It has been a long time since I wrote a post about running. Hey, this isn’t all HR and pancakes. There is the third element to this blog and I have ignored that running part for sometime. Quite frankly, the last half of a year was a little bit of a struggle in the running category and I’m going to share my thoughts and insights into that struggle.
I’ll get to the Q4 highlights:
- October: 77 miles
- November: 77 miles
- December: 55 miles
- Completed a 15k
I limped into the fourth quarter and, if it weren’t for my 15k Hot Chocolate race in the first week of November, I would have had less of a quarter. While the miles dwindled, I learned so much the past 6 weeks.
When I set my 2018 goal, I was pretty ambitious. After exceeding 2017’s goal, I decided to stretch myself even more in 2018. I didn’t really think about the weekly impact of trying to hit 1250 miles in a year. I didn’t plan for the unexpected travel, the aches and pains, or the random events that take a priority.
At the end of the second quarter, I realized that my overall goal may not be achievable. Looking forward and having to run in excess of 100 miles per month for the rest of the year did not feel realistic. As the third quarter crept on, I developed some minor pains that turned into some mid-major pains. I was experiencing some serious shin splints and I did everything I could to manage. I switched shoes. I reduced my mileage. I tried different stretches.
I had a 15k race on November 4th and I just wanted to get through that time. My runs were becoming a chore when they used to be the one thing I looked forward to. I realized I was losing my passion for running and that was extremely disappointing. So I made the decision to totally scrap the 2018 goal and readjust.
Because I’m a little competitive, I decided to make sure I hit 1000 miles. And, I made sure I would not step foot on a treadmill*. Realistically, I knew I could hit those milestones mid-December and then I planned to shut it down for the rest of the year. I wanted to take the time to heal, relax a bit, and reflect on the year. I wanted to take the time to think about 2019 and fall in love with running, again.
So how did the past two weeks off go? If you’re wondering, yes, I hit 1000 miles for the year. (1018 to be exact, after tomorrow morning’s run.) My last run was on December 16th. My biggest mistake was not having any kind of plan for the 2 week layoff. And let’s just say that wasn’t the best idea.
My past two weeks were not the pillar of healthy living. To use a soon-to-be overused and misused term, I did not embody the virtues of “self-care.” Oh, sure, I enjoyed the time in what seemed to be filled with bottomless IPA’s, countless Happy Hours, and all the meats and cheeses of all the land. There was very little activity, save for some walks to and from work.
After years of consistent physical activity, I found my body “rejected” this type of living. I was sluggish, irritable, and “full.” Stairs were a challenge. And this was just after two weeks! While I’ve never had the best diet, loading up on apps and even more beer and wine had its toll. And it was never more revealing or frightening than when I was staring at myself in the mirror in this morning’s yoga class. Wow. I could see the toxins oozing out of the pores. The dark circles under my eyes were even more pronounced. My balance was horrendous. But I got through and I’m glad I went.
What I found in the weeks after the Hot Chocolate, though, and before my 2 weeks off, was like a renewal. I had put the unattainable goal of 1250 out of my mind and just focused on the time I spent running. While I typically ran by myself during the week, I started joining others from my run group on those runs. We laughed and enjoyed runs in the dark while donning our headlamps, reflective gear, and flashlights. We set up holiday “ugly sweater” runs and forgot about the miles. We helped others reach their goals for the year and defined what it means to be a community.
I came to this realization when I read Peter Sagal’s book, “The Incomplete Book of Running.” While I used to look at running as an individual sport, I came to realize it’s all about building that community. I ran a half marathon and 15k with other members of our group. We talked through the whole race and it was a whole different experience for me. Yes, we still had our individual goals, and we supported each other to hit those goals.
This year has taught me a lot about my extremes. I’ve never been one to take things steadily. Run 1000 miles? Sure, I can do it in nine months! Take two weeks off to relax and recover? Yes, I’ll eat and drink everything you put in front of me! What this year has taught me is that there is a balance for me. In running, that balance is at around 20 miles per week. A few IPA’s per week are better for me than a few per day.
As I prepare for my 2019 running goal, I’m going to be thinking about this balance. I don’t do resolutions and I haven’t thought much about what I want to accomplish for the upcoming year. That will come into focus next week. But I do know that, while I will have a number of miles I want to achieve, I’ll make sure those miles are intentional. I’ll make sure there’s a balance of racing, community, and solitude. When I’ve had a good balance of those three, my love for running is constant.
*I went all of 2018 without running on a treadmill. I will keep that goal for 2019, too. While I ran on an indoor track, I avoided the “dreadmill” and plan to never step foot on one. You can’t get anywhere by running in place.