Here’s something valuable I’ve learned in my 39.3 years: life long relationships are not always butterflies and rainbows. Sure, you’ll have incredible highs, the kind where you are so blinded with happiness that you can’t imagine life any other way. But there will also be times where vehemently understand the sentiment “I love you, I’ll always love you, but I don’t particularly LIKE you right now”.
And so it goes, with running and I.
Twenty one days ago I was full of excitement about the prospect of running Long Haul 100 next January. You see, there’s always an immediate high that accompanies hitting the registration button for a big race, especially for an event that’s a half a year away or more.
Certainly, there’s the initial dopamine rush simply not only from the act of spending money, but of committing to something exciting. From the comfortable, safe spot behind your computer screen, you feel pretty confident that 7 months is a long, long time from now. And you also feel confident that you can accomplish something amazing in that time frame. Maybe train to set a distance PR. Hell, maybe you can get into the best shape of your life and maybe, just maybe, claim a podium spot. In that moment, 7 months feels like all the time in the world, and it seems as if there’s nothing you can’t accomplish in that time frame, if you work hard enough.
But here’s another thing I’ve learned in my 39.3 years: time is one of the most devastatingly harsh phenomenon’s of this life. Because you always think you have plenty of time, until one day you realize you don’t. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Like when you plan to shed a few pounds before a beach vacation so you can fit into your bathing suit which currently doesn’t fit, which shouldn’t be too hard because you have weeks to go. But suddenly it’s the day before your plan leaves and you’re still stress eating Cheez-itz and boxed wine.
Or when your kids are very small and you are so, so overwhelmed and exhausted trying to keep them fed, clothed, happy – and hell, alive – that you don’t have the energy to do anything but plunk them in front of the TV. And you think, it’s fine, because I’ll have plenty of time to teach them everything they need to know about life. But then you blink your eyes and at some point when you were working endless 14 hour days they became teenagers, already anxious to test their own wings and fly.
Or when you swear that some day you’ll get over yourself and work on reconnecting with your Dad, only for him to receive a cancer diagnosis and be dead less than four months later.
Time doesn’t wait for anything or anyone.
And, of course, there’s the times you find yourself struggling halfway through a race you signed up for nearly a year prior, and thinking “I really should have trained better…what the hell did I do over the last 12 months?”.
Don’t blink, my friends.
Alas, I have been on this training-merry-go-round enough times in the last 15 years to now to finally have the foresight that the next 7 months are going to fly by, so I best get my proverbial shit together, asap. And if we’re being honest (when are we ever not in these parts) a race two weeks ago gave me an alarming wake up call at how out-of-running-shape I’ve become. (Race recap coming soon).
So I counted out the weeks in my calendar. I put the training plan and workouts into my Final Surge profile. I saw the weeks and then the days ticking down until the “you better start now” last call of building my weekly base mileage up before diving into an actual training plan. And I couldn’t help but think:
I’ve made a huge mistake. (Bonus points if you read that in Gob Bluth’s voice.)
Because for awhile now, I haven’t been running. I just haven’t felt like it. There was a time in my life where I would have been riddled with guilt over admitting that. I would have written a 1200 word blog post giving excuses as to why, with an underlying fear that it made me “less” of a runner to not want to run.
But now? I’ll just tell you I don’t feel like running. Period. End of story. There’s a million other things that I enjoy doing with my time in this one life that I have, and I certainly am not ashamed to admit that.
And as the days ticked by and that “you better start training” deadline approached, I went into run-hiding. Yep, that’s a phrase I’ve coined, and have certainly done many times before. I avoided my favorite Facebook running groups. I logged out of Instagram for a few days – as apparently I follow almost exclusively runners. And brace yourself for this ultra running blasphemy: I didn’t even follow the Western States Endurance Race 100 miler this year. I didn’t want to talk about running, and the close the deadline loomed that I really had to start thinking about running, the further I retreated (you should see the upgrades I made to my bike during that time).
Nevertheless, yesterday morning I had a very adult moment with myself. I reminded my in run-hiding-self that I paid a very large non-refundable race entry fee, somewhere deep down I do enjoy running, and I’m going to run this race, damnit. And further, perhaps the reason I’ve been:
- Not sleeping well
- Super anxious
- Always exhausted
- Unable to focus
- Eating poorly
- Drinking far too much
- Generally not fitting into any of my clothes
…over the last few months is because I haven’t been running. Let’s face it: whether or not I feel I owe running to anyone, running is what helps keep me grounded on this crazy roller coaster that is life. I sometimes try to run away from it (haha, puns!) because I know there is so much more to me than running. But ultimately: running is a large part of who I am.
And so, with the training deadline here, even though I wanted nothing more than to stay home, I laced up my trusty Saucony Kinvaras this morning and forced myself out the door for a very short run.
And friends: it was mostly miserable.
I’m the first to tell clients “oh it comes back quickly, you didn’t lose that much fitness!” but I know the truth. I know that over a decade of running experience is certainly working in my favor, but the gains I made early in the year were now long gone. I trained my tail off for Country Mile 100 two months ago, and have been “resting and recovering” ever since. See? Time passes far too quickly.
But the part of me that is growing older and perhaps wiser and more forgiving, didn’t get mad at myself for the time away, nor how incredibly difficult this short run felt. I didn’t get mad that the woman who could previously run 20 miles without stopping, now h ad to take walk breaks during a short 30 minute run. I didn’t get mad at how soft my body as become, or that my shorts that once fit were now being swallowed by thighs two sizes larger than what I normally recognize. I didn’t get mad that every step felt FAR more labored than it should have. I didn’t get mad that I’ve fallen so far off of the proverbial nutrition and fitness wagon.
Instead, I thanked my body. I thanked it for the amazing feats it’s accomplished in the past, and for the amazing feats I know it’s capable of in the future. I thanked it for indulging me in new hobbies, and new ways to move. I thanked it for allowing me to rest when I needed to, and for being able and willing to get back out there when the time was right. And as each labored step slowly started feeling less foreign and more familiar, I found I wasn’t dreading the next 29 weeks and well over a thousand miles I have ahead of me.
Instead, I got excited.
I certainly would like to hope that I truly make the most of the next 29 weeks, that I show up to the starting line of Long Haul 100 feeling as though there was nothing more I could have done to train for that race. But as an experienced runner and coach, I know that time – and life – often have their own ideas.
Nevertheless, today was like pulling teeth: it sucks, it hurts, and you almost want to do anything to avoid it, but once it’s done…you feel immediate relief.
You and me, running: I may not always like you, but I’ll definitely always love you. To say this sport, this process, is a “journey” would be the understatement of a lifetime. Let’s make the most of these next 201 days.