Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014. From Zero to My Own Hero.

As you all know - it's been a wild freakin' year for me.

2014 certainly wasn't what I envisioned it to be pre-November 2013.  I had sugar plum dreams of more races, more PRs, and more running success.  Well, I had a last minute change of plan with my stress fx and reaction.  I won't harp on it too much... if you've been reading, then you know the story.

2014 turned into the year of "I will NOT go away quietly" and "I WILL overcome".  In my 2013 wrapup, I stated my 2014 goals included strength and balance training as well as the ultimate comeback: a Fall marathon.

I'm happy to say that I accomplished all I'd hoped to and more.

During the first part of 2014, I completed a modified version of Live Fit.  I could not do the first few weeks of leg days due to the nature of my injuries, but I was able to gradually work them in as my physical therapy and healing progressed.  Gains were had.  I enjoyed heavy lifting so much that I couldn't wait to get back into it after the Spring running season was over.  I did another round of intense strength training in late spring/early summer before starting to train for the Marine Corps Marathon.

I also incorporated a ton of core and flexibility workouts.  If you've ever had a second thought as to whether to add them to your running plan, let me just say this:  DO IT.  You will not regret it.

Strength and balance - check.

Running.  Well, it wasn't a miraculous year of crushing PRs, but thankfully I wasn't really aiming for that.  This year I wanted to get strong and go long.  After having to drop down to the Pittsburgh Half, my goal was to get it done in under 2 hours.  I started run/walking in mid January at PT after getting off the crutches and getting to a point of walking without a limp again.  January's mileage totaled 5 miles.  I gradually lengthened the intervals and by mid-March was straight out running again.  I worked up to 4 days per week and then just a couple of weeks before the race I ran 5 days per week.  My highest mileage week for that "training cycle" (if you can call it that) was 26.5 miles.  That said, I knew I wasn't going to PR, but I hoped to get under 2 hours and at least try to get close to my previous years time.  I was almost 3 minutes slower on this course than last year at 1:51:xx vs 1:48:xx, but I was really happy with that... especially since I knew when to pull back during the race when I started feeling something going on in the previous injury site.  One thing having to come back has taught me is how to respect my body more than a number on a time clock.

What the Pittsburgh Half did for me was give me a starting point to build on for the rest of the year.  While everyone else in the running world was taking off (literally) doing fast races - 5Ks and 10Ks galore all summer - I was out on my own, building easy longer mileage to prepare me for the epic journey that lay ahead of me in training for my first marathon.  I was a bit bummed that I had to refuse my seeded position at the Great Race, but I knew in my heart that it was the best decision.  I had to stay the long/slow/strong course if I wanted to succeed in the marathon.  During these weeks I started to fall in love with heart rate training.  Yes, you heard that right.  In last year's recap I said I had tried it and "wasn't a fan".  Well, I've totally changed my tune since learning to appreciate the benefit of running slow for the purpose of endurance, strength, and recovery.  Let's face it - we all wanna be fast.  But running too fast all the time (even if it feels "good") isn't healthy OR beneficial.  Using my heart rate monitor I was able to build up my mileage safely and efficiently.  I felt great heading into marathon training.  I've also been using the monitor since running MCM for recovery and for building my mileage even further for the next season.  Instead of being annoyed with it, I now rely on it and actually enjoy the easy, slow runs and love knowing when to push myself harder when I'm supposed to. I'm honestly excited to see what happens training for a marathon using it.

Marine Corps Marathon. What an adventure... from the first run to the race itself.  There's seriously something to be said about the overall experience of training for and running a marathon.  It's really hard to even talk about with someone because it's one of those things you just have to be there for to understand.  The physical stuff.. the psychological stuff... the emotional stuff.  It's all encompassing.  Just like when I was contemplating a 5K, I refused to sign up for a race unless I was sure I could do it well (for me - my times are not a reflection of anyone or anything else).  For that first 5K, it was sub 30 mins I was after.  For the marathon, I really wanted to run it in 4 hours or less.  Coming off a training season guided by babying/recovering from injury and not PRing in the half marathon, I wasn't 100% certain I'd be able to achieve this goal at MCM.  I was going to try my hardest, but I kept checking myself mentally so I wouldn't be completely crushed if I didn't.  I figured I'd be ok with anything under 4:15.  I won't recap the whole race for you again, because you can just read the recap (all 2 parts of it), but I will never forget trudging up that damned hill and coming around the corner KNOWING I hit my ultimate goal.  Every time I watch my finish line video I cry because that wave of feeling is still there "omg I fucking did it... holy shit that was hard.. omg I ran a marathon... wow some of these Marines look so young... I'm so hot and thirsty.. I might puke... omg I did it... I want to do another one...where's this photographer telling me to go...damn everything is tired and sore... did I inhale that banana already... wheres the beer".  Haha.

Fall marathon - check.  Under 4 hours?  Bonus check.

Since MCM, I've really been simply reveling in the glory that is being a marathoner and trying to enjoy various avenues of fitness - different strength training, yoga, riding the bike, as well as rebuilding a nice mileage base... I'm thrilled with where I am right now as I close out the year.

I ran 1157 miles this year!  My highest mileage year yet!  That's pretty cool when you figure I went from running a whopping 5 miles in January to my highest month in September with 166 miles.  I was even able to build my mileage back up to 110 miles here in December!

In my personal life, I've had a lot of ups and downs this year too... as we all do.  I've been able to put my personal training certification to work and help some people with their health and fitness goals.  That's been great.  The kids are all happy and healthy and even ran a couple of races (Kids Marathon & Liberty Mile) this year!  They all just got bikes from Santa (upgraded from scooters), and they are just loving them.  On a down side, our move has been stressful, expensive, and not at all what we'd hoped.  We moved out of the city a bit and so far... it's been a huge regret.  We're already looking to move back and that is a big personal life goal for 2015.  I've unfortunately had to come to grips with the reality that some people who call themselves "family" are the most cruel and hurtful people in your life.  :\

Fitness goals for 2015?  Well, I know I mentioned this in my last post, but I'm really looking forward to this Yoga challenge.  Who knows, maybe I'll get into it so much I'll consider a deeper practice when its over.  We'll see.  One thing I really like about Adriene is her sentiment of "Find What Feels Good".  That should be a mantra for the whole year, really.  I mean, if you're doing something that doesn't feel good - physically, mentally, spiritually - why do it?

As for running, I'd love to PR the marathon, but honestly a finish in my hometown is a great reward as well.  I want to stay as injury free as I can as long as I can.  I also want to try out some new distances this year (a 30K is planned - automatic PR, baby!).  I also want to challenge myself by running more hilly courses.  I tend to sway toward the comfort and flatness of the North Shore and the GAP, but in reality I really need to run McKinney hill or that damned lodge hill more than once or twice a year.  My current neighborhood is also hilly as hell and I think more of my easy/recovery days will take place here.  This coming year is about challenging myself to go out of my comfort zone a bit while still honoring my body and finding what feels good.  I just want to enjoy life, all.

Happy New Year everyone!  Thanks for reading along and being my cheer squad and inspiration/motivation.

The #1 song that got me through 2014.  

And #2.

And lastly... if you ever see me running, singing, and crying at the same time I'm probably listening to this.  haha.

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