I'll be turning 46 next week, and I'm not one to get hung up on age and getting older, but as a somewhat competitive runner, the passing of each month and year is definitely apparent in ways that it might not be if I weren't so driven to keep running and racing.
My last few marathon training cycles have been grueling ones. There are plenty who would actually deem them easy in comparison to their 70 or 80+ mile weeks, but for a usually lower-mileage runner like myself, many consecutive months of weekly mileage approaching or exceeding 50 miles is grueling, especially when it includes regular speedwork and tempo efforts.
So now that it's done and the race is behind me, I feel like such an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and running is suddenly fun again!
I am also really enjoying not constantly feeling tired and sore and on the verge of injury. It's such a treat to wake up in the morning and not feel like a 90-year-old woman with creaky hips and a sore back. I'm happily running 3 or 4 days a week, whenever I feel like it, whatever pace I want, and nothing over 10 miles.
Another thing I've noticed is that I have a LOT more energy, and I'm sleeping better, and I'm not constantly craving carbs and salty foods, and I just feel healthier, because my workout routine is so much more well-rounded - more weights and biking mixed in, since I actually have the time to do those things now!
I know that the marathon distance will entice me again, but when it does, I'm going to seriously consider going back to the Run Less, Run Faster training plan. It's worked for me several times, and I'm certain it will work again, and at this point in my life, I think I'll just feel better running lower mileage.
Being so laid back at the moment, I had exactly zero expectations going into this past weekend's Newport Ten-Miler. I felt like finishing around 1:20 would be reasonable, but I also would be fine with just doing whatever felt good, even if that was 1:30. Reminding myself that I was only 3 weeks out from a pretty disastrous race experience, I knew it was important to listen to my body.
With the threat of race-morning traffic looming, we left bright and early (in retrospect, a little too early!), and got to the start with 90 minutes to spare. I like to arrive early, but that was a bit extreme even for me. Better than sitting in traffic for an hour, though, I suppose.
It was warm enough that I didn't need my throwaway sweatshirt, so left that in the car and just wore armwarmers with my singlet and shorts. And just before the race started, I ditched the armwarmers, too.
The race starts with a short hill going out of Fort Adams State Park, and then heads toward Ocean Drive. I know this part of the course really well, as it's also part of the Newport Half course, which I've run many times. It's generally flat, and winds through some nice neighborhoods before making the turn out to run all along Ocean Drive.
I checked in with myself several times during the first few miles, as they were coming in under an 8-minute pace - 7:54, 7:51, 7:52 - but I was really feeling great, and pretty relaxed, so I figured I'd go with it, and slow down later if I felt like I had to.
Now we were running right along the ocean, and the sun was shining, and it was warm but not overly warm, and I remember thinking to myself that I was going to make sure I enjoyed this. I ran so many miles along the ocean in Maine three weeks ago, but had a really hard time appreciating how beautiful it was because I was so miserable. I was determined to soak up these oceanfront miles and be happy to be running them, even if it meant slowing down so that I stayed comfortable and relaxed.
Turns out that I didn't have to slow down, though - I continued with more sub-8 miles, and continued feeling great - 7:56, 7:50. There are a couple rolling hills in this section, and they felt a little challenging, but not too bad. And luckily it wasn't windy at all. It was getting pretty warm, though, and I was happy when we turned onto shady, tree-lined Bellevue Ave.
Mile 6 came in at 7:55 pace, and I remember thinking how nice it was that I only had 4 miles left to go! I did start to get a little tired through miles 7 and 8, which also included a couple of pretty significant hills, but I knew I only had a couple miles to go at this point, and I thought it would be pretty awesome if I could keep a sub-8 pace and finish in 1:19. So I kept at it, despite the hills - 7:57, 7:47.
I was definitely getting tired at this point, and pretty hot, too. I had dumped water on my head at most of the aid stations, but the sun was beating down on us, even though it was early in the day, and I was happy to see the 9-mile mark, and also happy to see my watch beep 7:35.
Another little uphill going back into the Fort, and then after we looped around the side, we ran up a ramp and inside the Fort itself. The ramp was very short, but felt awfully steep, and I was glad to get up and over it and be close enough to see the finish line.
Even better - the clock was just turning over to 1:17! Never in a million years had I thought I'd run that fast.
Mile 10 was right around 7:30, and I was very, very happy to be done. The pace had felt great for the first half, slightly challenging for 6 through 8, and downright tough for 9 and 10. But I had pulled off a great 10-miler, without even planning to, so I was very happy.
On our way out of the Fort, the results came in on our phones and I found out I was second in my age group - a very nice surprise!
So all in all, an unexpectedly great effort on a beautiful course and a gorgeous June morning.
And what I loved most of all is that I ran hard, but I didn't come home feeling completely beat up, because it was only ten miles. I had become so accustomed to feeling totally destroyed after my long weekend runs, and it's such a nice change of pace to finish running and feel good, and be able to go home and do stuff with the family, instead of having to park myself on the couch and rest.
I'm looking forward to shorter runs and shorter races, and although I do plan to do a little bit of speedwork to get ready for the Blessing next month, and I am still planning to target a Fall 5K, I'm really looking forward to things being a lot more laid back when it comes to running and training.
My body is happier, my brain is happier, and my heart is happier. Less is more.