Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reflections of a Long Distance Runner

When I set out for my long run this morning, I was feeling a little pensive.  Not sad or worried, mind you, just thoughtful.  Last weekend was a "milestone" birthday for me (45!) and yesterday was the last race of my kids' Cross Country season, so I was thinking a lot about endings and beginnings and the bittersweet nature of them both.

I never get tired of this view.  It was a lovely day to run on the American River Parkway.
Now that I'm feeling better, I'm starting to think a little bit about setting some new goals and looking ahead to racing again.  In the immediate future, I'm planning a 10K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and the California International Marathon on December 7th (which I signed up for months and months ago - long before anemia).  It's so weird to go into both of these races knowing that a Personal Worst time is probably all I have in me.  Well, maybe not the marathon, but that's only because I've run some pretty shitty marathons.  My worst ever 10K was run at an 8:32 pace.  Can you imagine?  The likelihood of me hitting anything sub-9 for six miles is...  I believe the term is "statistically insignificant."

It's tough to set goals when you're not exactly operating at 100%.  And, frankly, it's tough to even know where my 100% is anymore.  I feel better.  A lot better, in fact.  But am I back to where I was before?  It doesn't feel like it.  Will I ever be there again?  I don't know.

I've generally set goals based on time or distance.  Many years ago, when I was "fast," I was always chasing a PR.  Then I wanted to go farther, so I slowed down and just kept going.  Either way, I set and (mostly) reached goals that stroked my ego.  To be brutally and embarrassingly honest, since I started running eight years ago, I've seen myself as something of a badass.  Not in comparison to other people who are doing way more badass stuff than me, but definitely compared to the chubby, lazy girl I used to be.

When I'm looking ahead to 2015 and thinking about my running and racing goals, I have some apprehension.  I truly feel that the reason I haven't been physically injured for the past two years is because I've slowed way down.  And I also feel that the reason I ended up with anemia is because I was pushing myself to go a little too far.  This is not to say that I don't have any more fast miles in me or that I'm all done running ultras, but rather that I need to be sort of cautious for awhile.  But where does that leave me right now?  Fun runs?  Ugh!

A perfect fall day.
I was ruminating on these thoughts somewhere around Mile 6 and feeling a little low.  This whole anemia thing has been a months-long crisis of confidence for me.  Who am I anymore if I'm not a badass?  I don't run fast anymore.  I don't run far anymore. More often than not these last few months, it took everything I had to even make it out the door for a run.  And then it hit me.  The sparkly diamond I'd been looking for in that deep, dark coal mine:  even when I felt like crap, I never lost my motivation to run.  There were days when I'd get out of bed so bone tired that I wanted to cry, but I still went for a run.  Even though I knew that a measly three-miler was going to require a two hour nap, I would clear my schedule for that nap rather than skip the run.  I didn't quit, and, according to the internet, either the legendary Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, or possibly Ben Franklin said, "It's hard to beat a person who never gives up."  That's pretty badass.

I don't think I actually got faster after my lovely little epiphany, but I sure felt better.  I finished 14 miles, the longest I've run since July, with a smile on my face.  I love to run.  I want to run for as many years as I can.  It's long been my goal to run a marathon when I'm 80 years old (since I ran my first one at 40.  It's like an OCD thing), and I know there will be plenty of mental readjustments along the way.  Thank goodness I have so many miles to figure these things out.

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