With the New Year practically here, I think it is a fair time to look back on the joys of the year. This year has been a pretty awesome year for us! A lot of really awesome things (and a few challenges) happened outside of running, but since this really is a blog focused on running, I will keep it there.
We have also had a really big year with running. We totaled over 330 miles in races alone this past year. Since the start of 2011, we have completed four marathons and three half marathons (ok, I completed two but set out to do three, more on that in a bit). We successfully crossed the Gore-Tex Transrockies finish line after covering 120 miles in 6 days… and we were still in one place. This month, we completed our first ever 30 mile run (and hit our 5th marathon distance this year). We set a half marathon PR. We also set a marathon PR at our first marathon of the year and beat it by quite a bit at our last marathon of the year. I also had the opportunity to complete a several races and runs with people who were setting firsts in their own running lives. A handful of our friends started running more consistently and have joined us for training runs, which has been a real joy!
Our training for all of our successes is where a lot of the adventure lies. This year, as part of our training program, we modified the type of lifting we do and added plyometrics, which led to some pretty awesome strength gains. During our marathon training, we added speed work and got back onto a track, which I have not done since high school. I took an entire month off of running and struggled through an injury of my own. That month was one of the most difficult times, yet I learned so much during that time.
A lot of our training runs were on trails this year. I maintain a love/hate relationship with trails as they have a tendency to kick my butt, yet I love the experience. Our trail running enabled us to see so many miles of beautiful Colorado back country. We even ran a 14er this year (as much as a 14er can be run)! We also got to see a lot of Denver as we explored new areas and revisited old areas. My balance was tested quite a bit this summer, as I did experience more falls this year than in my entire time running. Thankfully, none of these resulted in serious injuries!
With all of the joys and hardships, I learned a lot this past year. Through my experience of being injured, I was reminded that I cannot find all of my identity in running. I was constantly reminded to be grateful for things that we so often take for granted- legs with which to run, eyes with which to see, friends we meet along the way, etc. I learned that you can always give a little more than you ever thought to be possible. Runners are a unique bunch of people, trail runners appear to be even more unique. Based on my experience this past year, trail runners tend to be much more friendly and less inclined to leave you when you are down.
I also learned that sunscreen is beyond valuable and body glide really does come in handy. I learned that gaiters are an amazing piece of apparel to add to your gear, especially ones of the Dirty Girl variety. Hats are awesome, sunglasses a must when in the snow. Blisters are a way of life and I will likely never have a full set of toe nails, at least that last more than a month. Listen to people who give advice, especially prior to a race at which you are a newbie and they are not. This can be so valuable! Paying for running shoes at a specialty shoe store is well worth it in the long run. Avon makes an amazing insect repellant that does not sweat off or stink and is perfect on trail runs. Being injured sucks big time, but getting back into running comes with a new appreciation and perspective and is absolutely amazing! Smart wool socks are still my sock of preference. Running with poles on a trail probably takes someone with a little more coordination than I have. I think I have also finally figured out which combination of fuel is just right for me.
I also learned that I need a warm up time in just about everything. I really love long distance running and revel in what Ben has termed “the suck.” It is important to be flexible with schedules as they often change and life happens. Running at speeds that are not comfortable is a good thing to do every once in a while. Beer is still the best post-long run beverage out there. Running with other people is also a good thing to do and allows you to be challenged or you to do the challenging. It is important to remember to look around and enjoy your surrounding while you are running… things can so easily get missed.
Overall, this past year has been a great year for running. That being said, I look forward to welcoming the New Year and all of the new adventures that will be had. Happy New Year and keep on running!!