Each year brings a new racing season and with that comes growth.
I’ve had “good” seasons and “bad” when you look at racing in terms of time and placement. Though outside of that quantitative data I always come out with new knowledge, a greater love of running, and a better understanding of my strengths. I ran my last race of 2019 this past weekend. It has been a “good” season on paper. Even more importantly, it’s been an amazing season emotionally and mentally.
We had our second sweet boy Walter November 24, 2018. I was able to start training again essentially right at the start of 2019. I was able to run and lift throughout my pregnancy. So even though yes, I had to get back to training, I was by no means starting from scratch. I was very fortunate to be able to maintain some level of base fitness throughout. The pregnancy, labor, and postpartum struggles that I had with Walter were completely different than with Jules. I struggled much more emotionally. I know that I want to write more on that, but haven’t quite found the ability to fully process through it yet. Hopefully soon. What I can say is that I am incredibly fortunate to have the support system that I do around me. People who love and care about me enough to let me know that I wasn’t acting like myself and needed to get some help throughout those transitions. I was running in a way that was borderline manic when I was first cleared to. I was still listening to my body enough to not hurt myself, but knew I couldn’t run as long or fast, so I was doing things like running three times a day instead. I got called out on that pretty quickly and backed off. I also got a lot of help and encouragement to go see my Dr to get back on a medication that had been a better fit for me before the pregnancy.
This past year I ran a lot of timed races. I ran my first one in February 2018 right before I got pregnant with Walter and love the format. It allowed me a lot of grace starting out racing again. I started with Lion’s Roar 24hr in Colombia, MO in the spring. I was still really struggling at that point with postpartum issues mentally and physically. It wasn’t until Schuetzen NEIN! 9hr race in June that I started to feel a bit better running. Finishing Heartland 100 was like a deep breathe where I felt like myself again.
Starting the year with timed races was so helpful. In a timed race I can take time to problem solve when I need to. I always come out with more information about what works for me. It’s become a good place to test limits too, because if I blow up it doesn’t matter in the same way it would if there were a distance requirement. I gained a lot of confidence in my abilities and have become a stronger runner with the timed races I’ve done. I’ve also gotten more comfortable with longer training runs. The confidence from that has been really helpful. I ran a forty mile training run this year, the longest I’ve run outside of a race and I loved it. I love the idea that I can just step out and run because I want to, and I don’t need the same kind of outside support.
I’m always seeking out growth opportunities and ways to find new limits for myself as a runner. Timed races allowed me to take the standard ideas of failure off the table. It allowed for a huge decrease in anxiety when I’d race and therefore gave space for so much growth. There’s no distance requirements and you don’t know how far anyone else is going or what their strategies are. You can’t worry about the rest of the field in the same way, you can’t DNF (did not finish), you just run. I always come out with more information about what works for me. I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my abilities and have become a stronger runner because of this format. I’ve also gotten more comfortable with longer training runs. The confidence from that has been really helpful. I ran a forty mile training run this year, the longest I’ve run outside of a race and I loved it. I love the idea that I can just step out and run because I want to, and I don’t need the same kind of outside support.
For my last race of the year I did the opposite. December 7th I started my first Last Runner Standing race at 4 Fore 30. You run a 4.1667 mile loop every hour on the hour. When timed races take the DNF away, a Last Runner makes a DNF almost inevitable. The race goes on until there is only one person left as people either don’t start a next lap, or don’t make it back in time from one. There are no placements. No podiums or age group awards. You win or you DNF. I love it. In a timed format you have all the time in the world to problem solve. You can take 2 minutes or two hours to sit and fix things in a 24 hour race. In a last runner standing (frequently called last man standing- don’t get me started) you only have as much time as the clock between laps allows, maybe 10 minutes, maybe 10 seconds, You can’t look big picture. There’s no point in considering how many laps until that 50 mile point, because if you make a mistake on this one you’re out.
It’s a lot of unknowns to head into a race with. You don’t know how long you’ll be running for. You could be out there for a few hours or a couple of days. Allowing myself the space to only focus on the current loop took a little time to sink into. It was great mental practice for me. I was sad when I finished my last lap too late, knowing I was done. I also know I really tried to get back on time and that’s just what I had that day. With more time I could have gotten running again. Had that been a 100 miler I have no doubt that I would have finished it, but there’s no space for that there. It’s a totally different challenge. You’re on the clock’s schedule not your own. This year my limit was 20 laps (I timed out in 21). I’m already signed up for next year to see if I can prolong that. Ending this season with my favorite DNF I’m heading into next year looking for new growth. I want to add in some challenges that will push me in different directions. I want to seek out some new limits. No matter how a season or year goes with regards to race results I hope to come out of it having learned something about myself. I was able to dig out of some emotional holes that I wasn’t sure I could and grow more because of it. For that, it’s been a good year.