“Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning.”

7 06 2012

These words, which closed the movie “Star Trek IV:  The Undiscovered Country”, were actually paraphrased from “Peter Pan” where they indicated the direction of Neverland.  I find them also to be apt descriptors of how I would like to run:  as far as I can go for as long as my legs will carry me, through the night and to the stars if possible.  Thus LSD, the “long slow distance”, is definitely my run of choice.  So it was with more than a bit of wonder that I found myself at a 5k this past Sunday.  If not a charity event or leisurely outing with friends, I see the 5k as a venue for the hare-footed to showcase their speed and therefore I tend to do few of them.

Being a larger runner, I belong to a special category called “Athena” class and my running club, CARA, has a separate circuit competition for us which requires an annual weigh-in.  I neglected to do so at the Soldier Field race and the next opportunity was the Roselle Run for the Roses on June 3, so I signed up.  I hadn’t run a 5k in well over a year (unless you count the snowshoe races), and I had forgotten what fun they can be.  Arriving early to pick up my packet, I had plenty of time to mill around and watch the crowd.  There were serious athletes — barely dressed and dashing to and fro as they warmed their impressive fast-twitch muscle fibers — alongside fun runners chatting in groups, some with race-bibbed children in tow.  Near the pick-up kiosk I spied a trio of very tan silver haired gents leaning lazily against a car, a young woman even doughier than myself, and a middle-aged couple contentedly waiting on a bench.  So many different agendas all in the same place.  Could I beat any of them today, I wondered.  Would I even try?  After all, I was really there just to weigh and didn’t particularly feel like leaving my slow-plodding comfort zone by attempting a sprint.

Eventually we all gathered at the start line and the air horn sounded.  A DJ with a stereo set-up nearby was blaring the song from Rocky over a loudspeaker:  “gonna fly now, flying high now….”  It gave me an unexpected boost of energy and I laughed as I contemplated bellowing Stallone-style “Yo Adrian!” as I passed, but resisted the temptation.

The course was a pleasant meander through an older neighborhood with huge trees and gently rolling hills.  The crowd thinned out when the speedsters charged ahead, and I was able to take stock of my surroundings as I loped along via my disorganized mix of running, racewalking and brisk long strides.  At one point, I noticed two girls of about 10 or 12 years racing each other while Dad cruised alongside on a bicycle shouting encouragement.  Their genial competition made me smile.

Unlike the larger races I tend to gravitate toward, there were no throngs of cheering spectators or sideshows of entertainment along the route.  It was a simple Sunday morning run. As we passed spacious old homes where porch sitters watched, some shouting encouragement while others stared bemusedly over their coffee cups, the sun began to beat oppressively upon my exposed head and my legs felt heavy.  I don’t run well in the heat.  Having lined up as always in the back of the pack, I found myself amidst walkers and others like myself whose speed is substantially less than warp drive.  I had originally intended not to care about this but soon found myself wanting to push through the casual amblers and run with the faster crowd.  And thus the advance began.

Jogging on the flat, scurrying up the inclines and then letting gravity power me downhill, I charged ahead.  Mile One came and the split clock said 14:something.  That wasn’t good enough.   I challenged myself a little more.  Shrugging off the doldrums brought on by the heat, I began the mental conversation that always urges me along farther.  Debating the merits of a so-so finish vs. the accomplishment of doing better than expected, I forged onward.  Mile Two.  Another burst of speed from tired legs.  2.33 miles on the Garmin. Keep going. A little more weight in the heels for the next hill, driving with the hamstrings to rest the tired quads.  Go.  And then Nickelback on the Ipod:  “My best friend gave me the best advice.   He said each day’s a gift and not a given right.  Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind….”  Come on girl, push.

We rounded a corner and one of the volunteers said, “not much more now, just about a quarter mile!”  But I was tired. And then I looked up and there was one of the old silver foxes I had seen before the start of the race.  He had evidently finished and walked back through part of the course, dripping sweat and sipping a cold bottle of water.  “Hey, you waited for me, huh?” I shouted with a smile.  He said “I sure did!” and trotted alongside me.  He linked an arm in mine and said “come on, let’s go”.  We both laughed and off we went.  I didn’t really expect him to follow me to the finish line, but he seemed happy to chat about the race and the life of an older athlete as I made my way to the end.  We talked about our youth, at times misspent on bar stools, a middle-aged love/hate for sofas, and how happy we were to be able to run at all much less devote excess worry to speed and distance.  One of the last comments he made was, “I like doing these races because you meet a better class of people.” I felt complimented by that.  Then the finish line was in sight and he encouraged me to “kick in those afterburners” and leave him behind.  So I did.

I finished faster in that 5k than I have in any other over the past 2 years.  Not “fast” in many people’s book, but fast enough for me.  And yes, I did meet a better class of person that day—and had an absolute blast while doing it.

***************************************

Other training over the past weeks:

May 26-27 weekend:  action-packed.
First the Soldier Field 10 Miler followed by Bike the Drive the next day.  18 miles on the bicycle, happy as a fat kid eating cake.  My first bicycle event and what a great time it was.

May 28 — a day off for Memorial Day with the family
May 29 — another day off; too many chores
May 30 — ran 4 miles of speed intervals outdoors
May 31 —  11 miles on the bike in the morning (1 hour) followed by a Jazzercise class in the evening (1 hour);  this year’s first attempt at two-a-days.  I survived!
June 1 —  ran/walked 5 miles easy
June 2 — 13.5 miles on the bike followed by an afternoon of gardening.
June 3 — Run for the Roses 5k

June 4 —  took the day off
June 5 — 5 miles run/walk easy; too slow; I was tired
June 6 — 30 minutes on the bike in the morning; ran out of time because I woke up late;  walked the dogs in the evening
June 7 — first ever brick….more like a pebble:  3.6 miles running followed by 6 mile bike ride in the morning; strength training class at the Jazzercise studio in the evening.  Thursday is the official Two-a-Day day, I guess.

And that is all for now.

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