This morning, I rolled out of bed and donned my new purple running shorts, and rode my bike down to the park. I had my wireless headphones and my Garmin charged, my brand new Amphipod belt to hold my phone and my bike lock key, and I felt that I was pretty adequately hydrated.
A couple of weeks ago, I did a 4-mile “Fun Run” locally and had the life sucked out of me. I was tired, I hadn’t fueled properly, hadn’t hydrated well. I still finished with a 3rd place age group but I was horribly disappointed with my pace and it was actually the first race that I’d ever walked partway. I walked through the drink stations and I couldn’t even hit the finish line strong.
It’s taken me a long time to come back from my stress fracture and in many ways, that injury reset me as a runner. I thought that once it was healed, I would go back to the same level of running as I’d been at before I was injured, but that’s not the case. I am a slower runner now. Maybe the speed will come back, maybe it won’t. Honestly, I don’t care much, because I feel like I am a smarter, happier runner.
I plan my miles now on a spreadsheet, and I cross-train with spinning and light weight work. I am trying tempo and interval training runs, and I’m not using running as a weight management technique, the way I did a couple of years ago. In fact, I’m the heaviest I’ve been since Miss L was born, but I’m also probably the healthiest, too, and definitely the happiest. I used to flog myself during my runs, constantly looking at my Garmin and pushing for pace, to the point that I’d feel angry at myself if I couldn’t hit the arbitrary goals I set for myself. If I walked during a training run, it ruined the run for me, and I never would have considered walking during a race. All of my PR’s in 5k, 10k, and half were set in 2013. But at the end of that year, I was injured, and 2014 was a write-off because of that.
This morning’s 10k was the Farmington Run for the Hills, a local event benefitting Special Olympics, and the first stop on my half-marathon training. It is a hilly, hot course through the neighborhoods and when I say hilly, I mean hilly. Every time you think you’ve seen the last hill, there is another one, with the last one about a mile from the finish line. It was a slow, hot slog. I had technical difficulties with my running playlist, which shut itself off after a U2 song that I had no recollection of putting on there to begin with (thanks Apple). I remembered various aspects of it from when I ran it two years ago – the dirt hill, the killer hill, the long slow incline, turning off onto the grass before the homestretch, the sun in my eyes. Two years ago, I PR’d the course. Today, I ran it five minutes slower than that PR.
But I learned the lessons from the Bataan Death March Fun Run.
Yes, I walked. I walked several times through the drink stations and made sure I was hydrating. I haven’t run 6 miles since my injury – the longest up til this morning was 5. So I made sure that I wasn’t pushing myself so hard that I felt sick, the way I did two years ago. I could have pushed myself more – I knew that when I was able to ride my bike home and didn’t feel sore or weak or whipped. I could conversationally thank all the volunteers I ran past, and if I’d been pushing myself, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed them. But I remember volunteering at a race last year and feeling so pleased when a runner thanked me, I think I will always try to do that from now on.
I could be disappointed that I didn’t PR or break that magical pace mark per mile that makes me feel great about myself. In a couple of weeks I’ll do the Kensington Challenge 9-mile, which is the second stop on half-marathon training. A lot of my training this late summer / early fall will have to be done on the treadmill, and I have no plans to PR in October when I head up to Empire. But I’m okay now being a pretty average runner and feeling cheerful about that because for me, being an average runner means being a happy and healthy and uninjured runner (hopefully).