First up: a new race report! After a summer of not being able to run very much due to what I initially thought was a knee problem but that turned out to be “lazy quadriceps” in my right leg that just needed a bit of strengthening, I ran my first race since early June on Sunday. And It Was Okay. A bit better than okay, actually – 1:51 and change for a half-marathon in Victoria, BC, just up the road (as the crow flies and the Victoria Clipper sails) from Seattle. What’s cool: I haven’t been able to train a whole lot, and that time is massively “okay” for this time of year, no matter what. And I ran a 7:23 mile last week while still fighting this cold (I mentioned I had a cold, yes?)…and, well, again, not too shabby.
And that brings me to…
The Big Picture
Now that I’m almost ten months into this first initial idea of exercising hard, once every 48 hours of the year, and seeing where it’s worked and where it’s been less than perfect once in a while, I’m starting to get it. This is about reaching a new normal. A new normal is a world where I can run 1:51 for 13 miles without having to kill myself in training, because my base fitness is “all there.” A new normal is running a 7:23 mile when I’m still sniffling from a cold (not completely recommended, but I was soooooo cabin feverish last week after two weeks fighting this that I needed to get in a track workout). A new normal is my weight being a pound or two lower than usual for this time of year, and my checking in with myself about it, and saying, yes. This feels better. It’s a small and subtle thing, but it feels good.
Fitness on a regular basis – and yes, accompanied by decent nutrition and rest habits – brings our bodies and minds to a new normal. We know what to do when we feel sluggish. We exercise. We know what to do when we’ve had too much to eat. We go for a walk and plan our next healthy meal. We don’t fall apart at the seams when things go haywire. We more or less know what to do in order to stay healthy, more or less all of the time.
It’s such a huge change in mindset, thinking back to six years ago this month when I had to slink into a consignment shop in Seattle to buy work pants in a size I’d never had to buy before (six sizes larger than I am today). By the time I finally realized I had to figure out how to take care of myself, or risk a lifetime of health issues, those too-big pants had gotten so tight that the seam on the inside lining had split.
But within weeks of committing to eating more healthfully and exercising more intensely, the pants were looser, my belts got more interesting (first by needing them in the first place, then by being able to pull them just a little tighter every few weeks), and moving around started to feel…easier. Not by a ton, and not all at once. But gradually? Yes. Because I focused on what I could do that day, and not on what I couldn’t? Yes. And it’s all stuck around, these changes, so much so that six years later, the new normal is that I can run a half-marathon in an hour and 51 minutes on next to no recent running-specific training due to a summer injury, and with a cold. That, too.
When I was losing weight, I dreamed of breaking two hours for the half-marathon. That was the “normal,” the benchmark. Then I crashed through that goal, running 1:55 in Philadelphia five years ago. Then I ran a 1:52 soon after that. And then, on one glorious early-spring day in 2011, a 1:46. Whoa. The “new normal” is 1:50. That’s my new two-hour barrier. I should be able to run sub-1:50 or close to it, most of the time. (My Garmin at 13.1 miles on Sunday registered a 1:50:25 or so; I didn’t run all the race tangents so wound up running 13.22 miles. Yes, we runners love our statistics.)
This is what exercising regularly gives us. A base level of fitness we can call on 24/7, even when things aren’t perfect, even when we want to throw in the towel. Now I can jump into a race and say, well, let’s go for it and see what happens. Then a couple of hours later I’ve got a finisher’s medal slung over my shoulder and I’m happily walking home hand in hand with my husband, who’s come out to cheer me as I surge (or crawl) to yet another finish line. We stop to take a picture at the totem pole near the entrance to a local museum in downtown Victoria. I grab a container of chocolate milk from a race volunteer. (Chocolate Milk: Best. Post-Run Drink. Ever.)
And then we walk the rest of the way back to where we’re staying, shower, munch on a bagel and bananas, and watch football together all afternoon.
This is the new normal. This is what exercise every 48 hours of life looks like, give or take a day now and then. This is good.
Yesterday’s Every48 workout: A lovely, long WALK in Victoria along the harbor. Lots and lots of walking. Great post-race gentle workout.