Coming Out Of My Comfort Zone

Last week, the clocks finally moved forward.  I had been looking forward to daylight savings time for weeks for no reason other than I don’t enjoy running at night.  It is too hard to see where my feet are landing.  Add snow and ice, and I need that much more will power and stubbornness to get out the door.  Despite a winter that had all of the above, I somehow managed to keep my road mileage up.  My speedwork, though, was non-existent.  Anyone who knows me at all will agree that speed work in the dark/snow/slippery conditions is just a recipe for disaster.

So when the clocks moved ahead, I was happy to have an extra hour of daylight during my “happy” hour.  And I have actually been excited about turning up my training a notch with the addition of speed work.  The only problem is speed work scares me.

Solemate Monica
Solemate Kelly-Lynne

I’ve never been great at the fast stuff.  When I was in high school, I was unable to earn a spot on the track team but our coach handed me the 1500m, the race that nobody wanted to do; I finished last.  At university, a friend tried to convince me again and again to run cross country with her but memories of being the slowest on the track haunted me.  By the time I started running distance in my late 20’s, I was happy to run on the roads at my own happy pace; if I wanted to do a speedier workout, I just ran faster.  And I continued to run and train like that for years – actually, decades – until I started to run with Toronto Olympic Club a few years ago.  It wasn’t soon before tempo, intervals, broken miles, and ladders all became a part of my weekly vocabulary.   But, I am still slower than everybody else, partly due to my running history and partly due to the fact that my training partners weren’t even born when I graduated from high school.  So, speed work scares me.

Last week, Coach sent me my first workouts of 2018.  I had weeks to mentally prepare for this week (After all, we all knew that spring would eventually come, didn’t we?)  but I was still anxious.  How much would I be able to push myself?  How much would it hurt?  Most of all, though, I worried about what the numbers on my watch would show.  How slow am I? Really?

On Tuesday night, I parked my emotions and headed to the track.  Done.  On Friday afternoon, I headed out the door for my second workout of the week, pushing myself up hills and into the wind  for some quick intervals.   Mission accomplished: two workouts on Week #1.  And I surprised myself; I wasn’t as slow as I expected.

Out of his comfort zone. There is no going back now.

As I cooled down on the way home, I thought of my youngest who crossed his own barrier last week.  After a winter of snowboarding at Glen Eden, he finally got off the bunny hills and used the chairlift.  I booked a lesson for him and up he went – no friends, no family, just him and an instructor whom he had just met.  I told him on the way home that I was  proud of him.  “When you do something that scares you, something that is going to make you better,  and it doesn’t matter what that is, you’re growing.”

Cooling down, I realized that the addition of a few workouts to my running was doing the same thing.   Sure, they are intended to help me get stronger and faster,  but they are also forcing me to come out of my comfort zone and helping me to grow not only as a runner, but as an individual.

It’s easy to turn away from something that you don’t like; it’s hard to do something that you don’t.    And when you do something that scares you, you can only grow faster.

 

 

 

 

The Power of Change

Last night, I was reminded by a close friend that I have been spending the past several months stepping out of my comfort zone in my running world.   Somehow running stagnated for me.  I was still running and enjoying it, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.  With the exception of a few close friends, I was running alone and my times were becoming stale.  I was racing relatively well, but I wanted to do better – and I needed to push myself more.  I needed to get out of my comfort zone.

With Olympian, Nate Brannen, at the B&O Yorkville 5K Canadian Championships.

The first real change I made was race the Canadian 5K Championships in the fall.  This is an elite event with many Canada’s fastest distance runners.  Toeing that line scared me and, as much as I wanted to be a part of that event,  I was afraid to enter.  As a masters runner, I just didn’t think I was good enough to be a part of it.  After eyeing the race for a few years, I finally swallowed my fear and applied for a bib, gulped when I was accepted and nervously pulled myself to the start line in September.  After finishing, I was so glad that I made that effort as I realized that it was one of the most prestigious races that I would ever do as I got the chance to race with 200 of Canada’s best runners.

Next, I did something that frightened me; I entered the Boston Marathon.  Five years ago, in 2012, my family and I drove to Boston, the year that temperatures were insanely hot.  Between the heat, worrying about being able to finish feeling well enough to drive back to Ontario to work the next day, and being pushed so hard by another runner that I ended up on all fours with gravel stuck in my palms, I decided to dnf – never an easy decision and especially at Boston.   Over the past five years, this race has became a bit of a monkey on my back and I had to get rid of it; I have to finish that race.  In September, I applied to run Boston 2017 and was accepted.  In eleven weeks, I will be back, ready for anything that can be thrown my way.

Third, I decided to try something new: this blog.  Many know that I have been blogging for years but, like my running, my blog was stagnating.  To put things in perspective, I lost the time that I use to be able to put into blogging as my boys are now older (and busier) and my teaching assignment has changed (also resulting in busier days).  But writing about running is something that I really enjoy and, if someone is reading about it, then writing becomes even better.  Somehow, I needed to make time to record my thoughts and I needed a fresh start.  So I bought my own domain and am still working at rebuilding my blog, but I am slowing finding more time to write and am loving it.

And, suddenly, I am excited about running again – truly excited and, like a junkie who just can’t get enough, I needed more.  I wanted one more change to light another spark.  So last week, I returned to my former club, Toronto Olympic Club, to train under its guidance.  I think it takes real courage to go back to something that you once walked away from and my return to TOC is no exception.  I left the club two years ago, on good terms, because it was simply too difficult for me to get to practices when I lived in a different city.  That distance still exists but I realize how important it is for me to have the coaching and encouragement to physically challenge myself.  For now, my coaching is primarily remote, but my heart still skips a beat every time I open my training log to double check my plan for the day, when I lace up, and when I sit down to record my run.  And, on Sunday, I was thrilled when I got to wear the club colours at the Robbie Burns race.

Last night, my friend helped me to see that these changes are not just helping me come out of my comfort zone, but they are helping me to believe in myself.  The two go hand and hand, and as one gets stronger, so will the other.   It’s 2017 and I am strong, I am focused and I believe in myself.  It’s going to be an amazing year.