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• why injury has made me a better runner

Two quick things before I launch into my latest soap box…Sorry in advance for subjecting you to photos, once again, of me in that striped headband and my Lithia Loop Marathon shirt. I DO have lots of other running clothes, but these are just my absolute favorites.  And, for the full meal deal on the Ridgeline Ramble, see my race report post from today as well! 

I love it when you find someone at the end of a race that you can pace with – you push each other to the end, finish together and feel like you’ve known them for years. Saturday, that person was Liz. I knew I could keep up with her because I trusted my training. (See number 9 below)

So, I haven’t raced in over a year. And, while I have signed up for the McKenzie River Trail Run 50K on September 8th, I plan on running a few trail halves, and maybe a trail marathon, before hand. The Ridgeline Ramble 20K Trail Race was first on the list. Wow. It was an amazing day. It was amazing because  I felt trained. I felt qualified. I felt like I belonged there. It’s strange, even though I’ve done many races (most longer than 20K), I can honestly say that I felt the most ready for this one. Having had to start from square one after several months off last summer due to my myriad of foot injuries, made me a new and better runner. I got an awesome do-over.

Here is a list of reasons why I’m a better runner than a year ago:

1. I got humbled by injury and time off. You don’t miss it till it’s gone. Since I’ve been back to running, I have had NO complaints. I’m thankful each day I get to run. What a gift.

2. I cross train. Something was bound to break down with just running. I am surprised I went so long. Swimming is my cross training sport of choice. I go at least 3 times a week. It stretches everything out and I love using the pull buoy and paddles to work my core and upper body.

3. I got a coach. Well, not just ANY coach. The most incredible coach: Cathie Twomey Bellamy, owner of Eugene Running Club. I’m tearing up just typing her name. Simply put – she GETS me. All of me…my running, my weaknesses, my strengths, my quirkiness, my humor, my inner dialogue, my insecurities, my dreams. I have never had anyone who was in total understanding of my love of running while at the same time such an expert at helping me achieve my goals. And what a friend.

4. I LISTEN to my coach and followed the rules. (Because it’s not enough to just have a coach.) Especially when I was in the beginning of my back-to-running program, Cathie would tell me to report in on my runs and be uber honest – “Like I’m-staring-into-the-whites-of-your-eyes honest!” It was hard to admit when something hurt after running 5 minutes then to be told to back off or not run the next day. That was harder than hard. Like impossible. But I had trust. And it worked.

5. I lost 10 pounds. I didn’t try to really, I just quit eating most things with gluten and kept up two sports with biking thrown in on the side.  I don’t do a lot of substituting with gluten-free products. I just stay away from a lot more processed foods. Miracle is, I don’t really crave them now. It doesn’t feel like a struggle. I’ve always said bagels beget bagels. You have one on Monday, you want one on Tuesday kinda thing. I’ll have a burger and a beer on Saturday now and then and then I’m good to go for a while.

6. I have built a better aerobic running base. I used to go out and run 3, 4 or 5 mile runs during the week with a sort of lame speed workout consisting of 4 miles total (either a tempo, some intervals or mile repeats) and a long one on the weekend. Now, a speed workout is no shorter than 6 miles and my mid-week runs are easier, but longer. I’m running 40 mile plus weeks and feel great. Previous times I’ve tried that things fell apart and everything hurt.

7. I’m really enjoying running with lots of different people. How does this help your running, you ask? I’m not exactly sure, but it keeps things a-changin’. Some folks I run with are a bit faster, some are a bit slower, some go early, some go late, some go long, some go short, some are long-time runners, some are newbies. While I still cherish my solo runs, all of these friends share themselves liberally with me, so I really ENJOY their company and all the gifts they give me in my life.

8. I’m not so freaking anal about my training. Even though I have a coach and a big fat training plan for the 50K, I don’t feel tied to it like some sort of life-line that, if pulled, would send me flying and sputtering like a balloon loosing air darting across a room. I hook up with friends and work in my plan. Even with my full-time mommy, house boss job and trying to build RMR, I’m more flexible. Night swimming, post-drop-off running, running with kids on bikes, half a run with one friend, the other half with another, getting up at 4:30am to get in more mileage…all of these work ok if I just stay calm and keep running. I even take an extra rest day here and there when plans fall apart. The difference though is that it doesn’t leave ME falling apart mentally; worried that I’ll get behind.What I get is rested.

9. I’m learning to trust my training. I’ve often said that, but rarely actually felt like I could trust it. Building a base has made me stronger.

10. I’m looking inward, not outward for my rewards. I am happy with my accomplishments and like to share them, but, in general, I feel less of a need to plaster details about every single workout on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to see people comment, laugh, offer support, lend a listening ear or be there to commiserate –and I am doing that on occasion–but right now it just feels nice to sit and treasure it.

I would love to hear what makes you a happy runner or a strong runner?

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