Seven years ago I said, "I'll NEVER run a marathon..." yet six years ago I was starting to train for a marathon.
Four years ago I said, "I'll NEVER run multiple halves in a month..." yet three years ago I joined Half Fanatics.
Two years ago I said, "I'll NEVER run another marathon..." yet last year I ran five of them.
Last year I said, "I'll run one 50k, but NEVER anything longer..." and yesterday I finished a "soft" 100 miler.
Moral of that story? I need to learn to stop saying "NEVER." I need to stop putting up false barriers and just accept that I can do anything! That even if things don't go as planned, amazing things can happen!! To get the "big picture" behind this revelation, let me backtrack a bit.
In 2015 I ran a Mainly Marathons series in New England - 7 halves in 7 states in 7 days. I met many inspirational people, and pushed my boundaries further than I'd ever imagined (that was, in fact, the first time I ever ran back-to-back halves), and actually set a half marathon PR on the 7th day (2:01:59)! Because of that experience, I decided to set two rather large goals for 2016:
1. Complete a 50k trail race
2. Run a sub-2hr half marathon
Near the end of 2015 I hired a coach and we started planning. Also near the end of 2015, I had a friend talk me into a crazy 4-day "home made" race series. From these two things I learned that I would be easily susceptible to peer pressure (all my friend did was mention "the plan" and I was right on board), so I knew that I'd have to be cautious about possible temptations during my training cycles.
I discussed with my coach, carefully selected my goal races (Bighorn 32M in June and the Chicago Half in September), and we made a plan. As I knew I would have a tough time "just saying no" when friends asked me to join them at local races, I signed up to volunteer for many of those races. This would allow me to focus on my training plan while still being able to participate in many of the races that I felt I was "missing."
I ran my crazy four-race series from December 1st through January 3rd, rested for a few weeks, and then started into training! Thankfully my good friend Lisa was also going to run Bighorn and we were able to do most of our long training runs together.
Over the weeks we built our mileage, and things seemed to be going well...during our 20 mile long run we even managed to set a 1 mile PR (in mile 19 of our run, nonetheless)! However, after that week, things quickly unraveled for me. I found that my body was constantly tired and I wasn't recovering as I should have. Trust me, there wasn't a trick I didn't try - sleep, massages, chiropractor, every sort of supplement and/or natural remedy under the sun - but I just couldn't seem to "get back to good." There was no denying it, I had over-trained and, unfortunately, I wasn't finding the "fun" in running.
Running became just another "task" (like "work" and "adulting"), and it hurt me both physically and emotionally to follow my initial plan. Because of that I made a few adjustments to the plan...just small "tweaks" to allow me enough rest to avoid any further overtraining before Bighorn. Since I was cutting back on some of the miles, I was able to add some time back in at the gym, which helped my spirits a bit. But this didn't create a "miracle fix" and I was still tired, though I did start to enjoy running a little bit as race day approached. Unfortunately, I ended up with a horrible cold the week before Bighorn. I rallied, took all of the cold remedies, and got myself to a place where I was "good enough" to try the race.
It was hot on race day (I believe it went over 100 degrees at one point), and I couldn't move fast (darn head cold), so ice and cough drops were key components to my race. Thankfully, Lisa stuck by my side the whole time...even though it took us what seemed like an eternity to complete 32M. But we had FUN! Setting aside the heat, it was a B-E-A-Utiful course (seriously, if you're looking for a challenging course with stunning views, run Bighorn), and we made the most of our day!!!
We both walked away with a few killer blisters, but had huge smiles on our faces and were excited to start our next chapters. For the next part of my year, I had to attack speed training...something that I've never enjoyed, and something that I quickly found wasn't going to work. Even a month after Bighorn, my body had not recovered and I couldn't run even 1.5 miles at the pace I'd need to hit my goal. I fought to "force it" for a couple of weeks, and running quickly became a chore. Eventually I faced the harsh reality that my goal for a sub-2hr half just wasn't realistic in the timeframe I had for training.
I decided to change the goal. Since running was no longer "fun," I determined that it'd be best to "save" the sub-2hr goal for another time, and instead to have my final goal for 2016 to "find the FUN in running!" So I did what any "sane" runner does - I signed up for a bunch of races, joined a few new clubs, made new running friends, and GOT BACK AT IT! I ran with friends, I ran with my dog (Maggie), I ran alone, I rested, I went into the gym and lifted, I hiked, and I did all of it with absolutely no training plan in mind! It was amazing how quickly things became enjoyable again after I'd lifted the pressure off of myself! Even if my body was tired or sore, I was able to take a step back from the pain and see the joy in activity again...I fell back in love with running and being active!
During the first half of 2016 (before Bighorn) I ran 10 races (7 half marathons, 2 marathons, and 1 Ragnar Trail Relay), three of which were part of the crazy 4-day series at the very start of the year, and the rest of which were carefully scheduled as part of my training for Bighorn. In the second half of my year (after Bighorn) I ran 18 races - 1 15k, 13 half marathons, 3 marathons, and 1 100M (that story will be a whole blog unto itself)! The increase in races during the second half of the year reminded me of the camaraderie that is truly at the heart of the running community. We lift each other up and help one another. We're supportive and loving and kind and even encourage each other to do crazy things. We're a family! It turns out that I'd lost that connection during my training and had started to rely only on myself...which clearly didn't work very well. I needed my run family too!!!
So what did I learn from 2016?
* Always, always, always embrace your crazy running family.
* Go to the silly group run after work...especially if you're stressed out!
* Don't be afraid to take a rest day (or 2, or 3).
* Mix it up to keep things from getting stale.
* And most importantly, NEVER SAY NEVER!!!!
Go after your dreams...set those goals!!!! As the saying goes, "reach for the moon, and even if you fall short you'll land among the stars." It's true! Dream big, set lofty (yet realistic, don't go too hog-wild on your first try) goals, and if something "goes wrong" along the way, I PROMISE that you're still going to learn a whole heckuva lot about yourself and will come out so much stronger!
So what's my goal for 2017? Easy. HAVE FUN!!! I'm going to run a lot, I'm going to spend time with friends, I'm going to get back into the gym on a regular basis, and I'm going to be HAPPY!!
Thanks to all my friends for making 2016 a wonderful year filled with fantastic memories. Sending you all wishes for a happy, healthy, and FUN 2017!!!
Melissa is many things...among them, she is a friend, sister, daughter, dog owner, RunJunkEes Ambassador, Colfax Marathon Ambassador, Skirt Sports Ambassador, Lowry CrossFit member, and a mountain girl at heart!