QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A lesson in humility

Recently the editor from our local magazine contacted me to ask if I would be a part of a story on marathoners. The gist of the piece would be something to the effect of: crazy-busy-working-moms-squeezing-in-training-for-triathlons or marathons. Well, heck… I’m just a little bit of a ham, so I agreed to be interviewed for the feature. We did a phone interview (twice since the writer lost the notes from the first one), and she told me the story would appear in the September issue. I thought that was it. Voila.

“By the way,” she said as a postscript to the telephone conversation, “the photographer will be contacting you soon to get some shots.”



Sure enough, the photographer contacted me.

“I wanna get some shots of you training,” he specified.

“Oh…uh. Okay. Well I um. I run,” I pointed out the obvious.

I mean I cross train a bit and do some resistance workouts, but mostly I run and I run and I run. Uphill, downhill, no hills (ahh), faster some days, more slowly on scheduled recovery days. But I definitely run a lot. It's what I do.

I relayed my training schedule to him for this week, and he planned to meet me at the beginning of a long bike ride (cross training) with my friends yesterday to snap some photos, and also at my track workout this morning. He mentioned that he’s a runner, too, so he guesses that’s why he got this assignment.

I was 11 minutes late to the meeting place for the bike ride through every fault of my own, my two buddies and the photographer all waiting for me. It turns out the photographer is a 20-year-old college student doing this as a summer job. My two triathlete friends are ready to go and look the part. They have suave adult bike helmets with mirrors, biking gloves, cool shoes, and slick road bikes. Me, on the other hand, I’m not a regular cycler, so I clumsily pulled my 13-year-old’s mountain bike out of the car (my 18-year-old mountain bike goes “CLANK…. CLANK… CLANK… CLANK.” I took it to the bike shop for a tune-up and the owner chuckled. “Um…. Not worth it,” he gently informed me) and strapped on my son's red bike helmet, feeling a bit awkward. No road bike. No mirror. No cool cycling sunglasses. No cool gloves or shoes. Just me. In my kid's Schwinn helmet on his Schwinn mountain bike. Okie dokie, Mr. photographer. Snap away! I sure am proud! At the end of the photo op I encouraged him, his being a fellow runner and all, to join me for some of my run the next day at the track. “Cool,” he responded; “maybe I will.”

This morning I was a bit more in my element at the track. I was wearing my black running shorts, my sleeveless white running top, some sunglasses and a visor with hair sticking out of the top in a lovely way. I’d rather look silly in a picture than acquire even more freckles. My scheduled workout was a mile and a half warm-up, 12 repeats of 400 m at about a 6:30/7:00 pace (with a 2 minute “active recovery” between, connoting a slow jog), and a mile and half cool-down. My canine running partner and I started the warm-up before the photographer arrived, and after a mile or so I noticed him dutifully trudging across the field, camera in hand.

We exchanged good mornings and, as Sophie and I rounded the track each lap, he snapped photos of us from all angles. I don’t think I’ve had so many photos taken of me since my wedding. It was a bit unnerving, so, smart-ass that I am, after a few laps I yelled, as I passed, “this would be a lot more fun if you would stop snapping and start running…”

After a plethora more shots, he fell in next to me during a 2-minute recovery lap.

It turns out this kid is really fast and runs for his college cross country team. Oy.

38-year-old-female-me: “So,” I queried, “what are your events?”

Thin 20-year-old-male: “I mostly do the 5-mile.”

38-year-old-female-me: “Cool. What does your coach have you do for speedwork?”

Thin 20-year-old-male: “Oh, we do mile repeats and sometimes 400m repeats.”

[At this point we accelerate to a faster pace for the 400m repeat – I’m not able to talk until we finish and go into a recovery jog].

38-year-old-female-me: “Ah… I HATE mile repeats,” I whined. “I do those Fridays. What kind of pace do you do for your mile repeats?”

Thin 20-year-old-male: “Oh, about 5:20s.”

Insert wide eyes and gasp. Jaw falls to the ground.

38-year-old-female-me: “HOLY COW!” (I do about 7s for my mile repeats. I don’t even think I could do one mile in 5:20. Keep in mind for a mile repeat, one must do a fast-paced mile, jog a bit, and then REPEAT the fast-paced mile a minimum of 3-5 cycles).

Thin 20-year-old-male: [chuckles goodnaturedly]

38-year-old-female-me: “Geez! What kind of recovery time do you get?”

Thin 20-year-old-male: “oh, about 1 minute.”

38-year-old-female-me: “Sheesh!”

As we did a few cycles of fast-paced 400m and then jogging recoveries, it did not escape my attention that he was barely breaking a sweat, nor was he breathing heavily, notwithstanding that he was running in a lane farther outside than I (and therefore running even farther/faster).

It turns out that his best 5K (3.1 miles) is 16-something. Wow! Those are 5-something-minute miles….

38-year-old-female-me: “Golly!” I manage to sputter in between breaths on a fast-paced lap, “this is a cakewalk for you; you’re not even breathing heavily. What’s your regular base pace?”

Thin 20-year-old-male: [quite casually] “What’s the pace right now?”

38-year-old-female-me: “About 6:35.”

Thin 20-year-old-male: “About this,” he answers without a hint of condescension.

38-year-old female me: [chuckles as much as is possible while out of breath]

In the meantime, the energetic Sophie is lying down in the shade on one side of the track, intelligently staying put while watching us go round and round with great interest, probably thinking to her canine self: “you people aren’t very bright, are you?”

It was a bit humbling running with a college cross country racer, yes… but at least he’s never done a marathon… and he was very polite about running my pace…and I felt myself pick up the pace a bit in the final few repeats to save my pride… and I consoled myself (audibly) with the facts that I am almost 20 years older and female…

I don’t know what Soph’s excuse was. I guess chasing the stray cat across the entire field at full speed did her in.


  1. Sheesh, Im sweating and exhausted just reading this. Although, if I had a canine running partner who wouldnt run off and irritate people/things (like mine would) it could be fun. Id have to have a leash, and then I would fall and break my neck, and that just isnt going to work.

  2. You are TOTALLY going to link us to the article when it comes out, RIGHT Julie???????

    And say what you may about Sophie, she does occasionally venture farther than from one end of the bed to the other which is the maximum that my cat does.

  3. I don't think I could keep up with you much less a 20-year-old. I'll blame it on the extra 10 years and the 20 years that I took off from running. Or maybe I'll just blame the cat and not worry about it!

    That article sounds exciting. I would definitely like to read it.

  4. I think I pulled a hammy while reading this. Must.... get.... ice...

    (We will get to see this article, right? You'll post it, yes?)

  5. Congratulations...yes please link us when it comes out!!!

    You are pretty amazing.

    It's sad how people that do not run think that you are just running.....yep, I'm guilty.

    I now know that I would need an instruction manual to get started doing what you do. LOL... Is there such a thing as beginner's running for 52 year olds?

  6. Obladi- hmmm. we'll have to brainstorm that one...
    Natasha - I think your cat and I would get along splendidly. I like her style.
    Reforming Geek - sure you could ! You can do anything to which you set your mind and heart! (I hope...)
    Vivienne, lol. Okay... I guess I'll post it. Luckily it's not just about me... it's I and 2 triathletes...
    Tango - aww shucks. I'm blushing. not at all, man. Ya just get out there and run! :) My Dad ran his first marathon at 50 yrs old...

  7. I reckon Sophie thinks running on the track is akin to chasing your tail around and around and around...

    I agree with Vivienne - it'd be cool to see the article. You must post.

  8. I wish I could even run a mid 6 minute mile right now, haha.

  9. I can't run at all really. I used to be able to do a few miles, but now I'm just a lump. Good for you. I always admire real athletes like you and wonder at how you find the time/energy/courage to do such amazing things. Go you!!

  10. So I did become famous! Yay! I liked reading what you wrote! Very clever and funny! I just may have to join you a few more times on the track this summer to help you cut off those nasty 4 minutes! I forgot to ask, when is your next marathon scheduled for??

  11. woo hoo! what an adventure--I'm with sophie. I like laying in the shade watching.

  12. Mmm, it's lovely watching all this go by me as I sit here on the sidelines with a chocolate bar in one hand, grilled cheese sandwich in the other. Round and round you go. You're looking good! And the 20 year old guy's not too bad either. Keep it up! Where's the hot dog vendor guy? Someone peel me a grape! So, that's what exercise looks like.

    I don't like the way Sophie is eyeballing my snacks, though.

  13. not only do i despise running in circles around a track, i despise repeats and im in between both of yalls ages.

    but its kinda cool that you are getting a story about you. i just found out not too long ago that im getting a story written about my experience with the relay for life and my dad and his passing. thank GOD they dont take pictures of me running.

  14. Can't wait to read the article! I wish I had the passion for running that you have. I struggle to run a few times a week. I would quickly end up in the shade with Sophie.

  15. The first 5K I ever ran I overheard a guy telling his GF he hoped to average 5:30 per mile. I remembered thinking, "You gotta be kidding me? Normal human beings are that fast?" And by "normal" I meant people who showed up for local runs.

    Well, it was 1983 and I'm a bit smarter now.


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