Boot Camp ended this week and I wanted to run my timed mile in under 7 minutes. That was my goal. I got a chest cold on Thursday morning, the day before the run, but I figured I could still pull it off. I also wanted 60 pushups in the push-up test. I did 40 on the intake test and ran a 7:39 mile in 18 degree weather.
I figured these were challenging but still reasonable goals for improvement. I worked my ass off in camp, posted a perfect attendance record, and ate reasonably well. I wanted to see the results.
By the time I hit Friday morning I had already worked about 55 hours that week. My immune system was beleaguered from the stress and long hours. I woke up at 4:30am and put on all my favorite cold-weather running clothes: sugoi tights, high-school running bra (still my favorite), wife beater, long-sleeve, loose-fitting running shirt, pearlizumi headband. I threw Sam’s North Face flight-series anorak over the top for good luck and added stripey, stretch gloves for hand warmth. Downstairs I found my water bottle, apple and ipod mini just where I’d set them out. The mini was already set to play Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at full blast on repeat.
I was nervous [but on the surface I looked calm and ready].
I was quiet and focused during warm-up until the start of the run. I kept reminding myself to cut slack, take off some of the pressure. “This is what you do.” I told myself. “This is what you’re good at. Relax.”
Just before Daniel said, “Go.” I popped my earbuds in. The mile started with an uphill surge and I attacked, hoping to get my heartrate up fast and achieve maximum suffering right away. I ran away from the pack and never saw them again. Part of me wished I had someone to help me push but part of me liked being out in front. I knew that the first quarter would be a surge, the second two quarters would be long-striding on the back-stretch of the park, and the fourth quarter would have a slight downhill grade and should be absolutely as flat out as possible.
Around the second quarter Eminem said, “This may be the only opportunity that I got.” and I thought of the year I spent in the walking cast, depressed and frustrated by my inability to move my body the way I wanted to. I recalled cold mornings in the pool staring at that black line that I despised. How I suffered through swimming lessons, teeth chattering, to try to get better because swimming was all I was allowed to do. How I promised myself that when I was better I would never waste another day on the couch when I could be outside somewhere upping the ante.
I turned it up a notch and heard Storksen in the back of my head saying, “50 quick steps! Now!” 50 quick steps in the middle of a mile is more than you think but I took them.
[Success is my only mother fucking option, failure’s not.]
I wanted seven minutes so bad I could taste it. I blocked out my high-school self who was scoffing me: “Seven minutes! That’s not even fast.” Today, in this moment, a seven minute mile is fast and I want it.
I felt on pace.
Coming off the backside of the park I turned left onto 39th and juiced it. The run was practically over – all I had to do was bring it home so I cranked it and came gasping across the line.
“7:02!” Daniel called out.
It was a knee-jerk reaction that came from being so fixated on wanted to hear the word “six”. Six anything. Six fifty-nine. Six fifty-eigth. Just six something.
In truth I was happy with it. It was damn close and it was a good effort. The other women started trickling in and their strength was inspiring. Some women improved their times by over 2 minutes in just 3 weeks. You could see it in their faces as they came in. They looked strong and confident. Fast.
We went inside and I missed my goal in the pushup test as well, falling short of 60 by 3 or 4, I can’t remember. I was counting backward from sixty to try to trick myself into doing it but there is a certain point where the arms fail. You’re telling them to move and they just won’t. You fall flat and lay on the mat with your head to the side because getting up, at least with the assistance of your arms, just isn’t an option.
I forgive myself for falling short. I set stretch goals to try to make myself go just that little extra bit further. They may have been too aggressive but that’s ok. I’m as focused on the journey as I am on the goal. I can see the value in the process. I love myself for my effort and my heart. 60 is a number, muscle failure is success.
The improvements made by everyone in camp were absolutely mind-boggling. I talked to at least 6 other women who were all coming back for Camp 2 which starts on February 12. I’ll be right there with them.
More, perhaps, than even my outrageously expensive therapist, Boot Camp has become an irreplaceable touchstone for me. My daily reminder to be committed to myself, to remain true to my passions, to keep my priorities straight and to pursue life shamelessly and with abandon. Sure, my body is starting to look really amazing, but it’s almost a side-effect or an afterthought. I am most inspired by the sense of comeraderie, the overwhelming rush of endorphins, and the intense motivation.
I’ll get my post-camp measurements today but the results are largely inconsequential. I don’t need calipers to tell me that this is working, I can feel it in my bones.
There are 4 days left until this code-red stress level can be down-graded to orange or yellow. I’m still hanging on with my fingertips but I’ve become fairly convinced that I am going to make it.