a seasonally affected race day and other tales of winter blues

Over in Western Washington, we lovingly referred to the weather last week as Snowmageddon 2019. Indeed, after false hope that the extreme meteorological predictions were exaggerated, the snow started falling the weekend before last and proceeded to shut down the city for a good 48 hours, followed by days of terrible road conditions and over a foot of snow that was in no mood to melt (as I type this, some still remains on the ground). The half marathon I had been training for was scheduled for Sunday morning, and I was hopeful that after a week of frigid wintery weather, the thaw would have ample time to prepare the course for runners. The emails from the race director were cautiously optimistic—everyone seemed prepared to move forward with the event, even if there might be a few challenges along the route. The hopes I had for a successful race day were significantly hampered when I went out for a relaxed tempo run the morning before the half marathon. Even with Yaktrax on, I only made it three blocks before turning back home. The compacted snow was stubbornly transformed into large sheets of ice, punctuated by slippery bumps and grooves poised to twist ankles and trip feet. By Saturday afternoon, the email cancelling the race seemed almost inevitable. Disappointing outcome, but one that could not be avoided given the circumstances with weather and road conditions.

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This has been a bleak month in some ways. Beyond the fact that we are in the running for the coldest February on record in this region, my universe seems to be giving me difficult situations to digest. The baby was sick for much of the first half of the month, and the long hours of illness (with the accompanying sleepless nights, tired arms, aching back from carrying, cabin fever) blended into more than a week of school closures. My daughter struggled with a lack of routine. My best friend and original running buddy accepted an amazing job across the country and will move in a few weeks. While I am really excited for her, this is a big change and one that bring some sadness, as we adjust to a long distance relationship. Two coworkers with who I really enjoy working (one of whom is a mentor of mine) are retiring this summer. I find myself a bit untethered imagining the possibility of tackling the next academic year at work without them. My partner is about to take the comprehensive exams for his Ph.D. program, and the process of preparing creates a distinct stress that creeps its tentacles into every cranny of family life (I say this from a place of deep empathy, as I remember preparing for and taking my comps two and a half years ago, and it is incredibly taxing).

I was feeling overwhelmed by all of this yesterday morning. I felt that uncomfortable heaviness, when you desire more than anything the catharsis of tears, and yet the control mechanisms on my emotional filter were clamped down so tightly, I could not begin to cry. Without any other appealing option, I laced up my shoes and pushed myself out the door. And I ran those miles I could not earlier in the week; I once again returned to the comfort of breath and locomotion. Slowly, the swirling thoughts softened and lost their sting. The angst lessened and the weight lifted off my heart.

I came away from that run and some further reflection afterward with a new understanding. I am noticing opportunities in my life for development. Variables are shifting, and while there are new challenges, I am strong, smart, and good-humored enough to both persist and shape these opportunities into excitement and renewal. I was trained and prepared to run 13 miles two days ago. What a gift! Another race will present itself in the near future. My family will continue to strengthen by channeling empathy and curiosity as we meet the busy weeks ahead. My friendship enjoyed the rare benefit of nearly a decade of spontaneous in-person togetherness, but from that foundation, a promise of a new and adventurous chapter (including lots of travel) lies ahead, along with the organic departure from the immediacy of parenting a baby (as he and his sister both grow older). I see the work at hand as a charge to wade into the next several months equipped with my most successful tools. Yesterday reminded me that even during the bleakest darkest days, running remains one of those tools… and I was so very thankful for it when I returned home yesterday, hugged my children and partner, and reset my thinking about the future ahead.

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