It's 4:14am and I am awake. I silenced the alarm on my wrist watch within a couple of beeps, so Josh is still sound asleep next to me, and Noah is still sleeping peacefully in his crib a few feet away.
I stretch my legs and then relax in the warm bed, enjoying the quiet of a house full of people sleeping, and letting my body calm back down from the rude awakening of the alarm so I can take an accurate resting heart rate. I take my heart rate and then slowly and silently pull myself out of the bed, without disturbing anyone.
The little voice in my head tries to talk me into getting back in the bed. It tells me how warm and comfortable the bed is, how early it is, how tired I am, and how crazy it is for a mom of 12 to be up when the rest of the house is asleep. The voice is convincing, but I know why I am up. I am up so that I can train. So that I can work hard. So that I can run. So that I can have time to myself to do what I love before my family needs me. So that I can continue on the journey toward my goals. I know that the sleepiness will melt away and that I will soon feel awake and ready to go, and that I will be grateful I got up. I don't listen to the voice trying to get me back into the bed. I never do.
I look out the window out of habit. I know I will run no matter what the weather, and I checked the forecast last night so I knew what clothes to lay out as usual, but I always look out the window when I wake up. The days are getting shorter already which makes me frown for a moment, and the sky is still mostly dark. Some mornings it is raining. Some mornings the wind is whipping out of the canyon. Many days of the year it is very cold and snowing. But this morning there are clear skies and it is a perfect 47 degrees (a typical July early morning in Star Valley). I know these days are numbered, and I make a mental note to enjoy them while they last.
The bathroom light hurts my eyes, but I wake up enough to get my contacts in and running clothes on. I sneak out into the front room and start my core routine. No matter how quiet I am, Figaro (the kitten), realizes that someone is awake, and I have company. He will not leave me alone until I pet him and snuggle him for a little bit.
Crunches, bridges, pushaway's, metronomes, v-sits, Superman's, staff pushup's, planks... I go through the routine twice, feeling the burn. I don't enjoy the core and strength workouts, but I like how they make me look and feel, and I want to be strong and lean and do what I can to avoid injury. So I get up early and get it done.
I get up off the floor and do some dynamic warmup's, and then put on my calf sleeves, socks, and Pure Flows. Another quick trip to the bathroom, a kiss goodbye to Josh, and I grab my Garmin, IPOD, sunglasses, phone and car key. Usually I go without the phone and key, but today I am driving to the track for my run.
A few minutes later I am pulling into the parking lot at the high school. The sun is not yet up over the mountains but the sky is just light enough. I think about the work out ahead of me and start getting pumped up. I know it will not be easy mentally or physically, but I feel strong and ready. I usually do mile repeats on the road, so this will be a new challenge. The track is empty, quiet, still, waiting.
The air is breezy and chilly and I have goosebumps on my bare arms, but I know the chill won't last for long.
Time to get to work.
I start slowly and keep the effort and pace easy for the warm up. I focus on my form and enjoy my body warming up, getting ready to roll. Three guys arrive and I watch them. They pass over the track and head to the turf field where they start some walking lunges and burpees. Round and round and round I go.
Two miles later I am warmed up and ready to run fast. I crank up the IPOD and mentally prepare to get to work. I remind myself to focus on one mile repeat at a time. My Garmin starts beeping, signaling the start of my first mile repeat, and off I go. My legs want to fly, but I pull back a little, and legs and lungs fight for a bit while I feel for a pace that is fast, but that I can maintain for four laps, six times. I find my groove and enjoy the feel of my feet on the track. Round and round and round I go.
More beeps - this time signaling a short reprieve - the start of two minutes of "rest". I suck in oxygen, feel my heart rate settle down, and mentally get ready to go again. Five more to go. I got this.
The men leave and I am alone again. Four fast laps, two minutes to recover. Repeat. I am halfway through the workout now - good and tired, but plenty left to do. The sun is suddenly peaking over the mountain tops and I slip on my sunglasses. I think briefly how grand it would be to have a running group or someone else out here on the track running hard with me. But it's just me and the track. Beep...beep...beep....time to go again.
I focus on pumping my arms, keeping my feet light and quick, having a slight forward lean, and enjoying the feeling of running fast around the track. I feel myself start to slow down and push the pedal back down to the medal. My goal is to be consistent - fast and steady. Focused. I try not to think about how many laps are left and to just be present in the lap - in the moment - and run the best I can right then.
Two repeats left. Holy cow the two minutes of rest go by FAST. I am definitely not cold anymore. I use my new mantra - "fast feet. strong spirit. happy heart." Mile repeats are long. Four laps feels longer than a mile on the road. I love the track though. I got this. "fast feet. strong spirit. happy heart." Round and round and round I go.
One fast mile left. I got this. I haven't checked my splits but I have felt consistent and strong. I am tired, but I know I have more in me. We always have more than we think. Beep...beep...beep... here I go!
I am almost done with the first lap and I notice a group of girls coming on to the track. At first I think it is a soccer team as they set up cones on the turf, then I notice a lack of soccer balls and recognize the coach - it is volleyball girls. A couple of stragglers dart out of my way as I come around the corner - move it girls, I am not slowing down. The sun is warm now, my legs are tired, lungs are burning - "fast feet. strong spirit. happy heart. fast feet. strong spirit. happy heart." I do not slow down.
My IPOD blares my new favorite running song into my ears, "Awake and Alive" and I keep pushing. Volleyball girls run half-hearted drills as I zoom around on my last lap. I focus on the track in front of me and run strong until I finally hear the beep...beep....beep... telling me I am done.
I down-shift gears to a slow and easy jog, smiling with the satisfaction of a tough but successful workout. As I float through two miles of cool down, the volleyball girls pack up and head back into the school, and I am once again alone on the track, just as I started. My Garmin hits 11 miles total, and I slow to a walk. My body feels tired but great. No aches or pains, and the soreness from the half marathon has disappeared. I feel like I have worked hard, used my muscles, put my work in for the day. I love training.
It feels like I have been out here a long time - it was dark and chilly when I started and now it is sunny and warm. The burpee guys came and went and the volleyball girls came and went. I start my stretching routine, and let myself look at my splits. My target pace for the mile repeats was 6:45 - my goal was to run consistent splits without frequent Garmin checking. Flash tells me that my splits were 6:33, 6:27, 6:36, 6:28, 6:30, 6:28 and I am smiling - satisfied.
Finishing a tough track workout feels amazing and I relish it for a moment, and then gather up my small pile of stuff and walk back to the van for the short ride home.
I walk in the front door to happy little kids and Josh, just starting to wake up and move around (the older ones will sleep for awhile still) and we chit chat as I drink a recovery drink and use my foam roller and stick. Breakfast, shower, and the day goes on.
Tomorrow (and all the days to follow for the foreseeable future) my alarm will go off again at 4:14am. I will get up and ignore the voice that wants to go back to the warm bed. No excuses, I will run. If it is a recovery day, I will run easy. If it is a key work out day, I will run hard. I will do all that I can to continue on the path to my goals, and to be the best runner I can be. I do it because it is part of who I am. I do it because I am committed. I do it because I am driven. I do it for the challenge. I do it because it is fun. I do it because I love it. I do it because it is rewarding. I do it because my feet, my spirit, and my heart are happiest when I run.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle