10 year plan

Redefining self

Photo credit: John Medinger

I was at the track on Tuesday to take on my first really hard workout since coming back from my injury. The last great (and just plain last) workout I had at the track was in August, so I was feeling pretty intimidated about the 5x1600m at 10k pace with 2 min recovery. I didn't think I could do it, frankly and tried to emotionally prepare myself for it to suck. Nevertheless, I laced up my flats, braved the horrible windy, rainy weather and started running. 

The first lap I was thinking "wow, this is great! I love this! I can do this."
Second lap: "I can't imagine doing this 4.5 more times. How am I going to through this?!?!"
Third lap: "Ok, just make it through this one and I can modify the next one, if I have to. Just hold on."
Fourth lap: "Wheeeeeee, I'm almost done. I can do this, I can do this! Look at me fly."

And so went all 5 intervals. I rocked it. I hit my paces even in the face of a harsh headwind. But even still I had to talk myself through each and every lap. Struggle, fear failure, triumph. When it was over, pure satisfaction. I love these kind of workouts because they scare me, challenge me and push me to knew heights. There is always the possibility of failure in them, but success is always within reach if I really push myself.

This year has been one filled with change. Often times, it has felt like a perpetual track workout where everything involved felt challenging, scared me or ran the risk of complete failure. This year's changes, like these track workouts, is something I have chosen to undertake. I have faced these things knowing that it would be hard, I would fail, I would triumph, I would doubt and would rise.

My life, my path and who I am is being redefined through these changes.  I got married, moved to a different town and together with my husband, started working on opening our own cafe. My life a year ago had such a different set of priorities, a much lesser sense of complication. Running and training was my highest priority. We lived a simpler life: where shall we go run this weekend, who can join us, what shall we eat after we run? These were the things that fundamentally mattered to us. And the fact of the matter is: they still do.  Running, food and friendship remain the driving forces in our life. But now, our priorities are different.

For me the priority shift does mean redefining how I see myself. Going in to the new year, I have no idea how the opening of our cafe will affect my ability to run and race. Running is a huge part of who both Nathan and I are, but so is opening the cafe, we are passionate about the food we are bringing to our community  and we are all in on making that be a huge success. Just like getting married, just like moving to a new place, it changes things and I am now working to discover what it all means to me, how I see the world and who I am. I don't have the answers yet as to how these challenges and changes affect my life, my priorities and my sense of self. I know that, no matter what, I am pursuing the things that I am passionate about and going after them with vigor. Who I am and who I become through process are exciting to discover.

Long term relationship

Seriously serious about running

I don't recall the exact moment that it happened and I can only recognize it now that its true: I've gone all in with my running. I know it started with pursuing the Olympic Trials qualifier and simply grew and grew from there. And now I find myself at a place where, for the first time, I am taking a long view of my running and development as a runner. I am making plans and setting future goals.

It may be strange to think that I have ever been any other way about running, but the fact of the matter is, my racing has always been about short terms goals. I have always seen my running as something I want to do perpetually for a long time, but my racing has always been only on the micro scale. I never thought in terms of how my workout today might lay groundwork for a breakthrough in 3 years. Since I switched over to ultras, I have raced so often that my mind has never had to really plan longer than 3-6 months out. I have thrived and developed through intense 8-10 weeks of training at a time. I build on one race to leverage another, but the goals are always close at hand and readily upon me before I have time to even think about it.

After my recent success at NYC marathon and the Olympic Trials, I am chomping at the bit to see what I can develop into as a runner. I am eager to see what kind of runner I can become. I am back training intensely when many of my fellow competitors from the Trials are only now just considering going back to serious running. I have new goals and am pushing myself towards them. I am focusing back on the details and working on new ways to develop myself as a runner. I am all in.

Last week, after asking my coach Howard to up the intensity and difficulty of my key workouts, I was treated to more butt kicking than I have ever experienced. I ran so hard in my key workouts that I finished them completely drained and spent. I had moments where I bordered on wanting to puke or give up or fall apart but made it through. It was intensely satisfying and I am excited to do this tough kind of work.

And then yesterday afternoon, I had one of the worst runs of my life. I felt dead, I felt drained. My legs felt disembodied and I couldn't get my head right. I let it stress me out because with a short training cycle, every day and every decision feels so much more important. I spent a good amount of time contemplating how I was feeling, what my problem was, and generally just beat myself up about it. I finished the run and was worried that my important workout today would be compromised by fatigue or soreness that seemed to wrack my body.

When I woke up this morning, I felt a lot better and set out to my hill repeats up Strawberry Hill. Howard had 6 repeats planned for me, but being the glutton (mileage/intensity) that I am I was thinking that I would try and do more if I felt good. I started the workout and felt fine. Not good, not bad, just fine. And then I had an epiphany: Sometimes you just have to get in there and do the work. Some workouts are just building blocks for the long term goals. Every workout, run, decision is not a make or break. I realized that this workout didn't need to be a perfect one, it didn't need to be a breakthrough one, it didn't need to be THE workout. Instead, I realized that it was about getting my hands dirty and digging in, a building block for the future. I realized that I had put too much pressure on myself in individual workouts or decisions because I was not seeing the long term plan. I forgot that gardens take time to grow.

After my run, I was reading an article by Greg McMilan about Traits of a Successful Runner and this quote jumped off the page:

We have a saying in our Olympic training team that you must train consistently for two straight years -- no unscheduled interruptions due to injury or illness -- to even begin to see how good you can be. This reality applies to all of us. A year of consistent running is more beneficial than a few stellar weeks of training.

I had been living in a constant state of a "few stellar weeks of training" mentality. I realized on my run today and upon reading this, that I am, in fact, amid a much bigger period of uninterrupted consistent training. I hadn't seen it before, but I was working for the bigger picture without even being able to clearly see it. Furthermore, I had skewed my mentality to focus on the importance of short-term gains.

I see now that, while I have short term running goals, speeding very quickly up to meet me, they are only a part of the plan and their importance should not overshadow the pursuit of long term development. In essence, by allowing myself to look at the big picture, I am relieving the pressure to achieve everything NOW, NOW,NOW (or soon, soon, soon). By seeing that I am working towards the big picture, both successes and failures feel much more like the gentle ebbing and flowing of the tide instead of gigantic 100 foot waves. I am released from feeling like I have to do everything perfect because I can see that somedays simply cutting myself some slack is as important as the hardest most lung burning workout.

I am all in, but now I see that being all in, doesn't necessarily mean being unbalanced or single minded. It means methodically doing the work, taking steps in the right direction and constantly cultivating the garden where the seeds of my future will grow.

Being all in, doesn't mean stopping your life, either. Cheers to that.