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When the Running Spirit Wanes. ...

Posted Feb 07 2010 3:45am
When the Running Spirit Wanes...

I spent the first week of my new divorced life, happily busy, working and taking care of my children. I was surprised Friday afternoon when a fine heavy snow started falling outside the confines of the work cave--this looked like accumulating snow, snowman snow, hazardous driving snow, and race canceling snow. Surely, the next morning as I started to get ready for my volunteer stint at our club's Frostbite race, I saw 2 feet of uninvited snow making itself cozy in my cheap green plastic balcony chairs. Hmmm....surely, runners are pioneering souls and they'd show up even in this, but I worried about the runners and volunteers being able to get to the race site. Yep, I took a peek out my door at a cars with two foot wigs of snow. I wasn't going anywhere until a plow cleared out the lot. Sheila A, our club vice-president and race director for the Frostbite, made the wise decision to cancel the race on advice of the Cuyahoga Fall police that said it would hours before side streets were passable. The race would have been a total slog. Our club has suffered a string of unfortunate events and hopefully this would be the end of it.

My plan was to do a semi-long run with Bob after the race, but given the snow-covered landscape, wasn't sure where it would be safest to run short of surrendering to the treadmill. Ultimately, we decided to wait until noon, after the roads get plowed and head to Sand Run. Surely, the Metro Parks people would run their path plow down the running path for the crazy die hard runners. Bob posted his plans on Facebook. Tracy M.--the Deena Kastor of the club, agreed to join us. She's not just a fast age group runner--she's ridiculously fast. She wins races and breaks course records. Huh? Her slow slog is still a 7 minute mile. I really didn't think she could force herself to run as slow as I do. It would be interesting. I try not to compare myself to other runners. I'm a proud, slow, middle of the pack, middle aged lady trying to do her best, non-competitive, a runner just as much as she, but a different class entirely. As I stood next to Tracy M. in the just plowed and nearly empty parking lot, waving her arms in wide circles to warm up, I felt odd--like a freshman standing next to a senior, like a runner wanna-be next to a track star, like a toy poodle next to a grey-hound.

Still, I should run well today. I had a good week--slept well, eaten well, so we started off down Sand Run Parkway, since the Metro Parks people had NOT cleared off the path, praying cars traveling down the parkway would slow down and not careen on ice slicks into the three single file runners out on what turned out to be a stunningly beautiful winter day. The sky was blue, linear columns of snow sat on top branches, patches of wet snow even clung vertically to tree trunks making Sand Run Parkway look like the Alps. Amazing. Every once in awhile, a gust of wind would shake heavy white clots of snow out of the trees sideswiping me in the face. I was the caboose of this running train, and between my heaving breath and the headband covering my ears, I couldn't catch the conversation from Bob and Tracy just ahead of me. My muscles were slow to warm up. I gave up trying to participate in conversation. Tracy looked she was barely moving and Bob must have been feeling good. He'd slow down every once in awhile to allow me to catch up, but I was running very very badly today and it pissed me off because there was no reason to be running badly. But isn't that how it goes with running? The running spirit waxes and wanes totally independent of logical factors. It's the big mystery of running I've been trying to figure out for years that I just need to accept. The opposite has happened, of course, when I've been sleeping badly, eating badly and otherwise have no reason to run well, when I surprise myself and run like a god.

Did I run badly because some mental splinter wedged in my head from running with Tracy M? I don't think so. I think I would have run badly no matter who was along. Once we got to the bathrooms at Revere, Bob and Tracy headed toward the bathrooms. I thought I'd turn around and try to get a head start, so they could catch up with me, but then it occurred to me that Bob might not figure out that I turned around, so I went back. Tracy decided to run an extra mile to the mall. I'm sure she'd catch up at some point. Bob was kind enough to stay with me and talk me through this bad run, and just as I was getting back to the car, Tracy sailed past me like the wind. Wow. To run like that must be something. We said our goodbyes to Tracy and I sat in Bob's truck lamenting my slowness. Actually, I don't mind being slow, but when it means I get left behind on runs, I get really bummed out because I'm a social runner that needs to run with people. Bob thinks I need to do some speed work and I guess I'm going to have to submit to fast running drill tortures if I want to keep up with my pack. I'm not happy about it at all.
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