Ever since Jude was born in June, I’ve been working toward becoming an elite athlete again, but it has been very difficult to find momentum. Little things keep getting in the way of progress. Breastfeeding zapped my energy. The sleep deprivation slowed recovery and niggles kept popping up.  My body moved differently requiring a muscle and ligament adjustment period. It didn’t take long to realize that I would have to adjust my approach and remain flexible until things started to click again.

Wednesday something happened. I did a “Michigan” workout, which orignated from Michigan Coach Ron Warhurst, which is a workout where you alternate between hard intervals on the track and tempo work on a nearby field or road. The version I do has about 30sec-1 min of jogging between the two locations but otherwise it is all continuous, forcing you to recover at tempo pace. This is what I ran:

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Bob Lesko coaching me and Mel Lawrence during our Michigan.

Mile: 5:00

Grass mile: 5:42

1200: 3:47

Grass mile: 5:38

800: 2:25

Grass mile 5:40

400: 63

This is a workout I’ve done since my freshman year at Stanford, at least 2 times every year. I’ve done it as part of a 10 woman college team, perfectly synced in stride. I’ve done it farlek-style, solo on the famous resevoir in Boulder as a new pro. I’ve done it at sea level at the Olympic Training Center, and at 8000 feet in Mammoth. I’ve done it on my home track during Christmas break with my old high school coach turning up to hold the watch. I’ve felt every kind of good and bad during it, and done it at all kinds of fitness levels. After 15 years, this workout has become an old friend.

My times on Wednesday weren’t my best ever, nor were they my worst. They were reminiscent of times when I was confident and strong, motivated and satisfied. As I ran my last 400 up on my toes, driving my arms, feeling my jaw loosely moving with my stride, I felt something move inside me. For 10 months I have been trying to move this boulder out of the road. I keep trying different approaches, pressing with all my might, grunting and sweating, and nothing happens. Then I wipe my brow, collect my energy, smack a smile on my face and start again. Maybe if I come around from behind! Nope. Maybe from under this little ledge here! Nope. Maybe if I take a log and prop it under this side and then push on the other side. Nope. Then, during that 400 in a moment of powerful, free motion, the boulder budged.

For two days I have felt different inside. A little bit excited. Afraid to talk about it. Fearful that it’s another false start. It has allowed me to begin to think about the future in less vague terms, and see a return to excellence as a possibility. One workout has the power to change everything, but it takes many workouts to see the change through.