Distance Runner Problem #1: Race Addiction
It has been two months since my last race on December 1, and it feels strange. I got into the habit (for better or worse) of racing often. I'm craving a race, but I have to wait 3 more weeks! However, that race is a full marathon on a new trail, so it will be worth it! I'm looking at it as a day of adventure. The beauty of the trails for me is that there is no real time pressure. I'd LOVE to beat my previous fastest trail marathon time (excruciatingly slow!), but it's really comparing apples and oranges since trails can vary so much. Overall, I am stupid excited about this race.
Distance Runner Problem #2: Trails Runners Are Made Not Born
I have learned (the hard way) to respect a trail marathon. My first trail marathon last year was a comedy of errors. I really hadn't run enough long runs or trail miles. This time, I'm still not getting in more than 5 or 6 miles on trails at a time, but at least I'm doing it often. I feel like I've found my trail legs finally. I'm not mincing cautiously down hills, I'm not tripping over rocks or roots every five seconds, and I'm feeling strong on climbs more often. I think I'm finally a trail runner!! I also had my first trail fall a few weeks ago. It was an epic, slow-motion, I'm-going-down-no-I've-got-myself-no-I'm-definitely-going-down kind of fall. I landed in a pile of leaves and laughed about it for the next hour. Another way I know I'm finally a trail runner is that if I don't get on the trails at least once a week, my soul misses it.
Distance Runner Problem #3: Balancing Life and Running
Due to some circumstances in my life last fall and a pretty tough training schedule, I began to experience diminishing returns. Around October, my running just fell apart. Running began to feel like the enemy. I was tired all the time, but not sleeping. I was stress-stress-stressing my body through tough workouts and a busy teaching and parenting schedule, not eating enough, and definitely not recovering enough-- it was no wonder things fell apart. Now, I'm being kinder and gentler to my body, eating better, trying to get close to 8 hours of sleep a night, and just handling stress better. I'm also running less, but it feels right. I'm not in any way overwhelmed by the training schedule I'm loosely following (that I wrote myself). Running is low-key and is back to what it should be for me-- a pleasurable form of exercise, time with friends, and a bit of adventure. It is adding to my life; it is not my life. I still want to run further and faster (and forever!), but not at the expense of the JOY.
Distance Runner Problem #4: It's Always Something
That is one of my husband's favorite expressions, along with "Ain't nothin' easy" and "It is what it is." I just realized all could apply to running! While my joints and muscles held up pretty well through high mileage and tons of speed work in the fall, since reducing running volume, I've been having various problems. For a few weeks, it was both IT Bands. Then it was my right knee. Now, it's my right foot. It has hurt for four days! I wore dressy boots on Monday and noticed it was a little achy. On Tuesday, I ran 5 miles on the treadmill in my new Altra Torins, and after the run, it began to hurt badly and has hurt ever since--as in limp-when-I-walk hurting. "It's always something." You'd think finding shoes that work well wouldn't be that hard. I had high hopes for those Altras. The cushioning is incredible. Maybe it's too soon to tell and wasn't their fault. I've recently ordered some new Brooks Transcends. Maybe they'll work. Finding new shoes is a pain. But, "Ain't nothing easy." I came really close to cancelling or postponing tomorrow's 20-mile long run with all this foot pain. However, today the foot feels a bit better. I guess I'll attempt 20 and see how the foot feels. If there really is a stress fracture or something crazy going on, "It is what it is."
Distance runners sure seem to have lots of little problems. The key is to remember that in the BIG PICTURE, these are just tiny problems and issues that go along with a sport we LOVE and CHOSE and that gives so much back to us. These minor irritations in no way overshadow the JOY we receive from the run. Or at least they shouldn't.