As the new year begins, I am embracing the new me. The out of shape, regular person me. I ended the year with a positive race experience (Club Nationals – 53rd place) followed by another crash in my overall health which has made even doing a simple 5 mile run an exhausting task. The possibility of a workout at this point is nonexistent which makes no sense to keep inching on. My body is screaming “take a break” after spending the months of August, September, October, November and now December in a weakened state constantly dealing with or overcoming illness. Definitely disappointing after the breakthroughs I experienced in spring and summer, but not unexpected because I have witnessed setbacks continually happening to anyone and everyone who runs long enough. It’s time for me to be a mature athlete by facing the problem and stop brushing it aside like it will just go away with a few nights sleep.
Getting sick isn’t new to me as I struggled to fully recover from mono in college for years (2002-04) and continued to train while I had Lymes Disease for a period of 3 months in 2009 and then dealt with multiple cases of severe poison ivy to the point I was sent to the hospital. Low ferritin levels have also been a limiting factor to my training and consequently I have never had much success dealing with altitude. Now more recently in 2013, I probably had over 10 colds and other more serious conditions from getting Strep B, which I’m still trying to understand. Waa waa, poor me. I know its nobody’s fault but my own through my carelessness by not responding to my body’s obvious warning signs.
It’s not that I was doing my highest mileage, not eating enough, or staying out too late. In fact my mileage has been at a record low of 30-50 basically the entire year. Not having enough base by adding too much quality could be a reason. The root of the problem started in August with the aggressive decision to run Hood To Coast. I had just come off of a much needed break and I was not up to par with 20 miles of hard running. I threw in some long runs which felt like death marches only days before the relay began in an attempt to get my body ready since my long runs had pretty much been nonexistent all year. (Great decision, genius!) Tired before the event started, I pushed extremely hard during the actual race and was unable to get the sleep I needed the following week. I had been warned when I kept hearing “you’ll feel bad for a week, don’t be dumb and start working out”. When 2 weeks passed and I still felt terrible I missed the whole point when I thought, “you’ve given yourself an extra week- time to start workouts”. I then ran workouts feeling terrible just to prove I was tough and could handle it- going to the well when I should have been just jogging at most. Eventually I dug myself a nice a deep hole and have yet to come out.
My New Year’s resolution is to just let myself completely rest. I’ll just have to accept starting over from scratch, without feeling sorry for myself as my calf muscle morphs to a blob of unrecognizable skin. Hopefully by February or March I can enjoy the process of coming back from being completely out of shape and mimic the start of 2013 when I ran 5:23 in the mile all out. I know if I can just feel good, I have the ability to come back. The motivation is never a problem. Maybe this next time, I will use my experience to keep myself from pulling another “me” from being stubborn, impatient and dilutional.
As a person of faith, I believe God is timing this setback in running perfectly as I have a few new things to focus on for 2014. One being, to stop making running my ultimate #1 and leave more time to grow spiritually. It’s also making me realize once again, that I do not have ultimate control. Since I didn’t set my priorities straight, God has been speaking to me through this lengthy illness. Basically every time I’ve been trying to run it has been a friendly reminder of “Julia, you need to take a step back and start over. Running isn’t what’s most important in life. You’re not being the best person you could be by living your life this way”.
If you are a coach or someone who isn’t into spiritual revelation I’m sure you would like me to hear something along the lines of “Told you so. Not surprised. You can’t just run hard and through osmosis get faster and one day wake up feeling great if you’ve completely destroyed yourself.” And yes, I hear that too.
I understand it’s not a bad thing when I have the gift to run at my fullest potential, but I just need to figure out how to make this happen without the other areas of my life suffering. At this point helping provide for my family would be a start as Alan is in school.
For the new year, I am happy to say that I have some new distractions in the form of a future career that should help me pass the time before I’m up to start training again. As of February I will be taking over as a Nike “running coach” with Sean Coster for a noon on Tuesday meet up group at the Michael Johnson track. Runners who are employed by Nike or have access to the campus are welcome to come by and get in shape! My second job is working along with my college roommate Bekah Holt Sands (based in San Diego) for the Rock N Roll Portland half marathon. My 3rd and toughest, yet most rewarding job is being super mom to Joanie Webb. As this takes up a lot of time and energy, I never knew how much I’d enjoy spending my days with a 1.5 year old. It’s almost impossible to have a bad day when you see things through the eyes of a toddler. I think about the fact that I was her age at one time and running was just from here to there on the playground. I’ll have time to get back into it. For now I’m doing my best (and encourage anyone else experiencing a setback) to enjoy the simple things that I never had time to see or do when I was busy training.
Although I struggled this fall, I still managed to get some quality cross country in and for that I am very thankful. My next blog I want to share my experience competing with my husband at Club Nationals cross country race this past month in Bend, OR!