(Notice there are now three check marks - only one more to go!)
When I last checked in regarding the Swedish Women's Classic (Svenska Tjejklassiker), it was a mere two days before I was to hop into some very cold water and swim 1 kilometer as fast as I could. Well, the water was pretty darn cold but after standing around in my wetsuit for thirty minutes the cold was not as shocking as I had anticipated and the swimming part, while challenging, was not at all as bad as I thought it would be. Looking back now, I’m pretty sure I can also say that I was mistaken in thinking that the swimming portion of this four-part endurance feat would be the most difficult.
The very next day after the Vansbro 1 kilometer swim, I pulled out my running shoes, dusted off my Garmin, and started training for the 10 kilometer run. The race was just under three months away. It seemed like plenty of time to prepare but I figured I should get started. Ahem.
Have you ever trained for a running event? If you are already a runner, it doesn't count. I'm talking about starting from scratch, as in from a sitting position on your couch. I'm kidding, sort of, but the minute I started my couch to 10k program, running one minute, then walking one minute, and repeating ten times, I felt that I needed to question my sanity.
You'd think running for just one minute would be a piece of cake right? (A piece of cake sounds good right now and I miss my couch!) I peeked at my Garmin, merrily keeping time, after what seemed to be a reasonable amount of time, only to discover that I'd been running for a mere 20 seconds. 20 seconds???!!!! Holy cow. How was I ever going to be able to run 10 kilometers?
I kept with my training however, thinking (and hoping) that it would get better. In the beginning I endured cramps in my lower legs that were so severe, I'd have to stop completely (I couldn’t even walk) and shake out my legs until the pain became bearable enough to walk my minute and start running again. Gradually I built up my time and distance and the cramping stopped but, even so, I continually questioned my ability to build up to the point of finishing the 10 kilometer race. And yet, with a discipline and determination that surprised even myself, I stuck to my training schedule and continued running 3 times a week. Some days I even got up before work to run, which was the biggest surprise to myself. Until....
.... a little under three months later, on Sunday, September 29th, I actually completed the Lidingö Tjejloppet - 10 kilometer run. I personally think it should be called, "The Up and Down and Over-the-Hills and Through the Woods" race, but that is beside the point. It was tough. And by tough I mean probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I can also say that it was a truly amazing experience and something I might even do again.
A couple of things I learned along the way:
- Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
- The body truly is stronger that the mind thinks it is.
Truer words have not been spoken. I encountered a couple of minor injuries along the road in my training. Plantar faciitis in my left foot and runner's knee in my right knee both threatened to stop me. However after speaking with runner friends and other sports enthusiasts, I learned some exercises and things I could do to alleviate the symptoms, strengthen the surrounding muscles, and allow me to keep training.
After all of this has been said and done:
If you have even an inkling of desire to train and participate in some type of sports event, be it bicycling, running, even walking, I encourage you to start training - like now! It won’t be easy but I can guarantee that if you keep it up, the pain will go away and it will get easier. Your body will get stronger ... and so will your mind!
I have tried running many different times in my life but due to the horrible cramping I would experience in my lower legs I just thought, “running isn’t for me,” and after a short time period I would quit. No one told me that these pains were normal and that it would take time to build up my endurance in the different muscles and tendons. No one told me to keep going, or that it would get better. Well, I am telling you...
KEEP GOING... it WILL get better!
And send me a photo of your finish when you complete your first 5k, or 10k if you are crazy like me!
Like Nike says, JUST DO IT.
Ps. Just one tiny event left for me to do to complete the Svenska Tjejklassik - 30 kilometers on cross-country skis. Double gulp.