A few weeks ago, I stepped off the trail in the dark one morning as a dog came barreling down out of nowhere. I jumped away from the dog into the arroyo I was running next to, landed hard, and felt my hamstring take all my weight. Luckily, the owner was not far away, but I twinged my hamstring and further irritated it by jog-run-walking the 6 miles back to my car. As a result, I took a couple weeks off from running with a sore, irritable hamstring and low back, which was a big blow to my confidence and marathon prep training.
In the weeks since returning to running, I’ve been feeling consistently stronger, fitter, and have been cautiously extending the work my hamstrings can tolerate. I ran my first 20 mile run of this marathon training block this past weekend and – if I may say so – totally rocked it! I was spending the weekend in Los Alamos, NM, at my parents’ house, leaving John to have some ‘man time’ doing construction on the house we just bought and moved into. Power tools = not good playthings for curious toddlers!
I had planned to start my run at 5:15 AM so I would be back practically as the babe was waking up; but after several fits of crying and not wanting to sleep in the different crib, I ended up curling with my unusual bed-buddy and sleeping in a bit, which meant I didn’t actually start my run until around 6:45. When given the opportunity, I love to go on ‘epic’ trail runs (my terminology). Luckily, in Los Alamos, I can easily find a 20+ mile loop to do that will net me serious elevation, alpine view, and I won’t see another soul while on the trail. I set off into the quiet morning, flying through 10 miles before I even checked my watch. I stashed my long sleeve shirt and gulped some water/gel, adjusted my shoelaces, and was on my way for the second half.
The second 10 was more challenging (duh).
My legs were tired from the onslaught of unusual hills, and it was getting hotter; however, I was on well-known trails, enjoying every silent moment, bird call, every crunch of twig and puff of powdery dust my feet kicked up as I ran along the winding trail. I savored the fact that I could run 20miles without touching pavement and enjoyed the time to daydream about my [glorious, of course!] upcoming race(s). In the last few miles, I reveled in realizing that I needed to and was making the physical and mental effort to recognize, salute, and then push past the voice that urged me to slow down, to give way to the deadening, draining fatigue in my legs. I haven’t had to battle with that mental beast much, so while gathering the mental focus was tough, it actually was more like a mental ‘welcome back, we’re glad you’re back intotough training’ message. I finished the run elated, salt-encrusted, dusty, tired, and feeling back in proverbial the training saddle.
While I use one run as an example of a confidence trigger, what I really feel is confidence from the steady build-up of workouts and runs done in the early morning dark or on hellishly windy afternoons, the fact I’ve gotten more (volume & consistency!) sleep, I’ve been regularly paying attention to doing my yoga/supplementary strength & flexibility work, I’m less paranoid of catching one of my daughters day-care sicknesses (she’s sniffle free for the moment!), and we are mostly done with major moving hassles so the constant worry of tweaking my back lifting a box or not being able to find critical running clothes items (I’m looking at you, mysteriously AWOL sports bras) has largely passed.
When training is going well and I am feeling strong, the confidence I feel flows in torrents into other realms of my life: I’m excited to tackle gardening and repairs on our new home; I’m at least 50% sure I’m not totally screwing up as a mom (baby still loves me despite – or perhaps because of – repeated mac-n-cheese dinners); I’m excited to be working on a budding entrepreneurial project with my husband; and I’m confident that I will complete my in the [geologically!] near future.
At 32, I know I won’t be running forever, and while I could look at that fact with a lot of negative pressure or futility, I prefer to look at this as a golden opportunity to blend competitive running while continuing to confidently build the strong and diverse base of the rest of my life without worrying that I “might” be a better runner, mother, wife or student if I excluded one of these activities/commitments. I am confident in that I will be able to give running a great shot over the next few years, and that the “extra” activities I insist on keeping in my life do nothing but add to the richness of that running –and life – experience. For now, I will continue to enjoy the unique, rich flavors of a complex, perpetually changing life!