Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Long Run & Long Road

I haven't written about running as much lately - partly because this was originally intended to be a yoga blog, so I do try to write about that occasionally, but mostly because these last few weeks of training have been more stressful.

When I agreed to run the Brooklyn Half this year with my wonderful Laura, I did so with nerves and reservations.  It's one of my all-time favorite races, and when I first ran it in 2013 I felt amazing and unstoppable.  It's the race that convinced me I was capable of running a marathon.  But looking at the calendar and looking at my expected recovery time, it seemed like there was enough time to responsibly train without overdoing it.

As I started to kick my mileage up a little bit in mid-March, however, I had fewer pain-free runs and more consistent encounters with aches and pains.  Not enough to indicate re-injury, but just enough to bump up my anxiety ever-higher.  It was tricky to differentiate the normal and expected running pain versus things I should be truly worried about.  I've been hyper-aware, which is a good thing, but it led to being hyper-worried, which is not.  May 20th suddenly went from seeming very far away to much, much too close.

I started to realize in the last week or so that I wasn't enjoying my running - which is the whole damn point.  I love running.  It's one of my all time favorite things in the world to do.  I've been so consumed with the worry and paranoia that I might not be able to do it that I've been keeping myself from fully enjoying the fact that I am doing it.  I'm under the care of an excellent physical therapist every week who helps me get stronger and deal with my issues.  I'm building more cardio.  And a lot of my aches and pains, I've come to realize, are a result of the fact that I'm finally running with much better form than I used to - which in itself is a road to injury-free running.

Awareness and worry don't have to go hand in hand.  Moreover, they shouldn't go hand-in-hand.  It tints everything, just as it did last summer when I was on the opposite end of the spectrum - stubbornly ignoring pain that should have sparked some worry and attention.

The trick, I think, is to find that happy medium.  Last summer I wanted so badly to be fine and healthy that I was able to convince myself that the pain I was feeling - almost all day every day - couldn't possibly lead to anything serious.  I felt that I had a complete handle on it, and instead of resting until the pain was gone, I would take a week off because that was all I was willing to give up.  This past month, I've been worrying myself out of enjoyment and failing to notice how much better I feel now than I even did last summer when I was technically in better shape.

I seem to have to learn this lesson again and again - attitude is everything.  After a particularly helpful PT session yesterday, I decided to go into this morning's run - the peak of my training and the last long run before the race and also on a windy, rainy day - with awareness without the side of worry.  Paying attention to my body and when it needed a break or a stretch or to walk but enjoying myself every step of the way.  The difference it made was unbelievable, and instead of worrying and doubting this ten miles, I enjoyed it and was able to end it with exhilaration, pride, and trust that I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy while still pursuing my goals.

And seriously, it doesn't hurt that I have a killer new running playlist.  Something else I realized today is that I've been deliberately avoiding running with music because I haven't wanted to get carried away and go faster than I ought to.  While I think this was totally responsible and the right thing for the first few weeks back, I'm at the point now where I'm able to push my pace.  The first half of today's run was accompanied by a podcast (the excellent Pod Save America) and I decided for the second half to finally treat myself to some music - the first time since last summer I've run with any music at all.

I completely forgot how good it feels to run with music.  Running without any earbuds at all is its own kind of magic, don't get me wrong - but Nina and Janis were just what the doctor ordered to help me get my joy back.


Check it out here - start with Sinnerman, shuffle the rest, and enjoy every moment.

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