Leaping beyond my comfort zone

Now all you runners know the inspirational poster “nothing good or bad ever happens in the comfort zone”. Well I can now with confidence say that if you stride monumentally beyond the safe haven of your comfort zone it’s a total roller-coaster of good and bad!

Just a week ago I sat enthusiastically in bed with laptop and cuppa and boldly joined Holme Pierpoint Running Club and entered their four race Grand Prix. It seemed a bold and exciting step to add something new to my running, plus there’s a T-shirt in it! I was thrilled that Ellie and Susie signed up for the Grand Prix too ( Susie having never donned a race number before but reassured that she’d be fine and not last by another running pal).  The first event, a 4 mile jaunt around Rushcliffe Country Park didn’t sound too daunting, it’s the same location as our annual 10km every March. The weather was warm, not too hot and we know a great place to park the car.

Work was so stressful though, I worried every minute of the afternoon about leaving on time, about too much traffic, about breaking down on the way home, about being given a crisis job to sort out, I virtually sprinted out the door at 4.45pm without saying goodbye or catching anyone’s eye, just in case.  We found the start in the same spot as the March run, but the atmosphere wasn’t quite the same. No DJ, no music, no band, no fancy dress, no crazy warm up, nobody in it just for the hell of it. It was runners, all runners, real runners and lots of running club vests and shorts. Lots of men too, I felt outnumbered. Still, I can handle this I thought, if I’d have been Susie and never really ran an event before, I might possibly have just gone home. I know I’m more than capable of 4 miles but I’m no good at this mile pacing lark, I’ve only just converted my Garmin to miles, I also know I’m not very good at pushing myself, really don’t know what I’m capable of and I’m definitely a bit too afraid to find out. So with Ellie, in my migraine mode, having agreed to run with Susie, I decided to start with the front pack.

In a line, well a sort of bunch of 265 entrants, in the middle of ‘The Field of Hope’…………..I never knew it was called that, field of ‘Hope this isn’t a bad idea’ might have been better, a fog horn started us off. In my rough mental calculations I figured I could aim for 35 minutes. I don’t know how people start so fast, it takes me at least a kilometre to get going, settle down, breathe right but were off like greyhounds out the trap and like a lemming, so was I.

The Field of hope, Rushcliffe Country Park

The Field of hope, Rushcliffe Country Park

It nearly killed me, I tried so hard, but by the 1 mile mark at 7 minutes I literally thought I might die, heart attack, collapse. This LCA had to ease back a bit there were 3 more miles to go. As soon as I did it felt like the entire field passed me, I tried to look calm past the race photographer, but trust me, I was far from calm. I did settle down a little by mile 2 but felt totally out of sorts. At mile three, a chunky legged lady was by my side on the path, she looked like the sort of runner I could follow, not one of the lithe limbed gazelles who had long since breezed ahead. If I could just run with her, she could bring me in. As we approached the end, you could see the finishers buzzing round large vats of squash, it couldn’t come soon enough and it was with horror that I realised it wasn’t quite around the corner and with even more horror the the thunder-thighed lady began to pull ahead. I simply had nothing left to offer. In every event I’ve run to date, there’s been just something left in the tank to ‘sprint’ to the finish. Please accept the word ‘sprint’  as loosely representing a pick up in my pace. I am aware to an onlooker a ‘sprint’ probability isn’t what it looks like!  I remembered to finish to the right. I’ve never seen that before, no chip timing at this event. I made it to the altar of the squash table, I just didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, throw up, sit down…….I finally saw Ellie and Susie coming along the path and shouted them on. I didn’t say, “don’t get excited its ages from there” and I was finally more composed as they came round to the finish and I took a photo of them approaching the finish line.

So the good bits were my time 30.39 !! That was 6th place in the LCA, sorry FV40, category and there were over 40 of us! I was impressed the results and the photos were online so quickly, a very professional job. I wasn’t sure if I’d show as competing as part of Holme Pierpoint running club, but I did, that felt rather serious. There was a great photo of me clearly passing a bloke who looked perturbed by it…..if only he knew how I was feeling!

Rushcliffe 4 miles

Rushcliffe 4 miles

Ellie and Susie came in at 36 minutes which felt like a lifetime after but, good on them, they talked all the way round much to the horror of many of the marshals!

Ellie and Susie chat to the finish

Ellie and Susie chat to the finish

The bad bits, I felt completely traumatised, I felt exhausted, I woke up in the night with achy legs and I couldn’t contemplate competing  again two days later. But I did…….. Feeling more positive and rested the next run at Colwick Park was still nerve racking, despite it being on my doorstep, I’ve never been there which perhaps makes it more exciting. I actually used a race portaloo for the first time ever before a race, but the queue was small and I’d clearly taken my hydration strategy too seriously during the day. Ellie and Susie felt calmer too, it was 5 miles, still well within our capability levels.

Two ladies introduced themselves from local running social media groups I’ve recently joined. Now that’s weird. I’m too old to have ever encountered online dating but that’s what it felt like. Being really pleased to see people you feel you know as kindred spirits that you’ve been talking to but never met.

We were off, no going off with the front pack, more of a plan to hit the 45 minute mark. A push on pace but not until I’d settled down, a group clocking along at a pace right for me. I almost felt overjoyed with relief, I enjoyed the new scenery. Ironically, but she didn’t know it, Katie, one of those new kindred spirits and fellow LCA kept me at pace. 8 minute miles, just under was enough without being too much and at the right time in the last mile I felt able to push and broke away. I crossed the finish at 39.55, elated and happy, how it should be. Ellie and Susie were exactly 6 minutes behind again but Susie struggled at the finish and we were briefly worried.

Now the best bit. The results obviously collate over the 4 races, by category and by club. I have no idea if its a straight add up of time or how it works but going into the weekend, I am Holme Pierpoint’s no.3 lady! A position, who’d have thought it? It won’t last,  it’s 5km next week, my nemesis. What secretly makes me chuckle is knowing that if even I wasn’t sure if I was even part of the club for this event and having only been out with them 3 times is that anyone except Katie that looks at the results this weekend will be thinking “Who the f–k is Justine Squitieri” !! Awesome.

Womens Teams after 2 races 26 June 2014

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Categories: Ladies of a Certain Age Running (LCA)

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