Monday, November 29, 2010

Running Solo...and Insecure

Boulder is such a running town that our local paper, the Camera, has a regular running columnist, Mike Sandrock. Mike is also a library patron, so I've struck up an acquaintance with him. I'm still too shy to tell him that I'm trying for Boston (this is a guy who has run with Ryan Hall, whereas I am a librarian who once saw Ryan Hall at Pei Wei Asian Grill). But I do sometimes share my weekend mileage with him.

In one such conversation, when I was ramping up for the Boulder Half, I told Mike I had run 14 miles that weekend.

"Wow," he said (he always pretends to be impressed because he's nice). Then, "Who did you run with?"

When I told him no one, he looked really surprised.

This got me thinking about why I run alone, when so many others run with partners or girlfriends or groups. Much of it has to do with timing. The best opportunity for me to get my runs in usually comes at around 5 a.m. That's too early for most groups, and with the exception of my friend Christine, whom I meet once a week for a crack-of-dawn climb up Mt. Sanitas or a spinning class, also too early for most individuals.

But there are other reasons too.

1. Because (total honesty) I still feel like a poser when it comes to running. There's still a big insecure part of me that believes real runners are the ones who win races and/or age groups or at least finish close to the top of their races or age groups on a regular basis. Since I am not one of those people, I prefer to keep the spotlight of even one witness's eyes off my running (which is why putting this blog out there was a very big deal to me).

2. Because if I feel tired or unmotivated on a particular run, or speedier and more inspired, I don't have to worry about how that will affect a partner who won't have planned on either a too-slow or too-fast pace. I want to run as my own body and mind dictate that day.

3. Because as a mom and as a person who works daily with the public, I relish time alone. When I run, I can listen to the music I want instead of that mix CD we got at the last 4-year-old birthday party. Or I can listen to nothing but the woods around me or the passing cars. I don't have to talk, be polite, pretend I'm happy about fixing the copy machine, or answer questions having to do with how downloadable books work or don't work on someone's iPad. I don't even have to think if I don't care to.

Don't get me wrong. I *love* working out with other people in other contexts. My Mondays with Christine always refresh me for the day ahead. My Tues/Thurs bootcamp class is full of inspiring women, including a 75-year-old who can hold a plank way longer than the rest of us can. And running with others can be great when good company, not pace, is the point. In 2004, my husband and I had a blast running Bay to Breakers in San Francisco. It was fun running with Kathy in the trail half-marathon two weeks ago. Time goes quickly when you have someone to talk and joke with on the way.

But having someone else depend on or expect anything from my running in any way is anxiety-inducing for me. Case in point: last July I was on a team with two other women from the library in a 5K corporate challenge race. They both ran sub-24 minutes. I ran 26 minutes and change. Our team would have won the women's division if it hadn't been for me. My teammates were really nice--they seemed genuinely excited about being second. I put a good face on (I think), but in reality I was deeply disappointed and demoralized. When I'm on a team, I want to contribute, not be dead weight.

I don't know if this attitude will be a plus or a minus in my Boston effort. On the one hand, no one can do the work to help me qualify but me, so perhaps it's good that I prefer the lone wolf approach. But on the other hand, I know there's a defensiveness about it that won't serve me well. I know I need advice and support. And I know I need to be willing to accept failure, public failure, and bounce back from it without bitterness.

Which brings me to the holiday weekend's race report. I ran the Turley's Turkey Trot 5K last Thursday less as a race and more as a fun way to get the day's scheduled tempo miles in (and burn some calories before the afternoon meal). It was right across the street from our condo complex at CU's Potts Field, so I just walked over there and started my warm-up mile. My chip time was 26:01; my official time was 26:16. Though I stuck to my planned pace and didn't push it, I was still disappointed that I didn't go faster. I hope that time isn't what I will see in this weekend's Colder Bolder.

Food report: Pumpkin pie was consumed, but I'm hanging on. It's been hard. I did do the "half your plate is veggies" thing at Thanksgiving dinner, but Thanksgiving Day was also Dan's birthday. Dan is a guy who, most of the year, eats exactly the way all of us should: he eats slowly and stops before he's full, he avoids sweets and eating out and he genuinely prefers healthy food to unhealthy. But on his birthday, he asks every year for one of those trans-fat-laden grocery store white cakes with the grout-thick white icing, and feasts on it for a week. So I've had that thing in my house since Friday. I've managed to mostly avoid it by eating a lot of sugar-free popsicles. But I'm glad he finished it off last night, easing the sweets pressure....until the kids' birthday on Dec.'s always something with me and food.....

On tap this week: my second meeting with Martha the nutritionist and of course the Colder Bolder 5K on Saturday. I'm hoping the little funk I'm in will end once I realize, as I always do a day or so after a fun holiday weekend, that getting back to the routine really isn't so horrible. And unlike the Turkey Trot, my race this weekend will be run on two full days of rest preceded by two days of easy workouts. Don't fail me, training!


  1. I run alone also for exactly the same reasons.

    The cake thing would be too hard for me to resist. We started making xmas cookies this weekend and I had to give them mostly away for fear of inhaling a pound of butter.

    Good luck with the upcoming race. It's all about getting familiar with race paces, isn'tit?

  2. Penny, that's so true (about feeling your pace being the key to a race). Historically I've been very bad at judging it. But on a recent track workout, where I was running 1000s, I was hitting the prescribed pace plus or minus two or so seconds each time. Gives me hope!

    I had a *great* day today on the food front. They had a retirement party for someone with *tons* of dessert, trays of cookies, a giant cake, chocolate...and all I had of it was the fruit and wheat crackers with a little olive tapenade. I didn't even feel too tempted. Maybe the slow run on Thursday was a good wake-up call...