July 7, 2006

The Little Triathlete That Could

I am not a little girl.

I am not an athletic girl.

I am not a graceful girl.

I am not a girl for setting small, (some would say) realistic goals.

I decided a couple of years ago that I was going to train for a marathon even though I hadn't run since I was a kid. But the memory of running stayed with me. I can remember just wanting to get places--my grandparents' house a block away, the swings, whatever--FAST. It seemed effortless and efficient. I can remember the 95 degree, 100% humidity of mid-Atlantic summers and the suffocating cloud of steam that seemed to surround me if I stopped running. It seemed better just to keep moving. Most of the time I ran barefoot with my hair completely wild and loose and flying behind me.

These beautiful memories were in my mind when I started my marathon training program, and then reality set in.

I must have been the crankiest runner EVER. I cursed most of the time I was doing it ("Why the FUCK did I think this was a good idea?" or "Screw you, bitch in the little short shorts. What the fuck are you smiling about?") 99 out of 100 times I had to force myself out the door. I had to make promises of margaritas, mexican food, extra sleep, new shoes, you name it. Once I even took my "Mr. T in my pocket" with me for moral support, other pedestrians' perceptions be damned. Every couple of blocks I would reward myself by pressing a different button: "Shut up, fool!" "Don't make me mad! Grrrr...." "Don't give me no back talk, sucka!" It helped. Kind of. At least it distracted me from my hostility toward other runners who looked happy to be doing what they were doing. (Fools.)

I was filled with anxiety about the way I looked running. Is that runner behind me looking at my ass fat? Did my huffing and puffing just set off that car alarm? Do I look like I'm about to DIE?

But there were some good moments, too.

There was the afternoon in the heat of early September when, after several weeks of working on it, I ran a mile for the first time on the trail at Byrd Park in Richmond, VA. I wanted to throw my arms around the next sweaty jogger with headphones that I passed. I was absolutely triumphant.

There was also the sound I heard for the first time as a runner at the start of my first race on a cold morning in early November on Broad St. It was the sound of thousands of footsteps pounding the pavement, moving together. And my own footsteps were part of it.

Sure, I was slow. I mean really slow. But I was doing something I never imagined I could do. It was so hard for me to believe that I was a runner that I was terrified of jeopardizing it. I was absolutely militant with myself. I was terrified of missing a run or not completing the distances exactly as prescribed in my training guide. Though I wore good shoes and stretched obediently before and after my runs, I developed an overuse injury in my knee and couldn't continue with my training for that particuar marathon.

I'm sorry to say that I let the discouragement overwhelm me. Despite my accomplishments and my progress, I stopped running for almost two years. In my mind I ran my one race over and over again. I felt miserable as I put the running clothes for a slimmer, trimmer me into a trunk in my bedroom.Fast forward to a new city and an approaching 30th birthday...

I'm back! I'm ready to go and can barely contain my impatience to make up for lost time. I've decided to join a triathalon club at my gym in January 2007 (which is, coincidentally, the month of the big 30). Until then, I'm working individually on the swimming, biking, and running. I'm lifting weights and just generally working on upping my "Let's kick some ass" mentality. I'm going to do it!

There are only two things making me nervous:

1) The thought of practicing my open water swims in the San Francisco Bay. A lot of ugly things have ended up in that bay, people. Wives heads and small children's bodies are among them.

2) The thought of putting my ass in a wetsuit. Fuck. (Shudders at the thought.)

No comments: