It’s been over two months since I have run. Since then I have had a couple of x-rays and MRIs and found out a few things. I’ve DNSed a couple races. I’ve stopped training cardio entirely. One might think this has lead to some significant mental anguish, but the truth is I am happier than I have been in a couple of years.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Why is this extended time off going so well mentally? (And physically, to be honest.) The answer that I have come up with is two fold: one is that I am training for myself which isn’t really different than before, but the second is that I am no longer needing to validate myself, to myself, in the same ways as I had been.
Exactly three years ago to the day, I ran my longest run to date at Bronx 10 mile. Just a 4 months before that I had run 5 miles for the first time. And the year before that, I had quit running entirely and would stage a slow comeback later that summer. Since that 10 mile run three years ago, I have run a marathon and trained for two 50ks. I’ve increased mileage on my long runs, weekly volume, and cumulative elevations. I’ve been chasing bigger and bigger goals with some physical, but no mental breaks.
I’ve never been one who cared about speed. Getting into the Boston Marathon is an amazing accomplishment that I have no interest in whatsoever. I have always been driven by endurance and strength over getting from point a to point b in the fastest way possible. Something about drawing out the run longer and making it more grueling is very appealing to me. This isn’t just about physical strength, it’s about mental strength–over an extended period of time. To me, the physical was always the limiter. I focused on getting stronger and trained right on the edge of my fitness a lot of the time. When physical limitations got in the way I would do everything I could to address them, but keep moving forward. I had to get to that finish line.
My last 50k training cycle was the most extreme example of this drive to get to my goal race. I did everything I could trying to work around whatever my body was cranky about. By the time I got to within weeks of the starting line I was mentally exhausted. I knew I was mentally strong enough to get to the start line and get it done, but I also knew once it was over that I was taking a break. Well, the start line didn’t happen and a few weeks after that I decided to pull the plug on running entirely for awhile.
So I here I am with no running goals and happy as a clam. I’ve decided that not just my body, but mind is going to guide me not a finish line on the calendar. I’ll know when the time is right both physically and mentally. In the meantime, I’ve been seeing a trainer twice a week who I really like and I am getting super strong. I’ve learned more about my body and am learning how to work around certain peculiarities. (Metatarsus adductus, hammertoes, tailor’s bunions, an angry adventitial bursa in my foot, neuropathy in my feet, and of course those two discs in my back) My back and the rest of my body excluding my foot feels better than it has in years. My foot (bursitis) is still getting inflamed and obviously needs some more patience. I am happy to oblige.
I’ve learned to appreciate the daily and weekly progress with strength training and focusing on nutrition. There is something rewarding about not just lifting heavy weights, but acknowledging the mental strength it takes to lift your body weight and more from the ground. That’s not just muscular strength, you have to believe you can do it. I’ve also learned to appreciate quick or simple wins like nailing my nutrition on a Saturday, getting an extra 10 seconds on my hang or handstand, or noticing my mobility improving in different joints. I feel like I am building a race car and am focused on making sure each and every part is performing at it’s best. Maybe less of a race car and more of a Peterbilt truck, all terrain vehicle, race car hybrid with a super smart dash, but you get the idea. I’m really taking pride in and appreciating the work. And to be honest, I’m not mad about having my weekends free to reconnect with friends and adventure in different ways.