What kind of (run) has it been?

It’s been a little quiet around here.

[tumbleweed rolls past]

A lot has happened. A lot is still happening. We moved from our beloved home of Pittsburgh, PA – where we had built a life and home and network and some of the best running friendships I’ve ever had – to Athens, GA. And mostly, I’m just trying to get a grasp on it all and find my happy place – in running and in life. We’ve been racing (well, we raced once since we arrived).

We’ve joined the local running stores and clubs to try to make new friends.

We’ve made new dog friends and drank beer with run friends at Creature Comforts:

But something is still missing. We’re deep into training (Georgia Publix half in March; Big Sur International Marathon in April), but that skeleton of a routine seems both wobbly and weighty. I spent the first few weeks kicking ass and taking names: clobbering speed workouts, keeping up with the fast crowd at group runs, nailing long runs. Then, just as my husband was starting to hit his groove (an end of 2014/early 2015 ITBS flareup had him playing cautious for a while), I felt mine slipping away. Having adjusted the training plan to try to make a better couple of cycles before our March race, last week was changing to a build week, but apparently my body wanted anything but. On Monday, we took it easy on the Fleet Feet store run – 5 miles chatting with some different folks (we make new acquaintances each time).

Tuesday morning, after a grueling arms workout, I stood on the treadmill with my head screaming NO. Thinking it was treadmill fatigue, I pushed the run to the evening so I could do it outside in the sunshine. I cut it short to three miles, my brain crabbing with almost every step. Wednesday morning yoga soothed me, and Thursday morning, I crushed a tempo run at a little faster than goal half-marathon pace (for an aggressive goal that I’ve been thinking about throwing out, at least for this particular race). Friday morning – more yoga.

Saturday dawned cold – the damp cold of the south that I’m beginning to learn – and to admit – feels different than up north. After a deep single-digit or lower freeze and heavy snow, 30* up north feels like heaven; a gift from the running gods. Down here, 30* has a sharp bite, nipping at fingers and toes and cheeks. I haven’t lost all my northern blood yet – I swear, I haven’t. It just feels different.

We had 16 miles on the docket, and were going to do 10 alone before joining Athens Road Runners for the final 6. Every step was mental torture. My water bottle was too heavy. My hands were cold. Then my core was too hot. Then we dipped in altitude and ran by the Oconee River and the chill of the water led my core temp to plummet and my quads felt like ice blocks. It was a battle. I hit a rhythm for a couple minutes at a time, every few miles, but I wanted to throw in the towel for the majority. We finished almost 10 miles, then returned to the parking lot where the group began. A mile and a half in, I was in tears. I don’t want to do this. My husband and I cut short and headed back to the start, where I hurled my water bottle as hard as I could into the asphalt and burst into angry tears.

What, exactly, is the problem? I eked out a little over 12 miles, four fewer than planned, two fewer than last week. I had nailed a tempo run – why had I broken down so badly two days later?

I know running is just as much mental as it is physical – sometimes moreso. Sometimes we know why a run went awry; sometimes there’s rhyme and reason to it. Other times there is no logic. This was something in between. This was frustration and exhaustion and depression and loneliness – missing my running pals in Pittsburgh so badly I could feel it in my chest. Wishing I could kick that tempo run’s butt alongside Kim. Wishing I could join Danielle on Mondays when she runs long and I would run long-ish to keep her company for half the miles. Wishing I could explore the seemingly endless network of trails near Pittsburgh with Kelly.

Not everything about the long run was terrible. As someone pointed out to me a little earlier, running as many miles as I did while feeling like absolute shit was, as he put it,”badass.” While the path by the river was frigid because of the nearby water and drop in altitude, it was serene and quiet, and two deer skipped across the path a couple of times, their white, plume-like tails waving their exit. As we finished an out-and-back into Sandy Creek, we observed the feel of that road was perfect: perfectly inclined, up and down, to feel relaxing and to put our muscles at ease.

This week is a cutback week, and I already missed a run. We ran two this morning at the gym, planning for five with Fleet Feet. A work deadline prevented me from making it, but it was freezing rain as I drove to the university to pick up my husband for work so we could grab dinner instead. Through the driving, icy rain, I saw one of the store managers leading a pack of guys down the usual route, and felt a stir of envy. But it’s okay. Maybe this was supposed to happen.

We have a race in just about a month. It probably won’t be a PR day – the course is hilly, and if we do find our groove before the race, it will be just barely. Just by the skin of our teeth. By the edge of our soles. But that’s okay. It’ll happen the way it’s supposed to, and I’ll try to revel in each mile, even the hard ones.

Especially the hard ones.

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I'm a 35-year-old writer and runner. This is my running blog.

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