Running up, over and through the cogs

Archive for December, 2012

Dreams Realized, Lessons Learned, Bars Raised

Goodbye, dear 2012, and thanks for the memories.  From a running standpoint, 2012 will go down as the year I upped my game beyond what I ever thought was possible.  And I have the jawbreaking ear-to-ear smile to prove it.

I raced two major marathons and PR’d them both (Houston in January and Chicago in October).  The Chicago race served as my very first Boston Qualifier — a feat that leaves me eternally proud and acutely focused.

In May, I finished my very first 50 mile race at the Ice Age 50 and followed that up in August by logging 50.85 miles during the Howl at the Moon 8 Hour Run.  In the latter race, I also tasted another top ten finish (8th Overall), to go along with those achieved at Clinton Lake (8th Overall) and the Earth Day 50K (1st in Age Division, 4th Overall).

I also ran a few short races, completing my third Chinatown 5K (the race that started it all), while also logging a then PR in the half marathon at Batavia and a respectable time in my first short-distance trail event.

Plus, I got to spend a lot of time with my dear friends from the New Leaf Ultra Runs club, including two unforgettable 100 mile Supergirl pacing experiences (Mohican 100 and Hallucination 100), an inspiring Run Across Illinois and the most liberating impromptu adventure run I have yet to have.

No doubt, 2012 was something to remember.

It was also something to learn from, as the continuous pushing of my body without adequate rest eventually led to an IT band injury and a sincere reevaluation of my training techniques.  But I am happy to report that after 6 weeks off and a highly focused physical therapy regimen, I have begun to run again pain-free and feel confident that I will be able to put forth 100% effort in training for my next major event, the Boston Marathon.

Indeed, a sub-3 hour attempt at Houston in two weeks will not be possible.  However, I was able to transfer my registration down to the half marathon, which I will use as a barometer for my current fitness, the base from which I will begin Boston training in earnest.

And while I do have a couple of 50Ks and perhaps one 50 miler on the schedule for 2013, my main focus will be on the marathon distance and breaking that 3 hour mark.  I am obsessed (in the very best way possible) with seeing my name followed by a 2-something marathon time.  I will do it, by golly.

I will run 26.2 miles in less than 3 hours.

And when I do, I’m having a big party.  You’re all invited.

Peace, love and all the running happiness in the world!

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Running into Yoga

Yoga-SilhouetteIt seems so silly now to think how defiant I once was against even trying something like yoga to supplement my running habit.  To think how I secretly questioned Scott Jurek, my running idol, and his unabashed dedication to the practice seems so immature.  My prior disbelief that I could actually benefit from yoga seems, now, to go against all practical sense.

And such disbelief only existed because I thought… *GASP*… that I would look foolish.

WRONG.

Floundering in the land of what-ifs is foolish.

And so it wasn’t until I found myself injured, unable to do what I love to do, that I finally listened to all those who had advised me.  In my circle, there was no shortage of yoga proponents.  Every single one of those individuals touting the practice was sincere in his or her belief that it would help me.  How could I ignore such considerations any longer?

I found a local yoga studio, signed up for their beginner’s course and seven weeks later I’m here pondering how I ever lived without it.  As a runner, there are myriad benefits to practicing yoga (flexibility, controlled breath work, increased synovial fluid production to name a few), but what I appreciate the most are the calming, meditative principles applied through movement.  This is essentially what happens to me during a really good long run: I connect movement to the breath and allow my mind to experience the now.

Like running, yoga is a door to the present.

I’m just as susceptible as most to the infinite technocratic noises of the world, but I also know there is a way out.  I know I am happiest when I exist among the calm of the present tense.  Running gets me there.  A baseball game on a lazy, summer afternoon gets me there.

Now I know yoga gets me there too.  And even when the practice is over, I still feel like a glowing, hundred foot giant of awesome.

* * *

Injury update:

I am still out of commission, but staying active and positive.  I’ve seen a sports medicine doctor now who is sure my condition is ITBS and nothing else.  So I can only continue to do what I’m doing: stretching, icing, foam rolling, strengthening, yoga, boxing, watching Bulls basketball (despite this giving me headaches from time to time) and re-reading all my favorite Carl Sagan books.

I will not be able to run the Houston Marathon in 2013, but that’s okay.  I am at peace with that.  There will be plenty of marathons to run once I’m back to full strength.  My focus now is on getting better in time to train well for Boston.  I start physical therapy this week and aim to invoke my inner Derrick Rose as I focus on strengthening my hip flexors as well as my mind.

One thing is certain: this unscheduled time off from the sport I love so much has been as humbling as it has been healing.  The majority of my other constant niggles, aches and pains have gone away with the time off and I am confident that the forced disassociation has strengthened my mind.  When I do come back, I am going to be more hungry, more ravenous and more determined than I have ever been.

Special thanks to Lisa Kinlinger, who has provided me with excellent ART treatments as well as a final, swift kick out the door and into a yoga studio.