Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thirteen months of running

So at the beginning of 2014, I made four resolutions. I've never made resolutions before ever (and didn't make any this year) and I did okay with three of them. But I knocked one of them out of the park. Run more. Y'all, I ran more.

Freckle face from the summer sun. After our first ten miler.

I can't remember the exact reason why I decided to start running seriously. I know I wanted be a runner, I blame you Austin. You and all your healthy people. Since moving here I would "run" occasionally. We ran a couple 5k's, but by ran I mean walk/run. I couldn't run a 5k. I could run like a mile and a half before stopping. At the beginning of the year I had just wrapped up my first few months as a vegetarian and solved my chronic stomach pain issue, so I was feeling pretty good. I think this was a big part of deciding to run. Before that, standing for a long period of time meant pain, so running was pretty much out of the question. Once I felt normal, I felt like I could take on anything. Like truly, feeling normal I felt like one million bucks. And I was 25. Young, but not real young. And not really unhealthy, but not healthy either. I wanted to start a good fitness habit before it got too late and it got harder. So crazy obsessive project style, I guess I decided to really run.

The original goal was to run a full 5k, 3.1 miles without stopping. I started running 3-4 days a week. (Brendon tagged along through all of this of course, in far better shape than me. He is a champ, and always carries our water. Love that boy.) And we kept that average for the entire year. Except December. That was a weird month, we'll talk about it later. So at first I ran and walked and ran and walked and it sucked and it was hard. I remember after giving up halfway through a run, telling Brendon there was no way I'd ever make it three miles. And then seriously, that week, on February 4, 2014 I went for a run alone after work one day (this whole running thing has been made exponentially easier because I live and work so close to the trail. God bless the trail!) and I ran a full 5k, in under 30 minutes. I did it! I felt like two million bucks and I was addicted. Once I knew I could do what I thought I couldn't, running got easier. No, that's wrong, not easier. Running is never easy. It got... obtainable. Adding distance wasn't so crazy. We slowly added miles all spring. I accumulated more sports bras than regular bras. That 5k goal was long gone and I set my sights on a half marathon. My toes got used to having constant blisters on them. We bought a watch just for running. And a running water bottle. On some random run in May we ran the whole trail, which is the tiniest bit over 10 miles.

And then summer came. Oh god running in the heat. It sucks so bad. It knocks you down and humbles you and makes you feel like you've never run in your life. Adding distance was out of the question. My goal for the summer was just to keep running, to not stop. Forget the mile times and forget the distance, just keep running. And I did. I didn't give up. I learned how to run in the heat and just focused on that first cold front, which eventually came. Once it cooled off we officially started half marathon training. Like using an actual plan. We finished the program at the end of November with a 12 miler. This is the training plan we used and I highly recommend it. If you stick to it, you will have no choice but to become a better runner. It whoops your butt, but it works.

Anyway, December. So December was weird. We took pretty much the whole month off. I think I ran 4 or 5 days? The whole month. December is always crazy anyway, but we also went out of town on two different trips, we both got sick on separate occasions, and Christmas happened. It was a nutzo month. So training continued in January and we did the last few weeks of the training plan again. The other night we knocked out 13 miles, our longest run ever. The half is this Sunday. The Austin Half Marathon is notoriously hilly and I'm a little nervous. We haven't done many hill runs since we started really training for the half, but I'm hoping that we'll conquer it nonetheless. My goal is just to run the whole thing. I have no time to beat, I just want to do it. Taking December off set us back a bit, so if I can just finish the dang thing I'll be thrilled.

But as nervous as I am, I'm mostly excited. I've worked really hard for this. I altered my life for this. Devoted hours and days. Went on runs after working for twelve hours and never regretted it. Ran when I was tired, sick, grumpy, crampy, and no regrets. My Saturdays became about long runs, and recovering from those long runs. The idea of running a half seemed ludicrous in January of last year, but by March I was already scheming and dreaming of 13.1 miles. Running, running, running. And no more "running". No training just for a race, running for a week or two and then giving up, no more walk-running. Real running. Painful, wonderful, running all year long. 3-4 days, every week. Except those few in cursed December. Sunny, dark, cold, hot, dry, humid, windy, rainy, you name it. I ran in it. Because I don't believe in treadmills, not in Texas anyway. I stayed up late to run and I got up early (on my days off) to run. I had good runs and bad runs and all sorts of mental and physical battles with myself. I ran hundreds of miles and went through two pairs of shoes. I watched (and felt, always sore, reminding me that I am not as young as I think) my body change and get stronger. Oh man you guys, when my legs got tight instead of soft, so much awesome. I learned that calories are your friend, and you need them. It made me look at food in a new light (food is fuel!), and I definitely learned what NOT to eat before running. And that water is your best friend. Seriously. Drink all the water. But most importantly I learned that you are always capable of more than you think. Your mind is your worst enemy and your best ally. You can do it, you just don't know it yet.

Wish me luck Sunday. I can do this.

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