Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Running Chronicles; The End of the Hamster Wheel

First, I feel like I should announce, after a lot of talk about doing it, that I've finally signed up for my first half marathon!  The Chicago Monster Dash on October 29th will be my first venture into the world of the half marathon.  I must also admit that I'm excited that I'll finally be able to put one of those cool oval "13.1" stickers on my bumper.  I don't do bumper stickers, but this is one sticker I'll slap on as soon as I get it.

As I've mentioned before, I joined a racing team.  The team offers lots of opportunities to run with others, and to date I've only cashed in on the track workouts which are held once a week.  The main group run is held on Monday nights at the athletic store that sponsors the team.  I have heard these are well attended and are nice runs, but have just never made it out.  Well, I finally went last night, despite being totally nervous and afraid that nobody would be there, I'd be late, I'd be left behind, whatever my fears could be. I arrived and found several people milling around in the store, with a few familiar faces from the track workouts. We stood around for about 10-15 minutes (I got there, luckily, about 5:45-ish) before someone took the reins and called everyone outside. This guy made a couple announcements, asked who had raced the previous weekend, etc. Then the team founder talked about the night's run, for which he'd scheduled an Indian Run. They were going to keep about an 8:30 pace. This run is a single file run where the anchor sprints to the front, and goes on and on the length of the run (5-6 miles was what they wanted to do). Lucky for me, a couple other people said they were not going to do this one. In the end, the group split about half and half, with one doing the Indian Run and the rest of us doing a regular run, which we all agreed to be about 4-5 miles.

There was one guy I recognized from the track who runs a slow pace, and another girl who said she is about 11min/mile (to which the guy reminded her she had done about 10's, which she said kicked her arse). Anyway, there were about 15 of us ranging from 9:00 to closer to 11/mile. After we agreed to do the 4-5 miles, two women took off. Not having a clue where to go, I took off after them and hung with them. I have no idea what happened to the rest of the group, but we did pass them going the opposite direction along our run about 1/2 way through. The two women had said they were going to do about 9:30/mile, which was fine with me as long as I stayed with them so I didn't get lost.

Turned out to be great. I stayed with these two, and about a mile in they asked me a few questions and I didn't use my iPod for the rest of the run. We did 5 miles total, keeping at about and average 9:44 pace, which was a bit slow for me by the end, but, I'm glad I didn't push too hard. After last night, I feel back to form. Three consecutive runs (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) and I'm feeling really good. I talked with these two women the whole time, something I've never done before! Yeah, lungs!  I didn't even think about it as we talked and ran, but, I kept up and didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable donig so.

OK, so we finished the run and I talked to these two women for a while. "Connie"* has been on the team since its inception. She has done many marathons, and she and the other woman are are members of the 50 States Club (run a marathon in every state). Anyway, Connie explained that these store runs are literally all year 'round, and there is a core group who do them all year. The crowd is larger in better weather, of course. In winter after the track workouts end, they meet up with another local running club and do routes with them, and afterward stop for coffee or hot chocolate on those bitter cold nights. They do shorter runs, like 4-6 miles, just to keep out there all winter. Each night after the run they all figure out who will run next and when, where, and how far, etc. It's a flexible schedule and whoever wants to meet will meet.
Can I tell you how happy I was to hear this? I don't have to go back to the hamster wheel if i don't want to!!!! I can run outside! I can run with other people! Yeah!!!!  I settled on the hamster wheel after the first of this year when I increased my mileage and frequency of my runs because around here, it gets dark at noon in the winter {OK, so closer to 3 or 4 in the afternoon, but still} and I didn't want to be outside running by myself at night after work.  This will give me the chance to stay outside instead of being inside, and to not have to run alone!  I feel like a kid on Christmas morning knowing I can run outside all winter, and with other runners.  But I digress.

Anyway, the group run was really good. Seriously, I am so excited. I hadn't felt a real welcoming feeling at the track and even last night when I got to the store {to no fault of anyone}, but, after talking to Connie, I at least feel like there's one person now who knows I'm interested and who I can connect with a little better until I get to know more of the team. I should also add that many of the runners last night are not on the team. One of the two women I ran with is not. I thought that was pretty cool, this group seems pretty cohesive but aren't all team members.

For Wednesday they're doing mile time trials.  Connie said it's nothing to be nervous or freaked out about.  I would disagree, as I haven't had a timed mile since high school, but I'll let her go on with her confidence.  They go in groups (like 1 and 2, then 3 and 4), so not in small groups or individual like I feared (probably illogically, of course). Anyway, it's going to be 2 x 800 then the mile, then more 800's for anyone who wants them.

Now that I'm finally registered for my first half marathon, I'm really feeling more like a runner.  Not sure what I thought I was before.  After last night, I feel confident about my running.  In fact, I'd venture to say I've got my Hot Confidence going on.  It's really a cool feeling.

*Names have been changed, because that's what you do when you talk about people on the internet.