Monday, April 4, 2011

It's that time of year... again.

You know, that time of year I look at the number of weeks left until Hermes, until Cleveland and say, 'aw, crap.'

Since January I've been working with a trainer at the fitness center on campus (Some catch-up: I ended up winning that step challenge, whose prizes included an eight-week fitness program, six months gym membership and a surprisingly not awkward lunch with my team and some university senior VPs. I'd been loving bootcamp for three months until my work schedule just didn't have room for it. Just in time: the fitness program, an eight-week personal-training deal focused on strength building and weight loss, kicked off in January. I lost my crutch weight — I'm keeping most of it off from week to week — and couldn't remember how I'd existed before working with Melissa. Not only can I do pull-ups and like a gazillion push-ups, I feel better, stronger, fitter overall.) and doing most of my training in the wee a.m. hours or during lunch.

While my cardio is very sound and strength way up, I can't say I've done the volume of running I'd typically do training for any race — particularly a half. But here I am: April 4, and I've been running 1-2 times a week. I've actually felt very comfortable on the 2-3 long runs I've done over the past month or so. More recently, I've started doing intervals and sprints. Part of me is very surprised how well I've been able to run (very relatively speaking here!) without much training. If nothing else, it's definitely made me a believer in serious strength training! It does leave me wondering what to expect for my races, however.

On one hand, I'm very determined to lay low this year: I'd like to give my bones plenty of time to get stronger, my muscles time and training to develop and protect my bones. The idea of stress my bones too much stresses me out. And it's not like my racing career is going anywhere. I'm very average. I'm very OK with that. Sure, I'd like to improve in the long run, but not at the cost of walking.

On the other hand, I feel like I have a whole different kind of fitness now. This time last year, I was in my best racing shape yet (I'm still proud of my 7:40 pace in the Hermes 10-miler!). Looking back at my training schedule, however, I know that I wasn't really running as much as you'd think. There's a reason I got hurt — I wasn't doing the work. Now I'm doing the work, just in a different way. It's less about miles; it's more holistic. Which begs the question: how much was an improvement in fitness last year and how much was an improvement in my mental game?

Part of me feels compelled to see how well I can race now. The other part knows I've lost far too much mental fortitude. I don't have the ability [right now] to ignore the burn, the pain of pushing myself beyond my thresholds. In fact, I still get flashbacks to bone pain when I run with a certain cadence. I don't hurt; I'm not injured. In my bones, that is. I'm just a big mental wuss.

Nevertheless, I registered for the Cleveland Half next month. NB's running his first too! I'm so eager for him to experience his first distance race that I keep forgetting I'm running it too (no, we're not running together).

Part of me wants to put this low-mileage, high-strength training to the test. Seriously: how fast can I go? While I can't expect a PR out of this race, I'm interested to see what I'm made of... now.

Another part of me, meanwhile, wants to jog it and enjoy every step of being able to run 13.1 miles a year after I broke myself running 26.2.

A final part of me, the fiercely competitive with no one but myself part, wants to race balls out, as if last year never happened. But I'm happy with whom I've become out of all that leg-breaking stuff. I am stronger. I'm happier. I enjoy running and fitness more. Maybe that doesn't translate to faster. Maybe I need to assess what success means to me this time around.

Whatever happens, I just want to be worrying about all these things next year around this time.