I did another 10k today as part of my ‘Race A Month’ resolution, this one was in Santa Monica on this spectacularly cold morning. Once again, I was filled with anxiety and dread on the drive to the beach. Unlike the 10k I did at the start of January, I had actually done some training – a Nike Run here, and some morning runs there. This time, it wasn’t my lack of training that was getting me down, it was a general funk I’ve been feeling all month. Moreover I knew I was run down and tired- work had me do an epic eighteen-hour day on the Friday as part of Grammy week so I was not rested.
(work related photo from Friday)
On top of that I had just a bad attitude, knowing I would see all the other competitors run across the finish line in to the warm and open arms of their loved ones who I imagined would be waiting proudly with flowers & Gatorade. I on the other hand, would be running straight to the car park to my beat up old Lincoln to turn the heat on and pray that she got me home in one piece – such is the way when one is a sad Bridget Jones type singleton.
The race itself was quite nice, a 5k or 10k combo raising money for some homeless youth initiative and the course was right on Ocean Drive, so I parked on the beach, remembering sadly the last time I parked there was for the LA Marathon with the ex < sigh > For someone who lives so close to the ocean, I hardly ever go there – it’s a complete travesty, especially when there’s a beautiful running path that takes you all the way along he ocean to Malibu.
I seem to be cursed with races at the moment and once again I hadn’t prepared enough and started walking the wrong direction, past Shutters On The Beach, and the Santa Monica Pier towards the finish line, only realizing my error a mere twenty minutes before the gun went off. I hauled ass in the opposite direction following the now obvious throng off runners that I’d been oblivious to in my bad-mood-myopia.
Unlike my first UK race, the start line was packed – a peppy young aerobics instructor from Equinox was leading a dynamic warm up and a DJ was pumping out the latest Britney and Will.i.am track (my guilty pleasure du jour). The excitement for the race diminished my crankiness a little at this point, and when I saw the team from my Nike Town Beverly Hills Run Club, I almost felt excited. Jordan yelled a hello and I saw Lilly, who paces me on my 5 mile Beverly Hills run – lovely guys – and then, weirdly, the DJ announced that the team from Nike Town Beverly Hills would be pacing the race.
This, I thought, would be genius, as it was only a week before that I’d managed to keep up with Elizabeth for the entire 5 mile route, and she is a speedy runner that keeps us on track for an 8”30 pace, all of a sudden I had a strategy for this 10k. Just keep up with her, I thought, and that’s basically going to be faster than the London 10k.
The race started and I casually weaved my way through the crowd to catch up with my pacer buddy who was going to get me a good 3 minutes off my London time – a lousy 53:26. I decided if I could get it down to 50 minutes, life might finally be ok again, Jesus would be happy with me and I’d meet someone at the finish line and fall in love. (This, by the way, is the plea bargaining conversation that goes on between my brain and my body most days when I don’t want to run)
So as I got closer and closer to Lily , I realized that she was running quite fast and looked down at my trusty Nike + to see that I was running a 7:30 pace, a speed that is surely reserved only for Kenyans. I tried and tried to keep up with her for the first mile and then I had this awful moment when I realized that she must be only doing the 5k. My heart sank,and of course a few minutes later I saw her come back towards me on the other side of the road after the 5k turn around. I waved a weak ‘hey gurl’ smile as she beamed an exuberant ’hi!’ while I tried not to panic about having gone out too fast and not saving anything for my infamous sprint finish. We turned the corner on away from the beach, and started up the hill, for what I thought would be a few minutes. Again due to a serious lack of preparation, those few minutes actually turned out to be a painful mile and a half up hill. My depression and general ‘blech’ feeling returned. Why is it that race organizers insist on putting hills everywhere? Seriously, o one likes them and they suck. I got mad, and then resentful and then I just settled into acceptance. There’s no other way to deal with things like this on a race I decided, other than to quit, and that was not an option as I felt like I was doing quite well so far.
I survived the hills, settling into a slower 8’50 pace, and made that time back up coming down it. I finished 17th / 82 in my division and 119th over all out of nearly 900 racers, my time was a modest 48:13, nearly a whole 5 minutes faster than my London time. Needless to say, I feel quite pleased with myself.
Oprah Winfrey once said “In this world there are lots of things that are byond our control. What you do have control over is how you react to whatever happens in your life”.
On the car on the way home I thought about that hill, and what Oprah says. All I had control over was how I reacted to it, I could either accept it or quit the race – I had no control over the hill, or the course - just my reaction. Of course I had begrudgingly accepted the uphill struggle and the effort of a good gradient run – my pride wouldn’t let me quit. It was only when I accepted the hill for what it was, did everything become a little better, only then could I settle into the zone and focus on getting through it. Something happened after I accepted the situation, in order for me to focus getting through it, and actually ending with great results.
This hill, I thought, was just like my break up: I’ve begrudgingly accepted this has happened to me: that the beach wedding, and the house with the white-picket fence are not going to happen. That’s fine, and I’m okay with it, but what do I do now that I’ve accepted it? What happened half way up that hill that shifted my perspective to gain great results, and can I do the same thing to my emotional life?
For me, finishing this race, and conquering that surprise hill has in effect started a new journey for me, one that I can’t wait to take and share with you all.