When 2015 closed and 2016 began, I wrote, rather snarkily, that my singular goal for the new year was “to go forth and kick ass.” No doubt that life is hard to plan for any of us, especially a year out, and especially when you’ve just had your second kid and are getting used to life with two kids, your oldest starting school, and the whirlwind of change that your body and mind goes through postpartum, so perhaps needless to say, I had no fucking clue how 2016 would pan out. Having done this postpartum dance before with running, I knew that it’d behoove me to simply take things a day at a time — really, that’s all that any of us can ever do, right? — and to not get too far ahead of myself.
The executive summary: my 2016 year of running, somewhere around 2010-2020 miles, was fantastic, though at times, it was shitty. Racing and training was arguably better in 2016 than it’s ever been, depending on how you slice it, and most importantly — and I do mean most importantly — the miles, the training, the racing, all of it was injury-free. I can’t ask for more than that.
Some highlights and lowlights from the year, in no particular order:
Running trails more frequently. I’m incredibly fortunate to live in an area of the country that has basically perfect running weather year-round and one that’s also home to a rich array of trails. While many parks and preserves require a decent drive from where I live, Monument Peak and Alum Rock are both very nearly in my backyard, and I spent more time running in both and AR and MP this year than in years past. Whether I was running with the baby through parts of AR with Wolfpack teammate Janet or going long with Saurabh and company on their 50k/50mi/100k training runs through Monument Peak (et al), I’ve come to the realization again and again that trail running is just good for the soul. It may sound like hippy-dippy-nonsense shit, but god is it true. I love roads, I love running as fast as I can and racing to exhaustion, but there really is something to be said for chasing elevation for a change and hauling ass up what seems like veritable Everests so you can experience a piece of the world that’s inaccessible otherwise. And — practically speaking — I’m convinced that the trails and hills made me faster on roads, helped keep me healthy, and got me strong as I worked on my strength in this first year postpartum.
Tons of stroller miles with one/both of the girls. I spent tons of time on the road with one or both of my girls in 2016, either for regular ol’ training runs or “commuting” (to/from school drop-offs/pick-ups). Stroller running makes the already challenging motion of running much more difficult, no doubt, but it also makes it a lot more fun (usually). These days, when I ask the baby if she wants to go for a run, she basically drops whatever she’s doing and has a big smile on her face and runs in the direction of the stroller. Big Sis will often ask to go on a run with me, big smile across her face, too, so I feel like I’m doing something right here. I don’t push my kids to like this sport just because I do, but it’s nice to know that they’re growing up knowing that regular physical activity is part of a normal/healthy lifestyle.
Volunteering and spectating at RNR SJ and CIM with Big Sis. I love racing, but I think spectating comes in at a very close second. Again this year, Big Sis and I volunteered with Wolfpack as course monitors along the RocknRoll San Jose course. Doing so allowed us to keep the runners safe (natch) while we cheered and cowbelled our little hearts out. There’s no shame in my game, here: I can’t tell you how much I teared up watching Big Sis cheer her heart out for the runners, and the joy on her face when runners veered over to her for side-5s couldn’t have been more perfect. In December, we trekked up to Sac to spectate and cheer at mile 21 at CIM. It was a perfect day for a marathon, and we got to spend part of the morning with Paula while we all cheered and cowbelled so hard that one of us (ahem) began to feel very, very faint. If you ever want to make a five year-old’s day at a race, take two steps outside the tangent to give her/him a side-5.
Racing in FL over a girls’ weekend with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law. Over my sister’s birthday weekend, she, our mother, and my sister-in-law and I all flew to Jacksonville, FL, for a girls’ weekend away at the beach. I had won an entry to a half marathon there, and the weekend shook out to be about 95% R&R and 5% running. It’s rare that I get quality time with my family sans children running underfoot, and it was just a wonderful weekend away. Bonus: I ran my second-fastest HM ever, and as a workout, so I got a boost of confidence for my autumn marathon training.
Tying my marathon PR at 7 mos postpartum and then breaking my PR at 15 mos. PP. I took a bit of a leap of faith and decided to race my first marathon at 7 mos. PP in Modesto, and the training and race fared much better than I anticipated, resulting in my basically tying my PR. About seven months later, the universe aligned even better, and I finally broke my three-year-old marathon PR at Two Cities Marathon while having a good time downstate with Meredith. At TCM, I raced feeling calmer and stronger than ever before, and I am stoked to see how I can continue to improve.
Pacing a first-time marathoner to a 3:30 (and BQ). I had a rare opportunity to run an inaugural marathon and also help unofficially pace a first-time marathoner, and it was the perfect way for me to approach a marathon that I had otherwise felt a bit mentally burnt-out on. Sometimes when you’ve been doing something for a long time, you forget the little steps along the way that help enliven the process, and I couldn’t have been more pleased to share my 27th marathon nearly side-by-side with my unofficial co-pacer and friend, Chris, and his 9run6 friend and first-time marathoner, Alexia, who’d go on to finish in 3:30 — a BQ ain’t too shabby for your first marathon, gal!
Very unexpectedly PRing my half. Just a couple weeks after my marathon PR at TCM, I showed up to the Berkeley half marathon without any expectation or goal, and I was absolutely floored to destroy a three-year-old half marathon PR. I had long ago put that HM PR up on the shelf, thinking that it’d be forever untouchable, so I can’t even begin to describe the rush and joy that I get when I think of how that race went, how much fun it was, and how strong I felt from start to finish.
Getting a colitis diagnosis. This is a double-edged sword. After basically 7 years of “stomach problems,” with a couple pregnancies, international travel, surgeries, life, and everything else thrown into the mix, my GI here diagnosed me with a type of colitis that’d likely explain the incessant “stomach problems” I’ve been experiencing. With his diagnosis came medicine; with medicine came relief and an abatement of symptoms. It’s like science works or something. Crazy, isn’t it. +1000 to my improved quality of life.
Getting a colitis diagnosis. The double-edged sword aspect is that I got a colitis diagnosis, one which I’ll have for the rest of my life, adding to my other autoimmune disorder gem. I spent more time in my GI’s office, peppering him with questions, than I did with any other practitioner this year (and probably many of them combined). After a lot of conversation with him and a battery of tests, he came to this diagnosis, and together we decided that the drug’s benefits outweighed its risks. Within weeks, I had relief. I hope that this colitis becomes just something minor to manage, and while I obviously am not keen on having another lifelong autoimmune disorder that necessitates daily medication, I am grateful to have a good relationship with my GI and have no trouble being my own biggest advocate. One of the biggest takeaways I have from 2016, maybe a subject for a future post, is that the relationship we have with our bodies is one of the most important relationships we’ll ever have, and it behooves us to advocate for ourselves accordingly.
A DNS at the SF Marathon & at pacing Santa Rosa. That colitis diagnosis I keep talking about? Well, before we got it all sorted out, let’s just say it did a number on my running and on my day-to-day life. I ultimately decided to DNS at SF Marathon and to not pace 3:35 at Santa Rosa — both decisions I wasn’t particularly eager to make — because of how god-awful my stomach felt. I have only DNSed a couple times since I started doing this stuff in ‘07, but I absolutely knew that I was making the right call at the time. As runners, it can be really hard to swallow our pride and not follow through on our goals, but if we want to do this stuff for a long time, we gotta take the long view and think big-picture. Easier said than done, I know.
My 30 year-old cousin’s death. Not at all related to running, but very much affecting my life this year, was the death of my 30 year-old cousin. I haven’t talked about it here at all, and I’m still trying to figure out (six months later) how and where I can go with it for a post — because it matters — but my thirty year-old cousin died from a heroin overdose, leaving behind her 18-month-old daughter and her parents, my aunt and uncle, without their only child. Opioid abuse has reached an epidemic level in this country, and northeast Ohio is in the thick of it. It’s heartbreaking, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to read her obit, thinking that I didn’t actually get the call that I did with the news, or look at her fb page (again thinking that it’s not real), only to see a litany of RIP messages. Quite honestly, it sucks. As a parent, I can’t fathom what my relatives have to be going through. I can’t rationalize it, it’s beyond my comprehension, and every time I read a news story about heroin or opioids in this country, I get equal parts depressed and just pissed as hell. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of her, wondering if I could have said something or done something — I saw her not even 12 hours before her death — and my heart is shattered for my aunt and uncle. It’s awful. Running isn’t therapy, and no number of miles that I run will bring her back or make her not use heroin or hurt her family, but god have I ever hashed and rehashed scenarios like these (and others) in my head over so many runs since she died in mid-July.
The relationship that we develop with our bodies is a powerful one, and arguably, it’s one that many of us tend to take for granted. Once we get into the rhythm of running regularly, or running injury-free, many of us just assume that day in and day out, we’ll be able to wake-up, do our running thing, and get on with our lives. It’s often not until something huge interrupts our flow that we realize shit, a lot has to happen (on a macro and micro level) in order for me to run, and suddenly our presumption that our hobby of choice will always be there transforms into a sheer attitude of gratitude of being able to just do said hobby in the first place.
While (fortunately) 2016 didn’t beset me with any injuries, or really any niggles to speak of, as I worked to gain strength and speed in that first year postpartum — while also dealing with the shitstorm that was my stomach, and later, the anguish over my cousin — I guess you could say that I fortified my attitude toward running, both currently and in the long-term. I’m not a “have to” runner these days, nor do I plan to be one anytime soon. I don’t have to run. I get to run.
Having an attitude of gratitude toward this little hobby of mine no doubt helped fuel the fire toward getting stronger, getting faster, and just having a fucking ball out there in 2016. I didn’t expect to set any PRs this soon out from kiddo dos, and while those I set were of course awesome and special, most of my memories from this year come from all the “chop wood/carry water” miles along the way — the daily grind; the running with my kids; the trail adventures; the miles, roads, and routes that become part and parcel of my daily life.
I think I turned a corner in 2016 with my running. That said, I’m intrigued to see what’s down the road in 2017. More than that, though, I’m honestly just grateful to get to be on the road in the first place (cheese cheese cheese, but true). We’ll see what happens. I’m amenable.