Category: Marathon Training

Boston 2014 Follow-up

So…Boston. Are we still talking about this??

2014 boston registration news

Registration is open! My social media channels are saturated with pictures of entry confirmations or excited tweets about signing up. And up until basically the last minute (ie the day before), I was pretty convinced I’d be forking over $175 to add my name to the list. I had some hesitations about it, of course, and I carefully read and thought about each and every piece of criticism/advice about why running Boston 4 months postpartum may not be the smartest decision (honestly — the comments on the post are way more interesting than anything I ramble about. If you’re thinking about training for any race postpartum, I highly recommend reading through them!). But I still remained convinced.

Evan was supportive, as was my mom — a woman who had 4 children of her own and has been an athlete all her life. One of my biggest role models when it comes to working hard to achieve your dreams while also balancing a family told me that she thought it was great to have a goal for myself, and she was truly on board if I felt like I could handle it. Even my OB said that she was confident I could run Boston and that I’d have no problem finishing.

So then, if I was so passionate about wanting to run the race and convinced that I could physically and mentally handle it, why not sign up?

Because ultimately I realized I couldn’t just ask, “Can I do it?” and let that answer guide my decision. I had to follow that question up with an even more important one, “At what cost?”

Now, this question is a lot more complicated. And it got me really thinking about postpartum exercise: How soon? How much? And how important is it? I realized that a lot of the comments on my last post really pertained to that larger discussion. It’s not just about Boston. It’s about how we push our bodies as runners and how that changes once we go through labor/delivery. It’s about the goals and values we have for ourselves, our families…our lives outside of raising children. And I find it all really fascinating. Because it goes well beyond what we can (or should be able to) handle physically.

I don’t want to get into that whole discussion in this post. Partially because I’m not on that other side yet. As a pregnant woman who is still only dreaming about getting back into shape post-baby, my opinions come with a strong measure of naiveté. I can tell you what I hope/want to be able to do, but we all know that my life is going to change forever in a little over 3 months.

Framing it in terms of Boston, however, most of the concerns with postpartum exercise that I heard/read fell into 3 categories:

1.) Time away from the baby

2.) Toll that training takes on your body

3.) Logistics of the marathon

Taking time away from a newborn baby to train

To be perfectly honest with you, #1 was my lowest concern. Maybe that makes me sound like an awful mother…maybe that just convinces you that I’m even more naive about motherhood than I thought. Yes, I’m planning on working and yes, the baby will be in daycare during the day. So obviously I am going to want to see her as much as I can on the weekends, evenings, etc. But, I’m really not nervous about training taking away from that time. First, because our daycare is literally right down the hall from my office. I may not be with her all day, but I can stop in and see/feed her at least a couple of times during work, and she’ll never feel too far away. Second, I have a husband who is really really excited about this baby. When I asked him if it was selfish that I wanted to spend time away from the baby to train his response was: “What about MY time with the baby? What if I want time alone with her?” Yes, I know my relationship with Cheese Baby will be different from my husband’s. I know she’s going to be a lot more dependent on me than him in those first months of life. But I also really value his relationship with our future child, and I’m excited that he wants to take such an active role in her life.

And finally — I don’t want to get completely caught up in that post-baby haze. Okay, so maybe I do a little. I know the newborn stage goes by quickly and you never get those first few months back. So I’m sure that I’ll be 100% content to have my life revolve completely around her at the start . But it’s going to be winter in Vermont. Cold, dark, lonely. I need something that motivates me to get out of the house now and then. I need something that makes me feel like myself — something beyond just being a mother. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with just embracing being a mom for a while and putting other goals to the side. I know many women who do it and are completely happy. But I also know that’s not for me.

The toll that training takes on your body

This gave me a bit more pause…not just because I have no idea what my labor/delivery/recovery will be like. I hope to breastfeed. I want to use cloth diapers. I’m going to be sleep deprived. Balancing a newborn and work. My life is going to be turned upside down (in the best possible way) and I will need to figure out how to manage it all. I want to train for something, but a marathon within 4 months might be a little too much to handle. I could face issues with my supply, or do further damage to my body down the line if I’m not careful.

That being said, I don’t really feel like this is insurmountable. I still believe that if I was really careful and put in the bare minimum number of miles to train, I could definitely finish the marathon. It wouldn’t be easy and I’d probably be exhausted, but I could do it.

Logistics of the Boston Marathon

Personally, this was the tipping point. Even if Cheese Baby arrives right on time and I have a perfect labor/delivery…even if training goes well and I feel strong…even if everything fell into place in those months leading up to Boston, there’s still the issue of race day. A huge race that requires lots of sitting around beforehand. And after last year’s tragedy, it will have even tighter security measures. BAA has already stated that runners need to expect stricter baggage claim policies, and has warned that that may not be able to check a bag at all. Running a marathon while breastfeeding would require me to pump right before the race. If I can’t check a bag, I definitely can’t pump. And if I can’t pump…I honestly have no idea how I’d make it through the day.

So could I do Boston 4 months postpartum? Yes. And I am so thankful for all the encouragement I got from many of you and other people in my life.

But at what cost? Between trying to fit in the training with a newborn while keeping myself (and her!) healthy and trying to figure out race day logistics, it became clear that the cost might be too much. I debated signing up anyway and just seeing what happens. That would spare me from the regret I feel right now about not registering, and the regret I’d feel on race day if everything was going well and I felt capable of running. But I ultimately decided I might regret it more later if things don’t work out. Not only because I could use that registration money for things that might actually benefit Cheese Baby (like nursery furniture and baby products!), but also because in the end, I’m not sure if I can handle another failed marathon attempt. In 2012, I wasn’t able to run either marathon I trained for (Boston due to injury; NYCM due to cancellation). 2013 started with another marathon DNS due to pregnancy. Do I really want to continue this trend for yet another year? Or do I want to pick a race, train my heart out for it, and cross the finish line breaking my 3:18 streak once and for all?

For now my plan is to come to Boston in 2014 as a spectator once again. I wish I could be one of the runners on the course, but at least I’ll be able to celebrate from the sidelines. Meanwhile, I’m going to find another race to train for. I won’t plan a marathon only 4 months out, but I need a goal to work toward. Whether that’s a few spring half marathons and a fall full or something else, I don’t really know.

All I know is that I am a runner. Running has been with me through all of life’s major changes. It’s more to me than just a form of exercise – it’s a constant in my life and an integral part of my identity. I don’t see how having a baby should change that.

Nuvision action image storefront 1692316Crazy to think this was almost a year ago now

So I may not be running Boston. But when 2014 comes around, I plan to be running.

 

This is Your Brain on 20 Miles

Yesterday I ran my first 20-miler of this training cycle. No matter how many times I’ve covered the distance, 20 miles always feels really far. Seriously – what is it about the 20 mile distance that makes it feel so much longer than a run of say, 18 miles? I ran 18 a few weeks ago and felt great. Ran 20 yesterday and was wiped out for the rest of the day. Exhausted, sick (well that may have been more to do with my choice of fuel than anything else…more on that in a minute), and unmotivated to do much else but lie on the couch. Funny how 2 measly little miles can make a world of difference.

Anyway…anyone who has ever run 20 miles knows that you don’t just go out and do it. Well, most of us non-elite recreational runners don’t. There’s the build up, the preparation, and then (typically) the roller coaster of emotions to keep you company for the 3ish hours of running. Running 20 miles is a process, a journey.

So, for your enjoyment here’s a glimpse inside the mind of someone who approaches these super long runs with a bit of trepidation.

Reader Warning: Proceed with caution. The following litany of crazy is real. Yes, all these things were really going through my mind yesterday. And yes, I talk to myself during runs. Doesn’t everyone?

Scene: Sunday morning. 7 am. Up, making coffee and toast, obsessively checking the weather.

Why is it only 26 degrees out there? What happened to the beautiful spring weather we had at the end of the week?

Ugh that wind sounds awful. And it’s raining. I think I have a stomachache. Oh no…I’m feeling sick. How am I going to get through 3 hours of running feeling like this? My legs are too tired. And it’s cold. And windy. Maybe I should wait until Monday…

IMG 1024My slight mental exaggeration of the conditions outside as I procrastinated the start of my 20 mile run

3 hours later… (10:00ish am). FINALLY ready to go. Head out in a direction I rarely run to mix it up a little bit.

Yikes! It’s colder out here than I thought. Cold rain, cold wind…maybe shorts wasn’t the best option?

Okay, calm down and shut up. Just run one mile at a time. You can loop back by the house to change in a few miles if you have to.

Woohooo! Never mind. This whole “start downhill” thing is awesome. I’m flying! I love running! Why don’t I run this way more often??

One minute later, a truck comes careening around the corner forcing me to jump into a ditch. Oh yeah, that’s why….

Mile 1: 7:48

Oops. So much for the whole start slow strategy. But this just feels sooo good!

Miles 2 – 4 all clock in under 8:00/mile.

Oh! I’m already at the bridge (my planned turnaround point)! Those 4 miles flew by! I love running so much! Okay – let’s keep going. Just run to the center of the next town and then you can turn around.

Miles 5 – 7. Still holding a sub-8 pace without much effort.

Yikes that wind is really bad. At least I’ll have a tailwind coming back, right? Maybe all the wind will blow some of these clouds away. It’ll be nice to see the sun…

Oh a hill! Where did that come from? Wow…look at this view. I don’t care about the traffic, this run is amazing!  I should’ve just planned to run out this way the whole time. Is it too late to call Evan and ask him to pick me up 20 miles from home? I don’t think I want to turn around.

550I’M SO HAPPY!! RUNNING IS MY FAVORITE!

(Source - side note: you should probably click that link. Gold mine of happy cat and dog pictures)

Get to the center of town, resign myself to heading back in the other direction. Pace immediately drops.

Ummm…did I really run down all these hills? No wonder I was feeling so good on the way out. I swear the road was flat just a few minutes ago…

WTH is up with this wind?! Why isn’t it at my back? I guess I should take some sort of fuel, maybe that’ll help me feel better.

Pull out the Margarita flavored Clif Shot Bloks that I stuffed in my pack that morning after a frantic search for Gu came up short (note to self: be better prepared next time!).

Margarita shot blocks

Nastiness in chewable form

Ugh. These things are the worst! How do people chew and run at the same time?! My teeth. Everything is stuck together. OMG I might gag. This flavor. Why did I think I’d like the taste of margaritas while running?!?!  Oh this is so so gross. Okay, fine, I’ll choke down one more and then these things are going away. (I am clearly not overdramatic or anything…)

Seriously, why do these things exist? They need to invent some sort of fuel that just dissolves on your tongue. Like a breath strip! Oh I’m totally going to invent that! I’m going to be the hero of runners everywhere. And will surely make millions. Enough with this chewing while running crap. It takes too much energy.

Hmmm…I guess that’s sort of why they invented Gatorade. No chewing, gives you calories and electrolytes. But Gatorade is nasty. Who wants to run with that crap? Nope, I’m getting to work on this Fuel Strip idea as soon as I get home!

Oh I love this song! Florida Georgia Line + Nelly should be so wrong, but it’s ohso right.

Finally back at the bridge. 10 miles in 1:18…I’ve slowed down, but still keeping a decent pace, all things considered.

Oh my gosh, the sun! I can’t believe it. Rain jacket off, arm warmers pushed down. This is the best and most wonderful day for running. Look at that river. And those mountains! Oh I just love Vermont.

DSC 0029Not really my view from Saturday. But a perfect representation of why I #lovermont

2 miles later…

I’m hungry. Shouldn’t I be back at the house by now? Maybe I should choke down another one of those awful Shot Bloks. Ugh. Or maybe I should just practice without the extra fuel. You know, to run with depleted glycogen stores or something…

NO. That’s stupid. I’m hungry and I’m tired and this wind is pissing me off. Why hasn’t it been at my back this whole time? Am I going crazy??

IMG 1084It was around this time that I started fantasizing about having lunch at my favorite local cafe

Choke down another Shot Blok.

Ugh. I never want to eat these things again. Barf.

Oh but what should I have for lunch when I get back? Crap, I’m hungry. I guess that’s what I get for starting the run around 10:00. How many miles do I have left to run?? {mild panic attack} Ahhh don’t think about that. Just make it back to the house. Focus on one section of this run at a time.

Finally! Back in town! Why did the way back feel soooo much longer than the way out? Oh but I love this view coming into town. It’s so beautiful here. I’m really going to miss it.

{Cue dramatic, emotional mental montage of all the good times we’ve had in this town. Complete with sappy music, of course.}

Hello house! Why did I think running by home during a 20 mile run was a good idea again?!

Throw windbreaker (should also throw arm warmers that have been pushed down to my wrists but feeling way too lazy to get them off).

Miles 15 – 17. Down a familiar stretch for the final miles.

WTH is up with this wind?! It’s getting worse! How have I only run 14 miles at this point? I feel like I’ve been running forever. All that stupid uphill. Now I remember why I don’t run that way…

Okay – focus. Just 3 miles. Past the farm that you wish you could buy and around the corner. You’ve done this run 1 million times. You can do it again. Don’t think about how far. Just think about getting through this next mile. And then you only have 2 more…until you turn around.

AHSLKDFHDSLKHF this wind! Doesn’t it ever stop gusting?? Why did I decide to run in this direction? Am I even moving forward? I want to cry. Or punch someone. I’m gonna punch Wind in its stupid face. Or maybe I’ll just lie down here on the side of the road. That would be nice… I wonder how long it would take for someone to find me.

I’m still hungry. Those stupid nasty Shot Bloks did nothing. I wonder if Evan is waiting for me to eat lunch. Just a few more miles until I can eat all the food! Gah I can’t wait to eat! And foam roll. My feet sure are hurting. So much pounding.

Finally – the turnaround point!! I see it. Maybe I could just turn around a little early. I mean, does 0.2 miles REALLY make that much of a difference?

I swear if I turn around and don’t feel the wind at my back I’m going to scream. I seriously want to murder somebody right now.

hurricane against the windThis is basically what I felt like. Obviously not an exaggeration at all.

Miles 18 – 20. Tailwind. FINALLY!

This is amazing!!! Downhill. Wind at my back. Oh! Macklemore. Can’t [nobody] Hold ME! Put this on repeat. It’s bringing me home.

Oh – look at that cyclist heading toward me. He’s clearly struggling against this wind. At least I know it wasn’t all in my head. This wind is no joke! Sucks to be you right now, buddy.

Look at that pace! You’re flying! Oh I love this tailwind. And this sun! And Vermont! Let’s see how fast you can finish this thing.

Okay – push up the final hill. Don’t let the pace drop now. You’re almost there. Just hang on….

7:11 final mile baby!! BOOFREAKINGYA! I love running!

And then I proceeded to sit on the back deck for a very very long time, until my hunger finally motivated me to get up and shower.

Long run conquered.

Unfortunately my post-run high was short-lived. I spent the rest of the day battling some major, not blog-worthy digestion issues. I’m blaming the margarita shot blocks (consider yourself warned!!). I’ll stick to Gu from here on out, thanks. Or, you know, the yet-to-be-invented Fuel Strip. It’s the wave of the future, I’m telling you.

Fuel strips promo

Getting My Head Straight

Lately I’ve been doing most of my long runs on the same out and back section of road. Every weekend it’s the same. Head out along the road that I’ve come to know like the back of my hand, get to the turning point, and then head back the way I came.

IMG 0885Not the road…and clearly not a recent photo

I’ll be honest with you – it can get pretty monotonous. I know every stretch, every turn, exactly how far I have to go before I can head back toward home. The scenery is always the same and the hills are never changing. Sometimes the way out seems to drag on forever and I spend the entire run counting down the minutes until I can finally turn around.

I really make it sound so appealing, don’t I? I know what you’re all thinking — if I find it so monotonous, why the heck do I keep submitting myself to this form of torture?

Because the truth is that running along the same road week after week provides consistency. And for most of this training cycle, that consistency has been the only thing that gave me the confidence I needed to make it through long runs.

I don’t really know why, but confidence is something that I have really struggled with this time around. Whereas in the past, I sometimes failed to give certain runs the respect they deserved [“Oh, it’s ‘only’ 15 miles. I don’t need to worry about silly things like getting enough sleep, fueling, carrying water, or really think about the fact that I have to run for 2 hours without stopping!”], I now find myself with the complete opposite problem. Every single long run just seems so intimidating. I sit there in the morning stressing about the distance. Psyching myself out before I even take one step.

This all culminated before my recent 18-miler. I was so freaked out about the run that I kept putting it off…and almost backed out of doing it altogether. This was not your typical pre-long run anxiety — you know that mix of excitement and nerves that comes from not quite knowing how your body is going to feel that day. A feeling that boosts your adrenaline and can actually help propel you through the long run, because ultimately you’re just excited about the challenge and can’t wait to see how it’ll go.

I’m embarrassed to admit that this fear was quite literally crippling. That one run seemed like such an insurmountable challenge that I was ready to give up on VCM right then and there. Forget spring marathons…forget marathon training at all. I would focus on shorter races. Or maybe I would just retire from racing. Clearly I’m not cut out for it.

Believe me, I realize how silly and over-dramatic this all sounds. Typing it out now only makes it seem more ridiculous. But in the moment, I just couldn’t get out of my own head. I somehow forgot about one very important detail: this whole running thing is not my career. It’s not even a side job. It’s merely a hobby that I enjoy…and one at which I sometimes pretend to be mildly talented.

So after a few days (no, seriously…days) of freaking out about this run — a run that no one was forcing me to do or even cared if I completed — I finally was able to talk myself down from the ledge. By telling myself of two things:

1.) All you need to do is run ONE MILE at a time. That’s it. Get out the door. Put one foot in front of the other and run. If you only make it 5 or 10 or 15 miles, who cares. Just run one mile. And when you complete that one, run another. You don’t know how you’re going to do until you try.

2.) You finished a run along this same road last week. You did it before and you can do it again. All you have to do is run one more mile out…and then you can turn around. What’s one mile? Nothing.

These two tiny assurances completely turned the run around for me. As I mentioned in my last post, that 18 miles ended up being the best run I’ve had in a long time. And by far the best long run of this current training cycle. It’s amazing what happens when you stop being a crazy mental-case runner and start cutting yourself a little slack. Who would’ve thought…

I can’t say that the self-doubt has completely gone away. It’s still work to get my head straight — to keep my confidence up. But now, when I feel myself getting nervous about a run or a workout, I try to take a step back and remind myself that it’s just running. All I can do is go out and give it my best shot. And instead of focusing on what I can’t do or paces that I’m not hitting, I repeat two simple lines over and over again to get me through a particularly difficult or intimidating stretch.

i am strong i am able running mantra

I AM STRONG.

I AM ABLE.

Six words of reassurance. Six words that silence the doubt. Six words that are helping me keep my head straight…most of the time, anyway.

Learning to Love Hills Again

Like many runners, I have a love/hate relationship with hills — meaning I love when a nice gradual downhill helps push me along to a fast pace…and hate when those climbs slow me down and leave my chest heaving.

When I moved to Vermont and realized that hills were going to become a part of my everyday running reality whether I liked it or not, I kind of learned to embrace them. I’ll even go so far as to say that after awhile I grew to prefer rolling runs to flat land. Case in point, during last August’s Hood to Coast relay, my least favorite (and slowest!) leg was also my flattest.

But then the holidays happened and this endless winter descended upon us and my love for hills slowly faded away. I don’t really know why or how it happened, but somewhere along the way I completely lost my hill running motivation. It’s impossible to avoid all hills around here (unless you run inside every day), but I quickly figured out how to steer clear of the worst ones. All winter long I finagled my routes — sticking with the slow, gradual climbs and the nice flat treadmill. When you live in a town with approximately 4 roads and only one of them feels flat for any significant stretch of time, running gets boring pretty darn fast.

Not only did my runs grow stale and boring, but my “hill terrors” haven’t exactly been helping my training. Because there’s also a tiny little problem of that marathon I signed up to run in May. It’s not flat. 

VCM Elevation

So last week, after giving myself approximately 2,000,000 pep talks, I finally got pumped up enough to tackle one of the hilliest out-and-back routes around. A route that starts off with a steep climb and continues going up for over a mile. A route that doesn’t have a single stretch of completely flat road but is instead a constant roller coaster of ups and downs. A route that I used to be strong enough to do tempo runs on last fall but I’ve been avoiding like the plague ever since 2013 began.

I strapped on my Garmin to record the data but told myself that I wasn’t allowed to even peek at my splits until the turn around point (which just so happens to be at the base of a very long climb). Then I turned on my most motivational playlist, took a deep breath…and off I went.

I’m not going to lie — it sucked. That first climb, the one that I have to get myself all psyched up to even attempt, was worse than I remembered. And it wasn’t like it got easier after that. Every single incline seemed to have grown steeper and longer in my absence…while the declines were too few and far between. I felt like I was crawling. I couldn’t even pick up much speed on the downhill sections. My legs were so tired that even convincing them to increase their turnover on the declines seemed like too much effort.

It may not look like much according to this chart, but I swear they feel harder in person…

Screen shot 2013 03 20 at 12 11 57 PMHills in elevation chart are larger than they appear

Turns out that when you avoid all major hills for over 3 months, you lose a whole lot of your hill-running fitness. Pretty deep and insightful observation, right?

But even though the run left me wondering how I ever managed to get in quality workouts over this course just a few months ago, it wasn’t all bad. Because there’s a moment on this particular run when you reach the top of the very last climb and the world opens up. You see rolling farmland on your right and mountains ahead and you know that it is quite literally all downhill from here. A moment when every single climb you tackled becomes worth it — for the view, for the fact that you get to cruise down to the finish over a mile away, for the pride you feel knowing that you survived the roller coaster. It was at that moment when I finally remembered why I loved that running route so very much. And where I resolved to start embracing the hilly runs again.

steep grade sign

To keep good on my promise, I headed out on Saturday to tackle another hill that I’ve been working hard to avoid. Remember how I said this run was my favorite route for runs that are under 12 miles? Well, that’s because around mile 6 the road takes a very steep, long drop down for almost 2 miles — which means if I head out that way, I need to turn around and run back up the awful thing. That long, winding climb is the very definition of “soul crushing.” The only thing I can do when I’m running up it is focus on getting through one turn at a time, promising myself that I’ll walk once I make it through that particular section. I haven’t actually walked yet (though my pace may suggest otherwise!), but I’m still awaiting the day when I can run up that hill like it’s nothing. I’m not really expecting that day to ever come…

IMG 1445No the road doesn’t end there. It just drops sharply downward.

But I am going to keep climbing. This post serves as my promise (or my source of public shaming if I don’t follow through). For the rest of my training, I’m going to be tackling these hills at least once a week (probably more). Hills make you stronger, they make you faster, and they give you confidence. If I can tackle these hills in training then surely I can tackle the hills on race day. And I will be a better runner for it.

The Uphill Climb

There’s a road by my house that climbs gradually uphill for almost 6 straight miles. The hill isn’t awful or intimidating. It doesn’t zap all your energy or leave you feeling like it’s the hardest route you’ve ever taken. In fact, the incline is so slight in those first few miles that you may even think you’re just running on flat ground.

t_road_pondsLooks pretty flat, right? (Obviously not a recent photo…)

But it’s the type of hill that wears you out slowly. That leaves you feeling a little more tired than you expect, and makes you wonder why your paces seem so off. As the miles stretch on, the grade gradually gets a little steeper until you finally realize that you’ve been gaining elevation all along. Just before 6 miles, you arrive at the summit…and that’s where you turn around. Because to continue on means running down a steep “mountain” only to have to turn around and climb back up for 2 miles. This is the not-so-fun part about the run. We’re not going to talk about that part today.

For runs under 12 miles, this is my absolute favorite route. Not only because it’s beautiful or because it’s actually the flattest run I can do these days, but because of that moment when I get to turn around. That one moment when I realize that it’s literally all downhill from here. I love telling myself that if I put in the work during the first half, the rest is a piece of cake. It’s not always the truth, but it sure works wonders for my motivation.

t_road_bridgeView on the run (taken while not running)

The very first time I ran this road last summer I thought I was just really out of shape. I couldn’t believe how tired I felt when, according to my watch, I was keeping a pace that should’ve felt easy. My legs were heavy and my motivation severely lacking as I slowly trudged out to the 2 mile mark, lamenting about my long road back to any sort of endurance.

And then I turned around. Suddenly it was as though I had gotten a second wind. I was filled with energy, my pace dropped significantly, the lead left my legs and I was flying. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe I was fitter than I gave myself credit for! I had a few moments of bliss, patting myself on the back for essentially being such an awesome runner. Those months of forced rest had nothing on me.

Until I looked to my right. And noticed that the river and I were actually traveling in the same direction. I was running downhill. (and yes, my observation skills often leave much to be desired…)

Not the joint-jarring type of hill that automatically gives you crazy speed or fast turnover, but enough. Enough to make you feel lighter. Enough to make you want to push harder to see just how fast you can make it back home.

t_roadJust enough of a hill to make you feel slower on the way out without realizing why

I don’t always have the best run of my life every time I head out in this direction. Running is often hard, and even the assistance of a slight downhill all the way home doesn’t change that. But no matter how tough the run is going, I like to tell myself that I only need to make it halfway. If I can just hang in there until the turnaround, running back will be a breeze. The first half is the hardest — the second is the reward for all that hard work.

This is how I feel about training as well. I think about this road as a good metaphor for a training cycle. That first half of any training plan is a struggle — to regain fitness, to find the motivation, to get yourself back into a routine, to hit your paces…to feel like the strong runner you know you can be.

Those first few weeks are more about surviving runs than enjoying them. It’s an uphill battle to get myself back to where I need to be…to the point where certain paces come easy and every double distance run doesn’t wipe me out for the entire day. To the point where I’m craving a hard workout instead of simply trying to struggle through it.

But I keep putting in the work because at some point in the cycle, I make it to that turnaround. Where suddenly, things start to click. My runs get faster without much effort and I finally hit paces I’m proud of. It’s not always easy from that point on, but everything just feels better. Running becomes natural again.

t_road_fence

I’m not there yet. I’m still running uphill every day, and expect to do so for awhile. It’s a gradual climb, but one that leaves me worn out and wondering when the speed will return. I have glimpses of how it will be — moments during a run when everything clicks and I feel as though I could go forever. Times when I feel awesome. But those moments are more the exception than the rule these days. Most of the time I count simply making it through as a victory.

I’m sure the cold temperatures have something to do with it. Facing single digits (or even the treadmill) every run just adds to the whole “uphill battle” feeling. But I’m hoping that if I keep climbing over these next few weeks, things will start clicking around the time the temperatures start rising.

What’s that thing they say — a fast spring is built in the freezing winter? Or something slightly more profound than that… Well let’s hope that a fast spring is built on gradual uphill climbs as well. Because I feel like that’s my specialty these days.

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