Tag Archives: sports

Crossing the Line

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I planned on writing a typical year-in-review blog.  You know the type … These were my goals, this is how my training went, blah blah blah.  And if you already posted something like that, please don’t take offense.  I totally understand, and I really do enjoy reading about your accomplishments!

But I had an “aha” moment this week (not surprisingly) during a run.  Not just an ordinary run, either.  I was running through a blizzard.  Yep, I looked outside at the swirling snow, the unplowed street, and said, “Hey, I should go out for a few miles.”

Blizzard Run: Before, During, and After!

Blizzard Run: Before, During, and After!

So I layered-up, laced-up, and headed into a winter wonderland.  As I leaned into 30 mph wind gusts and wobbled my way through six inches of fresh powdery snow, I realized something.  I wasn’t out there because of a training schedule, a weight loss goal, or some other numerical obligation.  I was out running because it was something I wanted to do.

And that’s when it hit me:  What I accomplished in 2012 can’t be summed up by mileage totals, race times, or age group awards.  It can’t be summed up by calories burned or pounds lost.  At some point during the past year I crossed the line and became an athlete.

Some people may reserve the term “athlete” for those that excel at a sport — For example, a runner that meets some arbitrary level of speed or distance.  But now I realize that being an athlete is more about EFFORT than about specific numbers.  So, for what it’s worth, this is MY definition of athlete:  A person who has the strength, ability, and desire to participate in physical pursuits on a regular basis.  And that’s what I have become, although, I’m not sure exactly how or when it happened …

Maybe it was that I didn’t throw in the towel when my IT band forced me to stop running for a few months.  It sounds weird, but I found a strange pride in having a sports-related injury.  I mean, you can’t get one of those while you’re sitting on the couch, right?  I remember one moment when a particularly tough therapy assistant was harrassing me about my sloppy effort by saying, “Come on, you’re an athlete, you can do better than that.”  If she called me an athlete, could it be true?

Or maybe it was when I decided that swimming laps was not enough of a workout on its own.  So I started biking to and from the gym, which is about 9 miles each way.  Those were some of my favorite workouts of the summer!

Or maybe it was when I was able to walk into a running store without feeling like a deer in the headlights.  I had a nice conversation with the owner about running form, new shoe models, and local race courses.  Phrases like “my weekly mileage” and “mid-foot strike” rolled effortlessly off my tongue.

Blog Quote 2Or maybe it was the day that I crashed my bike during a particularly long ride.  I was battered and bruised, but I patched myself up enough to ride the remaining several miles home.  I had a grass-stained shirt, swollen hand, and bleeding leg … but I kept up with the guys for the rest of the ride and felt pretty stinking tough while I did it.

Or maybe it was when I realized how much I look forward to my early morning workouts.  There is something I really enjoy about waking up and heading out the door before most people have started brewing their coffee.  (I know, sick, right?!?)

Maybe it didn’t even happen at one particular moment.  Maybe all of this year’s experiences were like drops in a bucket that collected until it eventually overflowed.

Here is what I do know about 2012:  I didn’t run a certain number of miles or a sub-4:00 marathon.   I can’t do a pullup (yet) and I don’t have six-pack abs.  But I don’t really care.  I crossed the line.  I am an athlete.

 

What about you … How was your 2012?  Do you measure your success by the numbers (distances, race times, etc.) or by something less black-and-white?

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The author is a wife, mother, and solidly average “middle of the pack” runner from Northeast Ohio.  Find her on Twitter, @MileageMama:  https://twitter.com/MileageMama

Redemption, With a Side of Feathers

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There are a lot of different reasons runners flock to their local Turkey Trot.  (Pun completely intended!)  For some, it’s a family tradition.  For others, it’s a chance to burn off some extra holiday calories.  This year for me, it was all about redemption.

Calling all Turkey Trotters

Looking back over the 2012 racing season, I should’ve been happy.  Using a more balanced and consistant training approach kept me injury-free.  I’d checked several goals off my list …  PR a 5K?  Check.  Win an age group award?  Check.  Complete a triathlon?  Check.  (Don’t let the lack of blog entries fool you, it was a great summer!)And yet there was still something bothering me.  One race had gotten under my skin, left a sour taste in my mouth, more than any event ever had:  The Towpath 10K.

I’d run one previous 10K, in July 2011.  It was a tough race back then, when I was just starting to run longer distances, and 6 miles was still a pretty daunting challenge.  Although I was very happy to finish in 59:21, the combination of heat and hills made it tough.  Since that time I’d completed a half marathon, lowered my 5K time by more than a minute, and lost several pounds as I added biking and swimming to my training routine.  Plus the Towpath was a flat route on a cool October day.  All of that should easily translate into a sub-59:00 finish, right?

Wrong.

I’ve never been one to have exact splits pre-calculated, but I usually go into a race with at least a general strategy in mind. Maybe I had gotten complacent after my recent string of successes, but I showed up at the Towpath starting line without a plan. And this time it cost me. I ran the first half a little too conservatively, and by the time I realized it, even a sub-9:00 final mile wasn’t enough to make up the difference. Instead of being the exclamation point at the end of my best-ever summer as a runner, I was left with a feeling of disappointment.

Added to that, I knew last fall’s Turkey Trot had been the nail in the coffin of my IT band struggles, leading to a winter of frustration and physical therapy.  So I showed up to THIS year’s race with a bone to pick.  (Get it?  Turkey … bone … Ok, ok, I’ll stop.)

My Racing Buddies

The Cleveland Turkey Trot typically draws several thousand runners.  It’s a fun and festive atmosphere, and I absolutely love the energy that comes from people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities gathering at the starting line, ready to conquer the 5-mile course.  My primary goal was to break 50 minutes.  Maybe if it was a REALLY good race, 48 minutes … but I didn’t have the guts to admit that anywhere other than in the deep recesses of my own head.  And certainly not out loud.

Determined not to repeat my Towpath mistake, I pushed myself a little more than normal during the first mile.  I let the crowd sweep me along and was pleasantly surprised that my first mile was at a 9:08 pace.  Other than a little tightness in my calves, I was feeling pretty good, so I kicked it up just a tad.  The second mile actually ended up being my fastest, at 8:56, but it really didn’t feel like I was struggling at all.

At this point we were heading downhill, toward the Lake Erie shoreline and Browns stadium.  I prepared myself for the turn back toward downtown and the climb back uphill that would follow.  I focused on shortening my stride slightly and using my arms a little more, and before I knew it, I was at the top.  That hill work this summer paid off!

The next couple of miles felt exactly like I want them to: strong, steady, and under control.  But I was still surprised each time the voice in my headphones broke in to give me an update.  Even though I had slowed down slightly, I was still averaging 9:25/mile or less.  I actually started to think that maybe something was out of whack with my GPS, because there’s no way I felt THIS good while running THAT pace.  It didn’t help that I had somehow missed seeing every mile marker along the course …

Until I finally saw the sign with the giant number 4, and looked down at my watch to see a time of just under 38 minutes.  Despite my race-induced brain fog, which typically prohibits me from doing any type of mathematical calculations in my head, I knew I had a good chance to beat even my best-case-scenario time.  I found another gear, concentrated on keeping my feet as light as possible, and focused my gaze several blocks away on the finish line …

Or what I thought was the finish line.  Turns out I was looking at the trucks that were parked about half a block PAST the finish.  It was a little congested with runners as I neared the end of the race, and I didn’t see the ACTUAL finish line until it was only around 100 feet away.  Too bad, because I probably could’ve started my finishing kick a bit sooner.  Nevertheless, I was still absolutley ecstatic to look down at my watch and realized I’d finished in under 47 minutes.  (46:52, to be exact.)

Love the shirts this year!

It sounds silly, but I actually felt a few tears well up in my eyes.  Instead of limping away from last year’s Turkey Trot, or immediately wanting a “do-over” after the Towpath 10K, I was left with the feeling of pride and accomplishment I’d been searching for.

Sure, I wasn’t even close to being the fastest runner on the course.  But that’s not really what running is about for most of us.  It’s about slaying the internal demons of doubt and pushing past your personal boundaries.  It’s about knowing you finished what you set out to do.  And it’s about waking up the next morning and wanting to do it all over again.

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The author is a wife, mother, and solidly average “middle of the pack” runner from Northeast Ohio.  Check out her new Twitter handle @MileageMama:  https://twitter.com/MileageMama