An awesome thing happened today! For the first time ever, I trained with my big sister (National Masters 400m Champion if you will) Stacy. Although I obviously went through my athletics “phase” as a kid (i.e. an opportunity to hang out with my cooler older sister with the odd stumble over a hurdle or belly flop over a high jump bar thrown in), this was the first time we had trained together as fully-fledged grown ups (give or take). I was almost as excited as this girl:
So I turned up at the track today at 1:15pm, and the weather was gorgeous except for the wind that was going to be driving us back on the last 100 metres of each 300 metre lap we’d be doing. We would be doing 6 of these with a 4 minute break in between each one, which meant we had to push ourselves pretty hard but make sure we had enough in the tank to do 6 reps. Pacing myself over shorter sprint-type distances is still something I’m learning, but I like to think I’m improving.
After a fairly lengthy warm up (Alan never approves of rushing this) Stacy and I were set up to do staggered starts with Stacy setting off first and then my following when she hit the halfway mark. I’ve never seen Stacy run so close up before and it was fascinating. As a middle distance runner she’s much bouncier than me as she runs on her toes (as opposed to my mid/heel striking depending on how tired I am) and it made her look really powerful on the track. She also drives back her arms SO far which gives her her extreme power. Just look at the photo in this article for evidence of this.
Now as any regular reader of this blog will know, my self doubt has been a real problem with my running. There must be times when Alan wants to do this to me:
But having Stacy there seemed to change something in me. I tried to explain my thoughts to Alan about this and not sure I was very articulate, but I’ll try and do it here. I think if I’m running with someone who is a similar runner to me, I’ll try and compete with them and run at their pace rather than at mine, burning out too soon and generally having a miserable time of it. But with Stacy, I know that trying to run at her pace is a fool’s errand. She has been at the top of her game for years, and probably has enough titles and medals to build a small house. I’m never going to be able to run at her pace over these distances. So instead I just tried to run at MY best, rather than at someone else’s.
And it worked. Alan expected me to run 300m laps at 58 or 59 seconds, and instead I was coming in at 55 or 56 seconds compared to Stacy’s 51 or 52. What was brilliant was talking to Stacy in between laps, and seeing that even someone at her level finds these sessions tough. We talked about how we both find lap 4 the worst one, knowing that it’s near the end but not quite near enough to push through the pain barrier as we still have 2 more after that to get through. She also told me about “Louis’ Last Lap”, so named after someone she knows who always thinks of the second to last lap as the last one so that he can drive through it and imagine he’s finishing his laps. Because after all, however hard you’ve found the session, you can always get through the last lap. And I got through it by digging deep and coming in a fraction over 54 seconds. Who wants to take anything left in the tank home with them eh?
Listening to the banter between Stacy and Alan all the way through the session kept my spirits high, and having Alan tell me at the end that he thought it was the best I’d ever run was an incredible feeling. He told me I looked like the “real deal”, which has to be one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. I had managed to do all 6 laps without slipping into a mental funk and without losing seconds off my time. I enjoyed the session SO much. There’s just one problem – I’m going to want to keep running with Stacy, so I really hope she doesn’t plan to change her workout routine any time soon! I suppose there’s a risk of her becoming my new dummy(!), but I think she just inspires me to be the best athletic version of myself I can be. Roll on the next session.