Once a year, a group of friends of ours gathers for a running relay event somewhere in the region. Mike and I haven’t been able to join them for the last couple of years for reasons that basically boil down to the fact that everything in our lives tends to happen all at once, and sometimes we have to prioritize as though we’re bonafide grownups.
If you don’t remember my talking about running with this group, here’s a little thing about the Grand Teton Relay, three years ago, and Hood to Coast, which we finished up on my birthday the year before that.
This year we were able to join the group for the Top of Zion Relay: 12 people split up between two vans winding 195 miles through southern Utah, with the opportunity to experience some of the best scenery the West has to offer.
I was really nervous about this run, not because of the distance, nor the prospect of spending 36 hours in a van with five other sweaty runners, but because of the elevation. I’ve run in the mountains before, mostly when Mike and I have been camping with family and I realize I need to get away from the people I love before killing them. I’ve noticed three things:
Some of you already know this, but I started running fairly regularly again in 2006 after a twenty-year hiatus. Then in 2011 I decided the half marathon event was more or less my thing. A little later, I stole adopted Mike’s goal of running 50 half marathons by that age.
Well, my 50th is coming right on up. I have four events left to go by August if I’m going to make my goal. Plus we have another relay event in June we’ve signed up for. It’s a little tight, but doable.
Run For Your Life in August. Despite the heat, it was a PR
The Tutu Run (duh)
Race to Robie Creek – Approaching the summit
The Fit One Half
This is what it looks like finishing a half when you’re also trying to finish the Whole30 – BONK.
The scenery at the Leavenworth Half Marathon
Running with friends at the Leavenworth
The scenery along the Boise River at the Beer-n-Brats Half
I’m shopping for the big five-oh now. And between our relay and summer plans, I left myself about a two week window in which to schedule the dang thing.
Here’s the other thing, it’s going to get warm around here soon, and lumbering along in the summer heat is about the least amount of fun I can imagine. I sweat. A lot. My muscles cramp. I whine. I look like one of the bad guys in that Indiana Jones movie who witnesses the opening of the Ark. Full on melty-face.
Tomorrow, I’ll be running a half marathon, which means today is the last day of that period we call the taper.
If you’re not familiar with the taper, it’s the result of a whole bunch of running science that says it’s good to reduce your miles and intensity a few days before a big event. The length of taper can be as much as three weeks for a full marathon, two weeks for a half, and so on.
I’ve been running 6 to 8 half marathons annually for the past four years or so. Having an event on the calendar keeps me on a regular schedule. Otherwise, I really might just stop all together. BUT, if I’m doing what science says I should, I’m tapering about two weeks before every half marathon, which on my schedule, gives me a solid 14 to 16 weeks every year of taking it easy.
I saw a post recently in a fitness-oriented social media group: a woman running, wearing a race bib. The photo was taken from a low angle, the watermark of an official race photographer in one corner.
I expected a “yay me!” message underneath instead of the anguish this woman poured out. She’d been proud of finishing her first 5k – until she opened the results email with the event photos. She hadn’t realized her thighs were that big. She didn’t remember feeling as awful as she looked. Heck, she appeared to barely be moving.
Rookie move, that: expecting too much from race pics. They’re bound to disappoint. I don’t know the woman, but I’m familiar with the feeling.
I always eagerly open the post race results email hoping to finally find a picture to commemorate all my hard work actually making it across the finish line. A memento. Particularly one that fits my running self-image: something of a cross between Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Cheetara from Thundercats.
Among people who run, there are a few regular topics of conversation.
Like “so, what’s your next event?”
This isn’t usually meant to be a loaded question. But depending on the timing, it can certainly inspire a panicked mental comparison of the mileage runs you’ve yet to do with the weeks left before your next event.
Remember? That event you registered for months ago when the combination of an early bird rate and the time remaining to build back up to running 13 miles in one afternoon in the middle of winter made this whole idea sound a lot more reasonable?
My next event is in days. And yes, there’s a Valentines theme. It’d be cuter if Mike and I were running together, like last year. And when I say “together,” I mean in same event, starting at roughly the same time, with one of us (Mike) finishing first and left to hang out out afterward, shivering in sweaty clothes, waiting for the other (me) to finish.
Last year, in honor of the theme, and just to see what kind of face I’d make, Mike suggested running the whole thing holding hands.
It’s timely, given how much my enthusiasm for running wanes with the beginning of the season I am most likely to want to do nothing more exciting than melt into the couch.
Summer is great for warm evenings on a patio with an adult beverage, concerts in the park with an adult beverage, sitting by a campfire late into the night with an adult beverage … Do you see a pattern here? Well, running isn’t really related to any of that.
To compensate, I just scheduled at least one running event a month until November. I need that kind of looming threat. Back in the day, people had things like cave bears and velociraptors as motivation to keep from developing back fat. Now, we’re lured off our tushes by paper bibs, ill-fitting shirts and participation medals. Mike and I are kicking off this wretched running season with a half marathon next week named after our state tuber.
The email came today, the one with the link to the race photos I will not be buying.
Instead I’ll take the image I have in my head of me running. Thank you. There I am, all svelte and speedy, with my toned arms, and shorts that wouldn’t even think about bunching up in my crotch.
In reality, there could be a race photographer every 100 feet of the course, and I could be paced by a team of my own, personal make-up and hair artists, and someone who Photoshops like a boss, and still no one will ever capture the me on film that’s the same as the me in my head.