Tuesday, March 29, 2016

it's never a comeback, it's always just life

I have a friend, a good one that I've known since middle school, that posted on the Facebook a few months back looking for a gym buddy after work.  He couldn't find one, so for the last month or so, I've been texting him most afternoons to kick his ass help him stay motivated.  (Hashtag friendship).
At the end of last week, he mentioned that he was going to run a 5K Saturday morning, and that planted a little seed, it woke up a thought in my brain.  I had a really great coffee chat with my friend and trainer and training partner Erin about a month ago when I was trying to sort through all of this.  And she told me, when you feel like you can go out and run a hard 5K, that's when you are ready to start training again.

Things have not been magical superstar unicorns everywhere in the two weeks since the last round of prolotherapy.  I ran ten miles and that was great, true, but there were some days when I rode the trainer for such a small amount of time before bailing that I simply just erased the file without dumping it in my log.  Which, for an OCD Type A nut like myself, is notable.  Despite my massive impatience with my physical body, I was feeling well enough by Friday afternoon that I did some poking around on the internet to find the least expensive way to find out if I could run a little bit hard.  My "race plan" was to start running, see how it felt, and if it wasn't something my body was ready for - and my body has not been shy about this recently - well, I am at least confident that I can run three miles at eleven-minute pace.  And that would be okay, too.
Last week we had the kind of crazy weather that exemplifies spring in Colorado.  Tuesday it was 70 degrees and I ran in shorts and Wednesday morning we got something like 15+ inches of snow.  It cleared up a little bit on Thursday and Friday but we woke up Saturday morning to another 8ish inches.  One of our cars has four-wheel drive, though, so off we went.  We got there early enough that I was able to register and then jog about two miles of the course.  I almost never arrive at races early enough and with my shit together enough to jog the whole course but I was glad that I was able to cover a bit because most of the path around the park was solid ice.  This is going to be a contest of 'he who eats shit the least gets to the finish line the fastest' I told the poet when I made my way back the car.

The last time I pinned on a bib was over four months ago so it's likely unsurprising that I have completely forgotten how to do anything on race morning.  I managed to stop instead of lap my watch multiple times while warming up, I lost my toe tag somewhere in the fifty feet between registering and the car, I forgot to drink my bottle or eat my snack or use my inhaler and I didn't take off my iPod or my long sleeve after warming up and I was nowhere near the start when I heard TWENTY SECONDS RUNNERS! over the little loudspeaker.  I managed to stuff my new toe tag in my shoe and finish pinning my bib on crooked while jogging up to and over the line, laughing, because how am I such a disaster on the morning of a 5K yet ironman unfolds fairly smoothly all the way into the water?
Because of all of this, I went blazing out down the path trying to get around some of the bigger groups that were at the back, and about three minutes went by before I realized that whatever pace I was running at was a) faster than I had run in months and b) a terrible idea.  I hit the brakes a little as we ran off the path and down an icy trail, under a little bridge and then waded through a ditch at least calf-deep with slushy wet heavy snow. 
I saw the poet somewhere around the first mile marker and I think he tried to tell me something (if I'm going to forget to ditch my shuffle I might as well have it on).  I realized that I was running hard and my back wasn't hurting and it felt so good to dig into my lungs a bit.  So I waved at him as I went by, I smiled and gave a thumbs-up, I didn't care about anything other than the fact that I was out there, not in pain, happy.

We slid and tiptoed around the park in the ice, I noticed that I was hungry somewhere in the first mile (please see: forgot to eat my snack), we got to splash through the ditch again and that was about it.  I felt like I could keep running at that pace for a while but that I had no capacity to turn my legs over any faster than I was doing, which makes sense based on the amount of running I've done over HR 140 in the past four months i.e. nearly zero.  When I saw the finish line I sent a message down to my legs forty seconds left let's turn it up which was completely ignored & I ran steady and straight over the line.  I had no idea what my time was or who was around me or anything except I had raced again.  I can try to qualify it with the size of the race (small) or the weather (snowing) or my pace (unremarkable) but there is not a better feeling in the world than to cross the finish feeling thrilled with whatever went down between the lines.  The goal was to run hard if I could and I did.  Check.
The race was small enough that I won my age group (and got thumped soundly by three other women, one of them ten years old), so that was fun although I'm not sure when I will be able to use my free week at the bungee karate gym but I did enjoy my bottle of OSMO the mini Crunch bars as a recovery snack (this whole post should be entitled do as I say NOT AS I DO).  I happily blasted social media with my joy and we stopped to add another pair of running shorts to my closet on our way home, as you do.  Someone sent me a text, something about a comeback and at first I was all F yeah who's the comeback kid I'm ready to go now but later that afternoon I realized, no.  It's not a comeback.  (Comeback to WHAT, anyway?!).  It's never a comeback, I don't want to go back.  It's always just life.  No one over the last 3-4 months has really been able to help me pinpoint what exactly derailed me so badly here, over and over again I have been told sometimes things just happen and there is no reason.  And I want there to be something, a glorious moment of my own spectacular jackassery, so that I can learn from it, so I can avoid it, so I can move forward hopefully a tiny bit smarter than I was before.  
Regardless of all of that, here I am.  It's the end of March.  I am desperately out of shape.  I have gained over ten pounds, I haven't even been back on my bike long enough to be able to be aware of how disastrous my fitness is there, I've done one hundred thousand fucking clamshells but I have not touched a weight in months, let's not even discuss the workout bikini situation, my body does not feel like me, it does not feel like my own.  But I've never been more aware of the fact that I get to decide what to do from here.  I can hang it all up, I can say it's not the right time in my life to chase goals in this sport, I can chuck out this season and take some time off and try again next year, or the year after, or not at all, I could come up with a dozen different really excellent reasons to let the part of me that likes training and racing sit in the backseat for a while.  Except for one thing.  I don't want to.  I don't think it's time for that.  I feel ready.  To take the deep breath, to start looking at the future, and to start working on the little things that have been shelved while the big thing was exploding with fire.  I learn a few years ago that I get to choose.  Nothing changes unless you change.  So no, it's not a comeback.  Don't call it a comeback.  Call it life, and let it be.