Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First Day of Practice

Me on the first day of school.
The first day of practice makes me regress into
feeling this way, a shy 5 year old again. 
Last week was my first practice with my new team, the Georgetown Running Company Racing Team. I strapped on my backpack, packed my water bottle, and stood waiting to make some new friends. Cue flashbacks to the first day of school.

The forecast predicted one of the hottest days of the year so far. Coach wanted practice to be pretty moderate (it was the first day back for a few people) and with the heat eased it up a bit more. The paces didn’t seem unrealistic for me to hit, if it had been a perfect day. Not a 98-degree day.

I got to the track early. There were a few people already running laps and a group of runners seemingly gathering for a workout. I mustered my courage, walked up and asked if they were GRC. Nope. Back up to the parking lot. I found a square inch of shade and waited.

Two women greeted each other a little while later. Thin, young, track clothes. Jackpot. I walked up to them, again meekly asked “GRC?” and this time they said yes. And with that, it was fine; I was in.

We headed out on a trail for a little warmup, casually chitchatting, and it was nice to be running with people again. I realized that morning that aside from 1-2 runs or races with Brother and one run with FiancĂ©e on the bike, I haven’t done a workout with anyone in nine years. That seemed like enough time to have forgotten some unwritten rule. But it was going fine.

We got back to the track with time to kill before the 7:30 start. Another girl joined and they did some striders and stretching. Usually my track workouts are early morning affairs, when I’m habitually running late. The faster I run, the less late I’ll be for work and the less likely I’ll be kicked off the track when the American University team arrives. Striders and extended stretching before the workout aren’t something I usually have time for. I stood around, doing a few meager stretches to pretend I was doing something, but really just waiting for the inevitable. 

I was fortunate in a few ways. Like I said, the day was a hot one. But by 7:30 in the evening, it actually wasn’t as bad as expected and it wasn’t a humid mess like DC often is. But the workout was already set to be easier, fine by me. Only a few women came, which is far less intimidating. As an added bonus, they were all incredibly nice.

Here we go, 800 meter repeats. Line up and we’re off, single file around the track. Crap, it’s happening. The first couple go by and I’m doing ok, but the pace drops with each one. I feel like I can hold on, but I don’t remember the last time I did 800 repeats this fast. Each repeat a different woman takes the lead and the pacing responsibility. Sometimes we start too quickly and I feel like there’s no way I can make it, but then the pace relaxes and we hit each repeat pretty much dead on or faster. I shirk pacing responsibilities this time. For one thing, it takes me a few repeats to get the hang of the group thing. By the time I do, the repeats are getting faster, and I don’t feel capable of leading these women at that pace. I feel bad, I’m clearly not contributing. When Kara Goucher first started working with Shalane Flanagan she said she was “a leech at practice” and I couldn’t help feeling the same way. For now, pacing seems incredibly intimidating. Yes, I’ve paced myself at workouts for years, but the only person to pay for pacing mistakes was me.

On the last repeat, I’m falling off the back a little bit, but I hit the line in the right time, and I’m done. Coach pulls me aside, says he’s impressed with what he’s seen and that I’ll be mixing it up with them in no time. Crap, that means I’ll have to help pace.

In the morning, I’m back up for an easy run before work and before it gets blazing hot. Run, eat, sleep, run, eat, work, repeat. I feel like an athlete again.

Dream big,


  1. Don't worry at all, you're starting at a slow time and you have plenty of time to get used to doing workouts with a group. Help with pacing when you're able, but if it doesn't work it's no huge problem.

  2. You are what you do. Athlete? Yes.

  3. Thank you for the insider's view.

    I think we all have back-to- kindergarten moments our whole lives -- as long as we keep trying new things.

    The info on the link of the Georgetown Running Company Racing Team underscores that this is a serious crew. Running with them in workouts is sure to help you. Plus, you get all the intangible benefits of having teammates and fellow competitors.

    Keep us updated on how the team running goes.