St. Patrick’s Day: corned beef, leprechauns, green beer, parades. For the Irish, it’s probably an equation that couldn’t get any better. For the non-Irish, it’s a reason to run a 5K along an already closed parade route.
I needed to run a 5K. Direct orders from Kurt. One a month. Why? To remember how to hurt. If given the choice of pounding your foot with a mallet or running a 5K to “remember” how to hurt, which would you choose? I’ve said before that you need to do the opposite of what you want to do. So there I was, St. Patrick’s Day morning at the local 5K.
The race was set in downtown Naperville. I warmed up along the Riverwalk, one of the gems of Naperville and also the site of the women’s and sprint triathlons. It’s always good to come back here to run, reminds me of where I got my start in this sport and that always leaves me feeling energized.
I did a long warm up. The shorter the race, the longer the warm up. It almost wasn’t necessary today. How many times in mid-March, still winter, can I say that at 8 am it was already 60 degrees? We’ve had a string of 80 degree days, one during a hard run a few days ago with 5K pace intervals that I will only describe as a hot mess. Summer came early and I’m not ready! I need about 2 more weeks to acclimate.
Around race time, I migrated towards the start line. Oddly enough, there was no one there. So empty that a woman came up to me said: this is where the race starts, right? I thought maybe I was in the wrong place but then remembered that about 50 percent of the people in this race were wearing green knee high socks, shamrock headbands and I saw a grown man dressed as a leprechaun. Safe to say, most of the runners today are in it for the free green beer at the finish line and not to race.
Yes, I’d say we’re in the right place.
As the start time ticked closer, the line started to fill in. In front of me lined up some of the local collegiate circle’s best runners. North Central College has some of the best runners in the nation. Pretty sure I weighed more than they did. And I’m just talking about the guys! I believe two of them were right in front of me, about to run their way to a 14:30-something finish time.
That’s a 4:41 mile, folks.
My directions in Training Peaks were simple. “Get to 13 minutes and then fucking hurt yourself.” If Kurt is anything, he is to the point. There’s no fluff, no bullshit. If you sucked, he says so. If you did well, he might say so. Might not. When I first started working with him last year, his silence troubled me.
Why isn’t he saying anything, I’d think with day after day of notes and data uploaded into Training Peaks.
It took my husband to finally say:
What (said in my most polite, patient voice ever)
Are you getting faster?
Are you staying healthy?
Then WHAT does he really need to say?
He was right. These days, if I don’t hear from Kurt, I know everything is going ok.
There was some chit chat at the start line, mostly from a guy who I ran track with many years ago trying to tell me to get in front! Get in front! You’re faster than me. You belong up there. Jesus, who gave you green beer early?! I’m fine right here, thank you. Far behind me was the 7:00 mile pace sign. Ahead of me was a pace sign that simply read: FAST. How do you go from 7:00 miles to FAST. Where is the in between?
Was I fast? Not sure. But I feel the same way about my swimming: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So, yes, I’m FAST today!
The gun went off and the leaders took off fast, just like the sign said. I felt like 100 people passed me, including 3 women, including the guy who said GET IN FRONT OF ME! Maybe a leprechaun? All of this within the first .1 mile. In most 5Ks, I feel smooth and light for the first mile, like the hard effort is effortless. Today, the effort felt violent from the gun and didn’t let up. I felt hot (who invited summer early?), I felt foggy (am I running or racing?), I felt like my form was all over the place. But by mile 2 I found a rhythm. Right on the shoulder of one of my athletes. I knew his pace and knew we would run within a few seconds of each other. I also knew that running into a 10-15 mph south wind, his shoulder would be a great place to find a 1-2% draft.
A 5K goes by at a speed where you can hear your name being called, you can look at their face but you can’t process it quickly enough to say, I recognize that face and smile back at them. Instead, you get a look on your face like you’ve seen death at the last mile marker. Since when did 3.1 miles feel so long? How is it that just a few months ago I did an Ironman? Around mile 2.5 (still, ONLY at 2.5!?!) I found myself thinking this is a good place to be – save it. HUH? Save what? Point taken: this is not an Ironman, get a fire under your ass! It reminded me that I need a complete overhaul of my mindset this year. There isn’t any time to save it. If you save it, you’ll come up short.
When I found myself approaching the finish line with the race clock reading in the 18’s I thought I’m in good shape but not that great of shape. I’ll never refuse seeing my name next to a 18-something 5K but I’m thinking someone had a little too much green beer when measuring the course out there. Or maybe it was just luck of the Irish.
I read somewhere recently that if you can tear your number off your race belt once you cross a 5K finish line, you haven’t gone hard enough. I had the wherewithal to think about it so I could have gone harder. After crossing, I did the huff and walk around in circles with that “why did I pay money to do that” look on my face, and more importantly, did I get my $12 per mile’s worth? Looking around, I see a few others doing the same (but also a few doing the “I’m just going to bend over, hold my knees and consider vomiting”). My effort, hard or could have gone harder, was good enough for winning my AG and finishing 5th overall.
Back at home, I told Chris I didn’t quite hit my goal pace. I thought I could average about 5 seconds faster per mile. There is work to be done and in the next 5K, I will go faster. I will go out harder, I will surge out of corners and dig deep into my gut to the finish line. His reply: Liz, you are never satisfied with yourself. He is right. It is rare that I step away from something being satisfied. But this dissatisfaction drives me to keep getting more out of myself. To expect big things. To set the bar high. When the time is right, I will be satisfied.
Later that day, we forgot we were triathletes or parents or homeowners with a to do list about 3.15 miles in length (measured correctly, thank you) – and did like you should do on the weekend: we went to the wine shop – me, Chris and Max. Then we went to a barbeque. We drank wine, we laughed, we ate a lot of meat. We got home at 8 pm and it was still 78 degrees. In my nearly 30 years of living in the Chicago area, I do not ever remember it being this warm on March 17th. Days like this are memorable and must be enjoyed. And so, the Waterstraat’s went for a family bike ride. I pulled out the Surly. Chris put Max and Boss into the Burley and we rode through the night.
There is something magical about riding through the suburbs at night. It is a tangible quiet of life lived behind picture perfect houses. It is streets with no traffic except for some other kids on bikes who also just couldn’t resist the warmth of a mid-March weather oddity. Myself – I felt like a kid again. It was one of the perfect examples of be here, now, enjoy this moment and forget there is a tomorrow. We rode along down Loomis when Chris said this was a great idea. I made it even better when I suggested we get some ice cream.
While there are few times in life I find myself satisfied, this was one. Here, in the suburbs, tonight, as Max’s giggles floated out of the Burley while tugging at a very patient Boss, here life was perfect and I was satisfied. It’s a lesson I need to remember in all areas of life – whether in sport, my business or in parenting, sometimes we just need to stop, look at where we are at and say – I’m happy with where I’m at. Nothing right now could be done any better. Life in this moment is perfect.