It’s been awhile since I had the mental capacity to write more about my training, but I feel like I’m finally in a place where I can talk about it without getting sad or frustrated. It’s no secret that the last couple of years have been really challenging racing-wise for me. I’m not going to rehash it all here (if you’re interested, starting with the Glass City Half, NYC Marathon, Carmel Half Marathon, and Eugene Marathon are the recaps I’d go back to) but to sum it all up, I haven’t had a race that I’ve felt really good about since CIM in 2019; it’s not just because it’s my PR, I just really feel like things haven’t clicked and felt as smooth since that day in Sacramento. After getting covid in Eugene, I felt like the nail was in the coffin for my running for awhile, and in many ways, it was. I dealt with what we’re now calling “long-covid” in my running, even if it wasn’t showing up in my daily life. For 10 weeks after getting sick my heart rate was sky high on runs and I could barely run my easier paces without having to stop. Fortunately things started to turn around about 10-12 weeks after being sick and I’ve been able to start training at the level I want to again, but on my own terms.
Prior to getting covid in Eugene, I knew I needed a break from marathon training. I had actually told my coach before I ran the marathon that I was likely going to take a break from all structure for a little bit to find the love for training again, which isn’t exactly the kind of mindset you should be in before going after a big goal. I’m not sure why but somewhere between December 2019 when I was at my peak at CIM having just smashed my marathon PR and the end of 2020, my mental game became so weak. I started off the beginning of the pandemic eager to hop into a summer of virtual time trials and speedwork but I think the weight of everything going on around me really caught up and the outside stress bled into my training. I went through a lot of changes personally during the pandemic – how I viewed the world, career changes, etc. – and all of this added up. I lost the ability to push myself to my limits because I didn’t have the mental capacity to take on more discomfort.
I had been struggling with the question of who I am apart from my training. I realized just how integral running had become to my life and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I had unintentionally made it nearly my whole identity instead of just a piece of me, so when things began to go wrong in races, it meant my whole world seemed to come crashing down instead of just this piece of my life. I was frustrated after leaving the corporate world to take coaching full-time and therefore setting my own schedule that things weren’t clicking in my training since I had more time to devote to training and recovery. When my own running wasn’t going well, it was equally challenging to then have my whole career now be focused on running and never have much time away from the sport. It was an unexpected “consequence” of making my passion my career and while I do not have any regrets now 9 months removed from making it my full-time job, it’s something I wish I would’ve known ahead of time so I could mentally prepare myself for it and learn how to separate my own running from the business side of running. It’ll be a piece of advice I pass along to other coaches in the future who ask about taking their coaching businesses full-time!
This summer has been one of my favorite yet because I am still enjoying running but am not gone for 2-3 hours at a time on the weekend with long runs or being too exhausted on the weekend to want to make plans with friends. I started with no goals, which I quickly realized is not how I’m wired, and have transitioned to a periodized training block for quicker speed in the mile/5K but without the pressure of a race on the calendar and the time commitment needed for something like a marathon. I can still run a nice volume (40-50 miles a week) but my long runs are 10-12 miles now instead of 18-22. I hopped into a local 5K in August to test my speed and was pleasantly surprised with just how much fun I had; it didn’t matter that it wasn’t a PR, but to me, it felt just as special as one to finally have that excitement about racing again. I think I really needed this season to reset and refocus on why I love this sport and be ok with it evolving to meet me where I’m at. I’ve stopped comparing myself to former running selves and instead just want to focus on feeling strong in my workouts, knowing that the times will come when I’m happy and have taken the pressure off.
I get tempted to sign up for a race now knowing I have the base to do it, but I think I’m sticking to the plan of continuing to train for the shorter distances this fall prior to beginning to train for Boston in December. Boston actually falls on the date of my 30th birthday so I haven’t decided yet if I’ll run that more for fun or if I want to make it the goal race of the season, but the fact that it’s now a question is a big change from where I was just a few months ago when I was convinced it would just be a fun-run effort. I do think I’ll hop into a local 5K again pretty soon and have plans to run another mile time trial in a few weeks, but I am not lying when I say I have nothing currently on my calendar. I’ve been writing a training plan weekly for myself but giving grace to be flexible with needing to move things around based on how the week progresses, how I’m feeling, and what opportunities pop up (i.e. we went to Orlando last week for my grandma’s 80th birthday and I ended up clearing my calendar of workouts while we were there and just did what felt right while we were gone). This isn’t what I’d do with a real goal on the calendar but I’ve realized I am just as much of a runner in this more flexible season of life as I am when I’m more structured in my marathon training. This season has allowed me to find the joy in running again and also bring my confidence in myself as a runner back. PRs are great but I’d argue that feeling strong and powerful in your body is worth way more to your overall happiness.