Last week, the OG-Santa Cruz chapter of my running club had its season-end celebration, and it was amazing. I don’t see enough of these women regularly to not fan-girl over what warm and wonderful (and fast!) human beings they are.
“Season” and “season-end” feel like arbitrary terms, since while summer is over, this Fall Racing Season is still relatively nascent. This means that my friends are still going after fast times and personal victories against personal demons. This weekend, in particular, was a big race weekend for many in the BAA Half Marathon, Chicago Marathon, and San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Many of my teammates are going after the California International Marathon as their goal race, and are tuning up for optimal performances at the beginning of December.
While I’m stoked for my friends, and am deliberately taking a break from racing, I can’t help but feel some racing FOMO (what? when have I ever really wanted to race??! who am I?). There seems to be no getting away from the fact that I feel like I’m off schedule, since I am locked into my hs xc coaching duties, and won’t be ramping up for Boston until end of December or early January.
This year has been a trial year. I’ve run every day year ’round for years, and before this year, rarely raced. Meeting Meg was possibly the best thing for my running (and for me). She got me out of my comfort zone, got me to remember what it means to run when you’re not a one-person wolf-pack, intro-ed me to amazing human beings, and got me racing. In the months leading up to SRM, I raced an 18-miler (PR because I never did one), 2 5k races (PRed at the first before I PRed at the second), and one 6-mile race (never raced before, so PRed) leading up to a big marathon PR at Santa Rosa.
I ran some of these races with a totally different strategy: Just go. As someone who firmly believed that negative splitting was the only race strategy that works, this new strategy seemed bonkers, but worked. I ran the second half of the Santa Rosa Marathon about 4 minutes slower than the first half (1:27 versus 1:31) in an effort to have as many miles in the bank as possible before the heat got to me, on a day that hit about 100 degrees around the time I finished. I have had no complaints with the end result … except to sort out the race blues and runner brain neuroses that linger even now.
In my “off-season”, I’ve been trying to figure out what my next steps and paces are. It’s disorienting to not have anything feel right as a goal. It almost feels to me like trying to figure out if I’m ready to date. Did I settle for that last race time? What does settling mean? Am I ready for commitment? Do I just miss the commitment of a new goal time? How high or low should my bar be?
After this summer of PRs in every attempted distance (why the hell am I bluesy about this? oh, because I’m f***ing crazy), I’ve been wondering if I really knew what “race pace” was for me/my body. My body has changed so much in the last 3 years with pregnancy and its aftermath that I haven’t actively tried to figure out what “race pace” is in a long time. Because I ran alone 99.99% of the year prior to this year for the last decade-plus, “race pace” was whatever times I consistently saw in my daily run efforts. I also “raced” – as in, hard effort – most of my daily runs, so, wtf did I know, I’m Jon Snow. So many things are different now about my “normal” even beyond shoving a 30-lb demanding toddler in about half of my weekly runs.
As of now, I’m seriously considering getting coached. The last few months of sustaining discomfort in the meeting new people thing and racing shorter races thing have been supremely helpful. However, the fall of that 3-hour time barrier has opened up to an exciting and also deeply terrifying Other Side, and one that I’m terrified of exploring without guidance. There are some mental barriers that I don’t think I’m brave enough to break on my own, not to mention for a hobby. This, of course, also makes me wonder, how far do I take my hobby? In the coming months, that’s a question I’ll have to face, and hopefully have an answer for by the time the next cycle rolls around.
In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of people to cheer for!