Joy of training: a little too far into the ‘zone’

I’m training for the the Hood-to-Coast relay along with a group of my best mama friends. The Hood-to-Coast is an epic race: the very most elite of road relays, run from near the top of Mt. Hood to the beach, 197 miles in all. The top runners in the world will be there, along with, well, us. Even amongst our team, we have different approaches: I come from a very competitive running background. In high school and college, I was a jumper/sprinter, and I’m the sort of person who tries to catch other runners when she’s out on the streets. It’s terrible and silly and probably bad for my karma but when I see someone else running more slowly than me? It only makes me go faster.

That said, I’m a lot slower than some of the other women on our team. We all ran a half-marathon together back in October and I struggled in at just over 10-minute miles. When I started training in earnest for the Hood-to-Coast, I decided my goal was to get back to my post-college speed of 8-minute miles, partially so I could run in the same league as some of my fearsome running mama buddies, and partially so I could regain that feeling I used to have when I was 23 and in awesome shape, when I used to get to the four-mile mark of a 10K and feel great.

I’m very into the mental aspect of running; I’ve had some “Psych-K” training and more than your average dose of quantum physics “create your day” philosophy, and lots of yoga, soaking into my brain. So last night when I ran I stepped it up a few hundred percent. I ran uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back, negative splits, you know. I crushed my previous time heading into a three-block uphill that’s usually the end of my run. And I visualized myself running fast, high knees, clear lungs, energy energy energy and I laid it out. I was as fast as one can be at the end of a 4.5-mile run. I was thoroughly in the zone.

I told myself to relax, I let the tension go (out my elbows, as I tell the high school kids I coach). I was all flow, focusing in on my form, my feeling of strength and speed, vim and vigor. I crested the hill and stopped running, forcing myself to raise my arms over my head, let my lungs breathe in air.

Evidently, umm, I went a little too far into that whole relax thing. Stop reading now if you don’t find potty humor, humorous. I had what my three-year-old son Everett calls an “ask-cident.”

As I walked the five blocks home, I had to wonder: how do you stop yourself from too much relaxation? How do you keep from delving too deep into the zone? Much as I’m proud of myself for letting my body go, that? Was a little too far.

Author by Sarah Gilbert