When I started truly running again after my college hiatus, I didn’t forget anything, or so it seemed. I remembered how short runs made me feel exhausted at the beginning. I remembered the feeling of a hard effort in the summer humidity (which I still love over every other kind of weather that can be thrown my way) and that the scent of fresh cut grass was certainly going to make me retch during those runs. I remembered that after racing, I’d feel out of sorts and never fresh the next day, sometimes two. I especially remembered that soreness went along with the territory and was to be expected. Great! I remembered all that after five years without running or even thinking about running! But I seemingly forgot all that in the past 18 months, despite being totally engrossed in running culture. Cool.
Reflecting on the past six months of base building (literally starting from zero, I didn’t have a cross training base), I forgot how everything was going to feel. Quite often I’d put forth a hard effort, whether it was at CrossFit or running in “conditions” (snow, snow, and more snow) and I’d feel it the next day. It was always somewhere new, too. I’d panic, massage, and whine to Chris to CrossFit. Finally he said, “You’re going to be sore. It’s okay to be sore.”
I forgot! I could go balls to the wall on push-ups, pull-ups, and power cleans, all of which would render my arms pretty useless for the next day and I wouldn’t bat an eye at the soreness I’d feel. Well, I did a lot of upper body yesterday, so that’s to be expected. Cut me loose on the pavement for a twenty minute conversational run? You’d think I was dying the next day if there was even a hint of fatigue. Ohmygoodness, what is that — a muscle, tendon, bone? Did I fracture it? Where is my phone? Hey babe, how would you describe this part of my leg? The front, outer, upper third of my left leg? Middle third? BABE, GOOGLE NEEDS TO KNOW. Call it hypersensitivity, call it psychotic, call it whatever you want — I was acting crazy!
Then, there’s that whole pace issue. I knew I had to start slow because dry heaving would ensue if I pushed myself in the slightest. So I started in September slow-ish with a couple fast finishes here and there (or maybe every run, judging by Running Ahead). Sub 7 effort put up numbers in the low 8’s. Yikes. But I had terrible shin splints (definitely not confused with “typical” soreness) so I clearly did too fast, too soon.
When I started up again in November, I kept it slow. And then snow came. Eff snow. I fought with myself to stay smart but I cringed at the 11 minute miles I was clocking, even though I knew better. [It’s actually somewhat funny because somebody asked me on Twitter after a weekly recap this winter how I dealt with seeing my slower paces and just letting it go, basically accepting that I had to adjust to the conditions. I basically said I had previously trained with a heart rate monitor so I knew the importance of effort versus pace, which isn’t a lie; I did train with the monitor in 2013 and I did see the difference between the two… but I definitely struggled accepting the time difference, still!] Finally I caved in and got the gym membership solely for the treadmill, but sub 10 pace was a struggle! I definitely did not remember any comeback taking this long to get speed back.
And finally (with a lot of other “finally” statements), I forgot everything that came along with racing. You can run on your own for months and think you have it down, but when it comes time to toe the starting line, everything changes.
I started this year’s Lake Effect Half Marathon with a plan to keep it easy, treat it as a very slow, long run, and see what happened. Despite knowing I was nowhere near a personal record (or even in shape to finish this damn thing), my adrenaline was pumping two hours before the start. My butterflies were out. of. control. I forgot all about that.
And I also forgot how crowded the start can be. I was way in the back near the walkers and run-walkers because place and pace didn’t matter to me. Typically I’ll put myself much closer to the start than my anticipated finishing time because in Buffalo, people love to line up at the front, for only God knows what reason, even if they are walking and even if pace banners are up. Sunday this wasn’t even on my radar but I was still fuming at people who decided to just stop in the middle of the race to walk, tie their shoe, pick their nose or wedgie, with no regard to who was behind them!
Right, that’s what racing is like.
But then all the positives started to come around. I forgot what adrenaline can do for you! Ten minute miles on the treadmill makes me huff and puff. I have to find a TV show to get absolutely lost into so I can stop thinking about my pre-conceived fatigue. Outside with 700 other people, this isn’t an issue. I was cruising slightly faster than my ideal pace feeling invincible, dodging around people in front of me like they were bullets. When I decided to DNF and turn the race into a fast finish 7 miler, I dropped my pace to what I conceived to be tempo. Glancing at my watch when I noticed I wasn’t dry heaving to see 8:xx was almost heart stopping after the past six months.
Duh, that’s what adrenaline will do to you.
And then, going back to that soreness a few paragraphs earlier, I again didn’t remember that a hard race effort would most likely make any part of me that I’ve been working to strengthen, sore. I panicked. I jumped right on Twitter with my ice on my hip flexor (though a case could definitely be made that it was my groin) to whine. You guys, I think I strained my hip flexor and ohmyGod, this is going to be such a setback. Hashtag runchat. Hashtag stupid. Hashtag lakeeffecthalfmarathon. Okay, it wasn’t exactly like that, but it was pretty close. Heather brought my head back to earth to tell me I probably didn’t do anything like that, but just worked my stabilizer muscles hard. I went to bed, still convinced my legs were ruined for another eighteen months. When I woke up and discovered they were in fact working, nearly one-thousand times better, and I was able to use them? Well, I clearly forgot what racing can be like.
After being out commission for so long, I’m ready to go after every single goal I’ve ever set (just periodically remind me that I can’t do them all at once.) I’m continually surprising myself, which is a really welcome feeling, too. I always felt like I’d end a “season” (or 16 weeks of training) and I knew what I was capable of; I knew what to expect. I’m running so tentatively these days that my paces, distances, and recovery time is almost always better than what I anticipate. Who doesn’t love thinking they need two days to recover after a run, but feeling stellar the next day?
Writing that made me realize maybe there aren’t a lot of people out there who can relate. At least it seems like almost every blogger out there doesn’t stop. Maybe I’m the only person to wallow, eat, and enjoy life when you can’t run, but it seems some bloggers get an injury and hop right to the elliptical, power walking, swimming laps, cycling, pool running, etc. Hey, if it works for you, keep doing it. That wasn’t ever my M.O., though. But maybe you’re like me and you don’t do that (it’s cool, I promise). Maybe you lost all aerobic endurance, and you basically have to start from Couch to 5k (honestly, I run/walked all summer!). Eventually, there’s a horizon. It’s been so effin’ long, but finally reaching that point feels better than any race I’ve accomplished and any PR I’ve had. There’s a really great chance I’m saying that because I forgot the euphoria that comes with hitting your goal time, but at this moment, I’m standing by my statement. Reaching the point in knowing you can pick a time or distance goal and achieve it because you’re not injured… well, it really feels great.