The themes of my training for the past few weeks have been hill repeats and tempo/steady state miles. Overall, I’ve been feeling good and have been trying to take things one workout at a time. If I’m given a goal range for my workouts I’ve been trying to keep things on the low end. I figure I have plenty of recovery miles to relax, so as long as I’m feeling good I try to stay focused and push my pace a little, but I’ve also applied that same focus to making those easy miles easy. I’ve also found myself naturally pushing at the end of tempo blocks, making my last mile my fastest. I haven’t forgotten how bad those final 3 miles of November’s half marathon felt, so I’m trying to prepare myself for that final uncomfortable surge. Sometimes it’s more of a game; I start to imagine coming down that final stretch and being close enough to out kick someone. So far I’ve out run every stop sign.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m really okay with hearts, candy, and waxing poetic about things I love. Maybe it’s the weather, or a raw emotional feeling lately, but my desire to pay homage feels especially heightened today. I can feel those sorta crunchy cinnamon hearts stuck in my teeth, and the smooth, powdery goodness of an invitation to be
mine yours. Let’s all load ourselves up on sugar and cry awkwardly at videos of puppies riding ponies. I’m not sure what screams “love” quite like a puppy riding a pony. Right?
This winter has been more severe than the past couple of years. We’ve had very cold temps and regular wintry precipitation for the past month and a half, and while I can objectively look at the calendar and try to rationalize that it really hasn’t been that long, it feels like a small eternity. It didn’t start out feeling that way; a month ago I prided myself on bundling up and running in the single digits like it was no big deal, and a month ago it wasn’t. But, now? It’s starting to slowly chip away at my resolve. The non-running, book-loving part of me is happy to have had a real winter, and I’ve enjoyed plenty of lazy afternoons on the couch with my books gazing out at the winter wonderland. Also, if I’m being totally honest, I’m relieved to have a “real” winter in the midst of a growing alarm for the climate. The runner in me, however, is ready for some sunshine and t-shirts. I keep telling myself I’ll be stronger for all this time I’ve spent training in the cold, and I’ve sworn up and down that I will under no circumstances complain about hot weather. I’m not sure that the two extremes compare for me, though. I like warmth, I like summer, and while there are certainly dangers to be aware of in the heat, I feel comfortable in it. I’ll circle back in July to confirm this heat love.
I was just sitting here glancing at my training calendar for the upcoming week, and spied a speed workout for tomorrow that got me legitimately excited, like go home and layout my gear excited, and make a new, special playlist excited. Weather permitting, I should be in for a fun workout, but the excitement itself is more noteworthy than whatever happens when my feet hit the (cold) pavement. So much of training is mental, a constant bargain with yourself to get up and keep plugging, the required faith to believe what you’re doing now will payoff in a few months. But as I’ve become more and more committed to working towards my goals, the most important mental shift I’ve made is to take myself seriously as an athlete.
As far as cold mornings go, this morning was nothing to write home about, but still the onslaught of arctic temps and winter weather during the past month have started to make the dark mornings feel especially dark and especially cold, even if they are no longer elemental extremes. The cumulative effect of cold cheeks and numb fingers has intensified my longing for spring, though anything above 30 degrees feels surprisingly encouraging. 40 makes me feel borderline giddy, or really anything that allows my gloves and hat to say at home. Someone mentioned earlier this week that we are officially halfway through winter, so here’s hoping that we’re embarking on downhill sprint to warmth and light.
Blogging has been a precariously stop and start project for me here, as I’m sure you could deduce from the number of, and time in between, my posts. I’m afraid that every time I sit down to write I end up writing about writing itself, and not about life or my physical adventures. There’s been a lot of buzz lately about running and storytelling, or running as a way to tell your story, and this idea keeps getting stuck in my craw. I suppose this is why I return to this space time and time again. I get easily lost in social media; trying to connect with so many people I don’t know is challenging for me as a naturally private and introverted person, but there’s also the draw to attempt to be part of a community. Though, like my in-person interactions I tend to hone in on those few familiar faces.
It’s been over a week since I ran the CNO Indy Monumental Half Marathon, which means this recap is about 8 days past due. Spoiler alert: a new PR. Hello! It wasn’t a perfect race, and I definitely made some mistakes in the first half, though I’ve tried not to dwell on that too much. Don’t get me wrong, this was a great step forward, and I’m proud to have run a PR. It’s also left me hungrier to go at it again in the spring, and I’m grateful for that. But, it wasn’t my mostly evenly paced race and maybe that has altered my perception of this PR just a little, though mostly in the form of wishful thinking. “If I had run smarter, maybe the PR would have been bigger.” (The universal chorus for all PR’s, right?)
This week is the somewhat predictable mix of nerves and doubt (plus excitement), a.k.a. the pre-race racing of the mind. I’m sure if you were able to record my internal dialogue it would be some manic jumble that would leave you awkwardly shaking your head and backing away slowly. At least there are some more reasonable thoughts in there too like “Did I do/think this last time?” So this is a record of my pre-race insanity to look back on next time and be like “Oh, yeah. You went off the deep end then too and you still had a fine race.” Future Sarah, here’s a glimpse into your brain 4 days before your target half marathon.
I suppose it’s inevitable that when you get to the end of a training cycle, project, etc. you stop to reflect on the leg of the journey you’ve just completed, and while I’ve done my fair share of reflecting on the specifics of workouts and paces, mostly I find myself pondering what it means to me to be on this particular journey. I am both a physical and, for lack of a better word, sensitive, person by nature, and I’ve found much credence in the idea that if you want to find your true passion you just need to imagine yourself at 10 years old. Our 10 year old selves had no imposed filter for joy, and for me play was 100% physical. My best friend and I were known to the school nurse as the Blister Sisters because we were always coming to her after intense bouts of monkey ring challenges for bandages. After school I biked, I ran around the woods behind my parents’ house. We stayed outside until our noses (and gloves) were crusted, until it started to get dark and we were forced in for dinner. Summers were swimming, barefoot games in the grass, more swimming. The sensitive kid in me had an intuitive handle on herself, which paid/pays off in being able listen to my mind and body.
This morning when I checked the temp to suit up for my run, I was greeted with the harsh reality of a 35 degree low. Yes, it’s late October, but this cold snap came on very suddenly. Sunday afternoon I was sitting on my porch in a very comfortable 70-something degrees. But even if it had been a more gradual descent into colder weather, and this morning hadn’t felt quite so jarring, I’d still prefer the warmer temps.