What today's short run means in the long run
Today I took a trip back to my grappling roots--I ran a 5K. Admittedly, running doesn't immediately sound related to grappling very much, if at all, unless you are one of those grapplers who despises running in a circle at the beginning of class to warm up.
But as some of you might recall, I ultimately came to grappling through running; maybe 14 years ago, before BJJ was even a gleam in my eye, I was in grad school and experiencing more and more of what my college pal Honor referred to as "couch butt" (so named because of all the time grad students spend sitting and reading, and enhancing that sitting and reading by drinking coffee, eating snacks, stressing out, and generally neglecting the physical in favor of wigging about the mental). I had forsaken all activity other than studying, eating, sleeping, and occasionally bathing and washing clothes. It had gotten to the point halfway through my first semester where walking across the living room to the bathroom (on the same floor) winded me.
So as someone who had always been active--and, truthfully, who didn't want to be fat--I cast about for ways to stop the insanity, and to reclaim my body.
And I started training for marathons. Starting with one arduous mile at a pop and working my way up from there, I ran, outside when weather permitted, and sometimes even when it didn't, and inside when even I thought it would be stupid to brave the snowdrifts and single digit temperatures. (Remember, I was living in Michigan at the time.) I read Jeff Galloway's book on running. I kept a training journal. I distinctly remember the first day I ever ran ten miles, a challenge as daunting psychologically as it was physically, if not more so. And that night I went to some swing club in Royal Oak with friends (swing was all the rage during the 90s--remember Jump, Jive and Wail by the Rick Setzer Orchestra? Setzer was formerly of the Stray Cats), and not only could I not dance (and seriously, who can't at least move their feet along to swing music), I also could barely stay awake.
Looking back on it, that was my first time experiencing the utter exhilaration/captivation/stupidity of strenuous physical challenges. It was the first time I had really learned to push myself beyond my perceived capabilities in the physical arena. And I guess I liked it, if my life now is any indication.
I did some 5 and 10Ks in preparation for my marathons (one in Chicago in 2007 and one on the Potawatomi trail in Pinckney, MI, in 2008. During the trail marathon it poured down rain the entire time, and I was so cold at the end that I couldn't get my fingers to work to untie my shoes or unlock my car for about 20 min.), and I remember the feeling of camaraderie and fun of those runs; they were usually for a good cause and the participants ranged from complete novices, like me, to seasoned veterans.
The marathons were fantastic too--for instance, the entire city of Chicago turned out for the one I ran there. My favorite memory, over and above the bands, the city muckety-mucks who made long-winded announcements, and even the beautiful dragon that danced around the runners as we went through Chinatown, is of a very small elderly woman, bundled up against a freezing cold winter (though the temperature was probably in the 50s or 60s), standing on her doorstep banging on a pot as hard as she possibly could. I have no doubt that she stood there and banged on that pot for hours--and I for one am grateful that she did.
It didn't take too long, however, for me to max out my potential, such as it was, with marathons. I ran two, and I realized that I wasn't ever going to get much faster, both because, as I like to joke, I'm made of all spare parts and slow twitch muscle, and also because I wasn't interested in doing what it took to overcome what I perceived to be my physical limitations. That's when I started to cast about for something else to do that would give me the adrenaline rush I had become addicted to, but that would also keep me thinking and wanting to do better. So first, it was muay Thai, but then when I saw judo rolls, hip escapes, and situps from guard, I was a goner for the grapply.
That was twelve years ago, and for most of that time, as I also like to joke, I haven't generally made a point of running unless I'm being chased. Or unless I've been warming up for jiu jitsu. More recently I have been doing more running because the CrossFit frequently commands it--Helen, Nancy, Murph, anyone? Indeed, my very first CrossFit workout was Tabata sprints. (In my case, "sprint" quickly became a relative term.) Awful. And addictive; I remember thinking to myself after that workout, as I lay in a pool of my own phlegm, "I want to die. I wonder what tomorrow's workout is going to be." But running has usually been something to avoid/endure, mostly because I have found myself in the position of trying to run faster than is comfortable for me.
Turns out that today was no exception, but it was far more pleasant than I was anticipating. I think I've mentioned that for my internship at http://www.teamcrossfitacademy.com, I have to meet some physical requirements. I've got most of them, though they aren't always pretty; they include things like a sub 9-min Fran, a score of 220 on Fight Gone Bad, a 3/4-body weight clean and jerk, and others. But one of them was eluding me: a sub-26 minute 5K. We did a 5K in class one morning recently, and I got a 26:31. Close, but no cigar. And we are supposed to meet these requirements by, um, today.
And thanks to two of my TCFA teammates, I did. Kellie invited me to run with her this morning in this race: http://www.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=326504. Shannon, an accomplished runner, paced us, running as fast as we needed to run to hit our time so that all we had to do was keep up. Result: my time this morning was 25:26. I came in third overall for the women and first overall in my age group, out of 24 women. Not too shabby. I'm hugely grateful to both of these ladies for enabling me to do this; I wouldn't have made it without them. In addition, I made a contribution to a good cause (children's hospital); got to see someone who is apparently famous, from the TV show Castle (Stanna someone); heard an a capella rendering of the national anthem that DIDN'T make me cringe; saw the actual Rose Bowl arena for the first time, though I've lived within 20 miles of it for almost 4 years now; got free post-race snacks; and got oot and aboot on a beautiful sunny day.
I can say with some certainty that I'm probably going to stick with grappling tournaments for the foreseeable future, but it was very fun to mix things up a little bit today. Thanks to Shannon and Kellie, best of luck to Kids on the Run, and tomorrow it's back to grappling and picking up heavy things.