Saturday, August 4, 2012

Two Years of Confidence Building and Redefining Why I Race

More confident, more adventurous, more relaxed (okay, well, most of the time).  Two years can be a long time in the timeline of personal development, and these last two years have seen me grow more in terms of my running than at any other time in the past.

Day 4 in the August Healthy Living / Fitness Blogger Writing Challenge put on by The Fitness Cheerleader has challenged me to think about:

How have you changed in the past two years?

Two years ago, I had one of the lowest mileage years in my running "career" thus far.  The early months of 2010 saw me suffering from a wonky knee that would not go away.  I put off seeing a doctor for it forever, but when I finally did see one, I was diagnosed with classic runner's knee - patellar tendonitis.  The doc prescribed a three-pronged attack that included orthotics, knee brace, and physical therapy.  Having never really experienced ANY of these before, the treatment plan seemed way too aggressive to me.  Being the self-educated medical genius that I am, I proceeded to ignore everything she told me to do.  Instead, I opted to just back off and take some time away from running.  Two months later, I attempted to ease back into it with a very modified walk/run program which took me ten weeks to build up to a 30-minute run.

For all that, by the time I got back into running I discovered that the knee wasn't really that much better.  Even then, I decided not to go back to the doctor.  While the issue was still there, I did feel I could somehow manage it.  Needless to say, my running was very cautious and limited in 2010.  In fact, I hardly raced at all that year.  I gave up on my idea of doing the Door County Half Marathon because of the knee.  Instead, I walked the 5K with my dad (a good experience in and of itself!).  It's the first and only time I have ever played "bandit" in a race event.  (For the record, I stepped off the course before the finish and didn't take anything from the water stations.)  My big goal for 2010?  Building up to an eight-mile road race in September on Mackinac Island, which I did complete.  

Because of the knee injury, instead of being able to concentrate on my own race goals, I spent most of the year playing chief cheerleader to my Hubby.  While my running was floundering, his was flourishing.  He set a couple of marathon PRs that year and even qualified for Boston for the first time. Plus, he ran his first 50-miler.  Heck, he even proved that you can do a Galloway-style run/walk in a marathon and STILL finish with a great time in the sub-3:30 range.  

So, how does "more confident, more adventurous, more relaxed" come in?  Well, considering how easy I took it during 2010, I was truly disappointed when my return to running went less than fabulously.  I was irritated at myself for giving up so much time when the end result was basically the same.  The knee wasn't that much better.  The irritation was so great, in fact, that it more or less manifested itself in an I-don't-give-a-shit attitude when it came to running and racing - not in the sense of I didn't care if I ran, rather in the sense that I didn't care if my body wasn't ready I was going to sign up for any damn race I wanted.  And, I did.

Even while my knee still throbbed after every run, I found myself signing up for the 2011 Door County Half Marathon, the Ice Age Trail Half Marathon, the Pikes Peak Ascent Half Marathon, and - what the heck - the Lakefront Marathon, too, just for good measure.  I think I figured if I were going to blow out my knee, I might as well do it in a big and fantastic fashion. I trained as well as I could in 2011, did a run/walk for most things, and managed to accomplish  All told, I ended 2011 having successfully completed one marathon and five half marathons, as well as a number of other shorter races.

So, compared to two years ago?  Yeah, I am more confident in my abilities to meet my goals, even if they are sometimes a bit outrageous.  I am more adventurous in spirit and don't shy away from events that might put me "in over my head."  And, I am more relaxed about running.  If things don't quite work out as planned, it's just another tale to tell.  There is always value in experience, whether it is good or bad or ugly. 

Nowadays, I don't think so much about how fast I run or if I can do a race or not. I don't think about if a race is appropriate for me to do, or if I "have a chance."  It drives me crazy to talk to people who won't do races because they don't think they can do them as fast as they should.  Who cares!  As far as I am concerned the criteria I use for signing up for a race is this: will the experiences I gather from it have value?  Will I get something out of it in the end?  A fun time?  Beautiful scenery to look at?  Talk time with friends?  Or even a lesson in how NOT to run a race?  If the answer is yes, I do it.  Worried about failing?  Not so much.  (Of course, there are always exceptions.  You can read about a significant one in my life here.)  For the most part, though, I thumb my nose at failure, and if I am going to fail - so be it, I might as well go big then.  After all, why fail at the local marathon when I can go big and fail at a marathon in the Swiss Alps?  I ask you.

Do you find you have changed as a runner much in the past couple of years?  What are your criteria for choosing races? 


  1. I definitely think that an injury can help to put things in perspective. I know mine reminded me that I love to run, no matter how far or where or how fast :)

    1. Agree 100-percent! Injuries always make me realize how much I love this crazy sport. That's why I won't give it up again for any length of time unless I absolutely have to and the benefits are clear. :)