My final two runs of this week could not have been more different in terms of my mindset going into them.
I decided to tackle my track workout for the week during my lunch hour on Friday, knowing that if I want to get the run in during the week, I’m basically going to have to give up on actually running at the track since it’s now dark before and after my work day. (While Matt has a head lamp he can use at the track, I’m erring on the side of safety until I know the neighborhood better by only running in day light when I’m alone.) So I headed out, eager to push myself hard along The Embarcadero. I did a 5 min warm up just over a 10 min/mile pace, and then began a series of 800 m, aiming to hit ~4 min for each interval. I did a really good job of keeping myself mentally strong through each sprint, and identified runners to reel in the entire time. By the final 800, my legs felt shot, but I still pushed myself hard and ended up feeling proud of my workout. After another 5 min of easy cool down, I completed 3.5 miles in 29:55. Seriously.
But what made this run so successful was the mindset I had going into it. I couldn’t wait to get out on my run; all morning I kept checking my watch, waiting for noon to roll around. I WANTED to attack the workout. I wanted to push myself hard and see an amazing number at the end of it. I’m slowly starting to believe that I can hold the 8:XX miles I need to maintain to break 55 minutes in two weeks (if not a little faster…), and every successful speed workout is just another opportunity to prove that to myself. I finished my workout drenched in sweat – the clothes were still wet when I pulled them out this morning – and proud of my effort. (Sorry to the coworkers that then had to smell me for the rest of the day!)
And then there was this morning.
In trying to get a lot accomplished around the apartment today, I headed to the grocery store after breakfast so I could beat the mad rush (why are there NEVER enough checkers working anymore???). Upon my return, Matt took off to get in his 5 miles for the day. I used the time to put the groceries away and take Pepper over to the park for a little play time before setting out on 5 miles of my own once Matt returned. Since we had a Skype session with our dog trainer at 2 pm, we wanted to get Pepper worn out and ready to sleep beforehand, giving our trainer an opportunity to see how Pepper behaves when left alone during the best possible conditions. With all of this going on in the back of my mind, I never really took the time to mentally prepare for my run. And while 5 miles certainly used to be nothing for rolling out of bed and tackling before breakfast, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve covered that distance…and that added fact has made every distance feel longer than it used to.
So I headed out around 11:45 into a warm and sunny day (I really can’t get over the fact that I am hot in a tank top running in November). I told myself I wanted to try to hold a strong, but not too fast, pace throughout the entire run. But mentally, I was struggling with covering 5 miles on the hills of North Berkeley without Matt to help keep me going. I held strong on the first mile and clocked a 9:14 pace. Once I hit Solano Ave, I turned towards the Bay and started running downhill towards San Pablo. Without changing my effort level, my legs picked up the pace and I logged two 8:XX miles. I felt good. But once I had turned onto San Pablo, around the 2.5 mile mark, I started to struggle mentally. I knew that once I turned to start heading back up towards the Gourmet Ghetto I was going to have an uphill battle the entire way. I did my best to hold on, but once I made that turn, I knew it was going to be a fight to finish. My breathing became labored and each step became harder. My hip was aching, my arch felt bruised, and my shin felt like I was developing shin splints. I kept trying to zig zag my way home, hoping I’d find a reprieve from the unrelenting hills to the north and the east, but just becoming more and more exhausted the entire way.
The hills here aren’t like the ones in DC, where there’s a definitely start and stop to the incline that lasts for a few blocks, typically. These hills are essentially inclines, not hills, with varying grades. Regardless of how easy I take them, I always feel like an overweight 3 pack a day smoker trying to run up the Empire State Building…a feeling that has me praying I can survive any incline in future races at a decent pace despite living at sea level. But in the moment, it’s a degrading feeling that leaves me dizzy with the final quarter mile of any run sucking any remaining life out of my lungs. Knowing I had that to look forward to at the half way point really left me struggling to find the energy to push through the final miles.
But I found my mantra, “Feel strong. Be strong.” And I dug deep for every step. I placed one foot in front of the other, and I eventually made it home…collapsing on the floor as soon as I walked in the door. Because there’s nothing more fun that walking up several flights of stairs to your apartment when you already can’t breathe.
Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the entire run came from my feeling of disappointment in myself with the mental and physical struggle, despite the fact that I still finished in 46:15! That’s a time I never would have dreamed of when I started running in 2009. I thought it was a miracle that I ran a 5K in under 30 minutes. But the way I mentally viewed my run completely destroyed any happiness I had with my pace until my husband basically forced me realize my pace was one I should be proud of, particularly given all of the setbacks my running faced over the past 11 months.
Recognizing that I started these runs with two completely different mindsets helped me see my life in a different perspective. I came to the realization that part of why I’m currently struggling with the adjustment to living in California has been my perspective on the situation. Do I love that I’m an hour to an hour and a half away from what is arguably the best wine region in the US? Yes. Do I love that I wake up to a stunning view of the Bay (when there’s no fog)? Yes. Do I love that Alice Waters, the founder of the local food movement, has her restaurant just blocks from my front door? Yes. Do I love that there is basically perfect running weather year round here? Yes. And do I love that I’m on a new adventure in life with my best friend and the world’s cutest dog? Oh hell yes.
And yes, it’s ok that I miss living in a time zone that actually makes it feasible to talk to my friends on the East Cost. And it’s ok to miss the amazing running trails through Rock Creek Park, my favorite DC races (like Cherry Blossom 10 Miler), and the countless amazing, and underappreciated, restaurants DC has to offer. And beyond all of that, it’s ok to miss my friends, my old routine, and the feeling of security. Because truth be told, I actually hated DC when I first moved there! I need to remember that it’s ok to miss and enjoy the past; that’s what makes memories so special. And I need to remember that it will take time to come to love and enjoy Berkeley in the same way I now love DC (and still consider it home). But I also need to remember to give Berkeley a chance.
It will take time to find my favorite restaurants, running routes, and happy hours. It will take time to feel adjusted to life with a puppy – particularly one with separation anxiety. It will take time to recover financially from a massive move across the country and starting a new job. And it will take time to develop friendships as strong and as deep as the ones I developed in DC.
But I also need to recognize that in the last 4 months, I’ve already made a lot of progress in all of these areas. Have I been able to try all of the restaurants I’ve wanted to? No, but I have found some AMAZING Mexican food! The Embarcadero is EASILY one of the most beautiful places I have ever run, with the sparkling Bay and Alcatraz distracting me from any pain my legs may be feeling. And who needs happy hours when you can find ridiculously amazing bottles of wine everywhere you look?
Life with Pepper has been an adjustment, but today she made it an entire 25 minutes of being alone, and easily could have gone longer. Spending time hashing out my budget yesterday helped me feel a lot better about where things are, and helped me realize I’m not as behind as I initially thought. And I have made an amazing friend that, like so many of the ones I miss in DC, makes me want to be a better person and is someone I can connect with amazingly on an intellectual level.
Am I where I was in DC? No. But I had 5 years of living there to create a life I loved. How can I expect 4 months of living in Berkeley to provide me with the same experience? So, yes, my friends, this is the start of me trying to turn over a new life. To regain perspective on where things are and where they are going. Is everything perfect? Of course not; life is nothing if not a work in progress. But at the end of every day, I have an amazing best friend whom I also call husband, a dog that is almost never more excited than in the moment I walk through the door at night, a job that allows me to study diseases I’m incredibly passionate about curing with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, a degree that I worked my ass off to earn, and the most amazing friends and family imaginable to help me through this transition. And really, who can complain about living anywhere with this view???
So, yes, friends, I think I’m going to be ok. And 5 or 6 years from now, when we leave Berkeley for our next adventure, I’ll probably go through the same experience of missing a city I’ll have come to love dearly. But at the end of the day, it’s just a matter of remembering to keep everything in perspective.
Your Turn: What’s something that you struggle to keep in perspective in your life?