Something was starting to burn deep inside me again—the desire to compete and make fitness a priority. Let me rephrase that…the desire to make MY fitness a priority.
I’d spent so much time over the last year and a half organizing and coaching all my kids running teams (peek at my coaching page if you’re interested), on top of writing and juggling all the things moms juggle, few hours were left in the day for my own running.
Oh, I’d run here and there, start then sputter, get pulled away, then start again, repeating an endless frustrating cycle of mediocrity as I fought to maintain my baseline fitness. I even joined in races when I wrangled enough time and energy, but I was definitely not operating on all cylinders.
And the thing is, I know without a doubt that if I don’t make health and fitness a priority, I feel off kilter—like a wobbly top spinning full speed ahead, bumping from one thing to the next. I put everybody and everything ahead of myself. I say, “Yes” to too many things. I volunteer more than I should. I don’t get enough sleep and often make bad food choices.
I’m embarrassed to share with you how much chocolate I consumed…not to mention red wine…and coffee (lots of coffee)…all those treats, which temporarily make us feel giddy, decadent and “rewarded,” but also pack on an extra 5-10 pounds if we’re not careful.
When the ball dropped in 2014, I was more than ready to say, “Enough, girlfriend!” and take decisive steps to get back to center and reclaim my own personal fitness goals.
“What’s that?” you ask.
The SBAA is our fabulous local running association, which has created a fun way for its members to compete against each other in races all throughout the year. You simply sign up in your age group and gender and race in designated 5Ks, 10ks, and half marathons throughout the year. Points are awarded for whatever place you come in, and at the end of the year, whoever has the most points in each age group is crowned the winner.
It’s simple enough, but believe me folks, this took a major dollop of courage, considering I wasn’t feeling worthy of signing up for this group yet, let alone racing at my mediocre level of fitness—especially since some of the top female runners in all of Santa Barbara happen to be in my age group. We’re talking 5, 6 and 7-minute milers. Gulp.
But I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride and jumped into the mix.
And guess what? It’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long, long time.
It has been nothing but fun, and most of all it has given me some much-needed goals to help me stay focused on making my own workouts as much of a priority as those I create for my kiddos.
I don’t know about you, but without a race goal dangling in front of me I find it easy to bumble aimlessly through my workouts or opt for coffee and a good book instead of a track workout or a tempo run on mornings when I’m feeling less than motivated. Perhaps you can relate?
After joining the SBAA, I also joined the Santa Barbara Cruisers, a running group coached by Super Stud master’s runner, Nash Jimenez. We’re talking a 64-year old speed demon who still runs a 5 minute mile. Not only does he coach the Cruisers, but he also coaches many of the elite runners I previously mentioned.
Nash had generously offered to coach me from the first day I started working with him in 2012 (we coach the Kids Corner Coyotes running team together), but I never took him up on his offer. I was always way squeezed for time, and quite honestly never felt ready…that is until a few months ago.
That tiny step of joining the Cruisers added one more layer of commitment to my fitness goals and launched me even farther into this super supportive running community we have here in Santa Barbara. Not only that, it finally dragged my reluctant butt back to the track for some much-needed speedwork—not something I’ve ever enjoyed on my own.
So how has it gone so far?
As you might imagine, my first race in early February was far from spectacular. I was just getting my legs under me again. Most of the time it felt like I was trudging through molasses as I finished the Super Bowl 4-miler back there with the 75-year olds (who I admire to end, I might add).
The bright spot was that I made a race plan prior to the event and managed to stick with it. It was more of a mental race for me than anything as I wanted to run negative splits—something I’ve often lacked disciplined to do during races. I finished in 33:10 (8:18 pace) with splits of 8:36, 8:21, 8:13 and 7:49. This earned me a 4th place finish (out of 4) among the Grand Prix racers and 9/31 for women 40-49. Not a super encouraging way to start, but at least it got me to the starting line!
My second race, the Winter Warm-up 5K trail run in Carpinteria, was a little brighter. I finished in 25:30 (8:13 pace) and finished 3rd among the Grand Prix racers. The most encouraging part was that I was able to take a whole minute off my time from the previous time I’d run this course. Also, how can anyone not love a small town race where every finisher receives a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the Kiwanis Club?
A week later I did my third race, which was my best race to date. I finished the Jenny Schatzle Community 5K in 23:45 (7:39 pace)—a PR, making me realize, that yes, it is possible to get faster as you get older.
The best part is that I was paced by some of the fabulous little athletes I’ve been lucky enough to coach over the last couple years. It was exciting to see these naturally talented 9 and 10-year olds rip up the course. Yay!
My last race, the Orchard to Ocean 10K, landed me another PR a few weeks ago, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my performance. I went out too fast and paid the price on the hills. I finished in 50:05 (8:04 pace), missing by goal by 5 seconds, once again taking 3rd among the Grand Prix’ers.
The funny thing I’m discovering about the Grand Prix is that half the battle is showing up. I am not the fastest runner in my age group, by far, but at the moment I happen to be in first place.
How can that be? Simply because I’ve participated in at least one or two more races than my competitors (who were off winning national masters championships, by the way, or taking part in 100-mile bike rides). My consistent third and fourth place finishes have given me enough points to temporarily inch me past those who have placed first and second in one or two races.
I have no illusions that it will stay this way, but for one brief moment I can revel in the fact that I’m right about what I often tell the kids I coach: “Good things can only happen if you show up. You have no chance whatsoever of coming in first place unless you participate.”
So now it’s on to the next race, the Chardonnay 10-miler, in two weeks. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.
Whether I do well in this race or not, simply by training and participating, I’m continuing to bring myself back to center where I can be the best version of who I am. After all, center is where everything good happens, where everything becomes positive and doable, and everything feels in balance.
Getting back to center has not only allowed me to enjoy the buzz of racing again and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, but it has re-energized me because I’m also eating well and carving out time for myself.
Oh, and that extra chocolate, wine and coffee weight? Poof. Gone. More importantly, my inner critic is gone, replaced by a crazy chick who’s doing the happy dance as she chases after a few dreams she’s had bumping around in her head for years. More about that another time, though.
For now, here’s to running, racing, and dream chasing…and to celebrating the spirit and power of our amazing running community.