When it comes to running I like to float around this lazy river of denial, pretending I have the burning desire to become a type of runner I have never been…a dedicated run-nerd who loves speed work and is motivated by the numbers Strava spits out at me. Eventually I come to my senses, but not until I completely freak out, forget how to run and doubt my ability to walk. The fact I still think I could one day become that type of runner is sad, but at least I’m well versed in the feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness these ambitions breed so I can give up on my crazy wannabe runner notions and fall back in love with my lazy crazy before it’s too late!
When I started chatting with Lynne about the Pittsburgh Marathon I had some pretty grandeur plans for my training and overall performance at the race. I even toyed with acronyms like PR and BQ a few times. This was going to be my race, my weekend. I was going to visit Lynne in her new home, I had a few friends recruited to join in on the crazy and I was going to love every painful step of running fast on pavement. Yup, I had big plans. I even had a tester half marathon planned out. #GameOnPGH
Training was supposed to start in mid-December so I could work my way into regular speed work without breaking myself. Yea, that didn’t work out. Rather than jumping into training I spent the last few weeks paralyzed with the overwhelming pressure to train aggressively, love speed work and track every single step I ran. Literally paralyzed…I didn’t run for at least two weeks. I used excuses like “too much snow” and “way too far below zero” and “another 16 hour work day” but deep down inside I knew I wasn’t running because I was afraid of the numbers my run would [or would not] produce. I couldn’t even convince myself to do strength training…because of another eight excuses I came up with. I’m an experienced excuse maker, trust me.
This past weekend I finally gave up on excuses and headed outside with a pair of running shoes on. In reality, I really can’t take much credit for finding my “suck it up” attitude. It’s really all Max’s fault — after a few days of really short hikes the poor dog was going stir crazy. I figured he was ready for a run and he proved me right by bouncing all over the house the moment I dug my running shoes out from under a pile of snowshoes.
On Saturday it was only 14 degrees but the skies were clear and the sun was shining brightly, so off we went. We headed up the sidewalk along our regular 3 mile route. Max was in his element, sniffing all the yellow snow and tugging on his leash. I was doing the exact opposite, trudging up the snowy sidewalk and sucking air. At the first bend in the road I promised myself a walk break […now, that’s where I find motivation!] and while I was grumbling about my overzealous goals I noticed a snowy trail that veered off the sidewalk and swooped through an open field of snow. Hmmm…that looked like a good excuse for more walking, in the name of exploring of course!
Off we went, Max pulling me along as he bound from one side of the narrow trail to the other…and since this little adventure was all about burning off some of Max’s energy I gave in and started running. About 10 steps later I had found my giddy bounce returning and felt an zomg-I-love-life grin creep across my face. I spent the next hour following a maze of hard packed, runnable trail through aspen groves and across sparkling white fields of snow. By the time one of the trails dumped me out onto the sidewalk I had stopped looking for walk breaks and excuses…I was too busy loving every step, even the ones that had me crawling uphill. Okay, so I walked some of the snowy climbs…trails didn’t suddenly rejuvenate all the endurance I let fade away! My point is, I was loving running again, even as I was sucking in the thin mountain air.
On the final climb up to the house I realized I did not give two donkey balls about the numbers I would see at the end of the Pittsburgh Marathon. Yes, I want to do good…and I think a PR/BQ are completely attainable. However, I also really want to enjoy running while I’m training. I want to be able to go out and frolic around in the snow, exploring new trails just because I can. I want to have the freedom to give up a training run in the name of snowshoeing or backpacking. I want to spend hours on trails that make me happy to be alive. I want to run, simply because I can.
Yes…I want a LOT of things. Unfortunately, those things that make my insides smile and my heart get all warm + fuzzy are not exactly inline with hardcore road race goals. I could ditch the fuzzy smiles in the name of Strava PRs and the golden ticket to a race I never actually want to run…but I’d much rather enjoy my training and running.
So, that’s my new plan. I am going to train for the PGH marathon but I’m going to do it my way. I’m running on trails. I’m running with dog stops along the way. I’m running to the coffee shop for a day of remote work. And I’m hiking up hard hills, walking when my lungs/legs need a break and changing up my daily miles depending upon my mood at the moment. My only “rule” is that I am a bit more diligent with my long runs than I was with them [ahem, there were none] leading up to the Steamboat Marathon.
That’s the game plan I came up with on Saturday and the “training plan” I employed on Sunday when Max and I went out to explore more of the trails. We started out on the same trail and ended up a mile above home rather than a mile below home. Along the way we came to at least ten crisscrossing trails…there are SO many options for future adventures! I may have only covered 6 or so miles this weekend but every stabilizer muscle in my body is feeling it. Turns out even extremely hard packed snow requires some serious balance — which is good, because that’s exactly what my body will need for future trail races. #hinthint