Monday, December 23, 2013

Deep thoughts at the end of the running year

It's been a good year for running. There's been elation, disaster, recovery, comedy, self-discovery, friendship, a little of everything. It was the first year I ran trails in a serious way, the first year I did an ultra, the first year I ran socially. I'm still enjoying an "off season", though I am looking ahead to January, when I'll start gearing up the long runs again. In the meantime, I've been reflecting a little on things I learned this year. In no particular order, a few insights:

1. I can do this. At the beginning of the year, my major goal was to train for and run a 50K trail race. Spring Superior 50K, in May, was a huge achievement for me. As the year evolved, other plans came up: recover from my broken elbow, run with friends on trails, volunteer, run in beautiful places. I recovered from iron deficiency anemia and trained for and ran two more 50K races, Wild Duluth and Icebox 480. At the end of the year, I can say that I can run 50Ks. And that's not something I knew a year ago.
Spring Superior!
Wild Duluth!
Icebox 480! I swear I actually own more than one shirt.
2. I am a lazy runner. I can run all day. No, literally, all day (or at least, 8 hours). Hey, all you need to do that is time (and Larabars). But running fast? Hoo boy, that hurts. I did no speedwork this year -- basically, it was all endurance mode, all the time. I know I've got another gear and that I can go faster (heck, I did it last week on the track), but I've got to overcome my natural inclination to keep it easy all the time.
Endless Summer Murphy 10K with Amy.
Ran this one as hard as I could in the heat.
3. There are things I'm good at. On trails, I get passed going up hills, but pass lots of people on the descents. Somewhere along the way, I actually figured out something about descents! Even if I'm not going fast, I can keep moving for a long time. I've figured out how and what to eat and drink, most of the time. And I have a very high pain threshold (but am finally figuring out the difference between pain I should run through, and pain that should make me stop).
Zumbro 17 mile. Broke my right elbow at mile 2.
You don't want this kind of race bling.
4. Running long on trails = no overuse injuries! Looking back at my training logs from the last few years, I noted when I was having pain. Achilles tendon, plantar fascia, posterior knee tendon, hamstring -- they've all been a little "tweaky" at one time or another. I'd rest, maybe ice, do water running, and if all else failed go see my excellent ART guy. Looking back at this year, though, the last time I saw him was way back in May! He fixed some early PF a few days before Spring Superior. Since then -- and, not coincidentally, since I started doing long runs exclusively on trail -- I've had a few minor ouches and tweaks here and there, but nothing that kept me away from running for more than a couple of days.

I'm pretty sure other things have helped too. I started paying serious attention to my core and posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, glutes) last fall when I began doing kettlebell classes at the YWCA. I started doing a lot more yoga around the same time. I keep a foam roller in my office as well as one at home, and I use them. A lot. The added strength and flexibility are making a big difference in my injury-free running.

Courtyard yoga!
... and some box jumps for fun.
5. The races will still be there next year. I signed up for the TC Marathon this year. Sort of trained for it, but iron deficiency anemia really sidetracked my late-summer running. Despite the fact that I was heading into race week with my last long road run two months previous (and only 11 miles, and it damn near killed me), it was still a major internal struggle to decide not to run it. Heather over at relentlessforwardcommotion has talked about FOMO, or fear of missing out, as an impetus to do things you shouldn't/wouldn't/aren't ready for. Her essay on it came at just the right time, and I kept reminding myself: The race will still be there next year.

I had a little FOMO over the last few weeks, as Frontrunner Sports did their Black Friday discounted entries into the Chippewa 50K and I didn't sign up, and then worse the other weekend when registration for the Ice Age 50 Mile filled in just a couple of hours. Spring is not a good time for me to train for a 50 miler, but still, it was hard to let the idea go. I just have to remember, I've only been doing this a year. There are years and years of great races ahead of me. Deep breaths.
Deena did the TC Marathon (her first) and killed it!
So much fun to do some training runs with you.
Those are some of my insights from the 2013 year in running. What's next? I'm not so big into "new year goals". Why pick an arbitrary time -- the change of the calendar -- to decide what to do next? But I'm pretty sure the coming year will include more trails, more weights, and hopefully some more speed. The most important thing is that it includes lots of runs in beautiful places, alone and with friends. I can work out the rest as I go along.

Have a great New Year!
I just can't get enough of this picture.

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