I usually do a year in review post, but I'm not feeling inspired to do it this year. I started the year not running, progressed to barely running, ran some crappy races, a couple decent races, didn't race an awful lot, enjoyed a lot of runs with my friends, saw a lot of spectacular sunrises, and closed out the year with my best race in a long, long time.
All in all, I only ran 7 races - the least I've run in quite a while. And I truly believe that's what my body and my mind needed this year - a break. Ever since I began dreaming of a BQ back in 2011, I've been racing like a maniac. I don't regret it for a minute, and I had a fantastic few years, with lots of PRs, lots of full and half marathons, and lots of success at so many distances.
But my heart was definitely not in it this year. I didn't have the drive, the passion, the determination - frankly, I just didn't have much interest in pushing myself way out of my comfort zone and testing my limits. I was happy just to run. And I did plenty of that, with a total of nearly 1,300 miles for the year.
It was really nice to have an entire year off from marathon training, especially since I did two marathons last year. It was liberating and freeing - and although there were times I found myself a tiny bit jealous of friends who were training, for the most part I was happy not being a slave to a training program.
Submitting my Boston registration in September did get me a little more excited about the prospect of getting back to training, and I was really looking forward to kicking things off in late December, but a little hip flexor and piriformis issue threw a bit of a wrench into those plans.
I took two weeks off, which was really not that big a deal, since I had written myself an 18-week plan, knowing that 16 weeks is really sufficient, so the extra two weeks would give me some wiggle room. I wish I hadn't had to use it right off the bat, but at least it was there!
So the first full week of training was two weeks ago, and thankfully had no planned speedwork. I got in all the miles, including a 16-miler, and was shocked at how good I felt afterward - not 100%, but far, far better than I thought I'd feel, especially since I had run a 10-miler the day before that.
Week two went well also, and aside from replacing a track workout with an easy run, I got all the miles in, and even capped off the week with a race worked into my long run. I had 13 miles planned, and there was a 4.8-mile race in Little Compton on Saturday that I've always been curious about, and I knew some other members of the running club would be there, so I figured I'd run some miles beforehand, jump into the race, and finish my long run with company.
I had no plans whatsoever for how I'd run the race miles. I thought I'd probably hold a tempo-ish pace of 7:30, and would have been happy with that. I was able to get in 7.5 miles before the race, most of them around an 8:15 pace, and was feeling great when I got to the starting line. It was a beautiful area to run, and I was looking forward to a few more miles.
I wore long sleeves and capris for the early miles, but after dashing in to register and get my number, I made a quick stop at the car to change into shorts and my club singlet and arm warmers - temps were in the mid-40s, and that outfit ended up being the perfect choice. I wasn't too hot or too cold - ideal running conditions.
The course was really nice - mostly flat, with just some very minor inclines; quiet; and scenic. I settled in pretty quickly to a pace in the low 7s, and still really wasn't giving much thought to a plan of any sort. A friend from the club was running just ahead of me, and we're somewhat evenly matched, pace-wise, so I figured I'd keep her in my sights. The only wild card was that I had already run almost 8 miles, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to match her pace the whole time. But I thought it was worth trying.
I closed the gap between the two of us right around mile 2.5, I think, and stayed pretty much right on her heels for the rest of the race. There was a few minutes around mile 3 where I felt like I could pull ahead, but I reminded myself of the 7.5 miles I had run previously, and reminded myself that I was already running plenty fast, and wasn't even there to really race, and I just wanted to finish up my long run.
So I held back where I was, and ended up crossing the finish line 8 seconds behind her. Of course, just as we crossed the finish line I heard the announcer call us out as the third and fourth females, and when awards were given out, I found out that the prize for 3rd place female was $50. If I had known I had a shot at raking in some cash, I might have kicked it in at the finish :-)
I did place 2nd in my age group, though, and my prize was a really cool glass medal made by a local artist. I love getting unique prizes like that - so much more memorable than a regular medal or plaque.
In the end, I ran 13 miles with an overall 7:56 pace - a very solid effort for only my second run of this training plan. My splits for the race part of it were 7:15, 7:12, 7:10, 7:29, 7:16. Final time - 35:15; 7:20 pace, 2nd place age group, 4th female overall, 26/165 finishers.
The best part of the whole day, though, was that even with the increased effort in the final miles of the 13, my hip felt great. It was a little sore later in the afternoon, but I spent plenty of time stretching and foam rolling, and it was back to feeling good on Sunday.
So I'm going to continue to move ahead with training as planned, and will give the speedwork another try tomorrow. When I tried it last week, my hip was not happy with me, but I'm hoping that this week it will work out. But if it doesn't, I'll just run easy again and log the miles I need to log.
I had told myself a few weeks ago that if I wasn't able to really train all-out and go for the PR I'm aiming for in Boston, that I'd skip it and run a fall marathon instead. But now I'm sort of backtracking on that. Because, well, it's Boston. And Boston has a piece of my heart.
I'm hopeful that I can still go after that PR, but as long as I'm healthy enough to complete the necessary mileage to run a respectable 26.2 miles in April, I'm going to go for it.
I'm allowing myself to get a little excited about it now, too, which I had kind of stopped myself from doing before, just because I wasn't certain if it was going to happen or not. And as much as I dread the torture of a speed workout, there's a little part of me that's almost looking forward to it. Maybe not the workout itself, but the feeling of accomplishment afterward.
I still have a long road ahead of me, and I'm determined to take it one week, one run, and one step at a time. Hopefully it will end up where I'm thinking it will, but regardless, I know it'll end where it's meant to.
Another thing I'm determined to do this time around is remain committed to truly recovering from my runs. I am very guilty of skimping on stretching and foam rolling, and I pay for it. Focusing more on that these past two weeks has made a huge difference, as has my now regular yoga practice. I initially told myself that I wanted to be sure to take one yoga class a week, but now have become completely hooked, and crave my time on the mat almost as much as I crave running.
There are two classes at my local yoga studio that are my absolute favorite, and I've been going to both every week without fail. I had to miss the Wednesday class one week, and was so disappointed. I wish I could go even more, but the time and the expense present some challenges beyond the twice-weekly classes, so I'm supplementing with doing some shorter sessions at home using online video classes.
It's not the same, but it works in a pinch, and I've learned that much like running, something is better than nothing. A 20-minute session at home doesn't leave me feeling quite as blissed out as my 90-minute classes in the studio, but it does leave me feeling calmer and more centered, and gives me a little bit of a reset. So I've tried to get better at fitting in those shorter sessions at home whenever I can, to get me through to the next time I can get into the studio and get my real fix : )
I notice so many changes in myself, physically and mentally, and I love what yoga is bringing to my life. I saw a great quote the other day that sums it up so well: "Yoga is the journey of the self through the self to the self."
Running has taught me so much about myself, and yoga is teaching me things that running couldn't. They complement each other so nicely, and I'm glad I've finally realized that.