Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rainy run

Bryn Mawr Running Club workout canceled due to weather--news I learned with a mixture of relief and disappointment. I'm crazy enough that I'd planned to go if the workout were on. But when I phoned to be sure and learned of the cancellation, I must admit it simplified my evening--go to the Y, do some type of workout on the treadmill, and head home, mostly dry except for the trip to and from.

But treadmills have time limits, and even with some finessing (get on mill, get off after warming up, back on again for workout, off and back on for cool-down), simplicity once more gave way to complication. No time limits outdoors!

But it's raining and windy and cold and tree branches could fall on me... maybe even trees.

Still, my knee was mildly wobbly during the 5k on Saturday (a race that turned into a 6k or so, but that's a story for another day). Did I really want to do a speed workout? And if not, why not just run outdoors. How bad could it be?

But it was raining and windy and cold and tree branches could fall on me... maybe even trees.

Putting on my running clothes, I wondered whether to dress for indoors (to run on treadmill--but then would have to wear winter clothes on top, then peel back down to summer outfit inside, etc. etc. Why not just wear the winter gear and run outdoors--no change required, except maybe if I start feeling warm enough to remove jacket.

But it was raining and windy and cold and tree branches could fall on me... maybe even trees.

Still, I found myself going for the winter gear--and the knit hat, which probably was a sign from my brain saying, "you know you want to be outside, so do me the favor of keeping me warm."

The decision made, I headed outside, winter running gear on--and as soon as I stepped out the door....

... it was raining and windy and cold and tree branches could fall on me... maybe even trees.

"You CAN still go to the Y, you know," said my more sensible self. Ignoring her, I broke into a run.

Six miles was my plan, meaning four laps around my hilly loop ("well," said sensible self, "at least that gives you a chance to change your mind every lap").

Yet one lap led to another, and the colors of spring took on a sheen in the rain--willow and forsythia and daffodils, and decorations in yards--a pair of rainbow colored pinwheels, an inflatable person-size Easter bunny blown back on its butt due to wind, a Dodge Neon in neon yellow. Occasional passers-by laughed about how cold it was. The understanding smiles of those who brave the weather willingly or not. Stood still for a moment on the last lap to listen to the "twits" of cardinals hidden in some trees--saw a quick glimpse of a female cardinal, but most kept hidden. And so eventually I trotted off, realizing that I'd stood in one place for several minutes in rain, wind, and cold--to catch sight of cardinals. Cold? It was cold? Rain? I was ALMOST ready to take off my jacket.

Still, it was time to head home from my short adventure.

And it was raining and windy and cold and tree branches could have fallen on me... maybe even trees. But they did not. It was a good run. I wouldn't have missed it for anything!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Running around with fast crowds

Um... no, not that kind of fast crowds. :)

First, a note of thanks and good wishes:

Mike Patterson, longtime coach of Peak Performance, has decided due to other schedule and teaching demands that it's time to move on, and so, after 20 years, has decided to retire his running group. I have been a part of Peak Performance for ten of those years.

It has been a very special group and I've made some wonderful friendships, had some great workouts. This group was there for me following my mom's passing. We've cheered for one another, comforted one another, run hills on the hottest of evenings together and found what stretches of plowed surface we could for parking lot workouts on -10 degree nights. We became a band of diehards, running in cold, in heat, in rain, in snow--the Schuylkill frozen, choppy, glassy smooth as our backdrop.

Before every Philly Distance Run, we posed for a group picture, our uniform colors changing sometimes, but not the "esprit de corps"--as any of the regulars at Bishop's Collar could tell you. We had Carol generously hosting pre-race breakfasts and coffee. We had the Back on Our Feet relay the weekend it was 100 degrees. We kept on running. And so we will keep on running--with our team-mates... and our time by the river ... stitched in our memories.

And for me, now?

No group can replace what Mike brought together on Kelly Drive. Yet each group offers different possibilities. With the old group ending, I thought I'd experiment with a new one and so I have begun Tuesday evening workouts with the Bryn Mawr Running Club not seeing it as a replacement--that would not do either it or Mike's group justice--but rather as a different kind of adventure.

Trying a new group after having been with Peak Performance as long as I had, I wondered what to expect, how I'd fit in--or if I'd fit in. While I was sometimes the slowest member of Peak Performance, I wasn't always--and even when I was, there were often so few people that we still shared a common bond of doing a workout together and while there could be competition sometimes, camaraderie overshadowed any competitiveness and kept things fun.

What would it be like with this much larger group, with so many people I didn't know--and still don't, as I'm pretty new to the group. I did, of course, know Bob Schelm, the group's leader. Like Mike, he's a veteran of the Philly area running scene, both with distinguished careers as elite runners. And when I first showed up for a workout, there were a couple of familiar faces. With each workout, the number of familiar faces increases.

At first, I experienced something of a culture shock when Bob assigned people to groups based on 5k times and started out with "15-17 minutes" and then, by the time he reached group 4 or 5 and the "slow" times were 23-24 minutes, the thought came to me, "Hmmm, so where does 28-29 mins. come in... Is there a group 9? 10? Is there time to bolt?"

But once in the rhythm of the workout, speed became less important to me than just the pure adrenaline of running hard. There were so many people I was never alone and eventually lost track of who was passing me... well, actually everyone was passing me. But they'd call out, "good job" or "keep it up!" And although "good job" is a highly relative thing, I enjoyed the encouragement.

Finding my way to and from the workouts, which start at the Bryn Mawr Running Store, was the other challenge, now somewhat easier since daylight savings time began. But at one point, in total darkness, I wondered whether I'd be lost and left to wander around Bryn Mawr the whole time. I had to learn to trust and take small steps... small steps: something whose value Mike had many times tried to impress on me. The outlines of runners ahead soon enough became apparent. Unfamiliar roads became known. Dark forms in running clothes assumed identities. People who run fast--or not--are simply people. They experience the pain and breathlessness of effort at different speeds, but the basic experience is something we all share whatever our speed.

In the most recent workout--the first with enough daylight to see where I was--our group 24mins. plus... or, with me as a member, 24++, was assigned 6x1000m. at about 5k pace. At the first of the Coopertown School workouts, we were to do 4x1200. I managed only three before it was time to leave--being unsure of the route and a little over-cautious in the dark ... and ... well ... slow to begin with... didn't help. But this past Tuesday, while still a good bit slower than the others, I managed to do all six of the 1000s and people were still there, even if about to leave. PROGRESS!

Bob, who was featured as the Age Group Ace in the April Running Times, signed my copy with the inscription, "Keep coming to Tuesday nights and you might get some ink." It likely will take a long while before I get "ink" for my running performances, if at all, but I don't worry about that. (I'm more in the business of giving others ink in any case.)

What I do get is the satisfaction of taking a risk, stretching the comfort zone, only partly because of the workouts themselves...

Every interval or hill workout stretches physical boundaries. And I've learned from my years in Peak Performance and in masters' swimming, that each of us sets our own goals in a workout. I've spent a lot of time swimming with faster people as well as running with them. As a weight training instructor used to tell us beginners, "It's your workout. Don't worry if someone else benches 100 pounds and you're lifting the bar with no weights. Your goals aren't that other person's goals." I am 59, not 29, so my goals will be different from the elite 29 year old 5k runner. I will do what I can do and stretch my boundaries, not the 29 year old's boundaries.

But the risk is also social, just as it was for me at 9 and 19 and 29 and on. Joining a new group, being the "new kid in school," especially when the other "kids" are way ahead can feel risky, can feel off balance. Yet this is precisely the value of such a move. In insecurity, in uncertainty, in moving into new territory, there is growth--there is adventure. There is life. Strangers become friends. Just as they did ten years ago when I first joined Mike's group. And so the circle widens to embrace more friends--not to negate the value of those we now have but to affirm their value. I carry with me to this new group what I learned from the previous one. I remain friends with those in my previous group whose friendship has so many times given me the courage to go forward, learn and make new friends.