The mini-identity crisis of a varsity hasbeen.
Humor me for a moment and ask yourself these questions.
Who are you? What are you?
Student? Doctor? Teacher? Goofball? Ex-convict? Struggling musician? Insufferable know-it-all? Cranky recluse? Chocolate enthusiast? “That guy?”
I’m a runner. When people ask me about myself, it’s one of the first things I say. Not elite. Nothing special. Middle of the pack. But still a runner.
(Soon thereafter, everybody I meet who isn’t a runner is immediately sorry for encouraging me by asking probing questions in the name of polite conversation. Here is an open apology to every glassy-eyed soul I’ve drowned with a deluge of inane drivel about weekly mileage, daily training aches, porto-potty woes and mile-by-mile marathon recaps).
So yeah, I’m a runner. Now, though, I’m trying something new. I’m trying to be…
A real runner.
A running-only runner.
Because you know what I used to be?
A rower. A varsity athlete. NCAA division I, with frozen, chapped hands on the inlet, eating seat races for breakfast, sick ball of dread in my stomach staring in the mirror hands on the erg handle 2000m flashing on the screen, ready all, Attention… Go!
I was wearing a Vespoli shirt the other day waiting in line to pay for some rain pants, and the woman in line behind me remarked, “Oh, you must be a rower!”
“Yeah!” I responded, “Well, I was a rower in college.”
Then there was a long pause and the smile slid right off of my face. WAS a rower?
Oh God, no.
[Enter sickening feeling of terror that accompanies realizations of subtle identity changes over the sneaky passage of time.]
Even if you’re not into the whole endurance sports thing, you can probably sympathize with the feeling of mild identity confusion. See also: graduating from college, switching jobs, moving somewhere completely new, transitioning into and out of romantic relationships; any of that regular ol’ human condition jazz we all navigate in varying degrees. Change some of those big pieces around and suddenly we get in touch with our angsty inner teenager: we may be left reeling in the overwhelming wake of newfound freedoms or clawing at the dissolving fumes of what we were.
In my first post-college year, I still incorporated 3-4 rowing workouts per week. I wasn’t ready to let it go. I figured there might be an opportunity to row semi-competitively again out of college, and I wanted to be in shape and ready to roll when that opportunity knocked.
But the opportunity didn’t come last year, and it’s not looking good for this year either.
I’m. Just a runner.
And it’s weird. This idea of becoming something of a one-trick pony is foreign and frightening.
The nice thing about being a multi-sport gal was that whenever I was having a bad day in one sport, I could lean on the other one for validation that I was still a decent athlete: Bad erg test at crew practice? Awwww shoooooot, I can still run faster than everyone else on the team, so who cares if I’m terrible at rowing. Crummy race at the local 10K? No big deal that all you skinny jokers just burned me on this course, I’m a jacked musclepants rower and I don’t need to be good at running anyway.
Now? I’m taking the rowing mantle off. I have to cast it aside and let it go. I had my year-long grace period. If rowing comes back into my life, I’ll embrace it, but for now? Time to run blissfully away from the erg, let go of splits, let the shoulders go weak, let the hammies thin out, and face the fact that it’s all in the rearview mirror and getting smaller. Regretfully so.
Can I get a heck yes from any fellow varsity hasbeens? Per Ostman takes the words right out of my mouth.
Truthfully though, this is a good thing, and I’m excited about it.
I get to run all the time now!
I’m going to sit down and look at the local race calendar and come up with some training plans and strength circuits to play with.
Or maybe I’ll just continue to fall head-over-heels for Juneau and become a hiking/fishing/skiing/Carhartt+Xtratuf wearing/[insert Alaska stereotype of your choice] enthusiast. I can see exactly why people move here, fall in love with it, and never leave.
Don’t worry, Mom and Dad. I’m sure I’ll hate it in two months when it’s too dark and rainy to even see any oncoming black bears.
Identity shifts — have you had any big transitions recently? How do you deal?