Racing Forward.

Sorry for the lack of updates yesterday – that wasn’t very “daily” of me now was it?  Honestly, I have spent the past six weeks working literally non-stop in order to make the blog transition happen smoothly and within my legal time limit.  And now that it’s all said and done (and successful!), I needed a day to regroup.  Feels so good to finally move forward. 

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks since I have finally made my return to the gym.  I can already tell I am getting stronger, and I am bumping my weights up bit by bit each week.  I’ve been rocking out on the elliptical and stair stepper, catching up on all sorts of celebrity gossip and reading months worth of trashy magazines (when did Hillary Duff get married?  And who knew Mariah Carey was pregnant?). 

But there has been something pretty significant missing from my workouts – RUNNING.  Ever since my 3 mile return to running a few weeks ago, it has been too cold and too icy here to do any real running outside.  So I’ve been trying to make it happen on the treadmill, but for some reason I just can’t get my mind to make my legs want to do it.  I am just going to say it – I am SO sick of being injured.

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I actually heard about a fatal pedestrian accident here in Old Town just a few days ago – a girl almost my age – and it made me literally sick to my stomach to think about how differently things could have turned out for me.  I realize I am incredibly lucky to be returning to the gym after just two short months of healing.  And while of course I feel very blessed to simply be alive, there is another part of me that is just so unbelievably frustrated.  I kind of feel like I’m stuck inside someone else’s body. 

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I was looking at spring races yesterday, and decided to bite the bullet and sign up for one.  This particular race required a qualifying time, so of course I went and looked up the stats for my fastest marathon (to get in the best start corral).  Even though I knew what my finish time was, I couldn’t help but just sit and stare at the stats from just one year ago, and wonder where that runner disappeared to…

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Knowing how I feel on the treadmill these days, it’s truly unbelievably to me that I ever ran a 1:52 half-marathon, and that I was once in the top 11% of all female marathon finishers.  I am always trying to encourage the message that running is an individual sport, and that you should never feel bad or compare your distances or speeds to other runners.  But running is just that – individual – so how do you stop comparing yourself to…yourself?

After looking at these stats and feeling down about it all afternoon, I headed to the gym last night to prove to myself that there is still a hardcore runner buried somewhere deep within me.  I know my physical shape is waaay off from last year, but running is 90% mental.  If I can get my mindset back on track, I know I’ll be back before I know it. 

I ran 3 miles on the treadmill, and stopped to walk 0.25 miles of each one.  Obviously a slow start, but I am willing to accept that I’m essentially starting over from scratch.  The good news was that mentally, I pushed myself to do things I really didn’t want to do.  The first mile was around a 9:40 pace, and (after a walking break) the second mile was just over an 8:30 pace.  One more short walking break, and I was determined to give it my all for mile three.  I turned up the Eminem on my iPod and slowly cranked up the speed on the treadmill.  I finished the last quarter mile running at a 7:30 pace, and truly thought I was going to throw up at the end.

It was hard, it was horrible, and I am incredibly sore today.  But I did it – and I found that old mental willpower that I had been searching for deep inside.  I feel totally encouraged that my head is in the right place, and hopefully my body will follow. 

Flying high from my successful run, I came home and whipped out my credit card – turning my spring race hopes into real plans.  The first race being…

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Don’t worry – I’m just running the half-marathon.  It is in 13 weeks, and I think that gives me plenty of time to get in shape and get ready for 13.1 miles.  The National Marathon is the only marathon course that is entirely within the District of Columbia, and the course looks absolutely beautiful – passing monuments, the Capitol building, the White House, and all my other favorite spots.

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Not to mention there are a TON of other awesome runners and bloggers coming into town to run it too – Jen, Caitlin, Megan, Evan, Becky – and many, many more.  And did I mention that Casey signed up to run the FULL marathon?  Looks like we’ll be sticking around to cheer him on after we finish!

It’s definitely going to be a busy spring.  The weekend after the National Half Marathon is the famous DC Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run – and Casey and I were selected in the lottery to run! 

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Fun fact – I have been selected in every race lottery I’ve ever entered.  (I actually wrote a whole post about being lucky a long time ago.)  I’m really excited to do one of the BIG DC races, and I’m hoping I get picked for the Army 10-miler in the fall too!

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Last but not least, the weekend after the Cherry Blossom (which makes that three race weekends in a row), there is the Parkway Classic 10-miler that runs straight through Old Town!  I haven’t actually signed up for this one yet, but I am 90% sure I will do it – the 9th mile is literally right AT my house!

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The eventual long-term goal for all of these races is the hope of using them all for training runs for the 2011 Flying Pig Marathon in May.

It is my favorite race by far, and I have done it the past three years in a row:

We’ll see what happens with training this spring – I haven’t signed up quite yet.  I want to make sure my knee heals fully and properly, and I’m not going to push it if it turns out I need more time.  But for now, I’m racing forward and getting excited for SPRING!