Side Effects May Include Happy

Week four of running and I have some breaking developments. Not only am I blogging again (I KNOW), but I finally have gotten into the groove of running. Just shortly after writing that last post a switch went off and I’m enjoying running.

I apparently have been suffering not only from major writer’s block, but running block as well. On Saturday I went for my long run (8 miles now) and instead of my usual run for 30 seconds, feel like dying, then walking in pain for a minute, I actually ran pretty much the entire 8 miles. 8 miles of running AND I clocked 3 of those miles at under 10 minutes. I was ready to high five strangers. I would say hug but I’m not the biggest fan of hugging random strangers so high fives it is.

I’ve also noticed the switch flip in terms of my mood. I’m not going to lie, for more than a year I have been suffering from what I would say is a pretty bad case of depression mixed with a lovely side of horrible anxiety. I know part of it was because I was no longer running, or even exercising at all, and I slowly sunk deeper and deeper into the “I hate everything, I want to move, blah blah blaaaahs”. Let’s just say I was probably not the most pleasant person to be around.

This certainly hasn’t been a bad year. I got a new job back in the interior design industry after four years at the sleep clinic, and celebrated two years of homeownership in April. In July I got a new car and sold the old one in record timing. I’ve also had some pretty epic adventures, including camping most every weekend in June and July.

All this good stuff and yet my brain wouldn’t let me enjoy all the good things that were happening. While I was in the moment it was great; I was happy setting up camp at various beautiful sites throughout Colorado. I was over the moon walking through some of the most pristine, beautiful landscapes I have ever been to in Southeast Alaska. When it ended, though, I went right back to the doldrums of where I was before. My brain would not allow me to be grateful for it.

Now that I’ve really gotten back into running, and am finally in that sweet spot with it, I’m noticing a change. For one, I’m motivated to blog again. (And I promise it won’t just be about running!) The other is that I’m content. That’s a big thing for someone who has been so unsatisfied this past year, always looking around the corner to see if there’s somewhere else that could bring me happiness. Of course there was a silver lining to that: I got my travel shoes back out. Damn! I missed travel. I used to do it all the time! Every year when I lived in NYC it seemed I was jetting off to Europe, or Wyoming, or somewhere else fun and exciting. Aside from the yearly trips back to NYC, I haven’t done much traveling since I’ve landed in Colorado.

This year alone? I went to Alaska (and I could go on and on–and on–about how much I loved it) in May for ten days, spent a weekend in Seattle and will be heading out to Montreal in 4 and a half weeks for this half marathon (and some sight seeing!). I haven’t been putting travel as a priority but now I am. Thank you, depression!

The downside to all this, aside from the icky feelings and constantly feeling worn out, was that I got lazy. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to cook dinner, I didn’t want to clean my house. It took a toll on everything. I would try to make an effort but…effort. It was far more satisfying to sit on my couch and be miserable.

So it’s really nice to kick depression back to the curb. It’s nice to have my old self back again. To feel grounded, centered, and satisfied. To not want to pick up and move because I think that will solve things. So thanks running for bringing me back. I think I’ll hang on to that travel bug, though. :)

Sunflower fields forever

Becoming a Runner Again, Mentally and Physically.

About 4 weeks ago I decided to get off my ass and run another half marathon. I picked out my race, started wondering if it was possible to do it in only 10 weeks after not running in over a year, consulted with my friends and decided I was going for it.

I then immediately got a concussion.

That may have been a great, huge, glowing sign from the Universe that maybe I shouldn’t run a half marathon. I never listen to the Universe, though, so why start now? A week later, with a slightly more muddied head, I entered the Montreal Rock n Roll Half Marathon, bought a plane ticket and booked a hotel.

The last three weeks I have begun training. I have two rest days and on Saturday, I run my long run. I tack on a mile every week. I’m starting to remember how hard it is to balance a social life, dating, and running 5+ miles a day. I’m stretching myself thin and am paying for it with lack of sleep. Pretty soon, my health will remind me that I’m not Superman and need to slow the fuck down. While I haven’t learned how to say no to things, I’m super proud of myself for sticking with my schedule and running every day, even if I have plans in the evening.

I’m mastering the balancing act, but the running part? It’s really fucking hard.

I used to run all the time; I was running several half marathons a year, and had a nice pace that was easy to get into. I would always struggle the first half mile to get mentally into the run, and then I would zone out and run fairly well for the next however many miles. Now, however, not only am I struggling with the first mile, I’m struggling all throughout the second, third, fourth and fifth miles. I cannot get into that zone, I cannot mentally get into the run. (Unless getting super frustrated and wanting to cry counts as mentally getting into it.) With only 5 weeks until the race, I’m now wondering if I can actually run 13 miles.

Couch to 21.1k in 10 weeks sounds like a really bad idea right now. Oh, it sounds like a bad idea in general? You could have told me that? Noted.

I’ve tried switching up my routes, which has helped some, but my legs apparently really enjoyed their break, and really, really don’t want to run as long, and as fast, as I’d like to be running. The biggest mental hurdle that I have to overcome is that I am constantly comparing to my former running self. The self that could run 9 minute miles, get in the zone super easily and enjoyed running. The self that could take a month off and then get right back into things like no time had passed. The self that didn’t train for half marathons until the week before and still was able to have a successful run. My new running self can barely run below an 11 minute mile, as mentioned before cannot mentally get into the run, and am currently not liking it. That runners high is inconveniently missing. I know it won’t always be this way, I know a year is a long time to take between runs and helloooo, I’m 34. I am not 24 anymore. My body just doesn’t bounce back as quickly as it used to.

Why did I take a year off? It started last May with a hip injury. A hip injury I ignored. I ran the Turquoise Lake Half, followed quickly by the Leadville Heavy Half, the hardest race I have ever done. I ran 15.5 miles, up 3200 feet in elevation, and back down again, in 4 hours and 26 minutes. It was the hardest, most beautiful, most rewarding race I’ve ever done. One I want to do again.

That was the last time I ran. I was signed up for the Golden Leaf Half last fall but had to skip it due to my hip being in incredible amounts of pain. You probably wonder why I pushed myself through those races in the first place, but honestly my hip did not bother me at all during those races. It wasn’t a running injury. It wasn’t until July, August, September and into October that the pain really started. It was there before, but really reared it’s ugly head after Leadville ended. I’m finally at the point where I can run without any pain. I’ve been there for a few months now but haven’t made it a priority. So I decided to scratch my travel bug at the same time. I’ve always wanted to go to Montreal, so here I go. Forcing myself to make my health, my fitness, a priority. Something I haven’t done in a very long time. It’s really, really hard.

All I can do is just keep at it. And remind myself that if I have to walk some, or even most, of the half in Montreal will not be the end of the world. After all, I’ll be in Montreal for my first time and travel is always a good thing. Putting myself first is a good thing. I’m running, after all. Even if poorly.