Off these feet (Part 5): Take-home prize

The eight weeks in Truckee were magic. The improbable occurred: I became a better runner by being less of a runner.

In four years of long distance running, I just assumed that to run better, one had to run. I ignored the occasional nuggets of wisdom from my trainer and triathlete friends that one should also spend time doing other things like strength and cross-training. The longer my distance goal, the more I ignored that advice. When I trained for marathons, literally all I did was run, because I simply had no time to do anything else. It was an unfortunate catch-22.

This summer proved without a doubt that you can’t be a solid runner without also being generally fit. After all, the body does not operate in isolation. There were also psychological benefits to scattering my focus a bit. It prevented me from getting bored and burning out.

My take-home prize from the summer up in the mountains was running superpowers. I could bang out an 8:30 pace anywhere, anytime without trying — a full minute per mile faster than 8 weeks prior. For anyone who is skeptical about the benefits of proper training, I tell you once again: training is a beautiful thing.

I was fully primed for Hood to Coast. I nailed my pace targets for all three of my legs, did not let my team down, did not bonk. I had never felt so comfortable in a race. I kept thinking, “Wow, this is how it feels to be perfectly trained!” but in truth I was probably overtrained. My track coach friend would have told me that if I felt that good in a race, then I wasn’t pushing a real race pace. I thought of that too on my first two legs, but having never done a relay before, I erred on the side of caution. I decided not to go guns ablazin’ at the beginning so I could avoid crashing and burning in the end. But in the end, I wasn’t fully tapped. I had held back too much. It was just too hard to believe that I could run in the 8’s repeatedly without coming close to sucking wind.

My superpowers lingered for a good month beyond Hood to Coast, but something strange happened. I lost my desire to run. Instead of capitalizing on my fitness and signing up for a slew of races to set new PRs, I ran one race (got a shiny new 10K PR) and otherwise felt very little motivation to run. I felt no hunger to achieve any goal. Ho hum.

What happened? Hood to Coast. I had reached the pinnacle of my running adventures. I had finally run the illustrious H2C and executed it to the best of my ability. And I guess the aftermath of all that is feeling the need to close the book on my running story. I guess when you finally get to the top of the mountain after a long journey, the last thing you want is to go back down and make the same trek back up. You put a notch on your belt and move on. You embark on a different trek, strive to reach a different summit.

In the past I’ve experienced how failure drives us to succeed. Now I’m learning that success is a short-lived thrill. Getting the prize is nice, but what makes me feel most alive is fighting for it.

Taking a minute to enjoy my improbable 50:50 12K PR...and then moving on

Taking a minute to enjoy my improbable 50:50 10K PR…and then moving on

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Why Oiselle?

I am officially a Oiselle ambassador!

Oiselle makes extraordinary running clothes for women. The design is clean, sporty and modern. There are no boring paisleys, hoaky florals or in-your-face street rat prints. The colors are imaginative but tasteful. They don’t just recycle the tired formula of black, bluish and pinkish season after season. The fit is streamlined and not size-inflated. And the performance is top-notch. But what I love most about Oiselle is that they are the labor of love of a small but mighty group of women runners in Seattle who believe women should be able to wear what they love when they run. And based on their Twitter feeds and Facebook page, they have an awfully fun time plying their trade.

I got turned onto Oiselle when I discovered their running tees. So much to love in a simple t-shirt! Oiselle’s tees showcase the soul of the company and speak to women runners in a way that I’ve only seen from marketing behemoth Nike – except Oiselle would never be caught dead making a t-shirt like this.

Oiselle’s motto is “go fast, take chances.” While I can’t represent fast like the some of the elite and ambassador runners on the team, I can represent the sense of daring that thrives in so many runners. That gumption that spurs runners to trot up that massive hill after staring at it, contemplating, “How bad could it be?” That desire to push beyond what’s known. Those moments when we ask ourselves: “What if I turn that corner on this trail? Wonder if there’ll be a view?” or “OK, I’ve run a 10K, what would it feel like to run a half marathon?” The chance we take when we decide to try running despite never having been active before. That’s what my Oiselle racing singlet will stand for.