Friday, September 23, 2011

The race

This fall my daughter is participating in Girls on the Run. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, GOTR is a voluntary program for preteen girls that is conducted before school. The program goal is to develop self-respect and self-esteem through running. Since I first heard about the program I have been eagerly anticipating the year when my daughter would be old enough to participate and now it's finally here. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. The sessions culminate in a 5k race that we would run together, gimpy, injured leg be damned. So when I mentioned it to my daughter at the beginning of school imagine my chagrin when she told me she had no interest. I was crestfallen since all of her friends were over-the-moon excited for this program. Either my daughter lacks motivation in the area of running, or she is smarter than all her peers because she knows how far a 5k is to run. But eventually she came around (with some bribery) so last weekend she and I made a trip to the running store to get some proper running shoes.

First off she was absolutely giddy at the gait analysis because it involved running on a treadmill, something she had aspired to for quite some time. If only the GOTR program were being run on treadmills I wouldn't have had to resort to bribery. After the excitement of the treadmill came trying on the shoes. After the first pair was laced up I told her to try running on them. My fast-twitch muscle child jumped up and starting sprinting around the store like a bat out of hell. Not surprisingly, she was breathless within a few minutes. When she tried on the second pair I suggested that she try running at a more moderate pace because that was what she would need to do for the 5k race. That she needed to pace herself or she'd burn out before the first mile. Once again she jumped up and starting running around the store like she was on fire. The GOTR coach has her work cut out for her.

Watching my daughter go at full tilt and promptly exhaust herself, only to rest a few minutes and repeat the cycle reminded me of some wise advice that a dear friend gave me when my kids were babies. I had just had my son, my daughter was two and I desperately wanted to have my world return to normal. I fully expected that I would be able to balance the wants and needs of these two little people while simultaneously resuming all my previous activities, plus a few new ones to boot. And I was running myself ragged and was an exhausted, emotional wreck. And still things were not back to normal. Not even close. One day when I was discussing my predicament with my friend she said I needed to slow down and pace myself, it's a marathon, not a sprint. 

That conversation was six years ago and it is my mantra. Now that fall activities are running at full tilt I also find myself volunteering for anything and everything. On top of that I am attempting to sew a rather elaborate costume for my daughter for Halloween and have to spend several days a week at physical therapy appointments and doctor's appointments in an attempt to rehabilitate my leg. I love to be busy. The more the better. I find I can think more clearly, am more organized, and am generally happier. But there is a tipping point, and I never see it coming. With each and every activity I am going at warp speed, trying to get everything done, keep all the balls in the air. And one day I realize I'm exhausted, that my brain has become foggy and my judgment isn't what it should be. The other night I was so tired I accidentally iced the wrong knee until my daughter asked if I had hurt the right one as well. And yet I keep going, ripping through my to do list like my life depended on it. And here it is not even October and I'm already burnt out. So I am going to step back and slow down my pace from a sub-9 minute mile to a 10 or 11minute pace. I will still get everything done, and I will still manage all the commitments I love and care about, but I won't do it at a pace that is unsustainable. Because even though my gimpy leg has prevented me from running an actual marathon this year I still have a mental one to complete.

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