Reassessing Running, a Fickle Mistress

Running is a fickle mistress. These past two months confirm the volatility of running. They also reveal that my training has been less than it should have been. This is what’s really happening with running and me.

I was so excited to run the Portland Half Marathon, my first in almost six years, in October; to PR was icing on the cake. Then my hamstrings and hip flexors reared their ugly heads, reminding me of the eternal “mind over body” struggle. I stopped any sort of running for a month, afraid I was back to ground zero with the injuries.

I ran my first 10k trail run on Catalina Island two weeks ago, a tough, hilly course in hot weather. I struggled but finished. Not fully recovered from the half marathon, I thought the trail run would redeem me; in fact it refocused my running goals as they are so intertwined with my running abilities. During the next two weeks I ran only once–with my older son in NYC–and did some aqua jogging back home in Colorado.

December 5, two-weeks after the trail run, I ran the ColderBolder 5k. The weather had warmed to about 40 degrees, from the low teens earlier in the week. The bike trails through the CU Boulder campus were ice-free. Yet, I struggled for air from the first steps, stopping partway through the course, never able to get the big gulps I needed. I finished, although very disappointed at my lack of aerobic capacity. What should have been an easy 3.1 miles turned into another assessment of where I am with running and what I need to do to maintain a semblance of success at this sport.

To be fair (after much self-flagellation), there has been almost no routine to my daily life since early October. I am trying to acclimate to living at 5450’ elevation with weather—not the northern California light clouds, mid-fifties to sixties, all-the-time mild weather. I’ve barely logged any miles since the half marathon, other than the trail 10k and today’s 5k. I’ve re-engaged with swimming, but without hard efforts. Aqua jogging is still tentative. Exploring the trails at the lower levels of Chautauqua Park and surrounding mountains provides familiarity but little aerobic workouts. My core/strength workouts have been disrupted by travel.

No doubt about it, my training schedule has been haphazard, even though I thought there was some rhythm to it. Where do I go from here? I need a plan, which takes into consideration a number of points:

  • Schedule spring half marathon and/or 10 mile race
  • Decide on race training program
  • Push myself aerobically: training at altitude should help me on races at lower elevations
  • Review my thick pile of core/strength exercises and devise a weekly schedule for variety, with focus on hip flexors, hamstrings, and gluts
  • Find bicycle/walking paths that are generally ice-free and mark out various distances for interval and speed-work
  • Create routes for longer runs
  • Use the treadmill at the rec center for speed work when I can’t go outside
  • Be more aggressive with the cross-training, i.e., increase the speed of my swimming, use the kickboard, take advantage of pool lanes to include aqua jogging workouts at different perceived rates of effort; ride my bicycle on the trainer with designated workouts (e.g., hill climbing, fitness, speed)
  • Remember nutrition (generally Paleo; low-carb; low-grain) and hydration (altitude and dryer mountain air make this even more important)
  • Massage and foam roller are critical to meeting my running goals
  • Be mindful of my injuries; they aren’t niggles but long-term chronic issues
  • Most of all enjoy what I have!

I prefer to quietly register and train for races. I hold myself accountable to being the best I can be, incorporating this beloved but frustrating activity in my days, along with writing, traveling with family, philanthropic activities, and being! I must take control of it even as I find incredible joy in the ability, when it happens, to run with ease and without intention.