So, today (the first day of summer break), I got up at 3:00 in the morning to go run a race. My first since the Big Race at the start of May. Exactly one month ago.
I was nervous for a lot of reasons. My activity level has been lower than normal for a lot of the past month. I've only actually run twice since Big Race. This was my first real test of the "new race philosophy." (You know, that whole "I'm running because it's fun" thing.) I wasn't sure what would happen with my knee (this was it's first real test, too). And, hell, I get nervous before every race, every time, anyway.
Standing in the dark after the alarm went off, I couldn't help but think it was stupid and pointless to even go. I was getting up this early (on the first day in months that I technically didn't have to get up) and driving for an hour to run a 5K. Three miles. That I wasn't even sure I could get though. But I knew I needed to do it. I knew I needed the "test." I knew I would hate myself if I didn't try. I knew I would hate myself if I missed this race for the first time in a decade. Plus, I'd run every other distance offered there, so why not complete the set?
And then the sadness set in as I realized that my original plan for this day, the one I made in secret back in January, was to run the marathon. It was supposed to be my "fun" marathon; just to run it with no pressure or overriding goal. But..... Anyway.
The rest of the morning was rough, and I have very mixed feelings about it all.
I loved being there. That unmistakable feeling of being at a race; of getting ready to run - the anticipation and excitement of it. Getting my packet. Pinning my bib number to my shirt. Putting the chip on my shoe. Checking out the "competition." Even standing in line for the bathroom! But it was like starting over for me. I didn't know where to position myself on the starting line, because I didn't know what to expect of myself, or what I'd really be able to do. I knew I couldn't race like I have previously, but where did that leave me?
I knew as soon as the starter said "go" that I'd started too far back. I was instantly aggravated at the inability to move. Granted, I come from a cross country background and know how to use my elbows (and feel no compunction about using them), but still. There were a lot of people around me taking their sweet time. And I was not happy about that.
Once I got some space and was able to stretch my legs a little in the race itself, I got happier. I was keeping myself in check, not pushing too hard. But it felt so good to be pushing myself even a little bit. Even though the people traffic was irksome, it probably helped to keep me from overdoing it. When there are several thousand people all moving through a three mile stretch at the same time, unless you are up front, the crowd never really thins out. And maybe that was good for me today. I got to test myself a little, but didn't push as hard as I most likely would have if there hadn't been so many people. And this race has a finish line that just never gets old. It's always thrilling to "run through the tunnel" and on to the field. Gives me chills every time.
But then, as I crossed the finish line and saw my time, I got all mixed up again. There's the part of me that's just so pleased that I did it. And then there's the part of me that knows I'm capable of more. And those two parts are having a hard time co-existing right now. It didn't help walking backwards on the course after the race (to get back to the car) and seeing all the runners in the longer distance races making their way over the course. Especially those in the front packs. That used to be me. And it made me want to cry.
So, tonight I'm trying to focus on the reality of today. I ran a race. In a decent time (even if it's not the time I'm used to, it's still decent. And I know the important thing is that I even finished at all. But, I'm still me. And, apparently, time is still something that's important to me at this point.). And I felt pretty good. A little stiff in the knee afterward, a few twinges of pain, but nothing too big or unmanageable or hindering. And a month ago, I thought I would not be able to run at all, ever again. All in all, that's a pretty good reality.
And, I'll see where it goes from here. I have my "training plan" for the summer all set to go, and it's more diversified than ever before (and I am excited about that). As of right now, there are only two days of running per week. I feel like I'll be able to bring my mileage up a little bit. And maybe even add another running day. But I guess I'll just have to see. As of right now, my only goal race for the summer is a 10K in July. The goal being running that far with minimal knee issues. After today, I feel like I'll be able to do that. And I guess that's a pretty good reality, too.