I know I haven’t spent much time writing about my training and races since, oh, January. It was a really tough winter that seemed to last for a REAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLY long time.
In fact, I distinctly remember waiting for the weather to change back to snow and bitter cold in May. And my post in January – you know, the one about how I had the winter blues and didn’t love running and was going to keep doing it anyway – was a harbinger of something I was unwilling to accept at that point. I was overtrained… and burned out.
What saved me this winter was the group of amazing women; we did our long runs together every Saturday, logging miles in ALL kinds of conditions, before heading back to Shari’s house for coffee and muffins and coffee and donuts and more coffee.
And oh did I mention the coffee?
Those weekends saved my training, I’m convinced of it. It made running fun, social, happy.
I did run a marathon in May – ended up doing the Maine Coast Marathon on Mother’s Day, because I just couldn’t get excited about running 26.2 miles in Providence. And of course, after a bitterly cold winter and a cool spring, we got a summer day on May 11.
My plan for the marathon was to slow down, really stay conservative in the early miles, and then I’d have enough in the tank for even splits. This strategy helped, mind you – I felt decent enough until about mile 18, but then I was just kind of done with running. I ended up running a 4:24 – a time that was way beyond the 4:09 I had run in the fall, so not a PR by any stretch of the imagination.
You know what, though? I didn’t care. It was Mother’s Day, my family was there, cheering me on (I literally saw them no less than 10 times on the course). And I realized – they didn’t care if I finished with a time of 3:40 or 4:40 or even 5:40.
They love me anyway.
And plus, we went out and ate lobster and drank beer and all of that afterwards.
It was awesome.
I had intended to give myself some time after the race and then focus on getting my speed back. I signed up for a 10k in September and a half marathon in October, aiming at those with a goal to break 50 minutes in the 10k and 1:45 for the half.
But this summer presented some big challenges, physically, personally and emotionally. I had achilles trouble that would NOT go away, and I had a few weeks where I couldn’t do the mileage I wanted because the damn thing hurt too much. Work got busy and incredibly stressful, and I had an awful period of insomnia, which didn’t start to resolve until recently. Owen, who was spending his first summer going to camps which we cobbled together, had some issues of his own which we had a hard time dealing with. All of a sudden, I couldn’t stick to my structured training plan, and I found myself again chasing my pace group at our Tuesday night track sessions.
In June I cried uncle. Something had to give. So I quit speed workouts, decided to leave the watch at home as much as possible, and just run when I could.
I needed to find the joy in running again, I told myself.
You guys, it’s SO HARD to find joy in running when your legs are dead and you’re tired all the time and having panic attacks about work and your son… and you keep comparing the Slow, Insomnia, Panicky, Tired, Burned Out You of today to the You of Last Season, where you were killing your long runs and track workouts and loved love LOVED running.
Which is stupid. “Comparison is a thief of joy,” a friend wrote on one of her workouts. She is so right.
But man. It was a tough summer in many ways.
I just kept trying to stay consistent in my mileage, get out there and run easy. I left my watch home a LOT, so I COULDN’T compare myself to the Me of Last Year. I breathed in and enjoyed the sun and woods and ran with girlfriends… and started to enjoy not having a plan. Flexibility was really good.
Last month, FINALLY, things started to change. I am sleeping a whole lot better. My runs felt stronger; I didn’t have to stop and walk as much, at least on the shorter runs, and my average pace for the same level of effort has gotten faster. I’ve managed to put together 5 weeks where I’ve run a consistent 30+ miles each week. My long runs, kept at 10 miles or so, have also improved, so that even though I do have to walk at points, by the end I still feel relatively decent at the end.
So this weekend was my “goal” half marathon. Honestly, until we actually showed up to the race, I wasn’t sure if we were going to run the half, or the 7.3 mile race they had as an alternative. I went with a girlfriend; since it was on the Cape, we made it a girls weekend.
And we figured we’d run the half, but together. Nice and easy, relaxed, joyful.
And that’s what we did. We chatted the whole way, took it easy, ran over rolling hills and past ocean and salt marshes and cranberry bogs and walked through all the water stops and thanked all the volunteers and spectators and soaked in the sun which made everything sparkle… and then picked up the pace in the last mile, with an awesome kick at the finish that made me want to cry with sheer happiness.
It was the best half marathon ever, and I love running.
All of this leaves me in a place where I believe it’s possible to keep the joy of running, but also add in some real training again. My goal for the rest of this year into 2015 is to continue to run 30-40 miles a week… but maybe layer in some short speed workouts and strength sessions into there too.
I am working to find a balance between aiming at PRs in races… but also keeping the flexibility and joy of running, too. I think it’s possible.