing on shorter distances, I have not been spending any time at the track, and I have not been purposeful. I have been getting stronger and I have been loving running again and inspiring others to do so. This reality check proved to be one of the best experiences ever in that it has reset my focus on training weaknesses. This race has become a good baseline to work from.
I know I can run forever, but can I get there quicker? We shall see...