Idiot’s luck. Is there such a thing?
I ran the last race of a training season today. By that I mean, I ended a 7-month period of running for the purpose of doing well on successive goal races, interrupted only by one fluke injury that benched me for 2 weeks in December. Training is a double-edged sword. It gives me purpose and discipline and leads me to new achievements, but it is also mentally exhausting. Life happened while I was training. Holidays and birthdays and parties and vacations. I trained around life as much as possible, but the effort of fitting it all in was almost as hard and doing the training itself. After 7 months of this, I am glad to take a siesta.
The siesta actually began early, which was the cause of much consternation. I had today’s 10-miler on the books and meanwhile we decided to go on a 1700-mile family road trip through the Four Corners region for the 10 days leading up to the race. Determined to finish the last portion of my training program (minus the strength- and cross-training), I stuffed my running shoes, clothes and watch beneath the heap of outdoor paraphernalia called for by our plans to visit to 7 national parks and monuments across Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. But the God of Vacation triumphed over the God of Running. I sat for hours in a car while snacking with abandon, and outside the car I ate more greasy food than I can justify. Instead of 6 running days, I put in 2. I tried to appreciate the extraordinary scenery around me, but both runs felt staggeringly hard (I’m going to blame the altitude) and ended with me forgetting one of my belongings at the hotel in the haste of showering, packing out and heading off to our next destination. The God of Vacation was laughing heartily.
Yesterday when I returned home and dejectedly pinged my running pal Beth to strategize about the 10-miler, I warned her that I have slacked off big-time the past week and a half. To my relief, she said she hadn’t been running either. So we agreed to forego any sort of lofty goal and just enjoy the run.
Not only did I set a low bar, I showed up at the race more unprepared than ever. I did not eat a particularly good dinner, did not get my preferred 8 hours of shut-eye, did not pin my bib or fasten my D-tag the night before, and completely forgot to put on my Garmin, let alone my heart-rate monitor. I went into the race tech-naked. Beth did have her Garmin, so she was charged with monitoring how we were doing. She kindly refrained from reading off our time for the first two miles, in which we clawed our way up 3 monstrous back-to-back hills in the Presidio. Her first reading came midway across the Golden Gate Bridge at the 4-mile mark. Amazingly, we were on target for a 90-minute finish. On the way back across, having crested the high point of the bridge (the final incline of the race), we felt a new resolve and let gravity quicken our stride the next 2 miles. The final 3 miles were on flat ground, and the typical headwind on Crissy Field was unusually mild, so it was no trouble to hold on until we summoned a 5K pace for the final mile.
We beat our 90-minute goal by almost 3 minutes. I bettered my previous time on this course by 7 minutes. My lungs never screamed and my legs never felt heavy like they did when I suffered my way through the 6-mile tempo run in Durango 5 days ago, and yet I ran 15 seconds faster per mile today. We celebrated our unexpected accomplishment by scarfing down buttered pancakes and egg and cheese burritos. Beth had a Bloody Mary. I stuck to coconut water. Yes, I vacationed and ate junk food for 10 days and PR’d. Who would have thunk it? True idiot’s luck. Or maybe…just maybe…there’s something to be said for resting and letting go. For enjoying vacations. For trusting what we have built into our bodies through cumulative training. For just enjoying the run. I’m really looking forward to the next few months of kicking back and running just for running’s sake.