After all the calamities during my spring and summer racing, I decided to just put my head down and focus on training hard. In the past I’ve always loved racing my way into shape and competitiveness, but now I live at least an hour away from any mildly competitive races. Not wanting to sacrifice precious family weekend time to spend half a Saturday away at a race, I opted to get in long runs or workouts on weekends instead.
My goal was the Twin Cities Marathon, which I’d never run but had heard good things. I figured a new race would be motivating, and this one always has a competitive field and historically has produced fast times.
Without racing I didn’t have much to go on other than feel, but I felt like my training went really well. I had some great long runs and quality workouts, and even managed to get in some killer Alter-G workouts where I hit times faster than I’ve ever run before. I felt fairly confident despite not having the racing results that I usually use to back it up.
Except then something started feeling wrong.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when, or what. But I ran a track workout one day and it was really slow. I felt like I was misaligned, went to the chiropractor, repeated the same workout a few days later, and was magically much faster. Repeat this sequence several more times, and then I realized I couldn’t continue this cycle of syphoning money into chiropractor visits without getting to the root of the problem (sorry chiro, but I just didn’t believe that out of the blue I was getting misaligned so often from running).
The week before Twin Cities I was at crisis point- I knew there was no point in running if I felt like my body was physically constricted and just not able to run fast. I found a knowledgeable PT who said I had weak hips that were causing sciatica issues. She did an alignment, then set me up with a series of strengthening exercises to start after the marathon.
With shattered confidence, I flew to Minneapolis a few days later trying to believe the alignment would work and nothing was wrong. Like a crazy person, I visited all three chiropractor booths at the expo, two days in a row. All three did alignments each time. Not sure if this helped my confidence (good, I’m fixed and ready to go for the race!) or hurt it (so basically my sciatica slips out anytime I even walk), but I tried my hardest to ignore it and just focus on the good training I had and find the right mental state for running hard. Spoiler alert: I ran about 10 minutes slower than I hoped, finishing in 2:53. The thing is, I enjoyed the race. Nothing went wrong; it was perfect weather, a beautiful course, I felt like I stayed focused and pushed myself … I was just a lot slower than I expected.
I spent the next few days obsessively contemplating every aspect of the race and my training but couldn’t find any fault. If anything, I felt defeated, and resigned to the fact that maybe my competitive days are just over. I decided that I no longer had the desire to pursue qualifying for a fourth Olympic Trials, and I was ok with that. Whether it’s age, inability to train like I know I need to, or lack of competitiveness, ultimately I feel like I have nothing to prove, and that intense drive is the missing ingredient to really pushing myself.
Back to the original question: am I good with good enough? I am. I always thought I wouldn’t want to race when I no longer felt competitive, but now that I’m past the point of chasing PRs, I’ve run a few races with the mindset of seeing how I can push myself on that day. Not caring about time or place, but running hard in a competitive environment, to chase what I can for where I am at that time. As long as I don’t compare my times to previous times or go down the rabbit hole of “if only,” I’ve enjoyed just competing in the moment.
As for the hip/sciatica issue? My husband deployed the day after I got back from Twin Cities, so it was good timing anyway to take a long recovery and just run lower, easy mileage. I hit the hip strengthening exercises hard, and thought I would be good to go. But when he returned at the beginning of the year and I upped my running, they immediately returned. My whole right side was constricted; I had no leg lift, restricted turnover, no strength on hills. After visiting several different Doctors/PTs, I finally got what I felt like was a conclusive diagnosis: it wasn’t my hip after all, but hamstring tendinopathy. I’m about one month into what is supposed to be a 6 month recovery process. Now knowing that I had something physically wrong constricting my body from running fast, will I still be good with good enough? That’s another story yet to be told.
This photo is me having fun on a glow run with my daughter. It was her first race, and something new for me since previously I always wanted to race to win!