On Fitness and Failure

I’m somewhat surprised at the response I received to my post about dropping down to the Carmel Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t surprised at the positive comments I received, though the amount of people reaching out on here, Instagram, and Twitter did blow my mind a bit. I was, however, surprised at the amount of people who felt it was “brave” to share my feelings. 

I didn’t feel or find it “brave” to be honest, particularly in a forum that I made specifically for talking about running. But it made me realize just what social media has done to fitness culture.  If you’re not running 70+ miles a week, how dedicated are you? If you’re not posting your runs every day, you must be slacking. Don’t forget, you have to be aiming to PR at every race, otherwise what’s the point? I openly mention a struggle and that’s considered brave because of everything we see on instagram and twitter: sunshine and rainbows, or a crappy run but a motivational quote for the next time. 

I appreciate the time everyone took to respond to me, or even just read what I had to say. The comments and stories made me feel more at ease about my decision and also glad that I’m not alone in having a strong preference to racing… even if I am sort of alone on the whole “I’d rather run a 5k or half marathon than a long run or marathon” thought. 

I took a complete week off after making my decision. It was partially to rehab the twinge in my knee (which may or may not have been mostly mental; I didn’t test it to find out) but moreso to rehab my mind and refocus on future goals. This past week was my first one back and I ran 10 miles over 5 days with Dunkin. I just wanted to have fun this week. I did set out on Sunday for a solid 11 mile workout, but I was running at 4pm after having a large brunch at 2pm. I thought I could digest in time but the dry heaving for 2.5 miles told me otherwise. I ended up partially walking home and then calling J to pick me up as a result of a sketchy person slowing their car down by me not once, not twice, but THREE times in my own residential neighborhood. PSA – stay alert, always. 

I’m going to focus on fun between now and Carmel, with little to no taper. I might go to a 9-10 day training schedule now that it’s light out until 7:30-8pm, so running 2+ hours on a weeknight isn’t the end of the world. While I don’t know that I can get into sub 1:45 shape before Buffalo at the end of May, let alone sub 1:40, I intend to give it a solid run. I haven’t seeing 7:xx steadily on my watch in over a year and the pain I associate with that is making me hesitate to train, but I did something to get over it fast. I signed up for a series of races every Wednesday in April (3 miles at Chestnut Ridge weekly). I think I just need to rip the bandaid off and race something other than a long run again. 

Ultimately, I want to feel the fun in training again without having to take six months off and then rebuild. I’m just happy I recognized I wasn’t completely happy before getting to that point, unlike last time.   

Carmel. 

I feel my posts are a little more “real” when I have a glass of wine, couple bottles of beer, or a Manhattan before typing something up. As I write this, the choice is a glass (okay, two) of wine after a bath with lavender and tea tree essential oils. The bath lately has been less about sore muscles and more about relaxation and stress relief. 

I don’t know why I’m nervous to publicly post this… post. (The two semesters of being an English major in college are totally cringing at this, my goodness.) Okay, it’s a lie, I do know why I’m nervous but I also think I’m being totally ridiculous for feeling this way. 

So, let me just come out and say it – I’m dropping from the Carmel marathon to the Carmel half marathon. 

Ugh. 

I feel like I quit, I failed, I gave up, and the most important feeling to me, like I’m letting down a lot of people. I have many friends who love the marathon, like, really, really love.  And truthfully, I feel like I’m letting down those people because I’m dropping the ball here, just a couple months short of my goal race. 

This decision hasn’t come lightly. The thought first crept into my mind after I had to take some time off because of Cranky Groin. It wasn’t a lot of time but I missed 3 stress workouts in that span and it kept me from increasing to the mileage I wanted. I pushed it out of my head when I compared my mileage and training to that of Chicago. I was a week or two ahead of what I was running in preparation for Chicago and I finished Chicago, so I’d be fine for Carmel. 

I had a decent 16 miler during Lake Effect Half Marathon as well. During the workout I kept thinking how much better this was than anything I did during Chicago. I’ve had struggles but what marathon cycle doesn’t? My knee bothered me but that kind of shit happens. Twinges come up, marathon training isn’t perfect, you adapt and move on. 

But then I really thought about what I’ve been doing. My plan has me well above 30 miles per week and I’m hovering at 30 per week.  This is better than Chicago where I peaked at 31 and then had ankle issues and my taper was like 10 miles over three weeks – no joke. But, ultimately I’m not doing my plan justice. Could I finish Carmel? Absolutely! Could I finish faster than 4:20:05? Pretty certain. Is/was my goal to “just finish”? That’s a hard NOPE. 

Besides that, truthfully I haven’t enjoyed marathon training. I didn’t love it when I trained for Chicago either but I figured it’s because it was hard. It was also summer and I was trying to balance coming back from my nasty bout of tendinitis, vacations, and running. I didn’t love running forever on weekends, but I enjoyed hitting new distances and knowing one of my best friends would be running by my side. This time around, things felt less hard and mentally, I’ve been much better prepared but… I still don’t love it. I have plenty of friends who love the long run and especially love ultramarathons. The thought of that makes me cringe. 

Some people love running slow and forever, but hate faster efforts. Some people love both types of runs. Then there’s me – I would rather run a hard, fast, gut-wrenching half marathon or 5k that burns my lungs to the core than be out there running a conversational pace for 3 hours (or more).  

I don’t know if, or when, I’ll tackle a second marathon. I thought a half marathon was my one time bucket list item, but maybe it’s a marathon after all. I’m finally starting to feel “okay” that I’m not in love with 26.2. Sometimes I get caught up in what everyone else in this world is doing. So many are drawn to the BQ, or running sub 3 or sub 4, or whatever the goal is. It’s everywhere. But I realized that desire is not mine and that’s okay.

So what are my goals? I’m still going after that sub 1:40 half marathon. I’ve taken a handful of days of this past week because of my knee, but also, work has been super stressful and instead of wanting to run to feel better, I need to lay down with some Candy Crush and Investigation Discovery. I have some work to do because marathon pace has been my jam the past two months and speed has been on the back burner. I’m going to run Carmel as a hard workout, maybe even race it to get an idea of fitness. Then I’m going to run Buffalo Half as my goal. It holds my PR and I’m ready to see what I can do. I may be way off sub 1:40, but I’m excited to see what comes of the next 12 weeks.

Lake Effect Half Marathon (16 mile workout)

For the first time ever, I used a race as a workout and not a “just get to the finish” race or PR attempt. It was challenging to hold back when all I wanted to do was race, especially considering I haven’t truly raced in almost a year. 

This is the first year we’ve (Laura, Heather, and I) have done it all as a girls night and spent the overnight together. It’s nice to have the guys around, but sometimes it’s much better to just do our thing, at our pace, and talk about whateverthefuck we want. Plus, lets face it, one boozy brunch is NOT cutting it for catch up time!

We definitely got hit on after this.
We rotated our food situation a little by hitting up Empire for dinner Saturday and a diner for breakfast on Sunday. Truthfully, I appreciated the low key Sunday because I wasn’t as tired leaving Syracuse as I am after a couple post race stouts and it meant I got food in my belly much quicker than normal. As per usual, I stopped at the store to grab this year’s nail color (anyone else need a fresh coat for the race?) and I’m in love with the color I picked. Sally Hansen’s Miracle gel line is amazing and so is the color Tidal Wave. Anyways, onto the running…

After a great week of weather, Sunday came with typical Lake Effect race weather. It was cold, like below freezing cold, with a dumb wind that gusted somewhere in the 20-25mph range. Perk? Headwind also means tailwind. I seriously struggled with what to wear for the run, opted for a pair of capris and a couple layers under my Chicago Saucony jacket. Thankfully, Laura is already Momming it up hardcore and was completely packed for somebody to forget gloves and hand warmers (or maybe that was accidental, but credit where credit is due!) and my hands were nice and toasty. 

I did about a 3 mile warmup (average 9:22 pace) and the “out” portion made me realize what a disaster the run potentially could be. I was moving, but I felt like I could lean into the wind and it’d hold me up. But, alternatively, on the way back things felt good. I’d like an order of 100% tail wind for every run, if possible. No? Damn. 
My plans for the race were to run comfortable and easy, under 9:30s and then cruise in the final 6 closer to 8:30s or under. I felt that with the atmosphere of a race, this was totally doable. I have felt that I struggled to maintain sub 8:40 pace in training, but largely due to getting in way of myself mentally. I’ve practiced running slow so often and not even speed that my legs have it, but tapping into it is another thing. Proving myself wrong in this workout was going to be welcomed. 

So this course is a double loops of basically 3 miles out and 3 miles back (a little over) and then the end has a small loop to get in the last .75. It’s all along lake Onondaga and I’d be bored as hell if I trained on it. There’s something completely not boring about it when I’m racing though, and it might be just that I’m there with friends. 

The first three miles I tried to keep as easy as possible. I had plenty of bodies to block the wind and ran a comfortable 9:07, 9:06, and 8:55. That 3rd mile, the course turns a little away from the lake and the wind definitely subsided for a good portion. I figured if I could keep my pace between 9:00 and 9:10 for my first loop, that’d be solid. 

Somewhere around mile 5
As soon as we turned around, I tried to hold back still even though I had the tailwind. Then I realized that going into the wind trying to hit 8:30s might be laughable and I picked it up just a smudge. My next 3 miles were 9:03, 8:56, and 8:51. I didn’t want to hit the gas too early but I wanted to get a small push while I had the wind at my back. 

We turned around and headed back out, I still was planning to go for the tempo miles. If it wasn’t going to happen, it wasn’t going to happen, at least I knew the effort would be there. Unfortunately, at this point the pack had thinned out and I was SOL for finding people to draft behind (also, I sucked at that). My first mile was 8:59, but my effort was telling me that if I kept it up, I would finish the race. The entire time, I felt like my body was at an angle with my hips and legs more to the right and my upper body more to the left. I assumed it was all in my head but, well, more on that later. I pushed forward and the last part of this loop was in 9:16, and 8:45 (there’s that nice back end of the course again!)

I was so excited to head back towards the finish. Just a 5k to go and I was going to be cruising in with the wind helping me hit great paces. This run was going to be MUCH better than my first 16 when training for Chicago! Not so fast… I started to pick it up, ready to count bodies I passed. I picked off a couple and thought about how I wouldn’t see them again.  But then my knee had a stabbing pain right under the knee cap. Huh. I’m knock kneed but it’s never given me knee issues. In fact, other than one random run during one of my last marathon training runs for Chicago, I’ve never had knee pain. I let up just a little and it didn’t really go away but it wasn’t as painful. I pushed harder and it got worse. “Oh, so that’s how this is going to go,” I thought. 

DONE.
It was so dumb. I was nailing my easy part and ready to kick some ass on the final miles! After a half mile of realizing my stride had officially altered based on the new pain, I decided to cool down. I did get some tempo effort miles in and whatever, I’d just run it to the end. Truthfully, I wanted to stop and check out my knee to see if it looked swollen or anything alarming but I knew if I stopped, I wasn’t starting again. I ran 2 miles (9:22, 9:33) before Heather saw me during her cool down. It was nice to talk and take my mind off the cranky knee, and then I just pushed it to the finish because, well, breakfast. My final mile was 9:11 with a 7:56 final .2 (oops tangents.) I finished without even breathing hard, eek. 

Overall, I finished my 16 miles around 9:10 average pace (9:04 for the half marathon portion).  That’s much better than the 10:30 I did for the 16 during Chicago, that’s for sure. 

My knee didn’t hurt when I walked around or even after I got home, after 4 hours in the car driving. It wasn’t swollen. It was a super weird thing that happened. I did two runs afterwards and both felt fine, but during my next long run, things felt less than stellar. 

[insert shrug here] 

We’ll see what my body decides to do this week. 

Seven weeks til Carmel Marathon!