Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I’m just waking up from what feels like a 24-hour period of feverish sleep, chaotic thoughts and subtle insights into myself. Gosh, I have not been to this place for a while and I am surprised to find myself here. But let’s start at the beginning.

Yesterday morning I participated in a 10K tune-up race in Saratoga Springs. This race, three weeks before my half marathon, was planned to see how my speed would hold up and to get a bit more experience running a race. I was so excited. I knew I could do it and was ready to show the world "Iris the runner".

We woke up around 6AM in the hotel, jumped into our clothes and took off to find some breakfast. Saratoga Springs turned out to be an amazing, wealthy town with beautiful big stone buildings comparable with the ones in Harvard Yard. They even have a downtown shopping area. The Saratoga Springs always attracted people, starting with the Iroquois Indians. It didn’t take log before the first settlements were established and tourists started coming to the springs. Investments in the casino, the horse track, the springs and some very expensive hotels grew Saratoga Springs til what it is today: a very pretty looking and rich tourist town.

At 7AM a diner opened and we found ourselves a spot at the bar. Sitting on comfortable big chairs of fake brown leather, we looked directly into a glass cabinet with at least twelve different huge dessert pies. Chocolate, whip cream, pudding, all colors of the rainbow happily screaming, “Eat me, eat me!” r. They could have saved their voices; early mornings are not the best time for selling sweet sugary desserts. But hey, there're pies; what do they know!

The quiet server with long blond hair brings us menus and drinks. I wonder why she doesn’t seem cold in her black sleeveless t-shirt. The running clothes I am wearing are much warmer then hers, and I still feel shivers on my back and arms. It is only 37-degrees outside and it doesn’t seem to be much warmer inside.

The two eggs over easy, complemented with bacon and rye toast help me to fuel my inner fire and heat my body to a comfortable temperature. I am so ready to run, but there are still two hours to overcome. What to do next?

The next hour and a half, I bounced around the hotel room like a ping-pong ball. I would spend five minutes on the computer, five minutes in the bathroom, go over my clothes and bib to make sure everything was prepared properly. I showed Mark the route so he would know where to find me and tried to sit still on the bed for a couple minutes. It didn’t work out very well. I was so relieved when the clock hit nine and I could start my warm-up run towards the start of the event.

About eight minutes later I arrived at the start. Fourteen hundred people were lining themselves up with me. Such an overwhelming amount of people, sounds, colors, and noises. While I was dressed in long warm pants and sweatshirt, lots of runners were dressed in shorts and sometimes even sleeveless shirts that made their goose bumps show prominently. It seemed people tried to keep warm by chattering like chipmunks who have found a big assortment of nuts, the noise so loud that the count-off and start of the event could be seen but not heard.

But when the twenty eight hundred shoes started to move over the road, the human chattering stopped, replaced by soft drumming voices filled with urgency, as the shoes chanted in unison,  “Forward, forward, forward we go!"

Enticed by the beat, I started off way faster than would have been smart. I was macho-ing between the five K-ers but they would be done in a bit, while I had another 5K to run before the finish. After two miles, my breathing got so tight that I started to sound more like a train running on steam, then one on electricity. And while I was doing my best to show off, everyone seemed to pass me by in easy coyote steps while I was doing my elephant dance. While trying to move my elephant legs faster then normal, I had to take breaks from running here and there to get my breath back under control.

I can tell you it was a tough race. It was not as tough as my run today (one that I filed under worst run ever), but it was quite challenging. In the second half of the race we got into some small hills. Already having spent most my energy during the first part, I felt that I had changed into like a little snail climbing the road with all its strength, telling myself, “where there's an up, there is a down!”

In the last part, it was a lady dressed in carnival clothes yelling enthusiastically that the hardest part was now over and the finish around the corner that made me move my legs into a run for the last time and had me roll over the finish line in one hour, two minutes and twenty-three seconds. It took me at least five minutes and one bottle of water to get back to a place where talking was possible.

Even though I had improved my time for the 10K by seven minutes (one minute per mile), I have been walking around with mixed feelings about my results. It is amazing that I improved my personal time like that, and so I am very proud. But so many people passed me, running way better then I did and I wonder how come I am so slow in comparison.

My “subtle” insights:

  • I understand now that I want to be part of the challenge in a game, and when I put myself in a situation where I’m not even close to a challenge, it tests my character and motivations to the extreme.
  • I understand that what I did is wonderful, but I seem to really want to hold on to the belief that I did poorly. I must believe it will help me improve my speed. In meanwhile it just slows me down though...
  • Sree, it is now time to dialogue, so I can have a clear head when I run my first half marathon in three weeks!
  • I know I will keep going, and now there is extra motivation by figuring out how to keep my head cool!


  1. Iris: many thanks for the peek into your thinking process; it's like being a fly on the wall inside your head. And as I follow you around, it strikes me that my preference has generally been to do all my processing in private, and share the result only if it makes a clean and pretty package. While that supports my impression of being well put together, I see that it impedes my relationships somewhat. Hm; time to get some feedback.

  2. Sree, thanks so much about sharing some of your thinking process too! The one thing I have learned to appreciate more and more is that in the end there is just so little we know. And things that seem so perfectly right at one point, might seem crazy or silly at another moment. Yesterday, Mark and I were listening to the radio, and we heard about a 1950's experiment that had to prove that love was an very important key ingredient when raising children. Up to that point psychologists had taught that love was not important and should be taken out of the equation if possible. Which seems a little silly these days!

    I start to feel more and more comfortable to show all the parts of me, and not to worry about how it will look like to others. I found it opens up conversations with other people in the same situations. We all can share how we deal with that particular challenging situation while we are still in the middle, and I believe this helps to find new alternatives and climb over the hurdle faster and with more comfort.

    I am really grateful for everyone who shares on this blog, because it helps me to see the world as a wonderful place where support is always around the corner...


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