Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Laying A New Foundation

Have you ever worked so hard for something only to have it slip away?  It doesn't take long for weeks and months of hard work to be crushed.  It's not easy to put your heart and soul into a goal only to have it desintigrate faster than a blink of an eye.  I thought about this a lot on Monday as I mentally prepare myself for another marathon training cycle.
My run on Monday took me alone some of the most beautiful and the most devastated beaches on the NJ shore. A small town called Mantoloking found itself front and center in the path of hurricane Sandy in 2012. Three years later glorious beach front homes....(multi-million dollar homes) have been condemned or worse reduced to mear rubble.  Dreams of the good life washed away in an instant. No warning really, just gone. The only thing left is to walk away and forget the dream or lay a new foundation and start anew.

Isn't that what our training seasons are like? Always building up....sometimes we reach that goal but sometimes we don't.  My favorite mantra of racing is "you take what the race day gives you".  Sometimes that can be pure joy of reaching your goal or sheer and utter disgust that all that hard work and energy didn't amount to what you intended.  But with every PR comes a moment of disappointment.
The crushing realization that your goal is unattainable at this time.  What do you do in that moment?  Do you walk away and forget the dream ever existed? Or do you rebuild? Take stock in what you have learned and relay the foundation?

I was faced with that question last fall. I was struggling to make mental peace with the events of my Boston 2013 experience. After a crushing failure in 2014 I was trying anything I could to reclaim some type of victory. But if I'm honest with myself I didn't lay my foundation properly and I failed. Taking stock in the events of last year, I didn't train for Boston 2014 properly.  Mentally my head wasn't in the game.  I got my long runs in, but that was about it. I ran a ragnar race 2 weeks after Boston & started training for a 50 mile ultra in July.  My body hurt, IT band, hips.  It wasn't fun.  In Sept I ran 20 miles of a 50 mile trail relay in prep for my 50 miler.  I fell around mile 15 and fractured my ankle.  That fracture mentally destroyed me.  I felt as though I was a pile of rubble cast aside.  I felt maybe my time was up.  I'm 43 and no spring chicken.  Was I too old and too weak?  Heck I'm not really an athlete, maybe I'm not even a "runner". 

But after the dust settled and I had time to reflect and be truly honest with myself I realized I didn't lay a proper foundation. First off I didn't allow my body any recovery.  I was so hell bent on being victorious at anything that I ignored signs of fatigue my body was giving me.  I realized wasn't training to my full potential.  I had cut corners, missed runs, didn't strength train.  Given those factors how could I expect to PR or trail run successfully when I didn't train properly.  The answer was, I couldn't. 

My ankle fracture was a total wakeup call.  It allowed me time to totally allow my body to recover.  It gave me space to think about what I really wanted.  In October a friend asked me if I was running Boston, I said no.  But then I thought why am I not running?  Don't I deserve one more chance to reclaim my race that was taken in 2013?  I knew right there and then I wanted to run, I needed to run. I immediately called the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club to see if they had any charity numbers available.  I had run for them in 2013 so I thought I'd try them first.  They had one number left and it was mine if I wanted it!  I didn't even have to think about it.  I received the paperwork & faxed it back within 30 minutes and just like that the dream was renewed.

In order to succeed I needed to rebuild myself. I knew I needed to fully commit to my training. No half fast workouts.  No skipping runs because of the weather or other plans.  I was either all in or all out.  Just like the people rebuilding here on the NJ shore.  You can't rebuild half-fast...you either wipe the slate clean and rebuild with a new foundation or you walk away.  I had my best training season for the 2015 Boston Marathon.  I used the Hanson Training Method and came upon race day uninjured feeling mentally and  physically stronger than I had in years!  I beat my 2013 projected time, which was my ultimate goal.  But if I'm honest I was also disappointed.  I knew in my heart I could have done even better.  All of my training runs had predicted a finish 12 minutes better but circumstances on race day and fueling issues didn't allow for that.  So when I crossed that finish line and the medal hung around my neck I let the reality of my Boston 2015 experience sink in.  I celebrated my victory with family and friends and reflected on what I needed to do differently and what I had learned.   I didn't immediately sign up for another race, which is usually my M.O. right after a race.  However this time I allowed myself time to think and reflect.  I didn't even write a Boston race re-cap yet because I wanted to fully understand my emotions.  Boston 2013 kicked my butt mentally for 2 years and I needed to process it.

It wasn't until June that I decided I would try another marathon in October.  I had been trying to decide if I try my hand at another 50 miler or if I try another marathon.  The reality is I really want to see if I can reach that secondary goal.  I love road running and I feel I'm on a good path to take myself to the next level.  It's not going to be easy, I find summer training grueling.  The Hanson Training Method is intense and the weekly mileage is high.  But it got me to my goal in April and I am hoping that this foundation will take me to my goal in October.  Relaying a new foundation is never easy.  Putting your faith in a new training plan, (a contractor) so to speak takes guts.  But if your boards are rotted, if the nails are rusted shouldn't you replace them with new?

Have you ever had to take a step back and re-lay a new foundation?  What is holding you back from starting new?

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