It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written here, mostly out of a lack of free time and partially because, if I’m being honest, I’ve been in a slump with running since the tough half I did earlier in January. I was feeling burnt out and a little forced in my routine. That is, until this last weekend.
I did my first long run since the half on January 24th at run club with two of my friends. We had a solid run – 11+ miles through the heart of Denver, accompanied by great conversation about life and family and Serial (Did Adnan really do it?!). It was definitely a good run, but what I enjoyed most about that run was the company, not the running itself. I was exhausted, underfueled, sore, and whiney by the end of it – but having new friends who love to run join me was certainly the saving grace.
I went into last week after that long run feeling burnt out, like maybe I was overdoing it or maybe I just needed some new inspiration. I couldn’t get through a run without feeling negative, sore, tired, frustrated, tired, hungry, the works – and that had been going on since the Polar Prowl on the 10th.
The Colfax is far enough away still that I feel like I have plenty of time to train, but I was feeling little motivation to keep myself moving forward. Normally, this is the point where I switch to only cross training for a week or so and try to find some outside inspiration to get me out of the funk.
Then something magical happened instead.
On Thursday of last week, after about 18 months of hard work and impatient waiting, we got the call at work that our company was selected for a huge project in Puerto Rico. My friends & family have heard us raving about this project for the better part of a year now, waiting anxiously for news and doing everything in our power to actually win the contract. And on Thursday, it really happened.
I got home from work Thursday night feeling completely exhilarated and excited and like I needed to do something crazy to celebrate. So, obviously, I kicked off the celebrations with a run. Chasing the sunset, I set out for a 3 miler with the dog, listening to my recently updated running mix and feeling up for a challenge. I ended up running those 3 miles in 26:18, or 8:44 splits – my fastest run in a LONG time. I felt suddenly like I was back.
On Saturday, with run club on hiatus for ski season, I set out on my long training run on my own. When I woke up, it was cloudy, cold, windy, and absolutely quiet. As I laced up and got on the road, I thought to myself, Ok, since I’m alone, maybe I’ll do 6-8 today. No, maybe I’ll do 8. I went my usual route up Downing to Wash Park, noticing quickly that the area around the university was so quiet, you could’ve heard a pin drop.
Then as I reached the south side of the park, I noticed that it wasn’t just DU that was quiet – it was Denver. Maybe it was cold and cloudy so people decided to sleep in. Maybe all those people who ski (who am I kidding? Everyone but me!) were up in the mountains doing mountain-y things. Whatever it was, I could hear every strike of my foot, every breath in and out, as I ran through the park that’s normally so packed with runners, I’m trying to dodge them on a Saturday.
There was something really beautiful in the solitude of that run. It felt like I had the whole city to myself. I hadn’t done a substantially long run by myself, with the exception of that half, in a long time, and it felt special to have time with my thoughts, with my music, and with the city.
I tried something new on this run. Normally, for long runs, I tune into my very pop-y, very upbeat running playlist on my iPod – usually lots of old Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Dierks Bentley, whatever has over 100 BPM and will keep my legs moving forward. But on Saturday’s long run, I decided I wanted to enjoy the cadence of my steps, the quiet of the city, and the slowing of my pace to get myself further. Instead of getting caught up in a fast-paced country song, I wanted to listen to music I love and enjoy my run.
As I came down Franklin at mile 7, I realized quickly there was no way I was done with my run. I was enjoying it far too much to let it end there. I looped back up through Wash Park, and I decided I was going to go long. I mean, not the longest I’ve ever run, but certainly the longest I’ve ever run alone in a non-race setting (I feel like one of those sports stats trivia people who can rattle off weird, entirely random facts about athletes whenever I qualify my runs like this). I did a full second loop of Wash Park, then ran down Franklin back towards DU where I finished up at 11 miles. This run felt great – my pace was easy but not too easy, my fuel worked well, my feet didn’t hurt. All the things I’d been running into the last 3 weeks felt like they’d disappeared.
By Sunday morning, I felt like myself again. A little sore from Saturday’s long run, but like I had my mojo back. So naturally, when I woke up to have my light breakfast and head to Wash Park for Run Denver’s Super Bowl 5K, I looked outside and we had gotten 2-3 inches of beautiful, powdery, annoying snow overnight. I told Kelly I was questionable on picking up our packets… then when I got to the park, sliding everywhere, I told Chris I was questionable on starting the race. He reminded me I could always walk, that I love these races and needed to just try.
With my favorite Broncos-colored running gear on, I joined the crowd and took off on the icy course (shout out to Denver Parks & Rec for working their butts off to clear the course as best they could!). Once I got going, I hardly remembered it was cold out. It was definitely slick, and I took my time over the icy patches to avoid sliding out, but when I wasn’t bracing myself for a fall, I was flying. Even taking my time, I finished with a 9:20 average pace, placing 47th out of 267 women and 17th of women ages 20-29. Not too shabby in light of the fact that I almost didn’t start.
So now it’s Tuesday. It’s a few days after my big celebration, after my weekend of running that brought me back to my love for the sport. After weeks of feeling stuck in a rut, I finally feel like I’ve found myself again. I feel like there’s so much more to celebrate.
PS – Next up, I’m off to Southeast Asia for a family vacation for 2 weeks. I’ll be training on a treadmill during this time – the only upside being that I’ll be at sea level. Expect to see lots of grumpy remarks about dread-mills, my thoughts on watching The Wire on my new iPad while running, and my unrealistic-at-altitude pace that I can keep up while running on a boat. Happy running!