Monday, September 14, 2009

Expanding. Changing. Stretching.

My focus this year has been on expanding. Expanding in the sense of taking my foundation, those things that I have mastered and moving out from them as a means of growth. Unfurling and working my way forward gently. I like to picture myself in the center of a spiral, venturing out in a closely knit circular line all attached to a source, a center a purpose. Expanding cohesively, gradually and in this gently pushing myself to knew levels.

This weekend I ran the Ikea Half Marathon. I have run it once before, just a few weeks out from my bike accident last year. I took it easy then, as I wasn't sure how my sprained shoulder would react to the persistent pounding. I went out conservatively and found at the end I had plenty of juice left. I crossed the finish line with a spring in my step, a smile on my face, and the feeling that while I could have done better, getting back to racing successfully was way more than enough.

This year I ran the race with my running buddy Jess and approached it feeling differently than I have about any other major race. I didn't feel nervous. I didn't feel connected to the exiting and adrenaline producing atmosphere of race day but rather approached it as a utilitarian exercise. I have not run a distance race since the marathon, and I had not diligently prepared for this race. Sure, I have kept up my mileage, worked on speed, ate a well balanced meal the night before, I did not feel wholly unprepared yet it had not been my focus.

I wasn't sure how things would turn out out but I trusted I could complete the distance. I knew that much. Slogging through the last miles of the marathon where every step made a current of pain run through me let me know that 13 miles, no matter what, would be doable.

We started out downhill, the day was slight bit chilly but not cold, overcast but with the sun peeking through a few dusky grey clouds. Perfect for a race of some distance. As we began I felt a surge of joy, being there, being a part of a packe, doing sothing as elemental as putting one foot in front of the other as fast as we could go within reason it felt lovely, right. Racing brings with it a sense of civility married to an animal drive. We compete as well as bolseter each other, we look at the fastest runners with a sense of awe and encouragement no matter where we fall in the pack. We all come to this place to be a part of somethign as well as to run our own race.

I ran the race just a bit outside of my comfort zone and had very little left in me by the last three miles. I made it through -- finishing in a very respectable 1:50, just under a personal record.

I worry sometimes about setting high expectations for myself. Goals like qualifying for Boston seem so out of reach, I make tiny strides but the progress seems so slow. It is not easy to get faster, to endure longer, to push myself beyond my comfort zone. When I look back on where I started from I am amazed at how far and how fast I came -- it is and has been hard work but it always felt so simple, so natural, or perhaps I remember it that way only because this moment of striving and reaching further seems so hard. Still at the heart of it all, I believe I can make it further that I can get faster, that expansion happens not all at once, but slowly with hard work, dedication, and love. Patience, openess, and showing up will get me to the next level, nothing more, nothing less. I am right where I need to be.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Fall returns and with it chillier nights, falling leaves, and for me, a return to distance running. This summer I completed four 5k's, and feel well on my way to my goal of minute off my time from 2008. The curse is still with me around Run Around the Square, I came down with a pretty nasty cold a few days before the race, again running it just to finish as I have in years past. I'm beginning to believe I should never plan to run RATS fast something in the universe is telling me to slow it down. Still, it was great to be out there with some many folks, and to have my own little cheering crew. Running a race by myself is not something I shy away from, but having people there running it and watching does make a difference.

One thing that the summer brought was the addition of dedicated speed work to my weekly routine -- one of my least favorite running related activities, but one of the most beneficial to improving my overall strength and performance. Each week my running buddy and I meet up at the track, and run all out for various (short) distances, jogging between each to recover. It is never easy but there is some satisfaction to be gleaned from completing each leg and not collapsing into an anaerobic heap. There's something subtly exciting about the feel of lactic acid building in the legs, pushing past the point of no return.

I feel like my life is in the midst of some pretty big transitions, even though it may not seem so on the surface. My old way of doing things is no longer working for me, what once was comfortable and easy no longer seems that way. I remind myself that what seems hard now can be the gateway to greater strength, that through challenge and struggle we can access a potential we could not begin to dream of previously.