Thursday, January 13, 2011

Making the grade.

Or not quite making it.

I have been thinking about this ever since I "failed" a workout set me by my coach last week.  8 x 800m up a hill at 7.11 min/mile.  It was snowy, there was some slippage.  I had an excuse.  But really - there was NO way I could do that.  I think I could possibly run 8 x 800m at 7.11 min/mile on a flat surface.  On a good day.  But up a hill?  I don't think I could.  Coach understood and adjusted.  Then, this evening, I could not bring myself to do the tempo run set.  Again, an excuse - the gym was as hot as an oven as the A/C had broken down and also - dang I love to run my tempos outside on my quiet country roads.  I just do.  And I DID manage that tempo last week so darn it, I'm going to hit it tomorrow morning.

I've been reading some blog posts - I am waaaaayyy behind but will catch up - by some very hardcore, tough ass runners.  And I admire you, you hardcore, tough ass runners.  You are amazing.  Elizabeth Waterstraat wrote an excellent post on facing your fears and HingTFU.  I've been seeing how you look - Elizabeth, and you too Kara, and I've been admiring from a distance, because I'm not sure I dare sign on, Shut Up and Run's uncompromising, brave and hilarious blog.  In the past few weeks I have watched people around me resolve, lose their resolve, and get back on that New Year's wagon.  I admire, applaud, and support all of these brave moves.  I've signed up with WeightWatchers.  I want to look like Kara,
like Elizabeth, like Miss Zippy, like ShutupandRun.  Like so many of you for whom endurance sport is the defining strain of your lifestyle.  And your amazing bodies demonstrate that.

Then today I was saying to my husband that I was desperate to lose 4 kilos.  With the silent promise so many of you know - then, then.  Then it will all happen.  4 kilos is what stands between me and greatness.  And then he said to me that I looked gorgeous, strong, fit now.  I looked like a 39 year old woman who worked hard, ran hard, trained hard, but who was still a woman.  And I reflected that - when I was 4 kilos lighter, not so long ago, I looked more drawn, more strained, but I still had those legs, that ass - I am NEVER going to look like Kara, or Elizabeth, Miss Zippy or ShutupandRun.  I can, in Saint Oprah's words, strive to be the best me, but heading towards my 40th, it's the best ME I want to be going towards.  Let Kara be the best Kara, Elizabeth the best Elizabeth, etc.  Let Petra be the best Petra.  And oh when will I learn to stop comparing and start just being me? For all you youngsters out there, I'm warning you, you might not be there yet at 39.  Just sayin. 

And then my wonderful coach, Miss Zippy, confirmed to me that she is the right person to be my coach right now.  She is struggling with injury right now and has written a very moving post on how life is missing something without running and how nothing else can take that place.  And I read all the comments - including someone who was telling about a lady who'd rather walk than not run 8 minute miles.  And it made me think. In the past year I have followed my extremely dear and talented friend Jen go from someone obsessed with times and results to someone who has readjusted to finding balance and joy in her life. Without focusing entirely on how fast she is, or who she is beating.  And I realised that, more than anything else, I just love running.  Running has changed my life.  I don't think I would be who I am right now without it.  7 1/2 years on from that first halting painful first half mile, it has become an integral part of me.

But I lack the singlemindedness of the athlete.  I think I could cope with not running fast. (I bet Paula Radcliffe just sighed with relief).   I think I could cope with running slow miles.  Unlike that woman in the comments, I could cope with not 8 minute miling (cr*p, I couldn't cope with 8 minute miling tonight as a tempo run and I'm still standing and will go out tomorrow morning for a run - I know I can cope with that!).  Like Miss Zippy, when I've not been able to run it's been a hole in my life.  But as long as I can run, I realise I can cope with not always running this fast.  And don't get me wrong here, by the way.  I am going kick the hell out of my training plan.  I am going to nail that workout tomorrow morning. I know I need to work on my mindset, and I'm doing that (Tim Noakes, bring on your governor!).  Boston is great and I can't wait to run it.  And I will run my heart out, and my ass off - whatever time that gives me.  But.  I also know that I also love my long slow runs through the countryside where I'm not really concerned with my pace and just listening to my podcasts.  I love the many, many, many friends running has given me and the fun stuff my running leads to. I love it more.

So maybe my lack of single-mindedness means that sometimes I miss an interval workout, unlike Elizabeth.  And maybe she thinks I should HTFU instead of sloping home, having a bath with a glass of merlot and heading to bed with a crime novel.  But that's her, and this is me.

Tomorrow is another day.  And I will be out on that road.  Running the best I can.  So let's wash all that stuff of - that fear of failure, that fear of being too fat, too slow, somehow not being good enough.  Break the ice with me and come for a swim.  Anytime!


Kate said...


I am almost speechless. Glad to hear you are coming to realize that you don't need to compare yourself to anyone else. You are Petra and you are beautiful and amazing the way YOU are. :)

Aka Alice said...

You are amazing Petra. I wish I were going to Boston so that we could meet. I think that if I can maintain my current 10:30 (ish) long run pace, I'll be able to qualify when I am 80! So stick with it, OK? (LOL...I actually looked into this, what kind of nut am I?)

I think I was about 45 (not so long ago) when I decided to stop comparing myself to others...but just because I decided, doesn't mean I'm always successful, but at least I don't dwell on it like I used to.

Amanda@runninghood said...

You are beautiful! This is an amazing post! One of the best I've ever read. You spoke to my heart. Thank you for this. So much of what you said resonated with me. If only we all learned to think this my friend have just written about one of the biggest and most important things to being a self confident, healthy, and centered person who loves living Their life! I'm still learning this lesson but I do try to remind myself to just be myself and do this for me...I am Amanda and there is only one me! Thank you again for writing this. I can tell this is a post that just came freely from your flowed.

Running and living said...

This is great. It shows maturity. It shows you are comfortable in your skin. Awesome!

I rarely compare myself with other runners. In fact, I don't remember last time I did that? I compete with myself only (though in races I want to beat anyone in front of me, lol). Sport for me is a means of facing fears, seeing how you deal with adversity, understanding that you can contain emotions and pain.

Oh, and 7:11 on a .5 mile hill....not sure if I could do that:) I do my .25 hill sprints at a much slower pace on a v steep hill:) and it feels like death!

Meg said...

PETRA!!! are SO beautiful and so full of spirit and soul! This post just shows how truly gorgeous and in touch you truly are with what is best for YOU! You've dialed into what YOU truly need, not what you need to look like, how fast you need to run nor how bad ass you need to be. Being you is WAY more than enough, now WE want to be YOU. You've totally got it goin' on.
I LOVED the Central Govenor and Tim Noakes-best thing I've learned yet about racing(Marathon Talk-episode 47)!
I learned so much from Elizabeth Waterstraat's post as well. THANKS for sharing yourself and these great resources, you're so special!

Lindsay and James Cotter said...

You are beautiful. comparing can be draining, stressful, and useless. Cheers to You PETRA!

jeanne said...

Is that what you look like 4kilos overweight?!? that is so NOT fair!
anywho, i love this post. I would give my right arm to run 11 min mile again.
The grass is always greener!

Lindsay and James Cotter said...

love the serendipity. Cheers to new follower friends!

Emz said...

way awesome.

Let Petra be the best Petra.

make a sign and stick it everywhere. the best quote ever.


Anonymous said...

This is just what I needed to read! You are AMAZING and going to have quite the new year! I love that you freaking jumped in that freezing water...very badass! :)

Fran said...

I don't really have anything to say. It's a beautiful written post, I enjoyed and loved reading it.

Jill said...

Petra, you are one crazy woman in that ice ... I hope you didn't get frostbite!! :)

You are truly an amazing (yet crazy :)) woman!! I always know when I come over to your blog that my life is changed just a little bit. I am NOT happy with my body nor my running nor my heel nor so many things but I now I can come over here and in some way feel like sometimes it is ok. And that's the best feeling ever!

Like you friend, Jen, I have watched my race times and running pace, which I held so sacred, slowly slip away from me and though I want to claw my way back to the top where I once was, I know the limits on my 47 year old body and thus I've been doing a lot of soul searching, trying to figure out what exactly it is I need from my running. I'm not really sure yet, but I am finally starting to accept that speed is not it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me realize that yes, this is ok!!

You're absolutely beautiful!!! I am blessed to "know" you! You are going to ROCK in Boston and I am going to follow every single step of your race.

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

Yikes - that is really FAST for 800s uphill. I'm with ya, I couldn't do that either, not even on the track.

Ok if you are strong minded enough to get in that icy water, you are strong enough to do anything. ...and you are fabulous!

Amanda@runninghood said...

Thanks for your sweet comment today Petra. So glad you enjoyed my post. :) Hope your training is going good! Is it?