Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Back to Basics

I used to have a pure love for running.  After a knee injury, I attempted road cycling, and by my standards, I failed miserably.   I wanted to love cycling in the same way that I cherished running.  I wanted cycling to be my stress relief, my “me time”, my escape.  But it wasn’t. Very recently, I purchased a gorgeous 2015 Cannondale carbon fiber road bike in hopes that it would make my journey easier.  It did the exact opposite.  It made me more competitive with myself and more frustrated by the fact that I haven’t yet aced the sport.  Due to my fear of clipless pedals, cycling became the most stressful part of my day.  Not only was I comparing it to running, I also kept dwelling on the negatives like how fast I was going, how unsafe it was, how cars don’t care about running cyclists off the road, how small the bike lanes are, how to clip in and out of my pedals faster, how to not crash into the runner who decided to use the bike lanes.  I thought about the injuries that most cyclists come across at one time or another and how those injuries could possibly affect other things that I enjoy in my life.   The negativity in my head won.  To say I am disappointed in myself as a cyclist is an understatement.  I wanted so badly to be a bad ass biker chick-and not the Harley kind where the motor does the work for you.  Even though I completed a half century ride (50 miles) on a MOUNTAIN bike, it wasn’t good enough.  I still wanted to be the chick that rides a full century and doesn’t sweat it.  And that’s when I realized something.  I have been putting way too much pressure on myself to be this bike star.  And then I realized that this is a pattern, because I also did the same thing with running. 

I’ve been running for roughly seven years.  Prior to that, I was an on-again/off-again runner.  When I moved to Florida, I became more serious about it.  And by serious, I mean that it became a part of my daily routine.  About a year after I moved here, I started looking for other ladies I could possibly run with because it got lonely sometimes.  I decided to join MRTT (shout out to MRTT Sebastian chapter).  Moms Run This Town is a local organization of amazing, supportive women who enjoyed running just as much as I did. 

Now, before I go any further, when I first joined, I knew nothing about running terminology.  I literally had a 2nd generation IPod shuffle and an old pair of running sneakers.  When I ran, it was just me, my music and the road.  I remember meeting the MRTT ladies for the first time at the 4th of July 5K race in town.  It felt so good to show up and to be a part of something.  When the race was finished, I remember the group leader asking me what my finishing time was.  I just shrugged my shoulders because I really had no clue, and said that I was a pretty slow runner.  I didn’t pay attention to the clock and I didn’t have any gear to let me know anything.  She mentioned something about a “PR”, and I felt like an idiot because I had to ask her what it meant.  I was obviously a running novice, but the group was so supportive and didn’t make me feel bad about my lack of knowledge (or lack of tech gear for that matter).  Over time, the group unintentionally introduced me to a whole new world of running.  I got new shoes that were lighter and a smartphone app that would track my time.  I started paying attention to how fast I could run each mile.  I started pushing myself to run longer, harder, faster.  And with the encouragement from this wonderful group of women, I signed up and completed my first half marathon.  My time was 2:22, which I was and still am very proud of. 

After a few months of not racing, I decided to start training to run 26.2 miles.  Now, I didn’t say marathon because I didn’t sign up for a race.  I just decided that I was going to run the 26.2 locally by myself.  There would be no medals or fanfare at the end of it all.  I was doing it for the challenge.  I trained for a few weeks, up until I got to my Sunday eight mile long run, and that’s when my knee gave out.  The pain was excruciating, but I tried to run through it.  When I couldn’t, and when I realized that even walking was painful, I knew it was serious enough to put my 26.2 goal on hold.  I was devastated mostly because I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to complete my goal.  But that’s the issue- rather than being disappointed about my inability to run, I was more disappointed about not reaching my goal.  The love I had for running, all of those years ago when all I had was my little clip on IPod shuffle, had seemed to be replaced by something else.  I was more concerned with my times, my distances and being able to tell the world that I had completed a marathon.  Running, but not the love of it, consumed me.  I have a wonderful fiancé and two awesome daughters, yet during that time, running was the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning.  And I would keep thinking about it until I completed my run.  And even after I got my daily run in, I would think about how I could have done better.  I didn’t think rest days were necessary.   I worried about where I could fit my training into my already busy schedule.  I longed for the most expensive Garmin running watch and the most expensive Brooks sneakers money could buy.  I was obsessed.  And the sad part is that I started losing the feeling I had at the very beginning, when I didn’t know what a PR was, and when I would sing along with my music at the top of my lungs as I ran because it was so much fun.  I zapped the enjoyment out of it because, as I discovered recently with cycling, I was being too hard on myself.  I was expecting the best, but missing the point.  My truth is that I will never be an Olympic runner.  I also will never ride in the Tour de France.  So, why not just sit back and enjoy it?  Why all of the pressure?  Why not celebrate the simple fact that I’m outside doing something active?  Goals and challenges are great to a certain extent.  But for me, it’s just not worth it if my entire focus is on the wrong things. 

I have just recently started dabbling back into the running arena, only two miles at a time.  I am nervous to go any further than that because, for some reason, the two mile marker is usually when my knee starts hurting.  So, I’ve decided that running “only two miles” at a much slower pace than I used to run is still pretty damn fantastic.  My intention is to upload some new tunes on my old IPod shuffle and to forget about the clock, my splits, running apps and the distances that I was once capable of running.  My intention is to stop beating myself up and to bring back the fun that made me start running in the first place.  Maybe one day, I will even be able to run the 26.2 miles.  Or maybe one day, I will clip into those bike pedals and ride a century with the big boys.  And if I do, I truly hope that all I will need is a great playlist in my ears and a smile on my face.

As for now, I will get back to the basics and do what I can, as long as my true love of the sport isn’t compromised.  And, just in case you were wondering, I am happy to say that my family has replaced running as the first thing I think about every morning.