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2015: a look back

2015: a look back

New years is one of my favorite times of the year — it’s in my top 3! — in no small part because it makes me purposefully take stock of what has happened in my life. Obviously, I can (and should) do this all year round, but I think there’s sometimes some sort of calendar magic that comes with some year-end reflection.

All told, I got super lucky with my running in 2015. Going into this year, I was coming hot off the highest mileage I had ever posted in a calendar year — something just shy of 2,620 (easy to remember). I thought that maybe I’d be able to top that this year as I went after a 26.2 PR and my first 50 miler, but right after I ran the 50k in December, I learned I was pregnant, so I quickly put those big mileage and PR plans on hold. Concurrent with the pregnancy announcement were some shitty first trimester annoyances like incessant dizziness, mind-splitting headaches, and the desire to lie horizontally in a cold, dark room, void of any life, with my eyes closed — annoyances that aren’t super conducive to being human, generally speaking, much less to running. Needless to say, though the year began pretty rough in terms of running (and who am I kidding, in terms of feeling like myself), fortunately those shitty annoyances passed, and it seemed like the more pregnant I got, more often than not, the more comfortable running felt. So weird how that worked out.

TSFM shakeout before TSFM’s 5k at 36 weeks pregnant. SO FUN (PC: Keith)

Suffice it to say that 2015 wasn’t the year for chasing mileage or race PRs; instead, more than anything, it was about running because I wanted to, because I felt like it, and because I enjoyed how it made me feel (pregnant or postpartum). I’ve been doing this stuff long enough now that I don’t expect to PR year after year; it’s just not realistic. Honestly, sometimes running just for the sake of running is pretty damn awesome. 2015 reminded me of that repeatedly.

For the curious ones out there, here’s how each month’s mileage fared. In a few of these months, the mileage includes a few walking miles, but by and large, these numbers are all running. Right, now we’re sitting at over 1,100 for the year. The shakeout:

January: 30.54

February: 70.87

March: 90.75

April: 97.46

May: 128.18

June: 122.99

July: 123.85

August: 36.20 – had the baby early in the month

September: 50.76 – had surgery about a month postpartum

October: 123.02 – yet another surgery about a month after the first

November: 140.34

I was also lucky to be able to run throughout my pregnancy, virtually up until the day I delivered, and I consider myself stupidly fortunate to have been able to resume running as quickly as I have postpartum. Pregnancy is such a game-changer, and the same goes for postpartum; in fact, NPR even recently wrote a story on how childbirth can be considered a type of “extreme” sport and even likened it to marathon running (of course). You really have no idea what it’s (pregnancy and birth, specifically) going to be like, so you also have no idea of how you’re going to feel in the days, weeks, or months (years?) afterward. That said, I am so happy that my postpartum running has been coming along as smoothly as it has and that my body handled an intervention-less labor and delivery as well as it did.

Throughout the pregnancy, I pregnant-raced in a handful of comped races, thanks to various social media ambassador hats I was wearing, and I enjoyed all of them, especially the races where Big Sis participated. The races included the Race to the Row 408k here in San Jose; the baby mama stroller 5k, wherein I pushed A and we won the stroller division; the AAUW Wildflower 5k stroller run again with A, wherein she actually got out and ran parts of the race herself (her first time doing that!); the San Luis Obispo half marathon; the ZOOMA Napa Valley half marathon; the SF marathon’s 5k; and postpartum, the Let’s Go 510 10k up in Berkeley; the Mermaid Series’ Sirena 10 miler in SF; and the Berkeley Half Marathon.

When it comes to this year’s running lowlights, only one thing comes to mind – virtually the entire month of January. The aforementioned first trimester stuff knocked me on my ass for a lot of that month, and even thinking about running was dreadful. I was so relieved when that shitty stage passed! All the races I did pregnant or postpartum were for fun, so it’s hard to say that any of them had any low moments. I’m mildly disappointed that ZOOMA won’t be returning to Napa next year, since I kinda vowed to dominate that race next year after blowing up on it in 2014 and running it pregnant this year (and obviously not racing it), but c’est la vie. Out of my control. I’ll find another race to dominate. 🙂

Really, I think I can say every race I ran this year gave me something to be happy about, some sort of highlight, if you will. Since I didn’t race race anything this year, I genuinely enjoyed myself at each race and walked away from each experience with something that made me happy. I generally don’t purchase races and decide to just run for fun because that can get expensive quickly, but this year, I feel like pregnant-racing gave me tons of opportunities to still be in the thick of the running community, even though I had taken a step back from the racing one (if that makes any sense). It just feels good to be part of something bigger, I guess. The pics from the races in each linked RR speak for themselves; I’m generally just happy to be out there in the first place.

Without a doubt, 2015 has been excellent, and I’m looking forward to 2016. Though I have big goals and plans in mind, I’m also very patient with this process and know that it took me a lot of time to get to where I was pre-pregnancy; with that in mind, I don’t expect to be back where I was anytime soon. At the risk of sounding like a shitty new ager, I don’t believe in comebacks, in a linear process of advancement; I guess you could say that I believe in something more recursive, in a non-linear journey wherein each “bump” or “setback” is just part of the process: an “opportunity,” if you will. It’s how I write, so I guess it makes sense that it’s also how I run.

To 2016!

why marathon training now — why not.

why marathon training now — why not.

I am THRILLED for so many people this past weekend, many who were chasing down big goals and/or completing hefty distances for the first time and hot damn. So proud of and inspired by so many!! No wonder I decided to carve out some time on a Sunday eve to write about running on the little blog. (Christmas cards, I got ya… tomorrow…).

At the end of my Berkeley recap, I somewhat hastily mentioned that I took my autumnal postpartum racing/non-racing feedback into account, heed and hawed, and eventually registered for the Modesto Marathon, on 3/20. That puts me at just about 15-16 weeks out, which means that I kinda sorta officially began training this past week (you can see the runs via the Strava or DM widgets on my sidebar, if you’re so inclined). I didn’t elaborate much more on my decision-making process and thought I’d post it here, in the off-chance it might be of interest or benefit to someone else and for when I will certainly be questioning my decision-making process later down the line.

woohoo Modesto Marathon!

I’ve harped on this point in too many posts to link to by now, but I’ll reiterate again that I feel like I’ve been pretty intentional and conservative in my PP running thus far, giving myself lots of time to build strength and endurance. I was cleared to run at 3 weeks PP and had a couple surgeries before 3 months PP time, but otherwise, thankfully, the PP period has been smooth. Most of my PP LRs have been with my friend  Saurabh, who was training for a trail 50 miler (he did it!!), which meant that a) our LRs were on trails and b) as such, involved a mix of walking-with-a-purpose (“hiking”) and running. This might warrant its own separate post, since many of the earliest LRs I did pregnant were also on trails, and I absolutely think that if you can do so, pregnant runners should run trails for as long as possible and again during their PP periods. That type of running strengthens you in ways that I don’t think you can get quite so easily from pavement/flats and in the process, I think also makes you less susceptible to injury — which is key for all the obvious reasons and especially when you’re coming back from some time off and when you’re transitioning to running while pregnant. Anyway… oh, and c) trail running can often take a long time, so the time-on-my-feet factor has been high (3:30 for an 18-miler!), though the distance not necessarily.

switchbackin’ on Thanksgiving! [pc: S]
Two of the three races I’ve done postpartum — the 510 (a 10k) and the Sirena 10 (a 10 miler) — I ran on not-fresh legs. Fuck, the 10k was a couple days after my surprise appendectomy/IUD removal, and the 10 miler was the day after a LR with a couple ks of gain. I knew that I wasn’t going to break any PRs or anything like that at either of those races, but I was honestly surprised at how I felt during each race. Only at the Berkeley Half did I go into the race with fresh-ish legs, and I ran there pretty much in line with how I fared at the other two races, after taking into account the race topography (BHM is not flat, nor was the 10 miler in SF). At all these races, I was expecting the worst, and the reality was that things weren’t really so terrible.

One of the biggest reasons that pushed me over to registering for Modesto was that I want some structure to my running again. In 2014, after racing SF and pacing at SRM, I trained through the autumn for my 50k and mostly focused on time on my feet, eliminating any semblance of speed work. When I learned I was pregnant just a few days after the 50k, again my focus shifted from following a schedule to running exclusively by feel (and again, without any speed). I ran long or short when I felt well or when I wanted to: that was my training during pregnancy. It is wonderfully liberating to run however and whenever you’d like — and believe me, I’ve had a lot of fun doing so for the past year — but I’m ready and eager to follow a plan and to see what’s been brewing in the legs (or probably more accurately, what I need to harvest… and then cultivate… and then brew? maybe? not a coffee drinker, so this coffee bean metaphor is probably not as good as I thought it sounded in my head…).

Besides the feedback I got from the races this fall, I feel comfortable in my ability to train for a marathon right now because I’ve posted running volume that I’ve been happy with in the past 4 months PP. I’ve selectively focused more on volume than I have on speed stuff in these immediate PP months, and here’s how it has shaken out:

  1. August: 36.20 (had Spike 8/8)
  2. September: 50.76 (surgery #1 in early Sept; took a week off thereafter)
  3. October: 123.02 (surgery #2 in late Oct; took a day off thereafter)
  4. November: 140.34

The other big reason that pushed me to Modesto is simply why the hell not. I’m a stay-at-home-mom to two young children, including an almost- four month-old whom I’m breastfeeding exclusively, so while training for a marathon probably isn’t the most logical or easiest thing for me to be doing with my time, I think I am making it work. Without going into the logistics of my training and life schedule, I have to do some shuffling with runs and workouts during the workweek to accommodate my family’s schedule, but after doing it for a week, I think I’ve figured out a method that’ll make it all work and — most importantly — will allow my running to be minimally intrusive to our family life. That’s key for me.

the faster I can get home to this crew in the mornings, the better. and yes, this is absolutely our Christmas card picture.

I’m really excited to see how this training will unfold for me over the next ~15 weeks. It’s much too early to talk goals and such, but if nothing else, I’m going into this cycle feeling really revved up, healthy, strong, and optimistic. The running community is a wonderful one to belong to, and I’m really stoked to be able to answer that I’m not only training for “life” these days.