I’m Thankful [for quiet winter running]!

The sound of my footfalls and the fog of my breath are all that disturb the morning silence. Dark, still, and cold: they might be descriptions of my recent running experiences, but they also describe recent activity on this blog! Things have been quiet in this corner of the internet – not for lack of activity, but rather, too much activity! In my last post, I spoke of the need to calm down my overly-hectic schedule, and spend some time focusing on myself, my family, and my (running & non-running) work.

Getting my nerd on at GSA.
Getting my nerd on at the Geological Society of America meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

My fall training and racing has been sub-par, even disappointing. Running and the rest of my life activities are deeply interwoven: when one aspect is out-of-whack, the effect seems to cascade. I struggled to balance a return into full-time academia including presenting at [inter]national and local conferences in combination with teaching my first really big introductory environmental science lecture (212 students!), and make progress on my dissertation research and publications with an ambitious fall training and racing schedule.

Surprise: it’s not as easy as it sounds!

I was extremely excited to race the Tufts 10 km – a wonderfully organized, women-centered 10 km in Boston that draws top talent from across the country to race for a great cause. Unfortunately, while the race was – as usual – spectacular, my race was not: I strained or irritated a muscle in my upper abdomen about 2 miles into the race, and due to sharp pains impeding my breathing and movement, was forced to drop out. While I was bitterly disappointed in my first DNF in years (a decade?), and am still not sure exactly what went wrong, the takeaway was that I decided my body was telling me something important: chill out, woman.

So I paid attention. I took 2 weeks off from running, focusing on getting extra sleep, rehabbing my abdominals, proper nutrition, tweaking my plans and goals for winter training and racing. I focused on my dissertation work and on teaching, and savored the ever-darkening mornings from the warm comfort of my bed, waking to the sound of my toddler calling “Mama! I’m ready to get up!” rather than my alarm clock beeping me up and into a dark morning run.

Over the past 6 weeks, I have been slowly building up mileage and intensity again in a comfortable, organic fashion. My workouts are cyclic and include long runs, tempos, fartlek-style speed work, and cross training, but are guided largely by perceived effort, with only general mileage or pace targets. Cooler days mean I can occasionally run at lunchtime (!), allowing me to continue to get more rest.

Sandia Crest Trail.
Sandia Crest Trail.

Without imminent road races, I’ve taken my running to the trails, which here in New Mexico are largely still – thankfully – clear from snow and ice. A long run in the mountains might not net me as much mileage or as even a pace as I would run on the roads, but a two hour run including several thousand feet of elevation change over ten miles during which I see only a handful of other people is the ultimate in physical and mental refreshment for me.

Fresh & frosty
Fresh & frosty

I ran my first local road race in a few months, the Albuquerque Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, and won outright – wow! Community runs remind me of how wonderful it is to see people of all ages and abilities out celebrating their active lives with friends and family, and of how thankful I am of my own physical fitness and abilities. My husband ran his Turkey Trot pushing our daughter in our baby jogger, and I am so thankful of my family’s commitment to a healthful lifestyle, and so glad that we enjoy being active together.

Turkey trotting. Or, pre-turkey napping.
Turkey trot cool down. Or, pre-turkey napping.

I’m now looking forward to weeks of steady, (perhaps unimpressive, but) significant base training. I am working to build and diversify my core and basic strength,  allowing myself the freedom to explore and expand my fitness as I [very slowly] return to rock climbing. I am looking forward to late winter and spring racing, and of course, have my longer-term focus on February’s (2016) US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials, but for now, you will find me enjoying the winter training phase by putting in my mileage in the dark winter mornings or sneaking in a lunchtime run on recovery days.

Here’s to a December filled with joyful running!

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