Mommy Wants a Timeout

In which I contemplate absurd moments in parenthood, occasionally attempt to refer to myself as a “triathlete” while keeping a straight face, and maybe post some random pictures of stuff I’m knitting

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

How To Win An Age-Group Award

I’m not an overly competitive person. Sometimes, during a race, I’ll see someone running a few yards ahead of me, and contemplate passing them. I’ll even accelerate a little. Then, when my legs start to burn and I’m breathing a little fast, I’ll think, “Nah, not worth it.” I’m just missing that killer instinct that the great competitive runners have. Also, the speed. I’m definitely missing the speed.

I’m not particularly concerned with where I finish in the standings most of the time, either, as long as I gave the race my best effort. I like to see improvement in my times, but I don’t care too much for my ranking. I have, however, lucked into a few age-group awards, which were a nice ego boost for me…There’s something about a colorful ribbon that is satisfying in a different way than seeing a new PR on the race results sheet. When people congratulate me on an age-group placing, though, I usually feel obligated to explain why I didn’t really deserve it…or try to convince them that they, too, could win one without necessarily being super fast. So I’ll share them with you, too: my tips for taking home an age group award.

1. Pick a race with a small field. I avoid the mega-races, and it’s not because I won’t place in them; huge throngs of people just freak me out a little. Plus, it’s hard to find parking. I prefer a race with 150 or 200 people, which feels more friendly and personal to me. And it definitely improves the odds.

2. Pick a race that’s called a Fun Run, or even better, a Run/Walk. If it’s a Fun Run, you can hope most people aren’t taking it too seriously…Put your game face on, and you might beat some of the more casual runners. If it’s a Run/Walk, and you run it, you’re pretty much guaranteed to finish ahead of a big part the field, drastically improving your chances of placing!

3. Pick a race where they give age-group awards 6 deep. The race’s website usually mentions this, since people really like taking home awards! (Pretty ribbons…I want more pretty ribbons!) Races sponsored by local running clubs are great for this…And the entry fees are usually pretty affordable, too.

4. If all else fails, be really old. Or really young. In my most recent 5K, there was one runner in the 80+ category. He won first place. There were two in the 75-79. Even the last-place guy could claim a top-2 finish! Also, the 10-14 year-old category tends to be sparsely populated. (Though if you’re reading this blog, good luck getting there again! Better to just stick with your running program, and know that when you hit 70, your competition will thin out considerably.)

This is all for fun, by the way. Except for an elite few who have the God-given talent to be really fast, most of us should be focused on our personal goals, not beating other people. But it’s really hard to get your nonrunner friends excited about the fact you just beat your 5K PR by 10 seconds…Better to just show them a pretty ribbon. Take a picture, post it on Facebook, and wait for the congratulations to start rolling in!

Swimmer’s High

Lately I’ve been feeling like the management at my gym has been adding some sort of substance to the pool water that makes it especially viscous. It’s really the only explanation for why I’ve been training and training, and still feeling so sluggish in the water. I’ve been busting out Total Immersion drills and interval workouts twice a week for months now, with no visible payoff. Yes, my strokes-per-length have decreased, and I’ve seen a few other minor improvements, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a major swimming breakthrough. Until today, that is.

This morning was Superhero Day at my son’s preschool, so I bundled him into his Batman T-shirt (complete with cape) and dropped him off in the company of Ironman, Superman, a Transformer, Catwoman, and, inexplicably, a fairy princess, then headed off to the pool. (Okay, there was a latte stop, some Facebook and Twitter time, a load of laundry, and a kitchen cleanup in-between, but you get the point.) I faced my morning swim with my usual reluctance and grudging resignation, but guess what, folks? Today, it DID NOT SUCK!!! In fact, today I finally had the kind of revelatory experience that my hardcore runner friends annoy me by bragging about: a runner’s high! Except it was while I was swimming! (I’m still waiting for it to happen while running, actually.)

I’ll spare you the details of my 700-yard warmup and just say that when I started what was supposed to be 500 yards at moderate effort, and then some 100-yard repeats, I began to feel like a superhero myself. I was gliding through the water effortlessly, painlessly, (but not slowly,) breathing easily…Even my flip turns were smooth! And at 500 yards it felt so good I decided to keep going until it didn’t. 800, still great. 1000, no problem. 1200, I could keep going forever. 1400…My swim cap, which had been creeping a little further back with each flip turn, finally popped off my forehead and tangled itself around my ponytail like one of those little bun-covers the Mennonite women wear, leaving me with a swirl of blonde bangs obscuring my view. That’s where I finally stopped. 1400 yards continuous swimming, a flip turn at each end, and a heart rate that never went above 130, at a pace under 2 minutes/100 yards.

I’ve swum further than that without stopping before (though it’s been a while). I’ve swum faster, too. But it never felt that easy, and I always WANTED to be done at the end. Today, I really felt like I could have gone on for miles, blissfully. Rather than welcoming an excuse to stop, I was truly annoyed that I had to. (Swim cap issue aside, I had to go pick up my little Batman from school.) But with no time or wardrobe constraints, I would really have liked to see how long I could have kept going.

I’m under no illusion that my next swim will be so easy, or that this was anything more than a lucky day where things just came together right. But I might be a little more excited to head to the pool for my next few workouts. In any case, I should probably send a letter to the gym’s management thanking them for altering the chemistry of the water to make me, finally, a good swimmer!

The Voices in My Head

I forgot my iPod before my run the other day, so I was forced (shudder) to be alone with my own thoughts. My internal dialogue led to some conclusions which may or my not be helpful in my future training: namely, that maybe running isn’t necessarily supposed to be fun and easy all of the time, and that maybe I have a tendency to be too easy on myself. I don’t know if these conclusions are actually true, since they were based an ongoing argument between two competing voices in my head:

Whiney Me: “You know, it seems like running should be easier by now. After all, I started up again way back at the end of June.”
Tough Me: “Well, you HAVE been pretty easy on yourself, with all the super-slow run-walking you’ve been doing. Maybe if you stepped it up a little, you’d be making more progress.”
Whiney Me: “Well, I didn’t want to aggravate my injury or anything. Besides, Jeff Galloway said it’s okay to run-walk…Preferable, in fact.”
Tough Me: “I don’t think Jeff Galloway was picturing a 12-minute-mile running pace when he came up with his run/walk method. If you can walk faster than you’re running, maybe you don’t deserve a walk break.”
Whiney Me: “Or maybe I should just turn into a race-walker instead.”
Tough Me: “Yeah, and make me listen to you complain about how much your hips hurt everyday? Forget it. Keep running.”
Whiney Me: “Fine. But is it time for a walk break yet?”
Tough Me: “You’re only running 3 miles…You haven’t EARNED a walk break today. Keep going.”
Whiney Me: “You’re kind of a mean inner coach, you know that?”
Tough Me: “Well, you’re almost done with your run, and you haven’t taken a walk break yet, so it must be working, right?”
Whiney Me. “I guess…But next time remind me to grab my iPod before I leave home, okay?”

In the interest of pushing myself a little, and in the name of tradition, I ran the Blue Lake 5K again this year. It was the first race I did when I started my triathlon journey over two years ago, and last year it was a fun way to cap off my tri season. This year, it was really a test of where I was in my injury rehabilitation program. I ran the whole thing at a pretty steady, hard effort…and finished over two minutes slower than last year. Oh, well…I already knew my fitness took hit with my 4-month layoff. Still, this time I was almost a minute faster than the first time I ran this race, so at least I’m not back to square one!

One way to take home an age-group award? Pick a race with a really small field!

This guy ran a good race, too. 5 minutes for the half-mile kids’ run!

I had an absolutely lovely 4.4-mile run last week, so I’m thinking of setting my sights on a Thanksgiving Day 10K. That should give me a little motivation to keep working on those longer runs…And maybe it will silence my inner critic, too!

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