Friday, January 2, 2015

Inspiration and adaptation

It's funny how much can change in a year, and how other things hardly change at all. At the beginning of 2014 I had an injured foot and was unable to run. I had no idea what to do with myself, but I knew I had to do something. With too many holiday indulgences and no running to offset the calories, I was hardly able to button my jeans. I took to the internet and found a bootcamp class at a local CrossFit box, and even though the idea intimidated the shit out of me, I signed up. It was one of those leap-of-faith moments that paid off ten-fold. When I stepped into the box that first day, I was so timid and unsure of myself. I stuck with the classes 2-3 times a week for the entire year, even after my foot had finally healed and I was comfortably running again. I lost inches and pounds, and gained confidence and strength. I learned that challenging myself was fun, even if my attempts weren't always successful.

Through bootcamp I met a woman who shyly asked me questions about running. I invited her to join the 5k training group that I was participating in, with the goal of a New Year's Day 5k. Yesterday she completed her first 5k with tears in her eyes, and it was so fucking beautiful to see. Her husband gushed on about how proud he was of her accomplishment, and she looked me in the eye and said "I wouldn't have done this if it weren't for you." That was a powerful moment for me, and it meant so much to be a part of someone else's leap-of-faith.

As for my own 5k performance, it was more than I could have asked for. I finally started running regularly (and pain-free!) at the end of September. I was surprised how well bootcamp had kept my endurance levels and conditioning up, and falling back into running felt almost seamless. I had always relied on run/walk intervals for my runs, no matter the distance, but I decided once again to test my own limits. Inspired by the words of some friends in the Sub-30 club, I set out to "get comfortable with being uncomfortable". After my first 4-mile run without any walk breaks, something inside of me clicked. It wasn't my body that was holding me back, it was my mind. From there I went on to eventually run 9 miles without any walking.

My goal for the New Year's Day 5k was to complete the race without walking, but secretly I also wanted to PR. I had run the course previously and knew what to expect, and my plan was to really push myself in the last mile. It was a cold morning, and as we entered the turn toward the lake there was a volunteer warning runners about black ice. There were some areas that were so bad that people were wiping out, and we had no choice but to gingerly tiptoe along. I had all but given up hope of achieving my goal, but I pressed on anyway. When I crossed the finish line I was shocked to realize I had beaten my 5k PR by 30 seconds!

Later in the day I sat and reflected on my race and on the past year, and what really hit me is this: you can plan things down to the last detail, but when life happens and the plan inevitably goes out the window, the magic is in how you adapt. I didn't plan to be an injured runner for almost a year, and I didn't plan for black ice on race day, but I did choose not to let those obstacles slow me down. 2014 took a lot out of me, but in hindsight I realize it gave me exactly what I had asked for: strength.