We all know the story of my less-than-auspicious start. I skipped the very first team run, as you can read here. But I got out there the next week, did four agonizing miles, and triggered what I now consider one of the best decisions of my life. But it hasn't been all roses and rainbows, especially in the last year.
Since writing last year's run-iversary special, I've run the Chicago Marathon (4:14), the LA Marathon (4:09), the Vegas Half (no time; ran with a friend), the Summerlin Half and its new course (1:57), two 5Ks, and most recently, a 10K. For me, this is a LOT of racing. It's a lot to put my family through. I started this whole thing as a way to manage grief and it's morphed into something completely unexpected. For the longest time, I thought was I running away from something. Sadness, fear, unhappiness. It's only in the past year that I realized I was running towards something. And that, my friends, is pretty awesome.
However, there's a cost. Ask any runner and they will tell you, racing is so much different than running. My mental game has shifted considerably. I don't know about others, but running hard takes an incredible amount of inner effort. Energy conservation - physical, mental, emotional - has become my new focus. I realized about two months ago that I have a finite amount of energy to expend during an average day; If the activity is not necessary, there's a good chance I've cut it out of my life.
Training occupies an hour to three a day; the other 21 or so hours are needed to facilitate the fastest recovery possible. Eat, run, recover, repeat. Oh, and sleep. Mmm, sleep. Everyone plans their bedtime based on how many hours of sleep they will get, right? There are some nights I wake up and am absolutely delighted to see it's still the same day! "It's only 11:30! I still can get four more hours of sleep!"
While we're at it, let's face it: sleeping in compression socks is hot. Said no one, ever.
Am I proud of what I've accomplished over the last year? Absolutely. Learning to run faster is a monumentally slow process. Glacially slow. One must posses the patience of a saint and the self-discipline of a monk to endure because it sucks. It's the least linear experience too; two runs go well then three do not for no explainable reason. It's frustrating, upsetting. Maddening, really. Running laps on the track, getting slower, feeling fatigued, avoiding the band kids - it's so offbeat, you almost have to laugh. "How the hell did I get here? I'm 36 years old and still trying to avoid the tuba player." But similar to that perfect golf shot or a great crack off the bat - one good run is enough to hook you to keep enduring the madness. We're all chasing the same dragon.
I've also learned the bad times are almost always followed by some kind of breakthrough. LA is a perfect example. I was devastated by my experience. Here I had probably the best training program to date, the most comprehensive workouts without a single injury or issue going into race day. I hit all the runs on my program, nailing splits and paces. I waded through the crazy "6am boot camp on Tuesday morning - 6pm Tuesday night speed work - 6am Hill Day on Wednesday" routine. That turnaround killed me for the first few weeks until my body acclimated. The theme going into LA was "You are stronger than you think" -- and then it all fell apart four days before the race. A stomach virus, practically no sleep, and watching a dude have a heart attack at mile 21 found me limping tearfully across the finish line, nine full minutes behind pace, shaking my head saying, "Never again."
But that, I now realize, was necessary. It highlighted a need for a change. Out went the high volume, high mileage workouts, in came shorter, faster distances. Instead of taking May to July off as I had originally planned, I buckled down. I didn't want to - trust me, I really didn't want to. I wanted to go back to my "normal" life. You know, hang out with friends, drink wine, and sleep in until at least 5am. Instead, the alarm went off even earlier. I lost weight and ran repeats until my legs buckled.
Is it worth it? Without a doubt. It doesn't matter that I'm never going to run elite or earn money from running. This is essentially "just" a hobby; I don't have a shot at anything bigger. And that's quite fine. I've learned more about myself through the pursuit of running than ever possible. Almost too much at times. There have been moments where I was like, "Okay, I'm done. I don't want to know anymore. Self-discovery is done, thank you!" Ultimately, running makes me a better person. I stress less about the things that don't matter and have a greater appreciation for the things that do. Running keeps things in perspective. Unnecessary drama? Hell no. Excessive use of emotional energy? Count me out. I'd rather tackle a tempo run, thanks.
I don't know what is going to happen in St. George in October. I might BQ, I might not. It may take me 15 marathons to qualify. Regardless of the outcome, I know the process is worth it. I'm happy to celebrate one more healthy year as a runner.