Thursday, January 16, 2020

A sort of 2019 review

2019 has come and gone, and it was definitely an interesting year of running I didn't run a lot of PRs. I didn't have a lot of outstanding races. I had way more disappointing/frustrating performances than would mark an ideal year of running. And yet, somehow, when I look back on 2019, my primary thought is "what a great year of running!" In fact, I had to go back and look at my goals that I set at this time last year and realize that I actually achieved almost NONE of them to realize that as far as running performance goes, 2019 was mediocre at best. So why is my overwhelming feeling one of gratitude and excitement to push forward? Number one, it was a year free from injuries, which I think will ALWAYS put things in a positive light as I've had some years where that was not the case. I ran 2061 healthy miles this year and really had very minimal downtime due to any kind of physical issues. Secondly, I think my decision to finally take the plunge into triathlon has changed my view of running at a fundamental level. While running was often times harder and slower during the triathlon training season, it was also something that it hadn't been in awhile: FUN. By offloading the pressure of performances that I could compare myself to, I really rediscovered the fact that at the end of the day, I run because I LIKE it and because I love the way it makes me feel, and sometimes I do love to go fast and race well. I think I've carried that feeling into the beginnings of 2020 and I have to say, it feels really, really, good.

So I'll do my usual by the numbers rundown as it's fun to compare these year in and year out, but I also want to highlight some of the moments this year that I look back on as times when running was just joyful, and wonderful, and when I felt everything that I ever want to feel from this sport. Some of those moments include:

- Moments on every leg of Reach The Beach, which I unfortunately never really got around to writing about. On my first leg, I took off and felt like an idiot when I crossed the first mile of my 8+ mile leg in 6:50 pace...and then I never looked back. I remember the pace feeling effortless, running next to this stunning lake as the sun began to slant through the trees, and just thinking wow, here it is, this is why I do this. I remember turning a corner and seeing the sun, golden hour, across a field as "Gravity" by Steven Kellogg and the Sixers played through my headphones, and smiling because everything was right with the world. And looking down at my watch at some point and trying to remember what my 10K PR was, because as it turned out I was about to run one in a Ragnar relay leg. And then, later, a 9 mile night leg fueled by chili and cheese curds, taking off holding a glow in the dark thunder stick, and absolutely blasting like a wild woman through the night despite the leg I'd run only a few hours prior. Grabbing a beer from my teammates on the middle of some New Hampshire road at 3:30 in the morning, spilling it all over myself because I refused to slow down, because this was just too much fun. I never wanted that leg to end. And finally, starting my final leg in a downpour, holding a Ron Burgundy bobble head, and sprinting out of the parking lot of whatever random school the transition was held in with a giant grin on my face. My legs were so, so tired, and I wouldn't be able to hold the pace for long, but I was loving every last second of that downpour. So much pride and joy and happiness for what I was capable of came through for me that weekend, and the best part of it all was that absolutely no one cared if I ran fast or not - I was doing it because it was fun, and that was all.
- Running a 6:xx mile up Heartbreak with Elise on one of our first long runs for Boston, and feeling like I was completely invincible
-The moment during Black Cat when I finally looked at my watch at around mile 7 and saw a 6:55, and it felt GOOD. And pretty much every subsequent second of that race as I kept rolling and realized that I was running so far beyond anything I had ever done before - almost running a half PR, and then running another 7 miles. The final turn for home with no one around me, city streets and "Take Me Home" blasting...I will think of that race everytime I hear that song. Definitely my best race of the year and probably one of the best races of my life. I need to give myself more credit for that race this year. It wasn't Boston, it wasn't a marathon, but damn it, it counts.
-Every single second running through Brooklyn in the NYC Marathon. Many other moments throughout the course too, but mostly, Brooklyn. Getting to scream at fellow runners until I lost my voice after the race.
-Starting the run leg of Pumpkinman with a shit eating grin on my face because I was FINALLY in my own domain, and finally appreciating how much it meant for that to be true.
-Any and every race experience where I got to cheer for my friends and run spectate like an insane person
-One of the last runs I did before Pumpkinman, with my legs feeling really good for some reason and just cruising down the dirt bike path on a glorious day, soaking it all in
-The rainy run that I did in Big Sur when I snuck into the state park and just for a moment had the trails and the redwoods and what felt like the entire world all to myself
-All of the runs where I got to explore new places on foot, from the Nashville greenway to the canyons and hills of San Francisco to the UVA campus
-The tempo run that I did at night on the Charles during my NYC cycle, when I somehow held pace effortlessly despite the dark and the wind, alone on the river and feeling unafraid and instead invincible

There are obviously many more than this - so many runs where I felt good for no reason and just went with it, so many runs that I ended with a smile and such gratitude for being out there and doing this thing. And again, maybe that's why I still feel like this year was such a success. Running has always been, and will probably always be, about the journey for me, not always the end result.

BUT for the sake of completeness, here is my "by the numbers"/goal review of 2019:

2019 GOALS
- Complete a half iron triathlon - ACHIEVED! And achieved in spectacular fashion, if I do say so myself. I would consider coming in 3rd amateur and 5th overall in my first attempt at the distance, and falling enough in love with long distance triathlon to sign up for an Ironman an achieved plus! LOL
-Run as close to 3:05 as possible in the marathon - UGH, NOT EVEN CLOSE. I kind of don't want to discuss this one. We're going to put this in the category of "unfinished business". I would say the marathon wasn't kind to me in 2019 but it actually kind of was, because NYC redeemed the distance for me by putting it in a different light. But as far as marathon speed goes...2019 was not my year unfortunately.
-Run at least 2 "atypical" distance races - ACHIEVED! I raced a 10 mile, 20 mile, Falmouth's random distance, and the usual intriguing RTB distances so I will call this a success.
-Run at least 3 mountain and/or trail races - PARTIALLY ACHIEVED. This one got thrown off the rails a little bit as I became more invested in triathlon, and not getting picked for Mount Washington also threw a wrench in the plans. However, I did at least run one trail race (right after Boston, lol) so I'll at least give myself credit for the attempt.
-Run a smart race at Boston and enjoy it - UGH NOPE. I did attempt to run a smart race didn't help. And I didn't enjoy it. AT ALL.
-Run a 10K PR - TECHNICALLY ACHIEVED!! While I didn't actually race a 10K this year, I beat my 10K PR twice during Reach the Beach, and though it is unofficial I'm still calling it a win for the purposes of this goal!

3/6 achieved, 1/6 partially achieved, 2/6 not achieved...well, that's actually not as bad as I thought!

And now, the numbers/superlative awards:

Mileage run: 2061 miles, in addition to >1000 miles on the bike and a good amount of swimming...I feel GREAT about these numbers.

Highest weekly mileage: 70.7 for one week during Boston training, otherwise very little above 60

Races run: 19, one more than last year!

New races run: 10 (same as last year somehow!)

AG/overall awards: 2nd woman x 2 (small 5Ks FTW), 3rd woman x 3 (counting 3rd amateur at Pumpkinman for this one), 1st AG x 2, 3rd AG x 2)

PRs run: 2...10 mile and 20 mile. Both of these were pretty significant but still...generally not thrilled with my performance at the more classic distances this year.

Proudest accomplishment: Just really absolutely crushing it at all of my triathlons this year, but particularly holding my own on the White Mountains bike leg on a CRAZY hard course, and my overall performance at Pumpkinman. I think I'm generally incredibly proud of becoming a triathlete while doing it my way (ie still running pretty normal mileage, not buying crazy fancy gear, etc) - something which I plan to continue to take with me into Ironman training.

Hardest race experience: I experienced a HIGHLY unfortunate number of extremely humid races this year. The obvious contender for most horrid race maybe EVER was obviously Boston, but Falmouth was also pretty terrible. The Whaling City Sprint was the first race I've ever considered the possibility of heatstroke in a 5K (90 degrees and humid)

Best race experience: A tie! Pumpkinman and NYC Marathon, wildly different in terms of performance but both win this award for the amount of joy I felt while racing both of them.

Most ridiculous weather: While Boston's weather was TRASH and definitely odd (downpour --> 60 and humid --> 70 and sunny) I have to give this award to the Whaling City Triathlon, and the entire fact that I did a RACE on the hottest day of the entire year.

Biggest surprise race performance: White Mountains Triathlon, for sure. By the time I got to Pumpkinman I had a better sense of my abilities (and was pretty close to the mark on my predictions) but White Mountains really surpassed ALL my expectations.

Number of falls taken while running: I think 2, but one very memorable run in which I broke my phone but miraculously NOT my teeth!

So, that wraps up 2019. I have many more thoughts as we head into 2020; I'm still sort of grappling with the fact that I'm not running Boston and I'm trying to figure out what exactly I AM doing while I wait for the real triathlon build to begin. But I'm extremely excited about the new challenges that the year will bring, and I think once I get through the winter a lot more of that will start to become clear.  In the meantime I'm just doing what feels good and kicking off the year, as we always should, with an indoor track mile...because why in the hell not?

The year in races:
Super Sunday 5K (20:10, 4th OA/1st AG)
Old Fashioned 10 Mile (1:09:36, PR)
Tom King Classic Half (Nashville, TN! Run as workout, 1:33:17)
Black Cat 20 Mile (2:22:14, 3rd OA, PR, best race of the year)
New Bedford Half (1:32:59)
Boston Marathon (3:35:11, trash)
Rescue Run for Marine Mammals 5K (trail race, 22:23, 3rd OA/1st AG)
Westfield 5K (20:00, first time I've ever run a round number!)
Harpoon 5M (33:21, the day after the Westfield 5K, team was 3rd OA)
Back Bay Mile (6:09, I completely forgot I did this race lol)
White Mountains Olympic Triathlon 1500yd swim/40K bike/4.2M run (9th OA, 1st AG)
MADACC 5K (in Wisconsin, so humid/hot, 22:09, 2nd OA)
Whaling City Sprint Tri 400 yd swim/11.2M bike/5K run (3rd AG)
Falmouth Road Race (51:59, this was horrid)
Pumpkinman Half Iron 1.2M swim/54.5Mbike/13.1M run (5th OA/3rd amateur/1st run split)
RTB! Leg 1 8 miles in 55:08, leg 2 9.2 miles in 1:02:24, leg 3 4 miles in 28:05
Newport Half (1:34:35, 3rd AG)
NYC Marathon (3:26:26)
Hoppy Holidays 5K (21:35, 2nd OA)