2021 Racing Reflections

There’s still one more month left of 2021 but in terms of racing, the books have been closed on this racing year for me. It’s been hard to find the words for how I’ve been feeling since a disappointing day in NYC earlier this month. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing I could’ve done differently that day and that it was simply just an off-day and a product of all the logistics leading into the race that did me in but it was really tough after having poured my time and energy into a training cycle to have it end so lackluster.

Part of me is kicking myself for choosing to do NYC instead of Indy Monumental as I had initially planned for 2021, but I can’t change that now. I’ve learned a valuable lesson that there is a huge perk to a lower frills racing environment where you can sleep in and roll up to a starting line maybe 30 minutes before a race instead of 5 hours already logging 5,000 steps before even starting and sitting in the cold for 3 hours. I love big marathon majors but I think I’ve learned that if I want to run my fastest times now that I’m working to shave off a few minutes instead of 10s of minutes, logistics matter.

Moving past the race itself though, 2021 was not a fun year of racing for me. I was hopeful that after staying consistent through 2020 with my training and building a lot of strength that it would all pay off in a smashing comeback to racing after races were canceled in 2020 but that wasn’t how things materialized. For my first race back, I was signed up for the Glass City Half Marathon in Toledo. Unfortunately, volunteers turned the front pack of runners off the course that day and I dropped out of the race after we were corrected since adding a mile to a half marathon is not a way to PR. As a redemption run, I quickly pivoted and signed up for a half marathon the following weekend in Wisconsin, a short drive from home. With 40 mph wind gusts on race day, a PR was out of question again and it was another disappointing day. Putting spring behind me, I turned towards the Fall season. I raced the Naperville Half Marathon during my build-up to NYC and while this race time-wise was more indicative of fitness (1:30), I struggled hard in the back half of the race and watched a PR slip away. What was even more frustrating about this race was that another female runner had cut the course and in the results bumped myself and another runner off of the podium. We contacted the race organization who has still yet to do anything about it even though the data was all clearly there on Strava showing the course being cut. Finally, my 2021 racing season culminated with NYC, a race that broke my heart and spirit after months of being so patient and continuing to show up through a more difficult training cycle.

After NYC my first thought was to sign up for a redemption race. I recovered extremely quickly, likely because my training cycle had been really solid and I ran almost 40 minutes slower that day than what I was in shape for, and I was tempted to use the fitness in another race. But we had plans on the calendar for a week-long trip to Antigua to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and I knew marathon training would not be feasible while there/not something I wanted to do since the focus was supposed to be on spending time with Ross, not running a ton of miles. After talking with my coach, we agreed that the best course of action would be to turn towards a spring marathon if it’s what I wanted to do, so I leaned into my time off, ending November with 100 miles total run after my highest mileage month in October where I ran 246 miles.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve grappled with this training season and my emotions surrounding it. I’ve realized I put so much weight into running being the thing giving me joy during the pandemic and other life stressors and that when that went wrong, I felt like I lacked purpose. The funny part is, I think a big reason why this cycle didn’t go as well is because my mind was so many other places. Part of the reason my mental game felt weak this year was because I was rusty and out of practice from racing after 2020 canceled all races, but I think now that a big part of it was because my mental energy was being consumed in other areas of my life; I think that the well was dry when it came to pushing hard in workouts or races. It feels weird to talk about because by all accounts, I was handling things well but I think that’s one of my weaknesses that is disguised as a strength – being able to juggle a lot of things at the same time because as my husband pointed out to me, I will always put others’ needs first even if it means sacrificing my own well-being in the process.

I don’t believe that life will always be “balanced”, but I do think that there is only so much that each of us can handle on our plates at one time without starting to sacrifice quality of those things. We have to determine our priorities – and some of those will be pre-decided for us – but I’ve realized that with some of the goals I have in running and elsewhere that I can’t “do it all” and expect success in every area. Running is still really integral to my daily life and I’m so grateful to have it, but I can’t let my success in running dictate my overall happiness because this isn’t the last time I’ll have a bad “season”. 2021 was not the year I was hoping it would be with my running, but I’m working on making some changes to do what I can to make 2022 even better. Running is cyclical and I may have been in the “valley” this year, but that means there are only brighter days ahead as I make my way back up to a peak.

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