Happy Saturday, blogosphere.
It’s been the hottest August on record here in NJ/Philadelphia. That’s been a mostly good thing, for me. I’ve been training hard, through extreme heat, humidity, and quite serious health problems. I’ve been deliberately vague about what I’ve been going through, medically, because I’m writing a book/planning to write other assorted pieces/essays about the ordeal(s), but something I do want to share with you, who read my blog, is one of the few mantras I’ve been repeating to myself on my training runs lately:
“As I get sicker, I get fitter.”
It seems completely contrary to how we generally view the relationship between health and fitness. We’re taught to believe there’s always a positive correlation, as in, “As I get healthier, I get fitter.” Something everyone eventually learns is that, despite how well you take care of yourself, health is not something that’s always completely in your control. But, if health problems don’t limit your ability to train, you shouldn’t let them. If you properly harness the pain and frustration that come with chronic health issues, you can achieve measurable training gains. You can get fitter. And your fitness can pull you through.
After all, Darwin didn’t necessarily attribute survival to the healthiest. Survival is for the fittest.
I’ve spent the summer in and out of doctors’ offices, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms. I’ve also been running uphill tempo runs, mile repeats, and easy recovery jogs in between. I’m getting fitter, slowly. And I’m starting to regain my health. Perhaps there is a positive correlation between health and fitness, as in, “As I get fitter, I get healthier.”
This concludes the brief but necessary preamble to the actual race recap!
On to the good stuff:
I ran the Race to Graduate 5K (formerly the Run for Tony 5K) on Wednesday. I didn’t have any solid expectations going into this event. I just knew I wanted to run a race instead of my usual Wednesday evening hill workout, because it was a beautiful night – relatively less humid and in the high 80s, not 90s – to test my fitness.
I ate my usual summer pre-race/workout snack of 1/3 of a watermelon. It’s temporarily a bit bloating, but something about the sugar to water ratio really works to give me a burst of energy without causing any stomach upset whatsoever. I’m going to be extremely sad when watermelon season is over.
Chris and Eric came to watch the race and cheer me on. Once I signed up and pinned my bib, I jogged an easy mile warmup with Chris. My legs felt heavy, as per usual before a race, but I didn’t feel particularly anxious, since it’s summer and I was not expecting to PR.
I positioned myself as first woman within the first 200 meters of the race. I was a little bit nervous about that move, because there were other women who could potentially out-kick me later on, but I focused on running my own race. My first mile felt extremely slow. I hit my first split in 6:11 and was pretty pleased, because the effort was controlled and relatively easy.
Because the Race to Graduate course loops around on itself, it kind of feels like running a frustrating figure 8. But it also makes it easy for friends to cheer you on at multiple points in the race. It was nice to get a boost of morale from Eric and Chris. Chris also took some action shots of me, which was a treat! I hit my second mile in 6:28. I was able to overtake 3 or 4 guys, who sprinted ahead of me at the start, and move closer to the leaders.
The third mile (6:34) was not pleasant (they never are), but it wasn’t an all out struggle either. I had some kick left, turning the last corner (there were so many corners on this course) into the final stretch.
When I saw the clock, I realized I was seconds away from a PR. I ended up running 19:53 on a USATF-certified course, which is only 3 seconds off the 5K PR (run on a non-certified course) I set this past April. I’m really stoked to have run so close to my personal best in the summer heat. It’s a good sign, heading into fall.
If you’re so inclined, you can catch video footage of individual race finishers here!
I went for a one mile cool down with Chris and my new friend Eileen, who finished second woman overall, just a few seconds behind me. Everyone at this race was so friendly and supportive. There was plenty of water and pasta salad at the finish line. And then there were trophies…
I honestly could not believe the size of the trophy I won for finishing first woman. It’s literally 2/3 of my height. I also won a $50 gift certificate to Giumarello’s, a top-notch local Italian spot. I haven’t eaten there in forever. I will probably end up blogging about my prize feast.
It’s hard not to get ahead of yourself when you have a good race. Of course, you can’t wait to race again, and chisel more time off your PR. I’m trying to keep my goals attainable, and the best way I know how to do that is to focus on the work and not the results. Again, it all comes back to what you can control and what you can’t, in life and in running. I can control my discipline and dedication when it comes to regularly working out and maintaining my base mileage. I can’t necessarily control how my body responds.
Here’s what I’m focused on, heading into fall:
- Maintaining my weekly Wednesday tempo hill runs as it gets darker and colder, no matter how badly I want to quit
- Keeping my base mileage between 40-50 mpw, alternating higher and lower mileage weeks
- Racing monthly/bi-monthly
That’s all I have, for now! I am going to make an effort to blog more regularly in the coming months. Because I’ve been learning a lot about life (and running) that I want to share.
Questions for the Internets:
Did you race this week(end)? If so, how did it go?
What is your favorite pre-race/workout meal/snack?
What’s the biggest trophy you’ve ever won?