12-29

When the push becomes greater than the effort itself

Chest heaving as the rib nags on with its insipid pain

The smell of iron in the sinuses

The crest of the hill is finally met

A twisted birch rots below the evergreens

And above the canopy of needles and twigs

A crow proclaims his story to the wind

It is here that the blood pumps to the eyes,

Creating a pulsating vision

Lulling the tingly skin to a floataway dance

As the heart begins to rest

 

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2015 Recap

2015 shaped up to be a great year for running. Six months ago, as I was battling the zombie death cold that ended up being a raging Mono infection, I thought I would have to hang up my shoes for quite a while. Luckily, my recovery was speedy, and I was able to enjoy a transformative fall season of running and training. On Thursday, New Year’s Eve, I will run my last race of the year, a trail half marathon. I have no time goals for this race (other than to make sure my butt is in a movie seat in time for a matinee showing of the new Star Wars movie). My goal is to simply enjoy the surroundings—icy streams, numerous evergreens, dustings of snow here and there. This race will bring my 2015 total to three half marathons, about a dozen other races, hard-earned PRs in my 5K and 10K distances, and two months (November and this month) of running more than 100 miles a month. I feel strong, committed, and ready to embrace a year of new running challenges in 2016.

Like many other runners, I am sure, I find myself dusting off the calendar (and debit card), registering for the next many events of the new year, and making my long-term plans. For 2016, I would like to:

-Average 1,000 miles for the year, ideally keeping up my streak and running about 100 miles each month (I am giving myself some leeway, because I know life happens and I can’t always run every day)

-Run a half in 2:10 or less. After achieving a 25:12 5K time and a 56 minute 10K time over the last few months, I feel like my time goal of 2:10 is within the realm of possibility. The goal here will be endurance paired with speed.

-Run a marathon. My marathon training was cut short last summer, but I have set my sights on an early fall marathon, which I hope to begin writing about once I register.

-Keep exploring new routes and trails in my own backyard. This year I learned about so many fun running routes—I think the best runs are the exploratory adventures when you get to play geographer and athlete at the same time. I hope to keep finding more pockets of nature with which to become familiar and traverse many times over.

-Stretch and plank. I do not do either of these things sufficiently, but they will keep me from injury and strengthen my core. I am going to set myself up an outdoor “plank” station on the back patio so that I drop down and do it at the end of my runs before coming inside.

I hope to report back soon on how my last race of the year treats me.

Winter running can be a dark and chilly time, but I keep reflecting on how this is the season when we grow our intricate and complex root systems before we can bloom come spring. Happy trails!

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rewards of streaking

For the last month and some odd days, I’ve been streaking, sans nudity. On the first of November, I decided to commit to three miles a day for the entire month. By the time November 30th rolled around, my monthly total was at 106, and I was in no mood to stop. I am at 19 miles for December, currently, with plans to add a few more miles tonight.

Streaking a low number of miles each day (minimum of three, usually maxing out at four or five) has been a tremendous experiment in strength-building. For much of my running career, I have focused on a formula which boils down to 2-3 shorter runs a week and a long run on the weekend. The streak dismantled that. Here is what happened when I changed:

I got faster. I don’t run my daily miles at a particularly fast pace. In fact, I spend quite a few evenings a week running with my regular running buddy, which is usually at a more relaxed pace (because we both like to talk). However, I think the strong base gained through daily running has somehow turned up my endurance to maintain a much faster speed on race days. In November, I set a new PR for my 10K distance. Last weekend, I set a new PR for my 5K distance (25:12). If you told me a few months ago that I would be running a 25 minute 5K, I would have shut the front door in your face! But, here I am… still in disbelief.

I got fitter. I have never held weight-loss as an outcome for running. But I did realize that I lost a few pounds as a result of running more regularly, and that my body feels really healthy right now. I have also managed to avoid colds and other illness this fall, for which I credit running.

I maintained multipotentiality and did not crash and burn. Running through November kept me incredibly balanced, psychologically, as I completed a fifth semester of doctoral coursework, endured a very stressful season at work, rehearsed and performed with a new vocal ensemble, parented a four-year-old, and pursued other community and volunteer projects. The routine of physical exercise helped me to unwind each day and sleep well at night.

What will December look like? I hope to continue running 3 miles a day as much as I can, although I am not as steadfast about it this month simply because of holiday and family commitments (although, as my running buddy and I discussed, these can often be the best motivators for a little solitary running time!). I hope to use my vacation time from work to pursue a few more longer runs, especially trail runs, as I only got a few long trail runs in during the month of November. I am still tentative at this point in time, but I am eyeing a “last chance” trail half marathon on New Year’s Eve in order to finish out the year.