“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
2015 was a challenging year for me, running-wise (and otherwise). I was faced with new professional challenges, as well as new kid-rearing hurdles. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that 2015 was a terrible year, it just wasn’t a good one for the first three-quarters. (Stick with me, though—it does get better.)
In January, I set forth 5 relatively modest running goals:
Did I meet all 5? No. 4? No. 3? No.
Of the 5 “modest” goals I set for myself in January, I met only one: I worked my glutes.
My running year started going down the toilet in January when I came back too aggressively from my previous injury and decided to run 10 very hilly miles. I ended up having new ankle problems, which led to an aggravation of hip flexor problems and put me back at the chiropractor’s and physical therapist’s office, and forced me to chuck my goal of running a PR at the Eugene Marathon.
I continued to struggle with hip flexor issues into the spring, and then a resurgence of IT band problems in the late spring after an ill-advised barre class. My IT band continued to screw up my running in the summer and fall. My plan to try for a PR at the Chicago Marathon?
Dunzo. I had to let that one go.
There were, however, bright spots in this oh-so-challenging year. And here are the top 5:
- Running the last 8 miles of the Eugene Marathon
Although injury forced me to drop out of running the marathon in Eugene, I was able to run the last portion of the race with my friend Marilyn as she went after a PR. The race didn’t really go the way she wanted it to, but I enjoyed running with her (and our coach, Kris) to support her in her effort. I had a lot of woe-is-me moments in late 2014 and early 2015, so being able to run this race for no other reason than to help a friend (and have fun doing it) was a big step for me, mentally.
- Running Garmin-free
Injury recovery meant a lot of changes for me. Reducing mileage, decreasing intensity, incorporating conservative cross-training, and adjusting my perspective. I started running without my Garmin earlier this year because, frankly, I fell out of habit when I wasn’t running regularly. At first, running without my Garmin felt weird. I would ask my running buddy what pace we were running, or would fret that I was going too slow or too fast. But then I started to settle into running Garmin-less, and I began to love it. Even now, as I run more, I prefer to step out the door without my watch. The majority of the long runs I’ve run in training for the upcoming LA Marathon have been without my Garmin. And the funny thing is, my pace hasn’t slowed down!
- Getting my glutes and hammies to fire
I started 2015 with a dead butt. Even though I was doing Pilates and then yoga, it still wasn’t coming alive. My non-firing glutes and hammies helped contribute to my hip flexor and IT band problems because the fronts of my legs (i.e., my quads) were doing most of the work. And that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
I really worked hard without my personal trainer, Ruth, on getting my glutes to fire (…before I wimped out and dropped out of personal training when I was in one of those really dark, “I hate myself when I can’t run” phases). I did my Myrtls, my clamshells, and I went to the doctor again.
I tried and did almost everything short of acupuncture. And it still wasn’t really happening for me. I started doing clamshells or side leg lifts for a little bit right before a run to wake up my glutes. Somehow, that little bit of targeted exercise perked up my glutes so that they were ready to engage during my runs. Still, that wasn’t enough.
And then I added an IT band strap. I initially bought it to relieve some of the soreness I was experiencing, but it ended up doing something better—it tricked my legs into engaging different muscle groups when I ran. Amazing. Now when I run, I feel less soreness in my quads and more (good) soreness in my hammies and butt. And my hamstrings are actually getting more developed! This is cause for celebration.
- Running my first half-marathon in over a year
I ran a half-marathon, the Santa Runs Tacoma Half, with my friend Marilyn (there she is again!) in mid-December as a training run for the LA Marathon. The last half I ran was in November 2014—over a year earlier. Although I was by no means going to race the Santa Half, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to run it at the long run pace I wanted (where we would finish in 2 hours). I was even more nervous when I forgot my trusty IT band strap at home. But I ran the half—pain-free—and in 2:00:40. And enjoyed the two-hour-long chat with Marilyn along the way.
The best—I mean, really—the BEST running experience I had this year was running Ragnar Napa with favorite new friends on Team Nuun Now, Wine Later. I can’t go into too much here because, well, this post would end up as long as The Odyssey, and what happens in Van 2 stays in Van 2. I encourage you to read my post about my experiences at Ragnar here, and I really, really encourage you to go run a Ragnar! I can’t wait to do another one with Team Nuun. That relay and my team reminded me why I run—for the exhilaration, camaraderie, feeling of accomplishment, and—yes—even the hard work. This really was “the best of times.”
What was your best running experience in 2015? What was your favorite race this year? Did you experience any setbacks with running in 2015? How did you overcome them?