Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Starting Line

"No marathons in 2017," I told Mark.

Marathons are too much work. They take too much training. They make me too cranky. And with the change in my career, I wasn't sure how much time I could truly devote to training.

But on a fantastically temperate November day, on an early morning run, I talked about how I had thought about doing a 50K in December. When I had been working it out in my head, I was piggy-backing off my training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I could never pull the trigger, though, and on that day I said I was glad. I was burnt out, and I didn't feel like going for another long run ever again.

Or at least for a month.

"I guess the 50K will wait until 2018," I said. "I told Mark no marathons in 2017."

And then, in sync, my friends uttered a single truth: a 50K isn't a marathon.

#word

I let it go. I did. I promise.

Of course, that was until I agreed to pace my friend for a 20-mile loop when he attempts the IT 100 in April. If I was going to get in shape for him, I reasoned, I should do something for myself, too. Being in shape to run 20 miles for him would basically put me in marathon shape and if I was in marathon shape, I could basically be in 50K shape.

(Don't you love runner's logic?!?)

It only took 15 minutes of searching to find Another Dam 50K in Englewood, Ohio, on June 3. Not only was it within a reasonable drive and fit in with my schedule, it cost $25 to register. I can't even run a local 5K for $25. And when my friend agreed to do it, too, I knew it was meant to be.

Training began this week for the race. Well, technically it began last week, but I had flu thanks to my kids. (Next time, I'm quarantining them in their room with a mini fridge stocked with Nuun, juice boxes and fruit snacks.) I'm following a plan (in theory) from Competitor that was written by a fellow Team Nuun member and will require to (finally) consistently run five days a week and tackle hills. Lots of them.

Note: The course claims to be flatish but the loop has three hills and you run the loop four times. That's 12 hills for those who don't like math. And 1,200 hills for those who don't like hills. Also, this race is in southern Ohio. I grew up in southern Ohio. It is not flat.

I'm still in the holy hell what have I done stage of training, daunted by the long runs and 4:04 a.m. alarm. But I'm also in the still hacking up a lung stage of the flu (legit flu, not the stomach bug or a cold), and I'm guessing that as it starts to let up so will the doubt.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2016

I just couldn't do it. It wasn't for lack of trying -- I had changed the speed, the incline. I had taken a pause to sip some much-needed Nuun and then another to wipe my face.

But after 1.68 miles, I hit the red stop button on the treadmill at the Cincinnati YMCA, grabbed a spray bottle and threw in the towel. Literally.

As I walked out of the aerobics room and toward the bathroom, my stomach angry from the previous evening's party food, the wellness attendant politely wished me a happy new year and waved good bye.

Good bye. Good bye, 2016.

The run -- if you can even call it that -- on Dec. 31 was not how I wanted to end the year. While the general consensus is that 2016 was no better than a case of the trots, when it came to running, 2016 was a very good year for me.

I ran 1,375 miles - an all-time high.

I set a PR at every distance I raced. I dropped my 5K time from 25:17 to 25:15 and then 24:47. I dug deep at the Carmel Half Marathon and bested my half marathon time from 2010 (1:54:12) with a 1:53:20. And then, not only did I make my return to marathons -- I ran two and PR'd both times.

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I tackled trails and ran Ragnar Cascades with Team Nuun.

I ran some of the most challenging courses (Running Between the Vines) and iconic races (Indianapolis Mini Marathon). I raced at my best and worst (also they Indy Mini).

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I made new running friends, cemented old running relationships.

And, most importantly, I found a confidence in my running that I had been missing for longer than I care to admit.

So, yes, it was a very good year.

But as I hung my head in the hallway, trying to decide my next course of action, I couldn't help but feel my angry stomach drop. The year deserved a better run and the strong, almost fearless girl I discovered in 2016 did, too.

Things don't always have the perfect ending, though. It's one of life's great lessons. One that we have to learn over and over ... and over again.

As we also have to learn over and over and over ... and over again, it's all in how we respond. So I faced that oh-so polite wellness attendant and walked back in. I raced past the treadmills and pondered the spin bikes before finding myself in a sequestered stretching area with Body Bars, Bosus and bands. For 20 minutes, I did a HIIT-style resistance workout that annihilated my glutes and set my triceps on fire.

And I was able to prove to myself that even when things aren't looking the way I pictured, I have strength and resilience -- and maybe that was what 2016 was really about.