I spent the better part of the last two weeks trying to figure out how I, a mediocre distance runner who looks nothing like Usain Bolt, could possibly hang with the Boston qualifiers in the group when it came to intervals. I mean, come on. And yes, I know “about” fast twitch versus slow twitch fibers, but I promise you, my legs do not look, uh, fast twitch-like, to the extent they have a “look.”
I thought this post was going to be about (nearly) bonking after this past Wednesday’s winter maintenance running session, but it’s really about the intersection of athletic pursuits and crying. Cue Tom Hanks’ character in A League of Their Own: “There’s no crying in baseball!”
A little over two weeks ago, at the first winter maintenance running session of the new year, I discovered that I revved up to 90% effort on the “on” portions of intervals noticeably faster than many of the women I was running with. It had to be a fluke. They must not have been trying. Or maybe the fast women were still on vacation.
So this past Wednesday, I wondered. Would I still be “fast” over short distances? Would the other ladies try tonight?
It wasn’t a fluke, but it also wasn’t easy. Oy. After the workout, I nearly bonked in the grocery store check-out line and seriously contemplated squirting honey directly into my mouth.
I’m lucky that I’ve been slightly above average, athletics-wise, my entire life: I try stuff, don’t completely flail, and come back for more. However, Wednesday was the first time I remember seeking divine intervention during a workout. After I sought divine intervention, I noticed that I was close to tears. I don’t think there’s a relationship between the tears and seeking divine intervention, by the way.
I haven’t cried a ton when it comes to physical exertion or competition, but the times that I have are memorable:
* When I was 6, I made a tactical error at a gymnastics meet and faulted twice on the vault. The fact that I remember this is a little disturbing.
* My boat didn’t make it into the grand finals of an end-of-season regatta my junior year of high school. So my rowers and I cried.
* In my early 20s, a mogul field at Mad River Glen ate me for breakfast and lunch. Plus, I was about to bonk. I stayed where I had most recently fallen and cried.
* In my late 20s, I blew out my knee – for the second time – on the soccer field. I actually heard my ACL pop.
* Two years ago, I burst into tears right before the last leg of the Torres del Paine Circuit because I picked up a stomach bug and had to backpack 11K on a few hundred calories. I didn’t know whether I’d have a bed waiting for me when I finished, which was really sad.
* And on Wednesday, pushing myself on those intervals – wanting neither to let anyone behind me to pass me nor to fly and die – pretty much made me cry. It could have been the wind, but I’m not sure.
Until Wednesday night, my cries related to athletic endeavors were out of frustration, injury and disappointment. These reasons seem reasonable when I list it out like that.
I have no idea why I was on the verge of tears Wednesday night other than it mattered to me. It mattered to me on Wednesday that I push myself, in the form of holding off the runners behind me. Sometimes, when we least expect it, stuff just matters.