Race Recap: Rhythm and Blues 5k

I ran a race last weekend that gave me the opportunity to counteract a mindset that had been holding me back, a mindset that created a belief system that had me giving up too often. I touched on this aspect about myself in a previous post. I had identified an ugly work pattern that exists not only in my racing style, but in my general life approach. The picture: I rush into something and then give up. I might not necessarily leave the venture alone entirely, sometimes I’ll just give less effort. Believing the goal I set is unattainable, maybe because of some minor setback or unforeseen obstacle, I’ll either divert my energy to an easier cause, or lower the bar I was originally reaching for. It’s a self-protecting measure I developed to protect an oversensitive ego. This way of living no longer serves me the way it once did. As I get older, the thought of leaving more undone is colliding with my increasing awareness of mortality and legacy, and how I see myself is mattering more and more than what I think I can prove to others.

 

In the 5k I ran last weekend, and I went out too fast to start. I projected from my workouts prior to the race that I could run a 7:45 pace, and hold it for 3 miles. However, my pace for the first mile was a 7:33, likely much faster than that for the first half mile. Going out with too much intensity meant I didn’t have as much left for the second half of the race, which consisted of more uphill running than the first half. I kept my eye on my pace, and watched it steadily climb, to 7:40, 7:50, and past 8:00 once I was on the uphill. Everything hurt. Aside from going out to fast, I had almost no warm-up, as I overslept, and my only pre-race activity was running from my car to the starting line, where the National Anthem was being sung just as I arrived. So, with less than a mile of warm-up to get me going, I moved to the front of the pack anyways. I could have hung further back in the crowd, which would have helped slow me down to start, but that morning I knew I didn’t want to deal with moving around other runners as the race got going.

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I don’t think I was even at the first mile marker at this point. I’m looking ahead to the top of a hill (or what constitutes a “hill” in Houston)

So that was what was happening on the ground. In my head, mile one felt like it took forever, even though I was running fast. Mile two was even longer. I was actually looking forward to mile 3 even though I was starting to feel like there was lead in my legs, because I knew all I had to do was run to the end. Just keep running. This is where some of my workouts were really helpful. I’ve taken to only jogging or running for rest between working intervals, which has done something great for my mindset- I don’t stop. I hope I never walk in a race shorter than a half again, as I’ve sort of eliminated any excuse for that through practice. I now know that no matter how exhausted I feel, I can pick my feet up and put them back down again at a decent pace until the worst of whatever I’m feeling goes away.

 

In the last half mile, I didn’t want to walk or slow down, but I did really want to stop giving so much effort. It wasn’t getting me anywhere anyways. I’d push harder, only to look at my watch and realize I was still running an 8:06 pace, which was pretty demoralizing. (I may run the next race without the watch and see what happens, on that note). The thing is, I didn’t let up, I still pushed, and at the end of the race, when I heard footsteps behind me, I somehow found a kick. I had been using other runners as benchmarks to keep me moving forward as strongly as I could, and I didn’t want to give up a place in the last 100 meters. The runner didn’t catch me, I’m happy to report, and the photog captured some great images of it all.

 

I finished in 24:31, cumulative pace of 7:53 per mile. I was third for my age group (30-34), and 9th female overall. I was not thrilled about this result, even though I recognize it is far from something to complain about. The more time I’ve had to analyze, the more I see that it was a really good race to start to look at what I can improve on. First and most obvious- prep better. Wake up on time, eat breakfast, do a decent warm-up. That one’s easy. Second, I need to work on my form some, I’m looking at pictures and noticing that my left arm has a tendency to cross my body too much, thought its possible that I could have just been looking at my watch just before the snap. Third- stop relying so much on the watch. Learning to gauge pace from feeling would really serve me, especially for goal four- hold back at the start. And finally, fifth thing to work on is my endurance. I had the heart this race, I know it, but I got to a point where there was just no gas in the tank. I’m surprised I had a kick at all.

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Hurting.
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I hear footsteps and look for some grit.
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Pretending that I’m actually running a 100 meter race and didn’t just run 3 miles.

Here’s the deal, I didn’t give up or in, and putting so much effort in for a time that is over a minute slower than my PR hasn’t deterred me. My goal is to run a sub 22 5k- this is not unattainable, but it will probably be pretty hard. That’s cool. Finally, I learned something pretty neat this weekend- as long as special events aren’t scheduled, Downtown Houston is straight up dead on Sunday mornings, and I look forward to doing some fun and training runs there in the future- running down the middle of an empty urban street a la Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky.

Homerun

Hello! It’s been awhile since my last post, and some things in my life have changed…

About a month ago I moved back to my hometown of Houston, Texas. It was a decision spurred by economic and emotional reasons. The former was easy- it’s much cheaper to live here than Los Angeles (many places are). The second reason, well, it’s complicated. After graduating from USC, I stayed in LA for one primary reason- a relationship. After that relationship ended in divorce, I tried to make the city work for a number of years, not wanting to leave my friends and community there, not to mention the weather! In the end, I found myself becoming disenchanted with my life there despite the positive aspects. I arrived at the idea to move back to Houston after doing some soul-searching and considering a few options. Towards the end summer I visited Houston, nailed down a place to live there, and packed up my place in LA. For the first time in a really long time I felt very solid about a major life decision, so off I went and here I am.

 

There is a saying that goes something like “When the pain of staying the same becomes more than the pain of change, we change.” I’ve found this to be attributed to more than one author, so lets just leave it that I didn’t come up with it for now. I’ve slowly realized that the most uncomfortable part of change is that limbo of between the idea of change and change itself. Post-change has never been as bad as my idea of what might follow. One of my reasons to move was to have less of my means go to a high cost of living, so I could travel more without draining my bank account. I loved running around Scotland, but its not sustainable if I’m throwing money into an apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. Even with many upsides to moving back to Houston, such as being close to lifelong friends and of course, family, in addition to the budgeting aspect, I still felt this hesitancy to move. Specifically, I felt like I was “giving up” on something, and in effect, wasting all the time I had spent in LA since separating from my ex-husband. A simplification of the idea that kept me from moving is “If I do leave, then I will have been a failure (at living in LA)”. The logic is a little maddening, now that I think about it- if it was possible my time in Southern California was wasted unless some unnamed and un-promised reward for it happened, why would I stay another minute? When I realized this, I had the energy to make haste and dive into the change before I could scarcely believe I was doing it.

 

The above has everything and nothing to do with running. As everything- I’ve realized that my passions for running and traveling are closely linked, when I go somewhere new, I look for how to make it runnable, and when my running gets stale, I run somewhere new. This can be on a large scale- such as my trip to Scotland, but it can also happen locally. For now I’ve just been excited to get to know running in Houston as it is now.

 

I spent my entire childhood in this city, so I learned to run here. I got into distance running towards the end of high school, before mapmyrun.com and the like existed. Using a Keymap (remember those?), ruler, and graph paper, I charted out routes in my neighborhood of various mileages and stuck them in order of distance them all on a poster board, hung in my room. Memorial, the suburban neighborhood where I grew up, was great for running. You could run for miles without having to deal with traffic lights, drivers were respectful of pedestrians, and the sidewalks were dependable. When I wasn’t training with my cross-country or track team, I also loved to drive to a nearby jogging trail, in Memorial Park, to do the three-mile gravel covered loop there. This was before I got into trail running, though I realize now that for the most part, our meets were actually trail runs. Of course, I think I didn’t associate running in the woods as “fun” back then because it happened mostly at meets, and in high school I did not associate maxing out physically as an enjoyable experience. Looking back, I do recall a time I found I liked trail running before arriving in Southern California- towards the end of our junior season our coach took the team to some local trails to do a moderate workout – the Ho Chi Minh trails (also in Memorial Park). They are some winding single track through the woods that were mostly used by bikers. I remember it being fun, and a new experience of being able to enjoy the surroundings instead of focusing on who was in front of and behind me.

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Part of the Buffalo Bayou Hike & Bike Trail

When I started thinking about this entry, I wanted to write a comical diatribe at the various reasons Houston streets make a poor running environment. My new neighborhood in Houston is classifiably dangerous for street running, no doubt. I came within 4 feet of being hit by a car recently and it was neither an isolated or unavoidable encounter. Sidewalks are magic here- they just disappear into thin air! That being true, as I looked at my list of complaints I grew bored reading my own comments- it turns out at least in this case, whining is whining no matter how you dress it up. I deleted all of it. Instead, here’s the silver lining I had already arrived at- I’m going to get to know more of the natural, off the beaten path areas that I ignored when I was younger. I’m looking forward to searching out new trails in the Greater Houston area and just outside it. I bought a book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Houston, which is more than enough to work with. At a glance, the largest net elevation change I will be hovers around 300 feet, which is lovely. That’s what it took to reach the end of my street in Southern California. I love running trails when they’re flat- not because they’re less physically demanding, but because I often find they are in really enchanting environments, and usually a bit more winding. If there’s no view “at the top”, then it has got to be the whole way, it would seem! In any case, near or far, I’m going to get my running adventures underway again.