Slow and Steady

I’ve been putting off doing a VO2 max test since I was training for the Austin 10/20.  I was using a heart rate monitor and ballparked my fitness level, in order to follow a training plan.  But the days I was supposed to be doing a long, slow run, I was supposed to run SO SLOW.  I decided it couldn’t be right, so I decided to go in and do the test.

The main reason that I put off the test, was that I was really afraid I would find out I’m in pretty bad shape.  The two people I know who had done it were both really athletic and sporty.  One of them was actually quite surprised to find that she was in “excellent” condition but would probably never be an elite athlete, i.e. someone who competes in sports for a living.  I was secretly worried that I would find out I was in “fair” or “low” condition.  In reality, I am solidly “good” shape.  But I realized that I am never going to be fast.

I’ve been in training for almost two months for a half marathon in December.  And when I did the math on my average pace, I’m hoping to finish 13.1 miles in under 3 hours, which for me is a pretty ambitious goal.  But I would like to finish faster.  Not just because that would mean I get to the shower, lay in bed and nap all day portion of my recovery would happen sooner, but because I’d like to be running 10 minute miles, and that ain’t gonna happen.

I can run one 10 minute mile, but 2 or 3 or 13 in a row is out of the question.  I hit my max heart rate pretty quickly if it’s too hot or I go too far outside my regular pace, which is much closer to 12 minute miles.  I could get faster than that with the right training plan, but it wouldn’t be as significant as I’d like.

During my long training run last weekend, I started thinking about what that means, and I wondered if that kind of realization is what getting older is all about.  That maybe getting older means letting go of things you thing you want to do or should be able to do in the face of reality.  Which sounds pretty depressing in some ways, and in the moment that I began to realize that even though I can run 13 miles–which is a pretty big deal–I’ll never do it in the time frame I’d like, it was a bummer.  But it also means that I am able to let go of unrealistic expectations for myself.  It means that I can stop beating myself up that running a half marathon is disappointing because it took twice as long as I was hoping.  Instead, I can just focus on what I will hopefully accomplish on December 6.

The dream of being becomes more like the hope that I will someday look like a magazine cover model or be shorter or taller or Asian or all the other things that I thought would make me happier or prettier or better.  By letting all of that go, I can focus on being proud of the myself just as I am.

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