Monday, May 5, 2008

Slowing (or stopping) To Smell The Flowers

I mentioned a few posts ago about my method of running. I had talked with my coach, Jim about a week ago about how I didn't think I was a "real" runner because I am so lax about about it. Half the time I forget my watch, the other half I forget to time myself. Never mind the fact that I have NEVER remembered to hit the stop watch thingy on my watch. Jim listened as I talked (just one of the things I like about this guy)...and I was telling him how I don't time anything. I walk when I feel like it, I run when my legs start back up. It's a mindless method. There are times when I don't realize I've walked until I've started running again. The distance I set out to run is never the distance I wind up doing. Ever. Sometimes it's shorter, sometimes it's longer. I just never really know what I'm in for.

If I'm running with someone, I don't think twice about stopping to walk so I can enjoy the conversation. (this drives Mike CRAZY, which is why I do it when I run with him....haha). Running with Jim is an experience. He is a coach by nature, I learn something new every time we run. I walk away from those runs with a confidence only a great coach can bestow so effortlessly.

During my first couple months of training for the Sarasota Marathon with Jim, one thing that stuck in my mind was him telling me to always pay attention to my body signals. He said I'd learn to recognize the cues for when I needed a walk break and when it was time to run again. Jim said so much of it is mind over matter and believing I could do it. I had to learn to run through some stuff, like laziness, boredom or just plain not being in the mood to run. Getting the breathing down was probably the most difficult part for me. There were times when I thought I'd faint from lack of air, but I'd hear Jim's voice telling me to walk until I could breath again. It was like getting "permission" to rest a bit. I realized pretty quickly into the training that it was MUCH more enjoyable to let myself build up the endurance, rather than running until I hated it.

As I began to see that I could run for longer periods of time without stopping, I felt such a feeling of pride in myself that I learned to use this as fuel. Distance became my main focus. Endurance was what I was training for. I wanted to LEARN how to run 26.2 miles in under 5 months. I did get a few looks of utter disbelief. And I had my moments of self doubt, but luckily I had a coach who would remind me I was the captain. It was going to be up to me, so I'd pull it back together.

Jim set the pace for 12 minute miles in the beginning. I never did learn that pace, I kind of went with about an 11 mm. As soon as I told him I had the 11mm down, he said to go to 10 mm. Jim thought this would be a good pace for the marathon. It would get me a decent finishing time without killing me. He was right. I loved that marathon. I enjoyed myself immensely. I met a lot of fantastic people along the way and I didn't feel like I was dying until mile (I did snap out of it fairly quickly though)

Another very smart thing Jim taught me, was that all I really wanted to do for my first marathon was FINISH. He said the next marathon would only be better if I took that perspective. I admit I didn't really feel that way until about mile 2 of the marathon. I wanted to finish in 5 hours but Jim wouldn't even answer me when I asked if I could. He said try for 6 hours. I was mad at him for I thought it meant he didn't believe I could do it. At mile 2 of that marathon it hit me for what it really was. He didn't want me to feel any pressure. He knew I'd never have another first marathon and he was trying to tell me to enjoy it for what it was. He actually said those words but my stubborness blocked it out until mile 2. I could almost hear him say it again right at that moment and I felt a relaxation that surprised me. I swear, I think I smiled every step of that 26.2 miles. Except at mile 23, but within 10 minutes I was smiling again. (I

I told you THAT, to tell you THIS...

I learned that (almost) every step can be enjoyable. It even works with my life motto, which is...MY LIFE IS WHAT I MAKE OF IT. (my other motto is EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE) That means, if I'm feeling miserable, I have the choice to let go of whatever it is that's bothering me and have a great day, OR...I can embrace the misery and lose an entire day of my life. Anyone who knows me, knows I am happy 98% of the time. I guess it's only natural that this would tie into my running too.

Yesterday at the Minnie 15K, I felt this. I had not been able to run for almost 2 months because of the flexor. I have run 3-4 times in the last week or two, 4 miles being the longest run. With lots of walking. I had no idea how I would do in the 15K. I worried I'd lost all my endurance, I worried about my flexor being reinjured, I worried about having to pull out because of those things. But once again, when the starting gun went off and I began to run, something happened. As I put one foot in front of the other, I paced my breathing first like I always do. I had my iPod on this time and I had the volume on low so I could talk to Cindy. I had to find a slower pace because it was so crowded, so it was easy to just tell myself to enjoy. I looked around at all the other women, some were mom/daughter teams, some sister/sister, some were groups. Every shape, size, color and speeds. I felt the kinship immediately. I was so happy I was running after the flexor injury. I was so happy my family was sleeping soundly at the hotel.

Once again I took the time to take it all in. I heard Jim's voice telling me I'd be fine. Friday we ran a trial 5K and afterward he told me I was a strong runner, that I'd do well. That came back to me in the first 10 minutes of the race. I felt peaceful, which is a weird thing to be feeling in a 15K race, but it's true. The conversation I had with my coach that day about my not feeling like a "real" runner came back to me too. Jim said I AM a true runner, I just choose to enjoy it. He said I took what I needed from my training and I use it to fit my running.

I've been thinking a lot about this, since I haven't been able to run I've had the time to think. And I think it goes back to my coach. Right from the start he trained me to enjoy running. Jim's method of coaching is to instill confidence and comfort. I'm not the only one to see this. Quite a few people have told me how much they get out of Jim's training whether it's personal training, running or even fitness of all levels. He's even tempered, calm and reassuring. He has a straight forward attitude that is mixed with just the right amounts of teaching, positive encouragement and discipline that makes us believe in our own abilities. So it's no wonder that I have taken my own road to my personal running goals. Between Jim's easy going words of encouragement and my own longing to enjoy ALL of my life it's only natural for me to find the joy in running.

Today I am tired and sore and...yes...very happy. I feel good about myself and I'm back to running. I have more goals, like running Boston someday. Honestly, I think it will be 2010 but that's ok. I have plenty of time to reach that goal. I also think it would be VERY cool to run that particular race with my coach. I haven't told him that part yet Just seems fitting since it's because of him I am a runner, don'tcha think????

This post was prompted by my friend Sherry's blog post. Sherry was bitten by the "I'm gonna enjoy this gift" bug on Saturday while volunteering for the TriAmerica series. (and she thought that bug was a noseeum). Sherry has been training for her first triathalon since October and was feeling a whole lot of emotions during Saturday's race. She met someone who she saw as a wonderful athlete. He took the time out of his race to wish her luck and tell her she'll do a great job. I felt it in her post when she said she realized at that moment that she had a choice to race hard or to stop and smell the flowers along the way, and she "chose the latter". Sherry wants to enjoy her first triathalon next week. She wants to come away from it knowing she's an athlete, that she can finish what she set out to do. All of us who know her already know she'll do that. But it was the words of that man that struck her soul. Made her understand that what she is going to do that day is wayyy deeper than finishing her first tri with a good time. It's about an inner feeling of an accomplishment that only she can give herself. Anyone can tell you to run real fast, pedal your bike hard, swim across the pool. Only Sherry can actually do that for herself in the end. It's really up to us to see that commitment we made to ourselves pay off. It's a very fine line between racing so hard we lose the joy, and racing hard enough that we do a good job AND can still love what we're doing. Sherry got that from that athlete she met on Saturday. I understand that because that's what I got from my coach, Jim. Only I didn't "get it" until mile 2 of my marathon.

Sherry wrote that she hopes that man could find out what a difference he just made for her. I bet she'll get to tell him. I've been trying to find a way to tell my coach those very words without sounding like a crazed stalker. And Maybe he'll read this and "get it". At least he won't have to run a marathon to figure out that I think he's an awesome coach. He won't get a subliminal message at water table 2 that he made a huge difference in my running. That because of his coaching methods he has created a runner who loves to run, who does stop to smell the flowers along the way and who will be running for a very long time.

I do have a competitive streak in me too, I do plan on meeting a few goals, two of which are running a faster 5K and BOSTON. But you can bet I'm gonna have a good time along the way to getting there. Thanks to my coach Jim AND myself.


Running Knitter said...

What a great post! You are so lucky to have such an awesome coach.

Sherry said...

I am completely misty eyed right now!!!

I feel ya, Kim... I totally feel ya!

HUGE hugs!!!

The Laminator said...

Great post. Very inspirational. I don't even have a doubt that I'll see you in Boston someday =)