Racing to spark joy

Well … it went.

It didn’t go terribly.  I knew I wasn’t going to make my goal of sub-2:00, or even PRing, but I didn’t even make my revised goal (2:10).  I came in just north of 2:13, which is about an average of a 10:09/mile pace.  Given most of my training runs have been in the 10:30-11:30 range, and given my injury, this really was not a bad showing at all.  My legs were feeling pretty wrecked at the end of the race, but by and large, I made it through this race feeling pretty strong.  My hip was bothering me in points, but it is definitely a lot better than it was.

This past year, and in particular this most recent training season, has taught me a lot about why I race and what I want to get out of it.  I had grand plans of training year round, increasing my speed, breaking a threshold I once never thought possible. Except I didn’t train year round.  This year’s winter was mild enough to allow me to run far more than I had even intended, but this summer’s humidity stopped that pretty solidly in my tracks.  Instead of subbing out missed runs with spin class – a tactic I’ve used in the past with some success – I subbed out for HIIT classes because I enjoy HIIT classes more than spin classes.  While HIIT is a great complement to training, it is NOT a substitution for running.  My endurance continued to improve, but I got slower.  A LOT slower.  And when I tried to push harder, I got hurt.  Too little, too late.

Even so, I’m glad I ran Hartford this year instead of deferring.  The race itself is really great – gentle rolling hills (just enough to keep it interesting), some really nice portions of the course, great spectators, well-organized, terrific post-race food and beer, good swag.  Hartford in and of itself isn’t exactly a choice destination, which is why I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it unless you have a tie to to the area.  I was happy that I was able to reconnect with an old college friend who ran the race as well, which, for me, gave an added bonus to the trip.

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Always fun to catch up with old friends.  It’s also always fun to drink a good microbrew post-race!

However, more than anything, I am glad I didn’t defer because it reinforced that my approach to choosing races has been all wrong.  At one point, I had thought I wanted to be a 50-stater, however I have since decided against this as I didn’t want to travel to a certain place or run a particular race just to check off a box.  With limited time and limited funds, I simply don’t want to commit to that.  Not only that, but some states have multiple races (and places!) of interest, and I don’t want to overlook those in favor of arbitrary race-bagging.

However, I still was registering for races to check off a box:  wanting to do X number of races in a year/season/time frame, without regard for whether it was something that would actually spark joy.  If I am spending the money and time, and putting in the work, I want it to spark joy.  Convenience is a legitimate factor, too, but not at the expense of joy.  As I said in my last post, I want to love my sport again.  This is how I’ll get there.

I’ve made some preliminary choices for possible 2017 half marathons, and I am already getting really excited about the prospect of competing in these races and seeing these places. As it so happens, the preliminary choices are all in different states (and none of them states I have ran half marathons in yet), but that’s merely a coincidence.

In the meantime, other than the races I am currently signed up for (Squirrely Six Miler and Troy Turkey Trot 10K), I won’t be competing in any additional races for the rest of the year.  While this decision certainly lifts any self-imposed pressure for the time being, the decision is bittersweet. Stockadeathon – one of my favorite local fall classics – is coming up too soon for comfort, and even on my four mile run last night I felt some nagging hip pain (it passed relatively quickly, before I even completed my run).  I still am going to keep running as long as the weather cooperates, but I am not going to push myself.

I also really need to get new sneakers.  There’s definitely still life in my sneakers (many reviews have my sneakers going for 700+ miles, I currently have about 450), but if I am going to run for more than 5-6 miles, I need some newer cushion.  I can hold onto these for short runs while giving my legs a rest in newer shoes with longer runs.  I have a box full of sneakers to donate after a recent Fall Purge, so I really need to make a trip to Fleet Feet anyway…

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