Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: The Year Running Became an Unfinished Sentence

For the last few years, I manged to really wrap my running year up nicely. It was in a box, with neatly wrapped tissue paper inside around the piles of miles I ran in training. The box was wrapped in artsy paper, and finished with matching ribbon and a pretty big bow of PR's on top. My running year this year? It looks like a 3 year old tried to wrap a basketball with cardboard scraps and tin cans. You know what, it still looks pretty nifty under the tree all lit up at night though.

Coming off my biggest running year ever in 2015 (Sub-3, Sub-1:25, Sub-19, running a great friends first marathon with her as part of Saucony, and a million other running accomplishments along the way), it's a little nutty to look at running this year and think much of it. Some might say I was due for the downtime, which in many cases is true but not because I'm overtrained, injured, or burned out. Simply because I've been working hard, staying healthy and focusing so much on running for a few years- I was due for a shift. Frankly it's nice for it to be on my terms (for the most part), taking a break before it becomes forced.

To say it's been 100% easy to sit back and reflect on my running year though wouldn't be realistic. I'm a very numbers oriented person, and if I were to judge my 2016 running year by the numbers, it would be very tough to call it much of a success. I will not even hit 1500 miles which will by far be the lowest since 2012. I have no new marathon PR's, not even a half PR, nor a 5k. BUT, I also know that all those numbers don't tell the whole story.

The year started off pretty high. A few weeks in, I decided to hand the coaching reins over to James McKirdy. His business was just getting off the ground, but it felt like the right move for me. I quickly realized that I had found a coach I could rely on unlike my previous one that I had ditched back in the fall. We came up with a good plan for training/racing my way through the winter in preparation for Boston. I had kept a good base through the fall after Erie so I was setting myself up nicely come winter and spring.

Finish Line of Lake Effect Half Marathon a sub 1:27 which was run as a workout.
Home stretch en route to a huge 10k PR, race win and Freezeroo series win with a 38:37 on a windy winter Saturday.
A few stats from early in the year:
There was THIS half marathon where every goal went out the window and mental toughness was only thing I could focus on. Though the time was as much of a shit show as the weather was. Unknowingly 3 weeks pregnant as well. 
All of those numbers took place before April 13th(the day everything changed). So, the first 3-4 months of the year by running standards were pretty wildly successful- and something I'm proud of.

A few more numbers from the year...
So as I sit here right now, with a much different shape than I started the year in (quite literally)- I have no regrets about this year. I have no sadness or anger for my running, that simply wasn't. I didn't end the year with a bang, or even an airhorn. THAT'S OKAY! For years I wondered how I would handle this transition I am now in, for years I wondered if it would be harder on me- because running is so important to me. But, I've realized that it isn't.

NO that doesn't mean it's 100% easy to just flip the switch. It's not. Even if you want a kid (I did and do! {rubs belly and says hi to baby}), it doesn't mean all of your other goals and ambitions just disappear. I think it was a little harder for me this spring because I went from the best shape of my life to....not. But, to me this is something that is important to me more than running and something that will be a part of me much longer. So, on those days I wish I got another marathon in and see those people out there chasing PR's instead of families(or whatever)- I let myself feel a twinge of whatever emotion but then I think about all that I am gaining and move on with my day.

I am still a runner, even if I'm choosing not to make running a priority during my pregnancy.

I feel it's important for me to say that I do not look at pregnancy as an injury or a setback in running. In fact, I don't understand the thought process of people who feel that way especially if you're not a professional runner. Sure, the first time around this year derailed my goal marathon and then we had to deal with a loss so nothing to show for the race or the pregnancy. But I don't look at that loss as a setback in my running, I saw it as a setback in my life and what we want obviously- but I don't for one second wish it all never happened so I could have had my race even if I had known how things would have turned out. That doesn't mean running or the race didn't matter, but to me it wasn't even a competition for what mattered more.

When I started to get back into running it was tough, but it made me feel like I was doing something. I set goals, I dreamed of a fall marathon as my last hoorah and big PR attempt. I dreamed of a big training cycle, and long nights of foam rolling tired muscles. I got lost in a trance when certain songs would come on that I could visualize myself flying through a finish chute as if it were a cheesy motivational YouTube video. But those dreams were not the only thing occupying my mind.

Maybe we didn't get our storybook ending the first time around, but it did certainly tell me that I was ready for it and deep down I wanted that more than anything. I didn't pour myself into my training and return to running the way I normally would. I drank more beer than normal (I'm gonna file that under grief category), I didn't get OMG excited for workouts, I wasn't focusing on the little things I knew I needed to-and I didn't notice or seem to care. I wanted all the PR's and glory without doing what I knew it would take to get there- and that isn't me. That isn't how I do things.

So when we found out we were pregnant again, hindsight was clear as day and I realized that what I wanted was more than any training cycle or PR could give me (right now). So when I say that pregnancy is not an injury or some setback to your training- I mean that. No I haven't dealt with the post-pregnancy body things yet, and know that the return will be tough- but I'll have something wonderful to show for that.  There's nothing wrong with looking forward to running fast again and yogging without a bouncing belly but if you're so focused on what you're losing or NOT doing when you're pregnant you're not really seeing everything you're gaining (quite literally). Pregnancy, running pregnant, managing the shift in mindset (such as from chasing PR's to chasing gingerale and crackers), is tough I will not deny that; but I feel like if you're so negative about it during pregnancy how on earth are you going to handle it for the next 18 years or more after the kid is born?

{Steps off soap box}

Anyways, all that is meant to say is that I am still happy with my year of running. 2016 had a lot of negativity surrounding it in general in the world and I refuse to add to that if I can help it especially for something like my running. I'm also aware that my running in 2017 will most likely be pretty similar to 2016, with 22ish weeks of pregnancy to go followed by life with a newborn. So at the very least my running is taking a step-back for 2 years. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that much and running will be there well after.

Cheers to 2016, the year I finally broke my age old 10k PR and the year running gave me more perspective in the most unexpected of ways. A lot of things got left unfinished, but doesn't mean I cannot return to those down the road.

6 comments:

  1. Totally relate to this. I have a six month old, and while it was a very intentional decision and I was incredibly happy to be pregnant, part of me was a little sad thinking I would go from being in the best running shape of my life to starting back at square one. While I wasn't your level of speedster, I was never really one to run/race for fun either - I liked pushing myself and seeing continued improvement, and I knew that wouldn't happen for awhile. But I actually ended up loving pregnancy and post-baby running. While it's motivating to see continued improvement, running without expectations or pressure really allowed me to focus on the joy of it. Every run or race, either during pregnancy or post-baby, was just about going out and doing what my body would give me that day. If you run faster than expected, you're pleasantly surprised, and even if you don't, running pregnant or post-baby is an achievement in itself! After all you've been through, I'm sure you appreciate what a gift it is to be pregnant, so keep enjoying it. Being a mom is the coolest, most amazing thing in the world. And finally, to end this novel of a comment, I had a totally unexpected PR in the half 3 months post-partum, so definitely don't rule out the possibility of some 2017 PRs!

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  2. Cheers! You have had a challenging 2016, and I have appreciated your frankness and candor. This next year holds so much for you - I'm excited for your family!

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  3. I really enjoyed your perspective on this post. Recognizing that running is all black and white as just a pile of numbers wrapped up in a bow. You accomplished a heck of a lot running wise, and I'm really happy for your growing family. And you really smashed that 10K PR. Congratulations. Wishing you a happy, healthy 2017.

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  4. I love this post and all the honest perspective you share. Running has completely taken the back seat to pregnancy for me. I never ran more than 6 miles while pregnant and threw in the towel at 28ish weeks after lots of run/walking short distances. It has done two things for me: 1. Helped me find some workouts like barre, strength, etc that make me feel fit and strong outside of running. I've probably done more strength training than any training cycle which will be good for the comeback. And 2. So much time off (I also had a miscarriage) has lit a real fire in my belly to get back to my pre-pregnancy fitness and conquer some big goals. I also want to prove to myself and set an example that it can be done. I have so many great mother runner role models who have completely excelled. I'm 6 days away from my due date, and I'm wishing you all the best in your 3rd trimester and 2017! xo

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  5. Hey! I have a 16 month old. And while I was pregnant with her, I chose not to run. It was really hard at first, when I was use to running everyday, with a goal race always on my calendar. I always thought when I got pregnant I would be out there running with my baby bump. But when the bump became a reality, I didn't feel good running, I was slower and it just wasn't fun. My doctor said, "run if it feels good, stop if it feels bad." So I decided to stop. I realized my fitness goals had changed. The goal was no longer about setting a new PR, but instead it was about bringing a baby safely into the world. I took on prenatal yoga at my local
    Yoga studio and I loved it!! Also, a pregnant woman's body is different, running form can change. Also ligaments began to soften, so pregnant women are more injury proned. The pelvic floor is in jeopardy too. I also reminded myself, I have your whole life to run, 40 weeks is actually really short to take it easy, compared to a lifetime of running. At 10 months postpartum I ran the Marine Corps Marathon! All of my training was done with my daughter by my side pushing her in the BOB! Stroller miles are my favorite miles. Congrats on your new baby!! It will be fun sharing miles with your new baby. :)

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  6. Really mind-blowing post! To read your post, I remembered a childhood moment. When I was in 8 years age, then I felt down while running in the race competition. That was my first attending to race competition. I practiced so my but everybody said, I can't win. But I practiced everyday. Final day of competition, I became first position. Then everybody was laugh to me. I ran everyday for daily to burn calorie
    Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this post and I love it.Have a nice day!

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