Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Victory Lap

Summertime for me always includes two weeks spent serving my country out at Travis AFB.  During that time, I have to get checked out at the Medical Hobby Shop (aka Base Hospital) to ensure I am still breathing and my teeth haven't fallen out.  Well, not all of them anyway.  I also have to do my physical fitness test.

Present Arms!
The wear of the PT uniform is mandatory for testing.  I was always able to get around wearing it because the person administering my fitness test didn't give a rat's ass what I wore.  That is, until a civilian contractor took over the reigns of the testing program.  Last year was the first year I tested with these new contractors.  Rather than buy the ridiculously cheap and ugly, unisex-sized Air Force PT uniform, I tried getting away with wearing my Air Force Marathon Team outfit.  They almost didn't let me take the test because they said the uniform was not authorized.  I didn't want to risk being denied the test, so I plunked down the cash and bought the beauty pictured to the right.

The challenge for me is how to work the 1.5 mile run into whatever workout or training I have going on at the time.  Passing the test is not the problem, since I can get the maximum number of points by running ~7:30 pace.  However, I always want to be ready to take on some unsuspecting young whipper snapper if the need should arise.  As it turned out, I had the perfect workout scheduled on exactly the day I was testing:

12 miles total with:
2 mile warm up + drills
3 miles @ 25 sec/mile slower than 5k pace (~6:10)
1 mile jog
1.5 miles @ 20 sec/mile slower than 5k (~6:05)
1 mile jog
1 mile @ 10 sec/mile slower than 5k (~5:55)
800m jog
1k @ 5k pace (~5:45)
cool down

My plan was to warm up and run the first 3-mile interval, then jog for a few minutes before heading in for the test.  I would do my push ups and sit ups, run the 1.5 mile test, get my paperwork and finish the rest of my workout.

I did the first 3-mile interval without incident, jogged around until about 10 minutes before the test was scheduled to start, threw on my PT uniform over my running outfit and then headed in to the fitness center to sign in.  When I got into the hot and humid room where they conduct the testing, I began to sweat profusely--I mean gush like a fountain.  It was actually pretty embarrassing, and I didn't have a towel.  I tried to fill out the required paperwork before checking in and absolutely soaked it with uncontrollable sweat droplets.

I must have looked like a hot mess, because everyone was staring at me.  In fact, one of the gruff testers looked at me and asked if she could help me, which I thought was an odd question.  I told her I was there to test, and she said, with a noticeable amount of snip in her tone, "but you look like you've already been working out."  Was this against regulations?  I just said that I had run a little before, but I needed to test.  Then, one of her partners in fitness yelled to me that I might want to go clean myself up before making someone touch my waist with a tape measurer (waist circumference is part of the test).  I ignored this rude person.

I went and stood behind a partition waiting for the lady to weigh and measure me.  This was a blessing because I go to use my cotton shirt to "clean myself up".  When I went back into the room to join everyone else, I faced a wall of 20 men staring at me.  I said, "well, it looks like it's going to be boys versus girl and I think the girl is going to lose."  I looked around for a smile, listened for a chuckle.  Nothing but crickets.  Wow, tough crowd.  I was given a red mesh jersey with an 8 on it and told to go sit in the corner.

They called us up by our jersey color and number to separate us into two teams for the push ups and sit ups.  Somehow I was not called each time, but was added as an afterthought.  Memories of being the last picked for teams in 6th grade softball came flooding back.  After finally being added to the roster, I knocked out enough push ups and crunches to max out the test. We then headed out to the track and waited for 10 minutes for the testers.

So, I jogged, back and forth, round and round while all of the boys stood around the track looking at me like I was an idiot.  One finally approached me when I stopped and asked me, "so, you're a big runner are you?"  I imagine he deduced this from the fact that I was actually warming up before the run.  I told him that I run some.  He asked if I had done a marathon and I said I ran Chicago last year.  He then told me about how he planned to train for the Air Force Marathon, but he got sick and wasn't getting better.  He stopped running and gained a bunch of weight, which explained the bowling ball tucked underneath his uniform shirt, and now he can barely run 2 miles.  I told him to keep at it and that he should try again next year.

Finally, our testers showed up and we approached the starting line.  I went to the front of the group, but didn't need to toe the line since I was going at a slower pace than normal.  But, nobody was stepping into the lead spot in lane 1.  I started to go for it when the fittest looking guy in the group whispered in my ear, "what are you going to run?"  I said, "probably 9:00."  He sort of nodded and went to take the lead spot on the track before realizing that I meant 9 minutes for the 1.5 miles and not 9 minutes per mile.  He then backed off quickly and said, "Oh, I'm trying for 10:00."  Next thing I knew we were off and I had someone to chase.  A young airman took the lead, shod in Nike Shox, iPod blaring.  I ran with him for the first lap, tucking in behind him along the windy stretches.

We finished the first lap and I realized we were rapidly slowing.  So, I slipped around him and held a steady pace, uncontested for the rest of the run.  I could hear the testers calling out my splits each lap with a hint of amazement in their voices.  I lapped a lot of soldiers, some in their 20s and walking.  Unacceptable.  As soon as I crossed the finish line, I turned around and jogged in the opposite direction to take my victory lap.  I use the victory lap to shout words of encouragement to those who are clearly suffering but still trying.  The walkers require heckling.

I got numerous high fives from people as we headed back to the sweatbox to complete our paperwork.  I asked the guy who had planned to run the AF Marathon whether he passed his test and he told me he did.  He then congratulated me on a fast time and said, "next July, I'm going to be running with you."  I told him that was a good goal.  I could have said that I could run much faster and that I was doing all of this as part of a bigger workout, but that would just be cruel and vain.  As I went up to turn in my completed form, the tester who had told me to "go clean up" looked up at me with admiration in his eyes and said, "Ma'am, you're my new hero.  You tore it up out there and looked like you could just keep going forever."  I just responded with a smile and quick, "thanks."

I rushed back out to the track, stopping by my car to remove the extra layer of scratchy Air Force clothing and finished up my workout.  I ended up beating all of my planned paces in that workout and felt awesome in that last 1k repeat.

It was a good Air Force day.


  1. i am sorry but i love this post....rock on sister

  2. I love this post too, and I'm not sorry :) Congrats on beating all the boys, not that we would have expected anything else. Unbelievable that young guys in their 20's can't run the whole 1.5 miles.

    So those fitness-testing people are the ones who got rejected for the job of person-behind-the-counter at the DMV?

  3. Thanks, ladies. I look forward to this every year. It's always an unpredictable adventure. I do believe the AF got a hold of the DMV's list of people who should never work in customer service. Actually, there was something a little more to it than that. These people seemed to relish their position of power and enjoyed abusing it. Maybe that's what's going on with the DMV people, too.

  4. this is the greatest running story that you, i, or anyone else will ever tell. amazing!!!

  5. Rocky, Not sure about this being the greatest running story, but it might be a good one. Thanks for your comment. Hope your running is going well.

    Monica, thanks for the love.