I DID IT!!!!
San Dimas, California. September 24, 2012. A date and a place that will forever be etched in my personal history. It was the day I conquered a 10k race. I ran it just like I had planned to do and finished it just as I had expected to do (well, actually 4 minutes better than I expected). I am a 10k runner.
I began this journey ten weeks a go when I suggested to my friend Ericka S., "Hey, what do you think about trying a 10k race with me?" I knew nothing about what it took to actually accomplish this feat. Man, did I learn a ton a long the way. And the interesting thing was, I learned a lot more than just how to run in a race. There also were lessons that taught me about myself and what I had in me. Here are the top nine personal revelations that I gained on the road to my first 10k race:
#1- It's Not About Running.
When I first started out, I thought that my whole focus would be on the running. Did I have good form? How long were my strides? Could my breathing sustain my distance? Would I ever get to the point of feeling the famous "runner's high?" While these are all important, the running lesson that meant the most was, if I wanted to be a strong runner, my head needed to be even stronger. Being mentally tough is what makes a true runner. It was forcing my body to go longer, harder, and faster so that my mind would trust what I was doing. So, while good form is necessary, a strong resolve is mandatory. My commitment to get up, get out, and follow a strict training schedule, no matter what, meant just as much as the physical process. It was when I was able to control my mind that I felt my greatest sense of accomplishment.
#2- Have a Plan.
You know the drill: a goal is just a wish unless you write it down and mark the steps to get there. A runner friend, Marjorie M., recommended a great book to use for a training manual: Train Like a Mother - How to Get Across Any Finish Line and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.
Have never met these ladies before but I treasure them as the best of friends. I love their humor. I trust their experience. I depended on their expertise to get me through it all. It was an easy plan to follow and fit in perfectly with my schedule. My copy is dogeared and worn out because I literally read and re-read it every single day of my training. Following a well thought out and reliable plan was definitely a huge key to my success.
#3- Look Good, Feel Good.
No matter the occasion, I know if I am looking good, I have the confidence to go forward in uncharted territory. Running was no different. Believe it or not, proper clothing is essential to a successful race. Another runner friend, Dawn C., told me how important it was to wear clothes that were made of "wicking" -- didn't collect moisture. Moisture causes chaffing and chaffing can not only be very uncomfortable but it can slow you down too. I bought several versions of shirts that didn't allow sweat to absorb and would keep me cool in the process. (Prior to this experience I would have never classified myself as a sweaty person. That all changed once I expanded my distance and my speed. Some days, I couldn't believe how soaked I could get. Real Icky.) I chose bright colored shirts because as our practices rolled in to August and September, the days started getting shorter and the mornings darker. I didn't want to be a safety hazard on the trail or in the streets at 6:00 a.m.. My favorites? UnderArmour Charged Cotton.
I never heard of a running skirt before I started all of this. I had always exercised in capris. I really liked the freedom a running skirt allowed. Lastly, wearing a visor was a must. The sun often shines right in your eyes and who needs a headache, triggered by bright sunlight, when you are trying to run a long distance.
#4- What's Underneath Matters Too.
When you are 52, you don't have to think much about the underwear you use. But when you start running at 52, all of a sudden, your underwear becomes a big deal. Again, it all has to do with comfort and the potential chaffing situation. I invested in sports bras (even my non-boob self required some support) and panties. I opted for the "boy's shorts" style in a breathable, spandex/nylon blend. Some runners run sans-underwear. That kind of grossed me out so I didn't go there.
#5- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
You talk to any runner and they will tell you, you've got to drink water. I learned that the hard way. Prior to running, I was never much of a drinker. I just have never found any real pleasure in sipping liquids. After my first "long" run, I came home and got caught up in my Saturday chores, and other sundry of activities. Consequently, I forgot to drink. When noon rolled around, all of a sudden I felt bad -- really bad. My body ached. I felt feverish. I was going down real quick. I called Ericka to see if she felt the same and she replied in the negative. She asked what I had drank since our run and I said, "Nothing." Well, Ericka proceeded to let me have it and told me I had to drink...and drink a lot... after every run. I learned my lesson that day. From then on, I drank at least 8 ounces of water before I started out and then a minimum of 48 ounces right after running and another 48-64 ounces throughout the day. I sure felt better and had more pep once I started drinking more.
#6- Fuel Your Run.
Food helps stave off fatigue and gives you the energy needed to push yourself. This ended up being another important aspect that I had to learn how to accommodate. You see, I take thyroid medicine each morning which requires me to wait 1 hour before eating. Since I was getting up at 5:30 a.m. to run, I couldn't really see myself getting up an hour and a half before that to take my pill, wait one hour, eat something, and have it digested enough not to make me sick by the time I went running. I overcame this by either, a) eating a high carbohydrate meal the night before a big run so that I would have the needed calories to burn in the morning, or, b) eat carbs immediately after I ran. My favorite, high energy meal: whole wheat toast with peanut butter. Yum. Yum. Yum.
#7- It's Not About Weight Loss.
One of my motivators that got me running was that I wanted to get off my exercise plateau AND lose some weight. Well, my workouts ramped up my cardio but the weight just did not come off. Rather, it shifted. While the scale didn't change, my inches and where they were found did. That wasn't all bad. I just had to remind myself that I was building muscle and muscle is heavy.
#8- Cross Train.
While the emphasis was on becoming a runner, I learned that my body still needed to have other areas developed that would assist with my running. My training schedule had two days a week built in to do other activities. I chose yoga (to help monitor my breathing while running) and weight training ( to help me be faster, less sluggish, and leaner). Also, it was a nice break from the monotony of always run, run, running.
#9- Don't Do It Alone.
Having a friend to train with, share with, and encourage with made all the difference. Because of our schedules, Ericka and I could only work out together two of the six days each week of our training. How I dreaded getting out by myself on the other run days. B-O-R-I-N-G. We really
came to depend on each other for moral support and it was a great time to detox in other areas of our lives as well. I couldn't have done it without her.
Not only was having a running partner valuable but so was talking to others who have traveled this journey before. They became my running mentors. Marjorie M., Dawn C, Wes A. ( a professional runner), Judy B. (gotta have good tunes), and the tens of others who shared great tips along the way really helped. Their support was immeasurable. Don't be shy about your running. Speak up about what you are doing and welcome the advice and encouragement of as many people as you can. You will get tired. You will get sick of it. You will get discouraged. Talking to other people helped me to stick with it when I wanted to give up the most.
On race day, it was so great to have a cheering section as I rounded the bend for those last few strides. My husband, my parents (who just happened to be visiting from Arizona), Ericka's husband and daughter, were all a welcomed and relieved sight as I approached the finish line.
After the race, my daughter who has completed TWO half marathons (13.1 miles) asked me if "I had fun?" It took me a millisecond to respond: NO. Fun was never an option. Did I achieve my goal? YES. Did I learn something new? Yes. (see above) Will I do it again? Maybe. I certainly don't want to lose what I worked so hard to achieve. But at the same time, I'm not ready to jump right back at it. Ask me in about a week.