This is a question that I often get asked and was asked again this week while running with a fellow tri club member in his 20's. What I think he meant was "How did an old lady like you get so fast?" OK, maybe not quite that but along those lines.
Of course, I am NOT really that fast but it has become apparent that I am faster than average when it comes to running, especially for my age (48). But how did a math/science geek, someone whose parents discouraged her from doing sports, who often finished last running laps in P.E. classes, who never did any competitive sports growing up, who has no remarkable weight loss or cancer victory story ... GET THIS WAY???
To be honest, I think it's just simply consistency and stubbornness (Dave calls it strong will). While I don't have any sports background, I did get into jogging/running back in the 70's when I was about 16. My parents hated the idea because they thought girls shouldn't be out running but my best friend had a crush on a guy who ran XC and, well, it was more important that our clique do everything we could to help her see him, which meant running (even though most of us weren't runners!).
Throughout college, grad school and into my mid-30's, I was very career driven and took pride in studying/working 60-80 hours a week. I continued to ignore my parents and jog/run off and on for some semblance of fitness but largely for stress relief. Running was a good way to get away from the desk, solve problems and let my mind relax so I could go to sleep or go back to work and get more done later. The last thing I wanted to do was put more stress on myself, however, so I never pushed myself to go fast, never kept track of mileage, pace, time or how often I did it (maybe once a week, once a month, who knows???). I do remember running fairly often when my dad was dying of cancer, though, but that was just a phase during a very stressful time.
In 2002, at age 40, I finally entered my first race, a half marathon, while visiting Kona with my sister and her husband. They'd run races before and encouraged me to sign up. I was actually in great shape (one of my 40th birthday goals) from taking karate and gym classes but I remember being terrified. I was so afraid of being timed, of having to run with other people, of having to drink out of a cup, of finishing last. No one was more shocked than I was to discover that I could run sub-8 minute miles! Maybe ~25 years of slow off and on jogging/running had given me a good aerobic base?
And similarly in 2005 at my first triathlon, I got a big surprise. First, I had no idea how tough swimming 400m would be. I hated swimming back then and didn't really know how to swim except to save my life. I freaked out when others touched me and went off course into some weeds (where gators were surely waiting to eat me). I eventually got back on course thanks to a kayaker and came out of the water nearly dead last after the longest, scariest 15 minutes of my life. Then was I was soooooo relieved (and then pissed) that I went on to hammer on the bike and run. When I finished, all I could think of was that I had to learn how to really swim so I could do more tris! So I signed up for an Ironman ...
But one thing for sure, I don't think of myself as a natural or hardcore athlete at all. I enjoy training and racing, yes, but what I'm looking for is simply more variety and quality in my life. As I've mentioned before, I had a fairly sheltered upbringing and a lot of fears growing up. There are a lot of things I didn't do because I was too Type A in school/work, too worried about trying new things and sucking at them, too uptight about not being able to control things the way I want, too whatever. Karate challenged me to look at things differently and in endurance sports now, I am quite different, or at least trying to be. I'm continually finding ways to keep things fun, keep active and keep improving myself *without* running myself into the ground. That's what I think has allowed me to "Get This Way" and whatever happens Sunday at the Gator Half Iron Tri, I'm keepin on keepin on.
Thank you for your kind comments on my previous post. Hope everyone has a great weekend!