Hauling out my competitive streak

Short woman. Big oars.
Short woman. Big oars.

I’m not running as much as I was a few months ago.

This, however, is not a bad thing (plus, I’m not training for Boston so there’s that little thing not hanging over my head).

I’ve cut back to running 3 days a week so that I can add back in more cross training.

I love to run, and so sure, a part of me wants to run EVERY day. But once upon a time I was a rower — a good rower — a strong rower. While I don’t have a schedule that would play nicely with me climbing into a crew shell and rowing every morning, I can at least add back in the things that made me a strong rower in the first place — like weight lifting.

Enter the trainers at the gym. There’s a gang of them. Each very nice and friendly and personable right up until that moment where they figure out what makes you tick.

And today, one of them figured out how to pull out that competitive streak that I know exists, but haven’t seen yet as a runner. Running, for me, is super hard work. I’m not fast. I’m not that strong either, but I love the sport because it’s my escape. I always think about running like it’s a perfectly worn-in sweatshirt: Ratty and ugly looking on the outside, but comfy and familiar on the inside. Races for me are never about winning, but rather about pushing myself to do something I don’t find easy and sharing that experience collectively with a giant group of people.

Rowing though, rowing was always where I wanted to win.

I’m wasn’t your typical rower: I’m 5’0″ (most Olympic rowers are about 6 feet tall)

I wasn’t lean and lanky and built like a beanpole.

I’m a stump, not a willow.

And yet, I fell in love with rowing the first time I tried it — and I wanted to be the best.

I learned how to weight lift heavy, and explode from my legs to drive through the pull of the oar. I learned how to quickly feather the blade of the oar in the air so as to cut down on drag and minimize excess movement that could throw my teammates off balance.

I busted my hump every day to pull harder than my teammates — some days I succeeded; others I didn’t. But the drive was always there.

I haven’t found that drive in running yet.

I may not ever find it — and that’s OK, too.

But today, when my trainer put this former-rower-turned-runner on a rowing machine and said with a wide smile “OK, Elizabeth, give me 500 meters as fast as you can, then rest for 2 minutes and give me 500 more,” something came over me.

“Keep track of my split on the first 500 so I can try to beat it on my second,” I told the trainer before I took my first stroke.

I knocked off my first 500 meters in 2:12 (far slower than I could do in my rowing days).

My second 500? 2:08.

“You’ll become a faster runner soon,” the trainer said. “And you might just break my rowing machine.”

“That’s the goal,” I said.





2 thoughts on “Hauling out my competitive streak

  1. Speed is an unfair muse, isn’t she? It doesn’t take much to tease your legs into a pick up. It’s why fartleks are SO much fun. Yet, just as you’re flying down the track imagining that everyone is awed by your graceful strides like Dibaba, you start gasping for air like you might when the wind’s knocked out of you because you caught an edge on your snowboard. Arrgh.

    I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with speedwork. I’ve found that doing 15 sec sprints with 400 m recoveries eased me into it. Shorter tempos. More steady-state. All so much less daunting than a traditional hard tempo session or race pace workout. None that inevitably leave you hating any of it. They all equally help me justify my hot dog, mini cupcake, craft beer obsessions as well 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s