Running. In place?

feet up

Feet up, post Icebox: I didn’t read a single page of it.

This is another one of those posts that has been brewing for awhile. It started as a review of my last race of the year, then it evolved into a review of my 2015 in running, and now it’s become a sort of philosophical examination of my choice to run. So, very handily, the first two contain the meat of the third…

The race: Icebox 480

A month ago, I ran in my last running event (race) for 2015. It was a longer, kind of tough trail race on a beautiful day and I didn’t get hurt, so: I was mostly satisfied with the day. I had fun, but I also encountered and broke though a couple mental barriers.

Quantified/qualified/overanalyzed/picked to tiny pieces of many colors and shapes, here’s the race analysis:

  1. The Icebox 480 was a trail race, kind of organized a little differently than most others: the~7-mile mountain-bike course was open to runners for 480 minutes. Participants were invited to run as little/as many laps on it as we wanted to or could. I went for the “wanted to”, mostly due to items 8 and 9, below.
  2. It was a beautiful morning outside in River Falls, Wisconsin. In my view, conditions were perfect for running: around 40˚F, clear sky, low wind, aside from the gust that blew my farmer-blow onto my sunglasses, which was good for a laugh.
  3. I did 2 laps, which took me 2 hours and 42 minutes. As I approached the end of lap 1, I was considering calling it a day, due to #8 below. However, as I came though the start/finish line/aid station, I … wanted to keep running. I was having fun and I didn’t want it to end yet.
  4. It was challenging terrain: rolling single track trail – each lap included two steeply banked turns on wooden structures; I opted out of the steeper of the two ramps, though the opt-out option was “technical terrain” as well. Dainty stepping required!
  5. I registered for and went to the race with my friend Al, who planned on running further than I did. He did an impressive 4 laps.
  6. I ran alone –Al’s got a much faster race pace than I do– though among plenty of friendly strangers.
  7. Trail running bryann

    Bryann lights up the trail

    After I changed into dry, warm clothes and got a post-race snack in my belly, I was able to cheer for Al as he came through after his third lap, and for a few other friends, including Bryann and Jim, and a lot of strangers too. Cheering for people early in a many-hours race is in some ways different from cheering for people later in the day (empathy/concern comes into play), but it’s still support and it’s still witnessing something awe-inspiring.

  8. I’d been nursing a more sore proximal right hamstring muscle; my right butt has been bothering me on hilly runs since about midsummer. During the race, the pain sensation and limited power and range of motion bothered me less than my concern/fear that continuing to run for hours on end would result in a more serious injury. On what is my fear here based? More pain? Or the shame I’ll feel for choosing to do something that made the more serious injury happen? The latter, for sure. Unless the serious injury is a concussion that kills me, but … that’s fairly unlikely. And yet it also brings the shame element in. I may not be able to feel shame when I’m dead but would those who love me, who raised me, feel ashamed of this now-dead woman who acted so foolishly?
  9. This event offered up an opportunity to run further than I’ve ever run before, but also an opportunity to act wisely or daringly with this knowledge: ~2 hours was the longest I’d run since June. Its true that trail running is a little more forgiving on the joints: you can add miles more aggressively than when training on pavement, while still avoiding injury. However, trail running is also more challenging, more exhausting, as the hills that are typically involved require a lot more power than flat road running. At best, I’d been doing a trail training run every other week. So… I had a doubt element. On this day, I wanted to have fun and I wasn’t very interested in anything heroic. Am I ever gunning for the heroic? Maybe.
  10. Elbow cut

    Shark attack at Lake Elmo!

    I fell only once! The fall was just after I started lap 2. That fall almost made me cry. Then it made me mad. Then I kept running and it just didn’t matter.Why did it bother me that I fell so much at Big Woods in October? Falling happens. And yet as I started and continued in this event, I wanted more than anything to stay upright; to be very mindful of my foot placement at all times. I suppose the fall I took while trail running early this year, when I got a mild concussion and a few stitches in my arm, may have helped make me so apprehensive about falling. In the past, I didn’t mind a bruise here, or a bloody knee there, so much. At any rate, fewer falls on this sub-3-hour run was encouraging: perhaps my trail skills made a comeback – and maybe I’ll keep those Hoka Challenger ATRs on for the winter?

  11. Back to the fun stuff: the day included engaging with a friendly and wonderful big white dog. I need to spend more time with dogs.
  12. This was the 14th of 14 racing events in this calendar year.
  13. ….and my 9th trail race of the year.
  14. …and my 4th longer-than-10 miles, non-relay race of the year.
  15. …and my 13th non-PR of 2015. I just realized that I did get a PR in 2015: the Trail Mix 25k, back in April. Huzzah!

The year in running: 2015

Icebox wrapped up what at the time felt like a mediocre year of running for me: The volume (see above) and variety of races kept things interesting and may have been beneficial to my training, but it also seemed to indicate a lack of focus, other than a focus on placing some interesting challenges throughout my running calendar.

Upon further reflection, it was a pretty good year. I had a PR, I ran my second marathon, and for the most part I’ve stayed healthy.

So why do I run? What do I get out of it?

Grandma’s Marathon in June may not have been a PR but it was an achievement. Though I’d trained with more specific objectives in mind, I’d wanted to do this race for years! A nice, simple goal: do the race. I came in 4 minutes slower, and I learned from it: “don’t expect improvement just because you tweaked your method.” Enrichment, sure. A faster race? Maybe not. Reason to do another? Not sure.

I’ll need to reorganize my priorities to allow marathon training to work, if I choose to register for another one in the next year or so. I need to decide if a road marathon holds enough appeal to me, to have it be the reason I find a job with a shorter drive commute, to stop rock climbing, to stop teaching yoga, or to not care so much if I don’t have time to cook dinner with my husband very often.

White dog

Still Life with Apple, Trail Pup

But… you never know. Maybe fate will throw something into the mix and simplify the decision. I opted to do my first marathon last year because I had long been curious about the challenge, and was gifted with extra time by the closure of the yoga studio where I was teaching, twice a week.

Now, almost 2 years later, my preference to give serendipity the wheel for this decision seems to indicate a lack of enthusiasm for this race distance and type.

Perhaps looking at the numbers helps: my PR this year was in a middle-distance trail race. And my strongest finishes, with respect to age group, have been in 5k road races.

A possible 2016 plan, then, would be to pick one or two 25k trail races, and to pepper my training for them with 5k road races. Do I continue to worry about shame? Or will I shoot for a heroic performance? My game plan is to get and stay healthy, and work from there.



4 thoughts on “Running. In place?

  1. I think you’re tracking the wrong number this year. If you’d begun the year by saying “I’m going to log more miles, personal training, organized club running, and race events than ever before!” well, then, this was certainly a PR year for that statistic.

    • Indeed – hence my “if variety was my focus, is that actually focused?” bit. You may be right on the mileage thing – I’ve done 2 relays in one year (and didn’t I swear that off, the first time??) but until 2015, I didn’t also train for and do a marathon. And a spring 25k.

      Bah. No wonder I’m on my second head cold, this fall/winter.

  2. Great post Arah. I have loved trail running for years, but have never been able to really take it on. The first time I tried (10 years ago?) I went too far, too fast, too long. The result were two very badly injured achilles. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And they’ve never really recovered. So your comments about injuries above certainly hit home. It’s a delight to read about you enjoying it so much.

    • Thanks, Lucas! I’m sorry to hear about your trail injuries. It must have been a really fun and/or scenic trail! Enthusiasm is so … wasted on the young, sometimes.

Comments are closed.