The unofficial start of summer has come and gone, and it brought weather that made it seem more like Columbus Day weekend.
There were a few days last week and this weekend where I was tempted to turn the heat on - but tomorrow it'll be up near 90 degrees (with high humidity), and we'll almost definitely be putting on the A/C. Never a dull moment here in New England when it comes to weather.
With those temps forecast for later in the week, and rain forecast for this morning, I knew Tuesday would be the best day to get in my track workout, even though I really didn't feel like it. I went for my first bike ride of the season Monday (finally!!!), and enjoyed a lovely 22-mile ride.
But I was a little concerned that, even though my legs didn't feel really sore from the ride, they might not feel too peppy when I hit the track. And they did feel a bit sluggish during my 2-mile warmup.
My goal was 3 x 1600 at approximately a 6:30 pace, but as I was warming up, I honestly didn't know how I was going to be able to run anything other than the easy, slow 8:40ish pace I was currently running. And I toyed with the idea of just continuing right past the track, running a few more easy miles, and calling it a day.
But as quickly as that idea came into my head, I knew it wasn't going to happen, because I'd never forgive myself for backing out of a workout just because I didn't 'feel like' doing it.
So I hit the start button on my Garmin, and off I went. 1600s are easier than shorter repeats in that you aren't running quite as fast, but since you've got 4 laps to complete, it's much harder to pace yourself correctly, and I started way too fast, with the first lap at just over a 6-minute pace. I slowed a bit for the remaining 3, and finished my first mile in 6:36, and surprisingly, felt pretty good.
As I ran my recovery, I was marveling at the fact that a few minutes earlier I didn't think I could possibly run any faster than an 8:40 mile, and here I had just run a 6:36 and felt ok. It's amazing what the body can do when you just give it a little push.
My next two repeats, I was able to pace myself much better, starting a bit slower and speeding up for each successive lap, and running those two miles in 6:30 and 6:26.
Now I was tired. The final lap of that third 1600 was tough. But I wasn't completely spent. And I wanted more of that feeling of victory. So I set out for one more mile.
Four more laps around, pushing the pace a bit with every single one, wrapping up the mile in 6:21. My fastest mile ever. NOW, I was done. And I was happy.
One of the reasons I'm back at the track again is my goal to run a sub-20 5K sometime this year, and after that workout, I feel more than ever like that goal is within reach. But I know it's going to take more work to get there - more track workouts, and more convincing myself that I can do things I didn't think I could ever do. That's ok, though, because that's all part of the journey.
My running journey is going to take some new twists and turns this summer, too. I had planned on running the second leg of the Triple Crown series in Jamestown in July, but I found out last week that there was an RRCA Coaching Certification course being offered that same weekend in Salem, MA. I've been on the RRCA email list for almost a year now, and have been anxiously waiting for a course to be offered in my area, and I've seen how quickly they usually sell out, so as soon as I saw this one, I jumped on it. I was registered within the hour.
I have a lot of knowledge about running, but it's all based mostly on my own experiences - which definitely counts for something, because I do have a lot of experience to draw from - but I'm excited to back that up with an official certification based on specialized instruction.
And I'm also excited to spend an entire weekend doing nothing but talking and learning about running. Bliss.
I have to admit, too, that the thought of a weekend away is pretty appealing. I don't get a lot of those, and as much as I adore my three insane funny little boys, a couple days by myself does wonders to recharge my batteries.
We had some family fun over this holiday weekend, though, complete with parties with both sides of the extended family. It always makes me so happy to see the cousins playing together.
And we went to our local parade Monday morning, which, as parades go, is pretty low-key - mostly fire trucks, boy scouts, and a few bands. I was taken aback a little when a float went by playing "Sweet Caroline," and I started crying. It's funny, the things that bring the memories and emotions of that day flooding back so suddenly. It's never far from my mind, but certain sights, and particularly sounds - that song, or the sound of sirens - push it to the forefront very vividly.
It's so great, though, to see how much joy such simple things bring to the kids. Gabe and Dante still get a huge kick out of the parade, for sure, but their joy paled in comparison to Carmine's - he was practically jumping out of his skin, he was so excited. Watching your kids enjoy stuff like that is by far one of the best parts of being a parent.
The humor is one of the other best parts. I saw Dante peering in the mirror with his mouth open the other night, and as I walked by, he asked me "Mom, which one is my sweet tooth?" It took all my willpower to not laugh out loud. I can't wait to tell him about that one when he's older.
Carmine, who has always had a thing for any moving vehicle of any sort, is now completely and utterly obsessed with lawnmowers - or, as he calls them, lawnmo-momers. He especially loves the riding mower Scott uses - the "seat lawnmo-momer." I've assured him that once he's old enough, he'll have plenty of chances to use the seat lawnmo-momer.
He's not quite there yet, but he has mastered the art of pedaling, and whenever he has the chance, is happily riding his bike around and around and around the driveway. Not quite ready for the bike path, but maybe next year.....
As for Gabe - he's getting so big, and although he still mostly acts like a little kid, I see these glimmers of maturity. I love it when it happens - even though it's usually very short-lived - but it also astonishes me.
I can't fathom that my crazy little guy is slowly becoming a real, honest-to-goodness big kid, who will shortly thereafter become a teenager. He's almost as tall as me already!
His soccer season is winding down, and he only has a couple games left, and sadly, his team has not won a single game yet. I'm hopeful that they'll win at least one, but the odds seem stacked against them. It is not for lack of trying, though. They play their hearts out every single week, and it breaks my heart to see them keep losing. Luckily, though, they're still young enough that they move past the losses quickly and resume regular young boy goofing off after the game.
I just keep telling him that, as good as it feels to win, what's most important is going out and having fun and giving it your all.
Fortunately, I can relate my own race experiences - sometimes I do win an age-group award, but usually I don't. But I tell him what I'd tell anyone else, and what I tell myself - knowing I did my best and put in my best effort is truly enough.
I do secretly hope one of them discovers a love of running at some point, but even if they don't, I know that I'll always be able to relate to their athletic pursuits on some level, which makes me happy.
And the lessons I've learned through running have translated to so many other areas of my life, and I know they'll translate into other pieces of wisdom I can pass along to the boys.
You discover so much about yourself through running - it really strips you down to the essence of what you truly are - there's no hiding behind anything when you run. What you do out on the road is who you are, and it's fascinating to see that revealed.
I've also learned that almost everything in my life can somehow relate back to running. I had an abnormality show up on a routine mammogram a few weeks ago, and had to go for a followup MRI - thankfully, the MRI showed nothing of any concern, so all is well : )
The MRI was not the worst medical procedure I've had to go through, but it certainly wasn't pleasant. And as I was laying there, doing everything in my power to remain completely still, the tech came over the headphones I was wearing and told me that the next scan would be the longest - 4 minutes.
As I heard that, I immediately thought - "Four minutes - that's about half a mile. That's not long at all. I can handle that."
It always comes back to running, and more specifically, to the strength and courage it's brought me.
It defines me, it makes me happy, it makes me healthy, and it makes me feel stronger than I ever knew I was.
It always comes back to running - for good reason.