2016 was my year of trying new things. I ran a lot of new races, explored (and fell in love with) trail running and even dipped my toe into a yoga practice. I did all these things because I was burned out from running marathon after marathon and I thought it would reignite my love for running. However, to my surprise something quite different happened. I started to fall in love with all those things and found less joy in long distance running.
Then came Spring 2017, I started the year exploring Southern California via local races. While they were all great experiences, the training left me feeling flat and unfulfilled. In the back of my mind I kept thinking well maybe it’s because those were road races, or the wrong distance, or other ways to rationalize not performing or feeling that runners high that I had come to love. I was just going through the motions of running races, but in an empty way..not with the fulfillment of accomplishment. I thought maybe I needed a more structured training plan, to get back to the rise and grind.
As luck would have it, life happened to get in the way. My body wasn’t responding to the training the way it had in the past. I was tired and it was so much harder to maintain strength. After a few doctors’ visits and some interesting bloodwork, I determined most of my issues were related to hormonal imbalances. I was able to make nutritional adjustments (I now have a new love for green veggies and vitamin d) and modify my training style (more recovery time and even more hydration) which would help me maintain fitness levels.
Everything hit the wall in summer, which included emotional challenges I wasn’t expecting. There was a sick, aging dog (who luckily is doing much better) a death in the family and unexpected traveling. This put more delays in my plan to get back out there and train. I’ll be honest, I had a lot of negative self-talk during this time. Was I not training because I just couldn’t fit one more thing into my life, or was I not trying hard enough? I keep feeling the internal pressure to sign up for one more race or finally start training for the ultra trail race that everyone else was talking about. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anyone else telling me I should do all the things. However, when all your runner friends are at a place where they are excited about racing and training but you aren’t in the same place, it can make you question if you are doing it “right”. One of my main identifiers defines me as a runner, so I need to be running, right???
Don't get me wrong, during these months, I was still running, even if it was sporadic. I enjoyed running, my ability to train just wasn’t there (this was both mental and time constraints). I started to crave other activities, such as hiking vs trail running, or yoga vs a long run. Funny thing though..fall is the height of marathon season and it seemed everyone around me was in the final stretch of training. Talking to them, listening to their plans, hearing stories of their fear and their excitement for race day brought me joy. If there was a local cheer squad, I was a part of it. I couldn’t get enough of watching others race, I just didn’t want to be the racer…
Fall finally arrived and I was lucky enough to attend the Kara Goucher Podium Retreat.
I’ll be honest, I went into this retreat in a pretty low place emotionally. Stresses of life were very heavy at that time, but I had a feeling if I could just go and give it whatever I was able to give at that moment, then perhaps I could get some answers on how to move forward. You can read more about my experience here but needless to say this retreat helped me reset and find the path I needed for this season of my life.
The retreat was actually less about running, and more about introspective reflection, goal setting and personal connection. The event speakers all shared their story, including Kara Goucher; all spoke honestly leaving nothing out, creating a space for the participants to dig deep and be honest about who they want to be and how they want to direct their life’s journey. On the last day everyone was asked to share a goal and/or intention for the coming year. Some woman set pretty scary and amazing running goals, and some just wanted to reclaim a part of their identity had been lost.
It was in those days that I finally gained a bit a clarity. I had been feeling defeated by not having the desire or time to plan my running schedule. Setting running goals and doing all the things is what served me for so long that I was feeling a bit lost without it. However, at this retreat I was able to let go of what I thought I should be doing athletically and accept that those previous running goals weren’t bringing me joy. The reason why I couldn’t dedicate what I needed to training for a race, is that deep inside I didn’t want to. I keep pondering races and training plans because I just didn’t want to loose that piece of my identity. The identity of being a long distance runner. During this retreat, in this safe place, I began to frame goals for the new year around being happy and fulfilled, and letting go of piece of me that wasn't.
So here we are, the end of 2017 and now it’s time to create plans for 2018. I don’t have everything figured out, but I know what it will and won’t include, and it feels pretty exciting.
As we all spend this time of year to set our goals for 2018, I hope your plans like mine, include fulfilling your purpose and finding or creating experiences that bring you joy.