Hi. So, the fact that you’re reading this obviously means I’m not quitting blogging after all! Your comments on my post were very encouraging, and I gave myself some time to think about it more thoroughly (it’s worth noting that while I meant everything I said in that post, I did write it at the end of a particularly stressful week – not a great time to make decisions!).
I’m sticking around, but I’m going to be cutting back on the posting – like, once every two weeks-ish. I think I will enjoy blogging more – and feel less burdened by it – when I give myself enough time between updates that I actually feel like I have things to update on. So I’ll definitely be popping in this summer to update you on my training and other stuff, but don’t expect weekly recaps this time :-).
Speaking of training…well….here we are! You’d think tomorrow was race morning or something: my alarm is set, my clothes are laid out, my route is planned, I even have a touch of butterflies! Depending on when you read this, I may or may not already be in my post-run shower, on the other side of the 40 minutes that separate “just running” with “IN TRAINING FOR THE CHICAGO MARATHON”.
It’s hard to believe that the last time I wrote a “night before marathon training” post, the year was 2015. As I sit here now, my mind keeps returning to how much time has passed, how much has changed since I trained for last year’s Pittsburgh Marathon.
I know it sounds cliche, but I really feel like I’m a different person than I was from late December 2015 through May 1st, 2016. The biggest thing is that I’ve learned to take my foot off the gas a little bit, to let go of my obsession with success and results, to put running/training in its rightful place in the bigger picture of my life. In other words, I’ve found much greater balance between working hard toward a goal, and chilling the f#*$ out about it.
Amidst all the planning, thinking, getting reacquainted with running, and anticipation, an unexpected transformation has happened: I’ve learned to believe again. I’ve seen many of my friends have great success this spring, and it has inspired me. Could that be me, too? More and more often, I imagine myself out there in training feeling so strong, showing up to a tune-up race feeling unexpectedly great and surging to a new PR, and coasting through the streets of Chicago at a pace that used to seem untouchable in a half marathon. Of course, whenever I find myself floating into dream land, the doubtful part of my brain strides in like an overprotective parent to yank me back: “stop dreaming, girl. You’re out of your league here. You’re just going to get your hopes up and be disappointed.”
I wonder, though, how much I’ve sold myself short in my running career by always being so afraid of disappointment. I do everything I can to create a perfect, ideal training cycle, often to the point of obsession and overkill, because I’ve convinced myself that that is my only shot at having a successful race. But people achieve success after less-than-ideal training cycles (and failure after near-perfect ones) all the time. Despite this training cycle perfectionism, of the 13 half marathons I’ve completed, I’ve finished more of them feeling underwhelmed than feeling elated or even content. So clearly, my avoid-disappointment-at-all-costs strategy isn’t working. Maybe it’s time for a new one.
Let’s look at the here and now: I have a fresh new training plan that emphasizes working smart over working hard. My love of running is the highest it’s been in over 18 months. I feel super excited and positive about this training cycle.
…What better time to believe I can do big things?
I’m 9 minutes away from a Boston Qualifying time. If my current PR were run on a flat course (like Chicago) instead of a super hilly one, I’d probably be even closer. I’m training in a new way with new workouts lined up, so if all goes well I’ll probably see some bigger and quicker fitness gains. I still don’t know if that 3:35 I dreamed about back in January is in my realm of possibility, but for the first time in months, I’m allowing myself to think that maybe, just maybe, it could be, and allowing myself to look at my friends posting triumphant finish line pics and think could that be me, too? Maybe, just maybe, it really could.
I’m not setting any huge race goals for myself at the moment, but I’ll be dreaming of an amazing marathon day all summer long. In the meantime, I’ll just be following my training plan and taking it all one day, one workout, at a time. Wherever I get, is where I get.
A big race. A big city. A big training cycle. Fantasies of a big PR. It’s so easy to get excited about the “big” things. But any journey is really a collection of little things, so I’d like to take a moment to talk about the smaller moments I’m looking forward to this summer.
I’m excited for Saturday morning long runs ending at the farmer’s market. I did this a few times during training for my first marathon 3 summers ago, and for some reason this relatively little thing is one of my favorite memories of that training cycle. The Farmer’s Market is such a delight and has become a staple of our summer Saturday mornings. But there’s something about the stacks of bountiful produce and the wafting scents of kettle corn, egg rolls and hot coffee that is just so much better when it’s a reward for 2-3 sweaty hours out on the trails. It also makes it easier to get up that early on a Saturday morning! Of course I always have Kevin meet me there with a sweatshirt, because sweaty post-run chills.
I’m excited for getting back on the super rad sections of the Oak Leaf Trail. Long runs mean hopping onto the extensive bike trails a mile from my house, taking a turn southward, and just going going going until the turn around point. The sections of the trail that go through nearby parks are nice, but the trail gets prettier and quieter the farther into the suburbs it gets. The only way I ever get to experience these parts is on long runs, since they are 6-10 miles away from home. Grant Park, you’re on notice: these tired legs and energy gel breath are coming back soon!
I’m excited to rediscover the joy of running with the sun rising over Lake Michigan. Because I’m motivated and it feels necessary, marathon training is the only time I can pull off early morning running. I’ve failed miserably at it during off seasons, but during my last marathon training cycle I actually did 100% morning running for the first 10 weeks – and that was in the cold dark of winter! I’m really looking forward to getting into a routine of morning running again, painful 5 AM alarms notwithstanding. I LOVE that I will be able to train and have my evenings free, and the great thing about AM summer running is that it will be LIGHT out on my runs!
I’m excited to run the New Bo Half Marathon in my hometown.It’s become a new tradition for Kevin and I to visit my family in Iowa over Labor Day weekend, during which time my mom and I run the annual New Bo race. I’ve run the 10K the past two years, this will be my first year running the half, and I’m excited as I know it goes through some pretty trails. But I love the way it meshes into a whole weekend of hometown goodness – the brunch afterward, the New Bo market and arts festival, seeing old friends, family goodness, the promise of autumn in the air even on what is usually a gross humid weekend.
And I know it’s illogical to have this goal since I have no idea whether I’ll even be in marathon PR shape, BUT…I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping I can snag a small PR here, too! The training I’m doing this summer seems like it will really help my half marathon speed, so I’d love if I can capitalize on the fitness gains and new workouts I’ll be doing. And I’d really love to continue my thus-unbroken streak of running a small half PR during marathon training!
Well…I guess all that’s left to do is start training!
Thank you to those of you who encouraged me to keep blogging and stuck with me this winter/spring. I look forward to sharing this summer adventure with you, even if my posts will be a little less frequent. Onward!