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Slow happy race training

It’s been almost six weeks now since I broke my arm while trail running. At first I thought I’d go nuts, not being able to run or ride my bike. I consoled myself with the thought that surely I’d be running again in time for the North Olympic Discovery half marathon on June 1st. I might no longer have the stamina to keep running for miles on end, but surely I’d be running again… right?

Meanwhile, I’d at least walk every day in order to keep the daily activity streak alive. It was tough at first to motivate myself to walk when my arm hurt and I was feeling sorry for myself for not being able to run. But soon, I’d run and ride again!

I started physical therapy three weeks ago. My therapist almost immediately told me that no, it was not realistic to expect to run on June 1.

So what is realistic? I’m registered for a 5K on June 21. Maybe

All right, so I won’t run NODM. Fine — I’ll walk it!

At first I figured I could probably sustain a walking pace in the 17 minute range. 17:10 would get me over the finish line in a tick under 3:45:00. Hey, that’s not so bad! I wouldn’t be the last person out on the half marathon course!

I’m currently seeing my physical therapist twice a week. Her office is two miles from my house. I walk to there, then I walk half a mile to the Olympic Discovery Trail, walk east along the trail for a couple of miles depending on how much time I have on that day, then turn around and walk home. That section of trail is never boring. I’m entertained by eagles, river otters, and a wide variety of waterbirds. Time floats by and soon I’ve done ten or more effortless walking miles.

At some point I started paying attention to my pace again. I realized I was doing 16 minute miles. Then it was 15 minute miles. When I found myself walking a few 14 minute miles now and then I began to rethink this whole idea of walking a half marathon. Yesterday I did two of my 8+ total miles in 13:42 each. I was moving so fast I even felt a touch of runner’s high.

As of today I’m thinking that 13.1 miles of rolling hills at just under an average 15 minute walking pace is an entirely realistic goal. That puts me in the 3:15:00 range. I ran my first half marathon in February 2010 in a lightning-fast 3:10:11. I don’t think I can break that, but if conditions on race day are perfect, I just might have a shot at it.

I didn’t used to think of myself as a competitive person. I missed out on several career opportunities over the years due to lack of assertiveness and reticence about my achievements. I abhor and avoid conflict, often to my detriment.

But put me out on a trail with a GPS watch strapped to my wrist and I become very competitive with myself! How fast can I walk up this hill? How long can I sustain this pace? What if I push just a little harder toward the end of this mile?

We’ll see what happens on race day. But just because I have to walk, that doesn’t mean I have to stroll.

Slow and happy? “Slow” is relative, and “happy” is an attitude. I can do this!