Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Berlin nerves, marathon nostalgia, and growing up

Well we are about 7 weeks away from what will be my 5th (!!!) marathon - the route that dreams are made of - Berlin Marathon. I coined that phrase myself (TM?), because it seems like everyone who goes to Berlin to run, goes to run a personal best time. At least that is what it seems like from all the blog recaps I have been reading. And my own personal experience.

The course is known for being flat and fast and holds some of the world record times in the marathon. Just this weekend I started reading blog entries with recaps of the race and almost every one I read started something along the lines of "If I got into Berlin Marathon, I knew I was going to train to race it..."

It sounded familiar. Primarily because that's exactly what I said all along when I first entered the lottery for Berlin. I set my PR in the marathon at Chicago Marathon in 2015 at 3:58, in one was one of the most amazing races of my life. I loved everything about that race - including all of the training leading up to it. I felt like it was the most perfect equation of everything going my way in order to achieve that time. Great friends that I trained with all summer, great support leading up to the race, great course, great weather, friends along the route, etc. I went into the day wanting to run fast and through all of that coming together, I did, running faster than I could hardly believe. I proved something to myself (and to others) on that day.

Then in 2016, I ran New York City Marathon, one I knew all along would be about the experience and not the time. I enjoyed it and am glad that I did that race that way, but wanted to go back to a year of racing a marathon. So, here we are in 2017, as I head into another world major and back into the mindset of racing with a time in mind.

This really scares me. Part of me is thinking, "Wait, why did I want to do this again?!"

It scares me for a number of reasons. It scares me because I set an aggressive goal and time for myself that I don't know if I can actually do. It scares me because as much as I remember how wonderful that day was at Chicago Marathon, I also remember how hard it was. How everything had gone perfectly for me to hit that goal and I don't know if I will have that same experience again. I reread my blog entry from the Chicago Marathon last week and found myself sobbing at the end of it, reliving that day over in my mind. However, part of the reason that I think I was crying also wasn't just the happiness from the day but it also reminded me a little bit of the loss of the person that I once was.

The common theme throughout this year for me has been improvement and growth. I have been getting faster and stronger and smarter and fitter. I know this. I can see this. And although they still surprise me sometimes, the paces of my runs and races don't lie.

Mentally I am growing as an athlete as well and that becomes SO apparent to me especially when I go back and read my blog entries from one or two years ago as I train for races. I am training with really strong, impressive athletes, I have invested in resources to help me - not just with the actual training but with nutrition, recovery, etc.  I have even done a number of things throughout the year to improve my own personal education... such as taking a course to get certified as a running coach myself! Part of the reason I don't even write as much anymore is because this used to be my place to think out loud, pose questions, record and track my training, post my struggles with weight loss and training, and things along those lines.

I didn't really know anyone else to talk to about the things I was facing as I "grew up" in this sport and this was my place to do that. Sometimes rereading my old blogs makes me a little sad because I almost don't really need that anymore...

Part of "growing up" (transition from HungryTwenties to HungryThirties if you will!) is that I have a coach and TrainingPeaks and all of these tools and resources as my fingertips. I train with people who are faster and stronger and more experienced then me. And I am taking advantage of all of these things, soaking up as much as I can, and utilizing all of them. And they're working! I am not just becoming stronger physically but I am becoming smarter about my training and more confident.

But rereading my Chicago blog, the race I am comparing every other race to at this point, and rereading some of my old posts from when I trained for it, I feel a little sad. A little bit of longing for that naive girl who was just out running with her friends every day and excited to fit it all in.

I have a more aggressive goal this time. And a more aggressive training plan. I am still having fun and learning and loving this sport, but it has definitely changed for me. Maybe slowly at first. But now I look around and it is like I am a completely different person. Part of me wonders... will it feel as good to hit my goal at Berlin Marathon as it felt to break 4 hours that day? Maybe it will. Maybe it won't.

It's funny. As I write this right now, I remember thinking the exact same thing after my FIRST marathon, the Paris Marathon. How could ANYTHING beat this? Would anything EVER feel as good as it did to run my first marathon?!

And now, that marathon isn't even in my mind as I sit here and write about marathon nostalgia. The girl who ran Chicago was so different than the girl who ran Paris. And I guess the girl who runs Berlin will be different than all of those. I used to have one of those "one-a-day" calendars that had quotes about running and I remember one that I had on my refrigerator for a long time that said "The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race" and maybe that's the exact conclusion I am coming to right now.

One of the most obvious changes (to me) that I've realized in myself is my ability to set and talk about goals. Earlier this year I would never have told you the time that was in my mind for the Berlin Marathon. Well, if I am even being honest, I didn't even set the time for myself, my coach did. In the second conversation we ever had together about what I wanted out of the year and my races. I suggested a time, and he threw back a time that was 10 minutes faster than that asking, "Why not this?" Ummm... because that time is really, really fast?

For months if people asked me about goals if I answered at all, I would say, "Ha. Well, Jerome thinks this... but that's insane."

Eight months of training with him and I am getting faster. I can see that and I am proud of that. I have set personal best times in the half marathon and 10K this year, and my 5K splits from those races and from training breaking any 5K race personal best I had. In addition to PR-ing those distances in standalone races, I have set personal best or near personal best times for myself in both of those distances as part of triathlons as well! I still can't wrap my head around that I ran 1:56 half marathon during my half ironman this year.

Training regularly this year with a group, others have noticed it as well and have commented to me about it. I love this support and the fact that I have all these people around me who are fellow athletes who are cheering for me. It is also a little bit new to me. And intimidates me a bit.

I've always shared aspects of training on social media or posted my workouts on the blog. But I never have been super detailed with all of my training times or paces or speeds. And that's been purposeful. I know how I am when I see other people's times and paces posted to social media and I have never wanted to do that myself. I like sharing the workout itself... but my actual statistics from training I generally keep to myself. I am not on Strava and I am not connected with others on any form of app or connected tools. You'll see me post actual times following races or every once in a while after a milestone workout as part of training where I am really proud of something.

Otherwise, that information I am more private about. I've always loved to come out and surprise people on race day, not during training! So the fact that people are taking notice of my paces during training is new to me.

Over the past few months, my language has changed as to how I talk about upcoming goals. This has been one of the biggest signs of my growth in confidence I have noticed in myself. If you ask me now, I will confidently tell you what my goal is for the Berlin Marathon and what even more longer term goals I am considering. I NEVER did this before. Ever. I had been thinking it is a good thing and as I mentioned earlier, a sign of "growing up" in the sport. However, lately, this, as well as the fact that people have been noticing my improvements, I am starting to freak myself out a bit.

It feels like in the past when I used to be able to surprise myself and others and be thrilled with that, I feel like there might be expectations. Expectations from myself, from others who I have shared my goals with (which is anyone who asks) and expectations from the people who have noticed my improvements. These mental changes make me nervous going into my race. What if I can't live up to all of this?

In rereading my blog entry to the Chicago Marathon and remembered the feelings I had leading up to the race. I didn't get a time goal stuck into my head until the end of my training cycle. Once I did I was fixated on it and couldn't sleep I was thinking of it so much. I remember crying to my mom on the phone because I was so nervous. I told maybe 3 or 4 really close friends what my time goal was before the race because I was afraid I couldn't do it.

That day was so special because I shocked myself and a lot of other people. I came back to Atlanta and people were literally talking about it. "Did you see what Katelyn ran in Chicago?!" People were honestly in disbelief. I was a bit as well.

I've run enough races now that have really shocked people that I feel a little bit like the cat's out of the bag and we've moved on to a place where there is a different type of pressure on me and I am not sure how to handle it. My coach keeps asking me when I am going to stop writing in my comments after my workouts "I can't believe I ran that fast!!" but part of me hopes I don't even lose that shock. I don't want running fast to ever be an expectation for myself. The surprise and excitement of being assigned a specific workout to try and achieve has become what is fun for me now in my growth. I never did this before this year.

Honestly, sometimes I miss the mornings of running casually through Midtown Atlanta with my friends or the Hudson-Mohawk Bike Path in Schenectady and talking while I ran... not worrying about pace or time or anything. It was simpler. It was easier. It was a different kind of high to my morning routine. There has been a lot of change this year and growing out of this type of running has been hard on me.  It's something that I don't always talk about but lately I've been feeling a bit nostalgic for those days. On the other hand, I am SO PROUD of where I have come and love the high of nailing a hard workout or seeing a fast time. It is so exciting to me. Yet it is a weird feeling to feel both nostalgic about and miss something but at the same time be happy with where you are. Our morning run crew is all in different places than where we were that summer as well, but that doesn't mean those weren't some of the most fun mornings running. Or my old morning runs while I lived in Albany either.

July 2015 in Atlanta
April 2014 in Schenectady
Although it feels a little sad at the same time it's not something that I am really wishing to go back to training wise (but I could always go for more time with my friends!) I enjoy where I am right now with training and life. I don't think I would have the same fulfillment if I was still doing that for all my runs or still in the same place I was 2 or 3 years ago. It would mean I wasn't growing or evolving or challenging myself in the sport at all. At the time, just getting in the runs was the challenge and I've moved beyond that. It is hard, but finding the right balance.

And I think it's okay to feel a sense of sadness for something that has changed with time. I will end things on a non-running related note with a story that made me smile and feel a similar sense of nostalgia this week. In November I have a trip planned to go to Chicago with my childhood girl friends (KO, Teenie, Meag, and E) as the first in our group is having a baby girl. This is wild to me on a whole other level - I love these girls so much and it feels like we were just little girls ourselves not too long ago.

The Fab Five <3 td="">
I was laughing to myself as we coordinated our flights - I arrive a few hours after everyone else and in our discussion the girls replied "Great, we'll get food and cook dinner for when you land Katie!" Which, sounds about perfect to me. Whereas about 5 or 6 years ago, the same exact group went to Chicago to get together and I flew in a few hours after everyone.  However they had all been out drinking at happy hour and the conversation was around how do I catch up to everyone on the drink scale! Times change. People change. It's part of life. I think back to leisurely running the same way I think back to chugging a few drinks to catch up with my friends - I miss it, it was fun - but I don't need to be in that same place still.

The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes. Here is to more race finishes and continual growth as a runner and a person!

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