tobacco road half & associated thoughts on exercise

March 24, 2013

i never wrote a race report for last weekend’s tobacco road half.  and i don’t even think i have a picture of myself before/after/during the event [although it’s always humorous to see the perpetually unflattering professional shots after the fact].

i do, however, have a picture of annabel playing with her non-day-care BFF griffin from after the race:

and that pretty much sums up how i feel about running these days.

i am sad in some ways to admit it to myself, but my relationship with running has changed.  before, running to me was mostly a sport that came with side benefits.  back in 2009, i ran for the following reasons [in order of importance]

1) to race:  improve on my previous race times, and try to get faster.  i was competing with myself first, but i’ll admit i always had some running idols i wanted to try to catch up to!

2) mental health:  a distant second.  yes, running always affected my moods, but a relaxed 4-miler can have that effect.  this wasn’t enough for goal #1!

3) vanity:  and the ability to be relaxed about eating without much consequence.  perhaps this reason isn’t terribly PC, but let’s face it — it’s true.  [and i’m sure i’m not the only one.]

back then, i trained 40+ miles/week when i was in ‘serious’ mode.  i didn’t always keep track on a yearly basis, but i remember logging over 2000 miles in 2006, which is an average of 5.4/day.  i really wanted to qualify for the boston marathon.  though i did inch closer with each of my 4 marathons, the closest i got was a 3:48 in 2009.

and then, as you all know, things changed.
i had fertility issues,  and i continue to believe that running was a major part of that — and so i eventually cut down, big time.  i let go of some of my running goals to pursue a much bigger one.  and ~20 months ago, i was finally successful.



post-annabel, priorities have shifted.  many things in my life are still the same, and i’m thankful for that [and also aware that perhaps it’s just a matter of time!].  but 40 mile weeks are just not right for me right now.  COULD i run that much?  sure, if i were willing to give up sleep [and therefore probably my sanity] and some of my time with annabel.  but those are not tradeoffs i am currently willing to make.

and i’m okay with that.  a little wistful, but not at all sad.

but when i ran last week’s half at exactly 10 seconds slower than the ramblin rose in october [6 months postpartum at the time] and approximately 10 minutes slower than the same race in 2010, i had an odd mix of feelings.

at a different pace
the truth is, the training i’ve been putting in is not up to my previous standards.  in fact, the old me [circa 2005 – 2010?] would probably laugh at even calling it training.  a review of my mapmyrun log reveals that i run an average of about 4x/week, with a mileage total of between 20-30.  in february, there was also a week with 0 mileage [day care virus].  these runs are a combo of treadmill runs, outdoor long runs, and stroller runs.  and for the most part, i haven’t been doing very many purposeful runs with intervals or truly challenging tempo.

somehow, i thought maybe i’d improve over my ramblin’ rose time just because i’m farther out from having annabel.  but in retrospect, that doesn’t make much sense — if anything, i’ve probably have LOST some of the benefits that the postpartum state is said to have.

i haven’t been running terribly fast, or a lot of mileage.  and therefore, no improvement.  it shouldn’t be a shocker — and for the most part, it isn’t.

but it is a reminder to me that running is different for me now.  i don’t have time to run enough mileage to allow me to compete the way i had previously.  but the activity itself is still just as important — the list of ‘whys’ is just different.  the new top 3:

1) mental health:  endorphins.  a sense of accomplishment.  some subtle shift in brain chemistry.  whatever it is, i need my fix and running is the best [and most efficient] way to get it.

2) vanity:  yes – still on the list.  but i am realizing now that high [or even high-ish] mileage running isn’t necessary to stay in good physical shape.  in reaiity, i’m probably better off mixing things up and doing more strength work.

3) identity:  a lot of things change when a new baby is added to the family, and i do feel like there’s been a gradual shift from me as ME to me as MOM.  when out for a long run, i get almost an almost nostalgic feeling — like i’m reconnecting with my pre-mom identity.  i have no desire to return to those days, but it’s a nice reminder that really i’m still the same.

[that might not have made much sense, but maybe someone knows what i mean].

the next step
i think i’m done with long races for a while.  right now, i don’t want to use too many of my precious 168 weekly hours training, and i think i’d rather just focus on shorter runs.  i would like to add in some more strength training / yoga — for the mental health benefits as well as #2, above.

but all that said, there’s still a part of me that would like to get faster.

so:  i’m going to spend the summer focusing on SHORT runs, fairly low mileage, other activities, and speed.  a sample weekly training plan might look like:

M – 4 mi with 4 x 800m intervals on TM
T – jillian michaels DVD
W – 2-3 fast miles on TM
R – stroller run in afternoon w/ annabel
F – off
S – yoga [will have to be at home, most of the time] + faster stroller run
S – longer run of 5-6 miles

almost every workout will be under 40 minutes and i think this will fulfill all of my wishes, above.  and maybe — just maybe — running faster on a regular basis will make me faster.  we’ll see.  i don’t have a race targeted now, but maybe i’ll think about a 5K.

the long haul
do i see myself running longer races — including marathons — again?  yes.

i definitely want to do more halves, and i would still love to qualify for boston some day, and i know josh would too [he missed by 1 minute, running a 3:11 in 2006.].  but i’ll have to see if it will fit into my life once annabel [and hopefully her future brother/sister] are older.

i have also accepted that i will likely have to slow down my running again when we are ready to start trying for the aforementioned #2.  however, i am much more at peace about it this time around — both because i’m more convinced that it’s actually true, and because now i’ve seen how easy it is to pick it back up again.

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