Finding the right inspiration…(how i became a runner part 4)

2011 was a big year for my running.  Firstly, I quit smoking once and for all on New Years Day.  That had a big impact…initially it was a negative one, actually, but paid off in the long run.  I’d quit so many times before, for a variety of reasons, and it had never really worked.  This time, I think I really did kick it.  But in quitting, I did put on some weight…probably put back on everything I’d lost in 2010.  But I was ok with that and had already decided that it would be detrimental to focus on both losing weight AND quitting smoking at the same time, so I focused first on quitting.  The hardest time of the day was right after the kids went to bed, because that’s when I would usually go have a cigarette.  So, running came in handy there.  I simply substituted running for smoking.  That’s a heck of a deal!  BUT, having taken 2 months off from running at the end of 2010 meant that my progress had all but disappeared.  I was back to 12 minutes miles.  But, I signed up for a race…the familiar (and flat) Shamrock Shuffle, and convinced two of my co-workers, Jeanette and Seth, to do it with me.  (Actually, I have to mention here that Seth wimped out on us.  He said it was too cold that morning to run.  Jeanette and I still tease him about it, because WE showed up and did it!)  My final time for this race (37:23) was actually slower than my last race, and WAY slower than my time in October of 2010.  And to add injury to insult, I did something to my hip and hamstring (not sure what, but it hurt)…so once again, I laid off the running.  a lot…as in, I went out 3 times in May…and was so slow, i think it’s really more walking than running.  And then….

I discovered cycling.  David had gotten a bike the previous fall and that spring, he let me borrow it one day.  Wow.  Cycling proved to be great cardio and WAY less painful than running!   Around that same time, we went from being a two-car family to a one-car family.  It was supposed to be temporarily so, while we looked for a new secondary vehicle, but actually found that we could manage quite well with just one car and Dave’s bike.  Eventually, I convinced David that we could probably get by permanently with just the one car if we were smart about it, and its better for the environment, our health AND our pocketbook, so we abandoned the search for a second car and instead, I got a bike of my own.  I bought the same model as David had gotten, which was your basic cheap (about $150) Wal-Mart bike, (i know, i know, all you cyclists out there are cringing, but I wasn’t gonna spend a whole lot on a bike until I knew if I was serious about it.) I spent the summer pain-free and cycling regularly, both home from work, for exercise, and for pure enjoyment, and not even thinking about running.

At the end of July, we went on our annual family vacation.  At that time, no one but I knew this, but it was my last hurrah.  I had made up my mind that after vacation, I was going to get healthy, and I was going to do it the old fashioned way.  If you missed my post about this, you can read about the nutrition side of this commitment here.  But it wasn’t just about eating less, it was also about exercising more.  So in the month of August, I started to work out….every day.  And I tracked it both in the Myfitnesspal app and on imapmyrun.  And I started running again.  My hip STILL hurt from whatever I’d done to it in March, but I ran anyway.  I was back to that pesky 12 minute mile thing, but my cycling was really improving, so I focused on that, and just as an overall, I was getting healthier, and really starting to feel it.  I hadn’t been smoking for well over half a year, and with all the cross training I was doing, I improved pretty quickly.  By the end of August, I was solidly under the 12 minute pace.  Sometime in September, I acquired a goal….My friend Michael had also been running, and like Diana, he was a source of inspiration.  As I mentioned before, it’s a good thing I’m not competitive at all, because despite a lack of consistency, Michael seemed to frequently beat my pace by a good 10-15 seconds.  Of course, we couldn’t really account for course difficulty because he had never run where *I* run and I had not ever run where HE runs.  So, we decided to mitigate THAT circumstance by planning to go for a run together at an upcoming conference in Texas in November.  SO, now I had something to (non-comepetively, of course) train for.  My running was improving, and at the same time, I was losing weight…..It’s a lot easier to run faster when you’re not hauling around a bunch of extra weight.  From my starting point at the beginning of August to the end of September, I’d already lost nearly 30 pounds, and my pace was back down to around 10:15 average.  I again decided to focus on the 2 mile distance and go for increasing my speed each time I went out running.  By the time I headed down to that conference in Texas, I’d lost another 16 pounds and I ran 2 miles in 18:41, a pace of 9:18!  I was ready to kick some Canadian butt!  (or so I thought)….

I don’t know HOW he did it, but when we went out for our run, he SMOKED ME.  BUT, at the same time, he pushed me.  Our pace for the first mile was 8:36, which was absolutely unheard of for me!  But I kept up with him.  Unfortunately, by the end of that first mile, I was worn out, I couldn’t maintain that pace.  He ran past me, went further out, and then caught up with me on the way back, then passed me again.  I was busy sucking wind, and he was busy laughing at me.  I have to say, I totally deserved it as I had been a rather typical trash-talking American.  He was waiting for me at the end, and you couldn’t have wiped the silly grin off his face with a whole bottle of windex and a roll of paper towels.  My overall pace was 9:17 over 2 1/2 miles.  The most important thing though, is that I realized what i was capable of.  I don’t know that I would have figured it out without Michael and that run.  When I returned to Kansas, I pushed myself to be better, to run faster, to work harder.  My next 2 mile run was at a pace of 9:13, and then, I ran in that same Thanksgiving Day 5K wherein I had beaten Diana in 2009.  This year, I ran it in 30:14.0, an overall pace of 9:43, and darn close to my goal of a 30 minute 5K!  I felt so great about that, that the next day, I decided to run to my mom’s house.  It’s 5.42 miles via running path/highway, and I walked only about 1/4 mile of it in the middle, Somehow, something had changed, and I found that I didn’t need to walk, really.  Alhough we had a fairly mild winter, it was cold enough that the bike had pretty much been put away for the season, so I was running more, and thus, getting faster, and more efficient, and I was still losing weight.  By Christmas, I had lost another 20 pounds, and on Christmas Eve Day, I went out to try my first 10K, which I completed in an hour, with an overall pace of 9:33.  An amazing thing happened during this run.  I became a runner.  Somewhere around the 5 mile mark, the world stopped moving….I felt as if I was not moving.  I was extremely comfortable and at peace.  My mind was quiet, my breathing relaxed…everything in the universe seemed to be working in concert.  It was the closest I have ever felt to perfection.  The runner’s high….I finally found it, understood it, and now regularly seek it.  Never would I have ever imagined I would hear myself say “I love running”.   My last run of the year was a more comfortable distance of 2.9 miles, which I completed in 24:51, an 8:34 pace.  And of course, it’s a good thing I’m not competitive, because if I *were*, at this point, I’d think….”8:34?  surely I can get that down to an 8 minute mile…after all, now I’m a real runner!”

Stay tuned….until then, here’s a reminder of the most up to date stats:

  •  November 2008 Thanksgiving Day 5K time – 57:24 (Pace: 18:28.52 min/mile)
  • Feb. 2009 Psycho-Wyco Psychedelic 5K Ice Version – 56:36.7 (Pace: 18:13.07 min/mile)
  • March 2009 Shamrock Shuffle 5K – 39:50 (Pace: 12:49.27 min/mile)
  • November 2009 Thanksgiving Day 5K – 36:44.7 (Pace: 11:49.4 min/mile)
  • October 2010 Unofficial (training run) 5K time – 31:22 (Pace: 9:58 min/mile)
  • March 2011 Shamrock Shuffle 5K 37:23 (Pace: 12:01 min.mile)
  • November 2011 Unofficial International 2.5 mile challenge time 23:38 (Pace: 9:17 min/mile)
  • November 2011 Thanksgiving Day 5K time – 30:14.9 (Pace: 9:43 min/mile)