"The timorous may stay at home."
~ Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co., 250 N.Y. 479, 483 (N.Y. 1929)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Meels on Wheels

During P.E. class in fifth grade, we timed our 100m dash in the parking lot of good ol' Palisades School.

I finished last in my class of 30.

Dead last.

Which I couldn't understand. I was an athletic kid. I played club level traveling soccer and ASA softball. I ran the hell out of the soccer field for 90 minutes at a time; I was the all-star pitcher on our champion little league team.

But for the life of me, I could not sprint. I was sloooooooow.*

I'm surprised I even made it to third base. Must have
been walked around.
And it continued. My high school softball coach nicknamed me "Meels on Wheels" simply because it took me SO. DAMN. LONG. to get around the bases. [note: "Meels" is not misspelled. "Amelia" doesn't lend itself to pretty nicknames] I would manage to reach full speed between third and home. My inability to sprint the bases led to incredible headfirst sliding abilities, which was the only thing that saved my ass half the time, but frightened my parents and my coaches that were depending on me to be standing to pitch.

And despite years of speedwork, of agility drills, and of sprints, I'm still going to lose every time when it comes to sheer sprints. And even 400ms, 1600ms, hell - even 5ks. My legs do not want to turn over that fast, and my body and my mind hate the maximal effort and quick bursts. I'd rather run a 100-miler than do 400m or 800m repeats. Watching me sprint is comical, or so I've been told.

Of course, I tried to blame it on genetics: "all slow twitch, no fast twitch" muscles. I'd curse my distance-running Dad and my awkwardly long legs that took a long time to get going.

You see it in my strengths in Crossfit. It's why my "Grace" time is mediocre, but I will smoke everyone in long hero WOD's. It's why I'll never be a real competitor in the Open or Regionals - those WODs are required to be short (well, that, and I can't move weight like those beasts).

Fitness experts (of which I am not) generally talk about 10 (give or take) components of fitness: Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy. See, e.g., here

Let's take these one by one:

Endurance: check. easy one.
Stamina: on that
Strength: improving, though my squats are still miserable
Flexibility: Pretty sure I failed the "sit and reach" test at every school physical.
Power: noooope. Sprinting ability is as much about power as it is about speed. And I have no hops, either. Max broad jump is laughable. Box jumps are treacherous. White girls can't...
Speed: Once I get there, ok. But the problem is getting there.
Coordination: I split my shin open and had to get stitches doing box jumps the other weekend. Enough said. Surprised that I can make it relatively unscathed through an obstacle race.
Agility: not like a cat. Again, surprising that I made such a good softball player...
Balance: I've never fallen off Twinkle Toes? But I trip over myself walking down the street at least once a day.
Accuracy: Still don't really understand this, but I do have a wicked arm. Except when it comes to the spear throw. Damn you, spear throw. Why can't you be a softball toss?

So, from all of this, I've realized:

I'll might not outrun you. But I'll outlast you.
(ok, I'll try at least)

Nowhere did this become more evident to me than at the Vegas Super Spartan the other weekend. The women's "elite" heat set out at a blistering 6minute pace - a pace that I can marginally maintain, but one that is incredibly uncomfortable for me. And I died the first few miles. I couldn't get into a groove, and I simply couldn't get my legs moving quick enough.

But as the race progressed, I started chipping away at the lead. I was racing 5th-7th for the first 5 or 6 miles,
The pained look of "goddamn, we
are sprinting"

but then slowly started to catch up. I gained time on obstacles involving upper body strength, and as our paced slow, I began to run my race. Besides - chasing is more fun than being chased, no?

Too little, too late for a race that length, but that's fine.  That's why I gear myself towards the long races, towards the multi-day, towards the incredibly stupid feats of endurance. I'm not going to beat road racers. But I will endure more. And I will ignore the pain. And I will continue when my body says no (unless, of course, it involves cold water submersions. We all know the WDR found my kryptonite).

I'm running the Indiana Sprint next weekend, and I've never run a race this short. If I thought the pace of
I did show every what's up with that
cargo net, though. Roll, baby, roll.
Vegas was uncomfortable, then I anticipate that this is going to be incredibly unpleasant.

But I wouldn't ask for anything else. I know my strengths; it's time to work on my weaknesses. It's time to get out of the comfort zone. It's time to run like hell.

*Caveat: I imagine the 4 of you that read my blog are like "really? you win races, stop saying that you are slow." Fair point. But of the fitness components, speed/power are my weak links. By far. 


  1. Great insights into the 10 components! I bet your endurance aspect that smokes others makes for a strong mind. The kind that beats out the strong and powerful.

    -From reader #5

    1. As long as it's long enough for me to catch them :)

  2. Good read Amelia! I really enjoy your posts and your blunt honesty!

  3. Love your sense of Humor!!! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!

  4. I was going to wait until a 4th person posted, to show you that more people read this. Um...well...so far all four of us have really enjoyed your postings : )

  5. There are 5 of us! I love reading your blog.

  6. Ah! I'm a fast twitch, not a slow twitch person... which is difficult because I truly love the long (well up to marathon long) distance events. Love this post. It's a great reminder that we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

    1. THank you! It's great perspective - makes you focus on your weaknesses, etc.

  7. Perhaps the accuracy refers to counting...as in "how many people are reading my posts?". Alas, I have suffered from STSS* from childhood too. Strangely enough I have quickness (as in getting around offensive lineman) and endurance (yes...soccer here too). But speed is something I've never been cursed with. As always...enjoyed the post!! Good luck in Indiana.

    * STSS - Slower Than S**t Syndrome [I've noticed that you enjoy footnotes...lol...so here you go]

    1. STSS - totally using that from now on.

  8. Running Saturday and Sunday at Mid-Atlantic Tough Murder. I am fine with the endurance but these hills on day 2 are going to be fun on the knees.

  9. Really love your posts Amelia! I always had a hard time trying to describe my "feel like I am in slow motion sprints." LOL

  10. Nah, I'm the same way. I hated that I was always a terrible sprinter, but could outplay anyone on a soccer field, or long distance run. It's been great finding out about these endurance re=aces because I feel like I've found my niche finally. It's nice to see somebody else complaining about feeling like a turtle somedays.
    And I trip over myself all the time. Heck, I even found a way to break my heel. apparently, that's not an easy thing to do!
    Love reading your blog too.