Thrill of the unknown

It’s been a little while. Where do I even begin?

The last several months have been…difficult. Uneven. Challenging. Heartbreaking. Motivating. Fun. Rejuvenating. All of these things at different times and sometimes a few at the same time.

In June I ran a trail half-marathon – my first – and it was one of the hardest and most amazing running experiences of my life.

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At the top of the fire tower on Rabun Bald, halfway through the race

A couple of weeks later, we said goodbye to our beloved cat, Lily, who had been mine since she was a baby. She was 18. These few sentences are completely inadequate to describe the depth of grief, but it’s something I haven’t been able to fully put to words yet – a few here, a few there – and I know nothing I could possibly blog about would do it justice.

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A couple nights before we knew it was time to say goodbye – one of our last cuddle sessions

Suffice it to say, we were knocked off our feet for the next several weeks. We ran here and there, and most of it felt awful. We went on a lot of evening walks. We visited the mountains a couple more times over the summer. We started running with a new friend, Laura, a grad student who just started at UGA, and it put new life into our running and training, motivating us out the door for dark and muggy miles filled with great conversations.

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Hiking in the Smokies with some of the best friends ever.

I attended the fall WILDER Retreat in Maine, put on by Lauren Fleshman and Marianne Elliott, which warrants a post all its own and yet I could never possibly capture that experience in a blog post.

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The amazing women in my small group from WILDER. Just a few of the incredible females I connected with that weekend.

We trained for fall races – or something like training. We did a few workouts here and there, lifted weights a little more often than we usually do in heavy training. Shannon set an event PR at AthHalf (on another new course, but this one should stick) and I paced Laura to a 12-minute PR, on an absolutely perfect day.

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And this Saturday, we’re running the Chickamauga Battlefield Half. It’ll be Shannon’s third crack at this race, and my first crack at the half-marathon, having run the full in 2015 and having to DNS the half last year due to a head cold. The weather looks perfect – really freaking cold, actually. It’ll be mid- to low-30s at the start time and won’t get much higher than that, but it should be sunny out. I’m packing 15 thousand layering options.

Neither of us is really sure what we’re capable of right now. Sure, we’ve done a few tempo workouts, couple track workouts, some hills here and there. We have really solid base fitness. We tapered this week. And with that kind of forecast, magic can happen. But just how fast can we go? How much can we suffer?

I really have no idea. I usually go in with some clue as to what time range I should reasonably shoot for, whether that’s a PR or not. I’m pretty certain I can go under 1:50. But can I do 1:45? Can I go faster? I’m nowhere near PR shape. So what can I do?

I plan on running with my watch taped. I plan on running blind. I don’t want to see any splits or stats that might scare me into speeding up or slowing down. I don’t want to doubt myself even for a minute. I want to push hard. I want to listen to my body and my breath and go for broke if it feels right. If I blow up, fine. If I sandbag a little, I know I’ll still have a fun race.

Because that’s what I need this year to be about now: the joy of running. My passion for the BQ pursuit waned and it still doesn’t make my heart sing. The idea of a marathon is beginning to become tempting again, but for different reasons.

I want to train for and race other distances. I want to go fast and take chances. I want to show up and just see what happens.

So let’s see what the starting line holds for me this weekend. Let’s see what happens when I, listening to my own heart and feet, venture blindly into the unknown.

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I'm a 30-year-old writer and runner. This is my running blog.

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