Magic Lessons

I think I’m the last person to discover Podcasts. Why didn’t I listen to these before? They’re awesome.

Someone recommended Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Magic Lessons” series to me, which I started yesterday, and proceeded to stretch to for an hour. A lot of the episodes focus on creativity. While there isn’t much creative license in doing a hysterectomy, a lot of the themes of courage, fear, and “doing what sets your soul on fire” still speak to me. You know, all those warm fuzzy things millenials really dig.

Yesterday, I got my own little magic lesson of sorts: the magic that comes with run and the subsequent endorphin drunk high that can last an entire day, maybe even a week.

If you’ve followed this blog at all in the last….four years (what I’ve been writing this for four year?!?)… you’ll remember that my running has gone from self doubt (2010-2011) to injury and more doubt (2012) to joy (fall 2012-2013) to fun (2013-present aka residency). Well, running was always fun. But, there was that period of time, like any new runner does, where they get obsessed with time, pace, PR’ing, BQ’ing, and all that jazz.

Continuing further, if you’ve taken any note of my half marathon record in residency you’ll note the following trend: sign up for race; say I will train; not train and do some other activity (and a lot of it) and hope its enough; run said half marathon and finish.

So, I haven’t really raced a race since….April 2013. Crazy!

I ran a workout (read: just one) back in August and was pretty surprised at how fast I was still able to run (relatively). If you’re curious, it was 4 x 1 mile and I did them at 7:15s. That’s actually a bit better than I used to do any mile repeats.

I thought it would be fun to test myself so I made a slightly more dedicated commitment to actually training for the half a ran yesterday.

Now, let me me give you a little insight as to how training works in residency. There are these really terrible things called “being on call.” This means work. For like 24 hours. And usually a 60-80 work week.

I know tons of other people do this and probably train to race Ironmans. But, me — I get tired.

So, training ended up being a sort of give or take — it usually ended up being that in any given week I either got in a long run (8-10 miles) or a “faster” run (something resembling a workout). I actually prioritized the long runs and did mostly those and the other running I did was 4-6 milers with the occasional little speed burst thrown in there. I also did a lot of boxing at Shadowbox, because that is my new “thing,” and pilates at Flex, because I love those classes, too.

A week before the race, I got a little gun-shy about the whole “racing” thing. I mean, who was I to think that I could race a half marathon without “proper” training. I went back and looked at old training logs, some of which are incredibly detailed (dear God, I was neurotic….am neurotic) and,man, did I put a lot of time into some of those races. Looking back at what I did then to prepare for a race, I had no business planning to race off of my current “training.”

But, I’m a different person now than I was then. Now, I am hardened resident. Being a OB/GYN resident is essentially some of the toughest mental and physical training you may ever get. You wanna know what’s hard? Doing a quartenary repeat C-section when you’ve been up for 20 hours on a morbidly obese patient. Its a different kind of “pushing yourself” because there is a certain adrenaline high you get when you know that you have to, well, take care of someone’s life, but there is an aspect of OB/GYN residency that is mentally and physically pushing yourself to another level or limit.

Or maybe I just think this way because sports is my way of relating to the rest of life.

Moving on, let’s cut to the chase.

If you know anything about me, before I make a decision, I will ask 1600 different people their opinion. Ultimately, I know that I am the decider of my future, but I’m a big fan of creating a “brain trust,” so to speak, to harness the greater wisdom of those who have gone before you and/or who may have a more objective view of your situation than…you.

What it came down to was this (well, thanks to my brain trust!): #1 – I am a more experienced runner now and don’t need all the fancy data and gadgets and pretty training logs and splits to know I can run a certain pace; #2 – If I didn’t achieve my “A” goal (1:45) would I really even care? The answer was no. I deliver babies. That will trump a half marathon time any day. Plus, I was going to get to sleep THE WHOLE day after this half, which is the best prize of all. Forget the medal. Give me naps!

So, I ran watch less and music less (well, I’ve always raced sans music) and it was THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE.

Runners! Listen up! If you’ve never run a race watch less, you have to do it for your next race. Why? It is the most self fulfilling experience and a wonderful little self awareness experiment you will ever have.

I mean, really, this is what it comes down to: you have to ask yourself “am I trying my best at this point in time with what I have today.” If the answer is “yes,” then that’s pretty much all you can do. And, if you’re really trying to race, you should ask yourself, “am I uncomfortable? Hurt a little bit?” If so, good, you’re doing it right. Irrespective of what your Garmin or clock or whatever timing device you has says, this is really “how to race,” if you want my opinion.

I truly had no clue how fast or slow I was running. I knew it felt appropriately hard and uncomfortable, but that it was a pace in which I could complete the distance. And, the time on the clock was going to be a great big surprise.

What was most special about racing this way is that I really had to trust myself. I had to really think, “Meggie, are you giving it your all? Is this what you can do today?” You have to turn inwards and be really self aware. Becoming enlightened like the Dalai Lama doesnt hurt, either, but that’s quite a task for 13.1 miles.

It ended up being the most self fulfilling and gratifying race I’ve run to date.

In the end, I ran 1:45:08, which is about an 8 min pace. I think having a Garmin or watch may have been a hindrance to me yesterday. If I had known I was running that pace, I may have 2nd guessed myself knowing that I hadn’t run 13 miles at an 8 min pace in several years. To the Garmin fans out there, maybe having one would’ve helped me run just under 1:45. But, seeing as those 8 seconds don’t mean so much to me (like the used to), I’m glad I ran watch less.

Thinking back, racing is really a feeling to me. It’s not a time or pace, it’s capturing that feeling of pushing yourself beyond what you thought was previously possible. I think all I really wanted to capture was that. The time yesterday was a bonus.

For those curious, no, it was not a PR. It was slower than my PR by 3 min. But, it still sort of felt like one (a PR), to me.

Because endorphins make you happy, Jocelyn and I decided to walk home from Brooklyn yesterday. And that additional 7 miles (yeah, we thought it was 4…clearly we aren’t cartographers) and sunshine made me so endorphin happy and vitamin D’ed up that I think I’m really ready to take on winter….until the first snow when I start to question living here and not relocating to a more tropical climate.

Dear God, this is long. if you stuck through to this point, CONGRATS!

Moral of story: Listen to podcasts, run races without watches, listen to yourself, take long walks, friends are the cement that hold the world together.

Daily coffee tally yesterday: 5 (what, I did sort of a coffee crawl on the way back from Brooklyn because, why not?)

Daily coffee tally today: 3

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