My running club’s official track season started last night, and for the first time since joining the club two years ago, I decided to give it a try. But not without a fair amount of anxiety. Track is for fast people. For people with funny looking track shoes. For people that know a “400” is one lap. I certainly don’t fit the profile of a track runner and was so afraid of being humiliated that I very nearly talked myself out of going. Here are excerpts from actual conversations that occurred yesterday:
Me: I emailed the coach letting him know I’m planning on going but I’m scared. He responded that I won’t regret doing it once it’s OVER. So that makes me feel fantastic.
Scott: Maybe you shouldn’t have told him that. Now you have a target on your shorts.
Me: Let’s hope that’s all I have on my shorts at the end of the workout. Seriously, I’m starting to wonder if I ate too much at lunch. I might s**t myself on the track.
Scott: Just assume you will puke.
Me: I am terrified of track tonight. Seriously. Of being slow and not knowing what to do and embarrassing myself.
Dan: Ah, fear of the unknown. You need this. You will get more out of it than anyone else.
Me: Okay! I’ll report back tonight. Thanks for the encouragement!
Dan: Speedwork is a sick feeling. No one in their right mind would look forward to it.
Me: Way to scare me again. Prepare for sickness. Swell.
So with friends like this, it’s easy to see why I was uptight heading to track. Despite all my fears I got dressed and started out the door. My mother questioned why I was driving there and not running there. (The track is seven miles away). On the way there I realized I was wearing the wrong glasses, and that was almost all it took to turn around, but I refused to let myself chicken out now.
Eight of us showed up for track, an even split of men and women. The coach took our names and we headed off for a light 1 mile warm up through the neighborhood. There was something about this warm up jog that immediately settled me in. Usually I run either alone or in small groups, but never in a group of eight. Eight is more than a few. Eight is a team. Eight is enough to stop traffic while we cross roads. It was a great way for us to shed the jitters and make good conversation now with the same people we would be suffering with later.
Back at the track we did some initial, untimed 200’s with 200 recoveries. Our coach, Rich, preferred that we don’t use Garmin’s at all during our workouts but insisted that we remove them for the first 200’s out of respect for the previous track coach. Larry, the previous coach, never believed in runners wearing timing equipment and had an amazing ability to keep time in his head. So off we went for our 200’s, with the Garmin sitting on the grass. I have no idea what my pace was on those 200’s but it was a good wake up call for my legs. I listened to Rich’s instruction and ran conservatively starting off on the turns, then opened it up on the straight-aways. I made it through the 200’s pretty well, although I wondered if I would be able to sustain that for the 3 400’s I had coming up. After the 200’s I found myself shedding a layer, and despite the 50 degree raw conditions, I lined up at the start in just a t-shirt and shorts.
In the 400’s we split up into two waves, with the fast guys heading out first. When my wave started, I again ran conservatively going into the first turn, and then opened it up on the straight-aways. I ran faster than I realized I could, and it was great having faster runners ahead of me pulling me along. I also realized why Rich wants us to ditch the Garmin’s. For one thing, I kept pressing the wrong button in my haste. For another thing, I couldn’t possibly read the Garmin while I was running that fast so I had no idea how fast I was going anyways. When I crossed the 400 mark and Rich shouted out “1:46”, I was shocked. I ran the slowest 400 recovery I could possibly run without walking to give myself time to catch my breath, and I admitted to Rich that I overdid the first lap. I wouldn’t be able to sustain that. He cautioned about this at the beginning, of making sure we didn’t use up all our gas in the first one or two laps so we’d have enough to finish the workout. Rookie mistake. The second 400 started and I took the same approach, and strangely didn’t feel any worse than the first 400. Rich was at the finish line cheering me on with words of encouragement and again shouted, “1:46!” I gave out a holler and slowed back down. I was ecstatic that I maintained the same exact pace through two intervals, and again ran as slowly as possible back around to the start. On the third and final interval I gave whatever I had left, and Rich seemed genuinely pleased when I crossed in 1:43. I ran two cool down laps after that (maybe I should call them “victory laps”) and was surprised at how easy the effort seemed. Running that fast makes running slow seem so much easier! We all regrouped at the end and went for a cool down 1 mile jog back through the neighborhood, and it was a great way to end the session.
Last night’s introduction to track work made me aware of a few things
- I have nothing to be afraid of
- I have no one to compete against except myself
- It hurts, but the sense of accomplishment is unlike anything else
- The suffering among friends makes it almost enjoyable
- I will be there every single week
When I got home from track, I texted a few people to let them know I survived, and then I sent a boastful tweet out in Twitter about my track debut and my amazement at running a sub-7 pace. The icing on the cake? Bart Yasso responded, congratulating me! THE Bart Yasso! Now THAT made it all worth it.