Sunday, April 1, 2012

More than a Woman, More like and Olympian!

So just to be clear before I begin the true 'meat' of this blog: I thought of the title of this blog before Google-ing "More than a woman" and finding it to be an annoyingly high-pitched disco song released by the Bee Gees in 1978. In no way did I intend to plagiarize their song title, and in DEFINITELY no way did I intend to put that song in anyone's head while reading this entry. It simply was a fitting phrase that came to mind in a workout last week that I want to share with you now.

Last Monday, I was a little bit dubious heading into practice. My coach Dennis Barker and I had this text conversation the night before...

Coach: "Tomorrow at 4:00- 4x(4x200) with 1:00 between 200's and 3:00 between sets."
Me: "Pretty fast I assume?"
Coach: "Yes, that's why I broke it into sets. I hope they can be under 30."
Me: "Cool, I'll bring my spikes!! :)"

I was pretty pumped about getting some good volume of speed in for a workout, but as 4pm approached, the weather was quite cold, gloomy, and WINDY. I comfortably drove to the track in pants over my tights, and a T-shirt, long sleeve, wind jacket, and extra all-weather jacket on top, mittens, and a hat. Part of me expected we'd be doing the workout indoors. But, when I arrived, Dennis said he didn't want to do sixteen 200's, that fast, on tight curves indoors. I had to agree with his wisdom, so we sucked it up and started our warm up jog over to the U of M outdoor track!!

So far, the best part about this day was the fact that my teammate, Jamie Cheever, my new workout training partner, Lance Elliot (he's local elite masters mid-distance runner who has graciously volunteered to help me out with tough days when I usually do workouts alone), and a couple of the Augsburg men were penciled in to do the SAME workout as me! I was pumped thinking I was just going to have one training partner (Lance), but then when I found out I'd be in a training group of FIVE?! Unheard of! Oh the little things that excite me soo...

Next, we all arrive at the track, do our warm ups, drills, strides, and final bathroom breaks before we select the best possible 200m stretch (with the wind as much as possible) to get started. I think I can say with some confidence that I was not the only one in our group who was was doubting our ability to accomplish that workout, as intended (2 miles of 200's at sub 2:00 800m pace) in those conditions. We all said we'd start conservatively, perhaps starting at 31-second 200's and making our way under 30 later on if we're up to it...

First one: 29. So much for conservative, I thought. But, I was excited how it felt conservative even if the time said we were on target already. After that first one, I immediately changed my mindset and thought, 'now that I hit 29, I need to stay there!' We rocked through our first set, taking the minute rest between each to jog across the infield to our starting line and go again. The second and third set continued to stay consistently sub-30, mixing in some faster ones as we traded leading duties.

I am familiar with the fatigue that comes from running fast with short rest. I am familiar with all kinds of different pains that one can feel in running workouts. However, the fatigue that I was experiencing in this workout was oddly different, oddly...nice dare I say? As I jogged back after each repeat, I could tell I was getting tired, but my entire body felt equally drained. Usually you feel it more in your legs, your butt, your arms, or back, but that day every muscle felt like it was progressively getting harder and harder to fire up, in kind of a good/cool way. I'm sure I sound crazy saying this, but I was getting excited about this new pain, because it felt like I was taking myself somewhere I'd never gone before. It made me feel like I was introducing my body to a new type of stimulus that would increase my fitness in ways I usually didn't achieve. And the best attribute of this pain was that it was heavy and deep during my break, but I could willingly shut it out for 200m and run with good speed and quality for each repeat.

During the last three minute break before we started our last set of 4, my coach asked us, "Do you think this one can be your best one yet?" He says these things so innocently, but in my head I'm pretty sure he was saying it as a challenge to run faster. I guess even if HE wasn't thinking of it that way, I was! At that point, we were all feeling that it would be a challenge in and of itself just to complete the workout at the level of performance we had in the past three sets. I joked with Jamie, who was also my teammate when we ran for coach Gary Wilson at the U of M, he would always say at the end of hard workouts: "This is the one that will make a WOMAN out of you!" (As in, we will become women, rather than girls if we ran tough and endured the final set.) Dennis overheard me saying this and he chimed in, "This will do more than make a woman out of you, this will make you an OLYMPIAN!."

Well, say no more coach! That was all it took to inspire me to trade off leading, and chasing down my male training partners for the day in our final, best set. We were all pumped that we had turned this crappy day into a workout we'd not soon forget. I left feeling genuinely proud of myself.

Usually, when I come and tell my hubby, Ben that I had a great workout, I say it with an added disclaimer, like, I had a great workout today (for ME, a fairly elite female professional middle distance runner). But that night, I just had to say, "Benny I rocked today." On that day, I had a damn good workout. Period. I didn't just rock as a woman. I didn't just rock as a pro. I didn't just achieve my "woman" status, I ran to achieve my "olympian status." Yesss.

I love having workouts like that. Ones that you come into low and come out of flying. Ones that give you a glimmer of where you fitness level is at and reminds you of where you came from. Workouts like that carry momentum. Workouts like that are what you think of when races get tough, and it helps you overcome. Races where you overcome is what this sport is all about for me.