Thursday, April 19, 2012

Killing It

Hugging a giant snag last week
I’ve been struggling with my running pace now for more than half a year. I’m not nearly as “fast” as I was the summer of 2010 when I was getting PRs and even won 1st place in my age group in a local trail marathon. The blue ribbon is still proudly pinned to the bulletin board next to my computer. Though I feel like I “should” be faster, I’m not right now. So instead of dwelling on it and beating myself up over it, I’m learning to focus on where this particular journey is taking me.

For my 43rd birthday in March of this year, a good friend gave me a necklace that says “Find your Pace.” Tears filled my eyes at first sight of it. The message couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. So now, on every run, I wear that necklace along with a Western States 100 necklace that I bought myself as a souvenir after pacing a runner for 38 miles at the race last year. The necklace is a good reminder for me to settle into the pace that my body gives me that day and to not judge myself because of how my ego feels about my pace

Not judging yourself, quieting the ego: that’s the tough part. We all want to run just as fast as last time, feel just as good, as fluid. But truth is, life is just not like that. So be nice to yourself psychologically, and just go with the flow most days. Some days the run just flows from you and you feel on top of the world. Other days you struggle just to keep going. If you’re struggling mentally, physically, here are two things I like to do.
The trail to Gray Butte
1) Notice everything around you. Look up, look around. Become absorbed in nature. Make the run about experiencing nature. Notice every tree, rock, flower, blade of grass; the birds, butterflies, scurrying squirrels and lizards; ants and spiders on the trail. Hear the wind in the trees, feel it in your hair and flowing between your fingers. Savor the sound of singing birds, croaking frogs, chirping crickets; running water. Stop to admire a view, take a picture, smell a flower, hug a tree. Don’t bother to pause your Garmin. Better yet, forget about time and occasionally leave the Garmin at home.

The trail west, toward the mountains
2) “Kill” whatever pace it is I’m running (or hiking). The other day I totally killed an average 11:50 pace on the 4.5 mile loop at Shevlin Park. Surprised? You don’t have to be fast to “own” your pace. Totally own it— kill it— whatever pace you’re at that moment. I’ve totally killed 14-, 15-, even 16-minute running paces up long gradual hills and 18- to 22-minute paces snowshoe running. At the end of a 50k or 50-mile race I’m totally owning my 12- or 13-minute “sprint” across the finish line. Don’t be ashamed of your pace. Take ownership of it and be the best at that pace that you can possibly be on that day.

Treasure the great days, and when they don’t feel great, know that they will be again. Embrace where you are right now. You have worked hard to get to where you are, even though it may not be where you originally envisioned.

Chances are you’ve been killing it now for quite a while and just didn’t realize it. 

Shadows play on the hills

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