Well hello readers! I took a bit of an unplanned hiatus from the blog. In fact, I thought about writing only one post between my cookbook review and maybe last week. The last few months have been hectic to say the least. In a somewhat lengthy post, I’d like to recap my most recent races, and share with you some lessons learned.
Late summer through the fall found me training for my fourth half marathon, along with the Ragnar Hill Country trail race.The expectation was this: Crush my half marathon PR, kick start my vacation with the Ragnar a week later, run to Taylor Swift (judge me and see if I care), watch the Grand Prix and then enjoy a week’s vacation. No running required on vacation, only if I wanted to. The first week of November would kick off my 16 week training plan to prepare for my second Austin Marathon. Easy enough right?
Just kidding guys – life never works out the way you want it to.
WEST TEXAS HALF MARATHON
So I did crush my half marathon goal. Back in the summer when I set out to break a 2 hour half marathon, I thought it was pretty lofty. Actually that wasn’t even my original goal! My previous best was a 2:08, so I figured a 2:05 was a good goal, but 2:00 seemed ridiculous – the kind of PR you might have if you trained really hard, and all the heavens shined down on you on race day. However after a few weeks of my training going really well, I was determined that I could get closer to the 2 hour mark, and missing it wouldn’t be the end of the world. So I threw out all my old training paces based on a 2:05 time and pressed onward. All my runs had me feeling so strong, especially in the last 3 weeks before the race. I completed my last long run of 14 miles over some very hilly terrain in Austin at a pace I never before believed accessible to me. Race weekend weather was not ideal – about 15 degrees warmer than I hoped for, and MUCH more humid. As the saying goes, wild horses couldn’t stop me, and I hit my goal spot on.
RAGNAR HILL COUNTRY RACE
Less than a week later, I headed out to run my first Ragnar Trail race. It was an experience to be sure. Trail running has a way of making a person (or at least me) hate everything about it one minute and fall in love with it the next. Since my main fall goal was to hit my half marathon PR, I didn’t do much trail running. While my first run was fun, things went a little south that night. Due to time constraints that would have me leaving the event early on Saturday, I found myself running the longest loop – 7 miles – in the middle of the night. Although we knew it was going to get cold, I don’t think any of us were prepared for exactly how cold it was that night. While my headlamp seemed to suit me fine for regular night runs where there is more ambient light, it wasn’t quite strong enough for the dark trail in the middle of nowhere. I tried to take in the experience, looking out through the darkness at the stars – camp in the distance, runners headlamps outlining the trail among the hills. But I kept tripping over rocks, making my ankles feel more than a little sore. Splashing through a cold stream, eventually falling on the trail, and the lingering suspicion that I was lost started to get the best of me. I made it back to camp an hour and a half later – well over what I expected even for a slow run. Consulting my GPS indicated that yes, somewhere I DID get lost, and managed to run an extra mile. I was shivering, because I never put my sweater back on since I was so convinced I should be approaching the finish soon. I went to bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a muffin, not sure if I could wake up before dawn to do another 5 miles. When I did get up the next morning I realized I’d left my shoes out of the tent, so I put on my cold, dew-drenched shoes on to gear up for my last run. Fortunately our team ran a bit behind schedule which left me running in the very early morning light – so at least it wasn’t dark this time. Timing couldn’t have been more perfect as I hit the highest point on the course right as the sun broke the horizon. I knew that all the planning in the world couldn’t have placed me there at that moment, so I allowed myself a few minutes to admire the view and let the light rejuvenate me. I finished my portion of the race in high spirits, and began to rush off to the next adventure.
After a full weeks’ rest, I found myself an injured runner. A quite discouraged one at that, as my training for the Austin Marathon was supposed to kick off that week. No matter, I thought. One week over the course of 16 was not a deal breaker. Then the nagging injury returned and some family emergencies got me down. I watched my friends continue to increase their mileage in preparation for the marathon while I couldn’t hack 6 miles because dammit that stupid ankle! My work load increased and I let stress and my emotions get the best of me. With every missed run due to injury, I was a little harder on myself. Then I felt less engaged to do the work. The more I fell behind, the more depressed I became. It was turning into a vicious cycle. It’s something I’m not proud of, but really those low points drove me to share it all on the blog today.
After weeks of this back and forth it came to the point where I had to make a decision: With 9 weeks left – was there REALLY enough time to train up for the full marathon race distance? I was desperate to run it again now. To run with my friends, to do the same thing we did last year, to beat my time from last year, and to prove to myself I still had a marathon in me. Logically I knew that marathon training in 9 weeks is just asking for trouble – the odds for overuse injury much greater.
I remembered I had entered the lottery for the Chicago marathon. The drawing was going to be held on my birthday. I begged the universe and various deities to let me get in. Not only did I REALLY want this marathon – and a start to my goal of run-cations – I was also just desperate for a sign to let go of my Austin marathon aspirations. If I could just get into this lottery, I would accept with grace that I will not be running 26.2 in Austin, and dedicate my heart instead to Chicago.
If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I made it into Chicago. As silly as it sounds, I was finally able to let Austin go from my grasp and be joyful about something else. In the weeks since I found out, I’ve reflected a lot on my attitude towards training and resetting for the new year. I realized two things:
1. I’m not that great at taking my own advice. I’ve said to many a friend contemplating a marathon they need to follow whats in their heart. They should follow their own desire to run a marathon, or not, and not base their decisions by “what everyone else is doing”. It’s great to feed off other’s people energy and use it to fuel your own desires. However in many a quiet conversation between friends I hear too often that they feel a little stressed/intimated because of the great things others are doing. I’ll be the first to tell someone “You’re great too! Of course you CAN do these things, but you need to WANT to do these things, out of a joyful heart and with excitement”. Truthfully I completely failed to do the same in my own life which leads me to the second realization.
2. I’m not that great at giving myself grace. For me, the catch 22 of having such an amazing support network in my running journey is that I constantly feel like I have to catch up. I know runners tacking marathons in every state, 100 mile ultras, and running multiple marathons only weeks apart. I want to run more miles every week, participate in more races, get stronger at running hills. And every time I didn’t achieve one of those things, I felt like I was NOT ENOUGH. Just typing that makes me sad, because I know it’s not true. I have a competitive nature combined with a fairly strong Type A personality and a tendency towards perfectionism .While some may see that as traits of a successful person, more often than not it leaves me filled with anxiety.
While I’m a firm believer that any day is a good day to reset, make new goals, and start a new journey, the new year finds a lot of people using January 1st as their reset day . This year, it was my reset day too. Not just a reset for my physical training, but a reset for my mentality as well. The PRs I broke in 2016 taught me that I can train hard to achieve my goals. Harder still training my mind to allow myself to be imperfect. To understand that there are seasons for hard training, and seasons for stepping back – even if we don’t get to dictate all the circumstances that might call for a change in season. When I created a weekend full of Ragnar and concerts and race cars and not enough sleep, I realized I DID it all, but remembered next to nothing about it. In 2017 I want to be more intentional – to not get caught up in filling my calendar to the brim with events, but to seek out those things that really excite me and work hardest towards those goals and relish in those moments.
After 2 weeks with no runs, and sporadic workouts, I started off my 2017 training yesterday with a very humble 3 mile run. I was grateful for the company of a friend to distract me from the cold weather and the pace on my GPS watch. It was by no means a fast run, and I didn’t leave it feeling stronger, but it got done. As I type this I’m on the couch in my sweats because I’m fallen a bit ill and will most likely miss more runs this week. But I’m happy to say that – at least for today – I can accept that defeat without chastising myself. Instead I look forward to my next run, whenever that will be, and I will tackle it with joy and intention.