The girls as they head to the start line of their first race. Perhaps I'm frustrated because I haven't raced in so long. Or maybe it's because I hate being told to slow down.
I never thought I’d be in this position: writing, running and loving (that), yet so so SO frustrated. Perhaps you might be wondering: If everything is so great, then why the pouty, sad face? Well, like most things in life, nothing is hardly ever what it seems to be.
I mean: I love my new MFA-life. My classes are great: each is filled with interesting people from all over the country who have nothing at all in common with me (well, aside from the writing, of course.) We talk about literature in some; we discuss our own writing in others. I mean, what is there NOT to like about that? And I had a great two-week cycle, with a grand finale of a 16-mile run in 1:56. OK, so it’s not ideally great because I didn’t run it as fast as my “projected” marathon pace-- not even at the end-- but I didn’t slow down (the second part of the run was faster) and this time represents a net 4-minute improvement since I did this run two weeks ago. So, YIPPIE, right?
Well, sort of. See, the problem resides with my coaching position at the University. I signed on (as a volunteer, no less) so that I could WORK WITH the athletes. While a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno, I was able to do this: I trained with the cross country team; I ran intervals with them as well as easy miles. They pushed me in the shorter, more “sprint-like” distances (think: mile and below); while I led the pack in longer distances sometimes. Other times, they pushed me then, too. :) Regardless, we made each other better by working together in training. (Oddly, sort of like a writing workshop: your writing improves not only because of feedback from others, but also because you read other writers’ works, think about them and absorb other view points and notions that might have otherwise never occurred to you.)
OK, so here I am, trying to do the same thing when the athletes complain to the head coach that they don’t like when I run with them because-- get this-- I only run with the #1 girl. It’s not so much favoritism as much as: she runs at MY pace. The others on the team barely break an 8-minute per mile pace and use running time as chat time. And so, because I’m not necessarily vocal (I’d rather lead by example than by harsh words), I choose to run with the lead girl, to push her (and let her push me) because that’s how people get better. Or, that’s how we’ll get better.
Yet, I was “spoken to” this week about my attitude and tendencies; and though it wasn’t a big deal (I wasn’t fired or anything) I have this nagging “WTF” reaction that just won’t go away. I mean, I have sacrificed of my own training many times to attend their practices, not to mention every Saturday to go to their meets (which means I miss out on not only early-morning tea/writing time, but my favorite longish Saturday run when I don’t have to be anywhere after.)
And so, here’s where I expose my weakness even though it hurts: I’m thinking of throwing in the towel as far as coaching goes. I’ve always believed in sticking with things until the bitter end, but I am truly frustrated. I have sacrificed a lot of things to be here, working toward an advanced writing degree and training for the Olympic Trials. It’s one thing to be criticized over a deed wrongly done (or spoken); it’s quite another to be told to “hold back” because you just aren’t as lazy as the rest of the pack.
And, though I tell myself to “Believe” over and over, I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get me qualified for the trials. I’m NOT talented; I can’t run 8-minute pace in the majority of my workouts and churn out a 2:46 marathon come December. Or, to clarify: I can’t sacrifice quality training and think I will not be harmed by its omission.
I ran an easy 4 miles today after the long bus ride from Sac and back to shake out my legs from the 20 total miles I did yesterday (I ran a double-day after the 16-miler and did some strides as well.) The whole time I was running in the hazy dusk light, however, I couldn’t help but wonder: is there a right time to let go of an obligation if it only drags you down? Or, is it better to stick with things until the death-rattle of its final breath?
I would never, ever give up on myself; so why am I willing to consider leaving this team? (Funny: after I typed that, I had about 10 immediate reasons which came to mind.) What scares me the most, I think, is what my coach said to me the other day on the phone. He said: “Ever since you’ve been coaching, you doubt yourself. You doubt what you know to be true about training. You doubt what you know about YOU. You can’t do that, not for a race, and not in life.”