The Moderately-Paced and the Mediocre: 2014 in Review.

Oh, hello there, Fast and Fabulous readers! Long time, no blog. My apologies for the extended hiatus. I’ve really missed you, and the creative outlet of blogging a lot, but the sad truth is that since we last spoke I just haven’t been feeling all that fast or fabulous, hence the title of this post. What I have been feeling is stressed, overwhelmed, inadequate, and probably legitimately clinically depressed. All of these feelings have been exhausting and soul sucking and they have left me with little to no bandwidth for things like blogging. Obviously, I hope to make things better and brighter for 2015, so if you are interested, allow me to share with you my 2014 highs and lows, and lessons learned, along with my plan for getting my shit together in the new year. Please know as you read this that this post is just for me. It’s my little way of processing the year, freeing up some brain space by expelling a few nagging thoughts from my head, and solidifying my commitment to my goals for the year ahead by (digitally) writing them down and sharing them publicly. Be advised that there is an excellent chance that you will find this post to be cliché, annoying, overly emotional, whiny even, and that’s ok. It is, in fact, going to be all of those things. Just remember that it’s not about you.  I am also hopeful in writing this that someone out there somewhere might find it relateable and take comfort in knowing that these things, and these mediocre years happen to the best of us.

Having said all that, I guess we might as well start with the good stuff. Here goes…

Running Highlights…

Boston: Possibly the Most Magical Thing I’ve Ever Done. Ever.

I have this theory that the reason the rest of my 2014 seemed so woefully un-fabulous is that I used up every single ounce of my annual allotment of magic on a surreally spectacular Boston Marathon experience. Although I can’t say that every detail of the day/ weekend was perfect, it was truly one of those rare and wonderful things in life that was every bit as fulfilling,  special, and fun as I had hoped and dreamed it would be. I’ve already blogged several thousand words about it so I will spare you any additional synopsis, but just in case you missed it, you can re-live it in all it’s 2 part blog post glory by clicking here, and then here. Or if the idea reading/ re-reading my gushy, puppy and rainbow-filled Boston Marathon race report sounds nauseating to you, feel free to skip the links and just enjoy this nice photo montage I made to commemorate it…

Just a few little pieces of Boston Marathon magic for your viewing enjoyment.

Just a few little pieces of Boston Marathon magic for your viewing enjoyment.

Not Doing the New York City Marathon. (Again.)

Ok, so maybe this wasn’t exactly what I would call a highlight, but I believe it was a very responsible, listen-to-my-gut, act-in-my-own-best-interest, grown up decision and I am proud of myself for making it. Don’t get me wrong, I was an over-dramatic, often-weepy, grumpy and/ or whiny little bitch nearly every step of the way towards 86-ing New York, but eventually reason prevailed, and I even managed to regroup myself enough to pull off a decent “B” “A” race when it was all said and done.

Yes friends, this November marked my second time signing up for, but not doing the New York City Marathon. The first time was in 2012, when no one who signed up for the race did it on account of Hurricane Sandy. (In the unlikely event that you care, you can read about that experience here.) I signed up for the race again this year for the sole reason that I had guaranteed entry as a result of the 2012 cancellation resolution.  I knew in my heart that making this trip wasn’t really within my means financially from the very beginning, but it was the New York City Marathon, a race that ranked high on my running bucket list, and one that I had already missed out on once. I hemmed and hawed over registering, but eventually, I caved to FOMO and wept a little as I charged the exorbitant entry fee.  I crashed hard from my Boston high and muddled through a hot, inglorious summer of mediocre to shitty running. When I couldn’t put off starting marathon training any longer, I purchased the Hansons Marathon Method book from Bull City Running Co. and dove headlong into the advanced training program. Although things went pretty well from a physical standpoint, and fitness gains seemed to be coming along just as promised (despite the fact that I recklessly neglected to actually read the book), I lamented and resented pretty much every step of my training.  I booked a plane ticket to NYC and joined a fundraising team in hopes of finding/ forcing myself into some renewed training motivation, but there was just none to be found. And then one day, maybe 12 weeks into my 15 week training cycle (modified from the Hansons’ prescribed 18 week plan) in the midst of a 9 mile tempo run, it punched me right in the face. I didn’t want to be doing this. I didn’t want to be doing this training plan. I resented how much of my time and energy it was taking and the way that it’s (perceived) obligations were limiting my enjoyment of running and my capacity to have a life outside of running. I didn’t feel comfortable with taking a big, expensive trip to New York to spend a lot of money that I didn’t have, and I sure as shit did not want to run a marathon. Uh-oh.

What was I going to do now? I sincerely didn’t want to do this marathon. I legitimately could not afford to do this marathon. But I had proclaimed on social media that I was going to do it! I SHOULD want to do it! People were probably going to judge me for being a lame-ass quitter if I didn’t do it. And worse yet, I would judge myself for being a lame-ass quitter if I didn’t do it. I mean this was the super-fabulous New York City Marathon, for goodness sake!  And the just like that (and by “just like that” I mean after another two to three weeks of angsty bitching, moaning, and obsessing about it), as that effing Frozen song blared on loop through my head, I let it go. And as I did I had what I fancy to be the very adult realization that sometimes the bravest, ballsiest decisions you can make are those to be true to your own desires and needs and no one else’s. The ones that liberate you from burdens and expectations that drag you down and make you uncomfortable. Missing the trip and the race still felt pretty sucky, but making a smart decision that was in the best interest of my emotional health felt empowering, and offered a fleeting glance into what it must feel like to be a grown-up who has their shit together.

My New York City Marathon Training Cycle Theme Song. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Breaking 90 Minutes In the Half Marathon.

So there I was, with ~15 weeks of hard-fought marathon training under my belt and no marathon to speak of.  It seemed a shame, and also super-depressing to let all those months and miles of intense training (and complaining) go to waste, so as the New York Marathon went on without me, I signed myself up for the half at Richmond. This had been my fall goal race in 2013, and I had come up short of breaking 90 minutes then, so I figured I would channel all of my NYC angst and any fitness gains I might have reaped from marathon training into taking another crack at it this year. I had no idea what to expect since my efforts had been focused exclusively on the 26.2 distance to the point that I found it hard to fathom running anything other than, and certainly anything faster than marathon goal pace. I was feeling pretty disenchanted with running by the time race day rolled around, but I also felt strongly driven to make this training cycle something other than merely the 2nd time I trained for, but did not run the New York City Marathon.  My race that day was lonely and uncomfortable, and as I ran it I couldn’t help but think that this was a metaphor for my current life theme of having to do difficult things all by myself.  (Poor me! Cue the tiny violins!) But with the help of a few inspirational words from Allie (“Be brave, Ellen!”) and a tremendous sense of urgency to get a certain poster featuring  Nick Symmonds’ bare backside to mile 22 of the marathon course to surprise Allison, who was running the full, I somehow managed to access the grit required to get my own fully-clad backside to the finish line in (ever so slightly) under 90 minutes for an official chip time of 1:29:54. Thank God. Although I was a little disappointed that checking this milestone item off of my list of lifetime running goals didn’t feel more glamorous or come complete with a shower of confetti and a multi-layered cake at the finish line, I executed the my race plan far better (save for one tiny shoe-tying incident), and with greater confidence than last year. And I found the nerve and determination to get out of my comfort zone and get the job done, even when it wasn’t very fun.  It didn’t arrive in the shiny, fabulous package I had envisioned, but there it was nonetheless: Growth, progress, and validation for the work and life I had (reluctantly) poured into the fall training cycle. Booyah.

Gettin' er done in Richmond.

Gettin’ er done in Richmond. (Photo Credit: Allie Bigelow)

The sign that won the 2014 World Championships of Marathon Spectating Sign  Making, made a very burly Kinko's employee giggle like a school girl,  and yielded a monster PR it's intended marathoner!

The sign that won the 2014 World Championships of Marathon Spectating Sign Making, made a very burly Kinko’s employee giggle like a school girl, and yielded a monster PR for it’s intended marathoner!

Completing Beer Mile without Barfing.

My fun-loving running community traditionally celebrates the end of the racing season with a beer mile. I always participate. I always have ridiculous amounts of fun that are well-worth the wretched day-after hangovers. And I always, always throw up, sometimes as early as the 2nd beer in.  Maybe it was all the hype surrounding the recent first-ever Beer Mile World Championships. Maybe it was a burning desire to out-perform Lance Armstrong in a quasi-athletic endeavor. Or maybe I just really needed an extra-special win to close out this glaringly un-extraordinary second half of my year (More violins, please!), but I was utterly bound and determined to get through the 2014 Greater Triangle Area Holiday Beer Mile Invitational barf-free.  I can’t think of anything that I did differently at this beer mile vs. any other I’ve ever done, but this time, with a little help from Kendra and her magical sign, my lucky technical holiday sweater, and a renewed faith in the concept of mind over matter courtesy of the Richmond Half Marathon, I kept all 4 beers down without so much as a dry heave. Or at least that’s how I choose to remember it. (For the record, you get WAY more drunk at beer mile when you don’t yak up half the beer!) I don’t think I could have been more proud of my ~13 minute penalty lap-free Beer Mile result if my finish time had started with a 5. Hooray for checking yet another very important goal off the ole running bucket list!

Barf-free Beer Mile = Winning at Life. Also, my friends are cooler than your friends.

Barf-free Beer Mile = Winning at Life. Also, my friends are cooler than your friends.

 

Lessons Learned and Goals for the New Year, Running and Otherwise…

I Have the Most Amazing Friends.

Friends Pinterest

I think that there is a lot of truth to the above quote, which I stole from a Pinterest board that belongs to Allie Bigelow. I also think that I am incredibly lucky that my number of friends I can be certain of is a large one. (I’m talking more than I can count on both hands here, y’all!)  You may have already noticed (from spending time with me in person, or just from reading this post) that 2014 wasn’t exactly the year of my fabulous self.  Throughout the year I have often felt run down, sad, disappointed, and dissatisfied (largely over mundane, perfectly non-tragic, first world problems) and I have allowed myself to wallow in all of these negative feelings. I have cried often (sometimes publicly), and ranted, griped, and whined more frequently still. I have no doubt that all of this has been incredibly unattractive and unpleasant to be around, but do you know what? My friends have continued to love and hangout with me anyway, and this amazes and impresses me to no end. So if you sent me funny text messages with pictures of baby animals and/ or cute boys because I was sad, if you have comforted me through a meltdown of any kind (and believe me y’all, there has been an impressive variety of meltdowns), if you hugged me just because I seemed like I needed a hug or checked on me just because you thought I might need to be checked on, if you have waited patiently for me to show up inappropriately late for a group run and still been nice to me despite my chronic tardiness, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. All of this wonderful VIP friend treatment is far better than I deserve, and I love and appreciate you all to the moon and back. And I’m going to be way more fun this year. Just you wait!

A small, but mighty musical tribute to all of my wonderful, fabulous friends out there.

And Speaking of Chronic Tardiness…

Guys, I am late to everything. Work, group runs, coffee meet ups, dinner dates, EVERYTHING. I know this is not ok, and it is not something that I like about myself.  I am not doing it to be an asshole-jerk, I swear. I do it because my brain, my lifestyle, and my apartment have become so cluttered and disorganized in recent years that idea of advanced preparation for pretty much anything usually just seems to exhausting to bear. I regularly find myself abandoning simple organizational tasks such as laying out my clothes for the upcoming day, packing my lunch, and even showering in lieu of just going to sleep. Inevitably, I wake up unprepared to face the day and running behind from the moment my feet hit the floor.  In case you were wondering, I am, in fact, painfully aware  that those last 2 sentences  are nothing but a load of unacceptable, bullshitty excuses. And yet people let me get away with this! I realize that my tardiness is something that I must assume responsibility for, but I suspect that if the group run left without me, or if I got written up for it at work, or if anyone dared to tell me  how they really feel about it,  I wouldn’t do it. This year I am going to stop making excuses for being late and find a way to create the organization in structure that I need in my life and my home to get to places on time. I am committed to doing this because I could stand to free up a little more time and space in my life, and because friends, colleagues, and employers as cool as mine deserve better from me.

I'm going to have to adopt a new motto in 2015.

I’m going to have to adopt a new motto in 2015.

I Need to Work On My Relationship with Running.

There is no denying that running is a tremendous part of who I am. It’s cornerstone of my social life. An oasis of soothing structure and routine in the midst of my hectic, chaotic, piecemeal existence. It’s my primary source of feelings of purpose and accomplishment. All of this is mostly good, but I’m starting to worry that I may be developing some running co-dependency issues that are causing me to enjoy it less. It is true that running is significant part of my identity, but this year I would like to a better job of keeping sight of the fact  that is only part  of who I am. I think 2015  might be a good time to start paying a little more attention to some the other parts of  myself that haven’t been getting as much love recently. Additionally, I suspect that I am guilty of using running (along with chronic over-committment to an absurd amount of part-time jobs)  as an evasion tactic for things that make me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable… Like sorting out the future of my career path, pursuing dating relationships,  spending time with my family, and just taking care of myself in general.  Don’t get me wrong, running has giving me much, and I want to keep all of the good stuff: Belonging to a wonderful, supportive, community where I feel of sense of belonging like never before. Priceless life lessons in hard work, discipline, and perseverance. Being regularly lured from my comfort zone and seeing significant improvements as a result, and routinely engaging in fun adventures with awesome, hilarious friends. Yes, all of these positive things can stay, but this year I would like be more open to cultivating and evolving the areas my life outside of running because I suspect that those areas are probably pretty cool and fulfilling, and I regret that they haven’t been getting the attention they deserve as of late.

So there you have it, friends, all the ways (at least as far as running goes) that my 2014 was amazing, all the ways it was mediocre, and my thoughts on what it might take to 2015 as awesome as humanly possible. I have my work cut out for me here, but I think I have identified some good first steps towards pulling it off. Thanks for bearing with me on this one. I promise I’ll try to limit my future blog posts this year to fluffy gear reviews and puppy and rainbow filled race reports. In the meantime, y’all stay fabulous, and thanks for reading!

Xoxo,

 

Ellen

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11 thoughts on “The Moderately-Paced and the Mediocre: 2014 in Review.

  1. I totally had a similar experience with 2014, sometimes it helps just to talk about it, whether anyone reads it or not, it’s like free therapy.
    Congrats on the sun 90 min half… I chased that pipe dream all last spring and I’m hoping that after a little rest, joining a running team, and getting refocused this will be the year!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, and for reading. It has been really liberating to let go of some things by writing them down and sharing them, and also very comforting to know that others can relate to this stuff. Here’s to a much less mediocre 2015 for both us of us! 🙂 And best wishes with your pursuit of the sub-90 min half! The 3rd time was the charm for me and it hurt a lot more than the close calls I had in the 1st two attempts, but it was also really satisfying to check it off the list. I also can’t say enough great stuff about the value of being part of a team in becoming a faster and more consistent runner. You’ll get it this year, I just know it!

  2. I felt the exact same way about my fall marathon. I even took 10 days completely off from running, and I somehow talked myself back into it (albeit very under-trained for 26.2)… sometimes it happens. You can’t be super motivated at all times- and I think it was totally worth it if Boston used up your good running juju for 2014. Hope 2015 is even better! 😀

    • Hi Mollie! First of all, wow! I just read your most recent blog post, and color me impressed, you speedy pregnant lady! Congrats on your recent great results, and on the new addition! 🙂 And thanks so much for your comment. It really has been incredibly comforting to know that these things happen to the best of us. Also, I couldn’t agree more. My amazing, once-in-a-lifetime Boston experience was well worth a little follow-up mediocrity. Cheers to happy 2015 for all, and I hope our paths will cross sometime over the course of the year!

  3. I remember years ago, in the 90s, my whole life was about running. My social life was all about it too–great wonderful friends that I love dearly. But I remember that when someone started just running 5 miles a day, something that most Americans can’t even imagine, my friends would say the person was out of shape. I never wanted to quit running entirely, but there were days I wanted to do less, and that meant walking away from what felt like my entire life. I couldn’t do it. I really loved my friends. One day, I actually had to move to a new state, and for me, at the time, it was a great relief. I could do running the way I wanted to. I never stopped running, but I didn’t build my entire life around it anymore. Most of my friends were not runners. I started getting into yoga. I didn’t race anymore. My long runs were much shorter than they once were. I got slow. I still ran. Running is always there. In the past year or so, I have started to race again, but it’s my choice. My long runs are increasing. I’d like some running friends too. Maybe I’ll join a group. Running is such a gift, and for me, it’s always been there. But it’s here to support my life. I guess we can shape it to fit the seasons of our lives. It’s one of the best choices I’ve made, but I know I’ll be fine if I don’t race again, if I don’t go for speed. One day I may not be able to run again. That is life. We will lose everything one day. So for now, I am getting speedier again. It’s fun. It’s something to take my mind off of a hard work situation. I’ll do it while it works, and if I need to shift focus, well, that’s life. So I think you are wise to kind of re-evaluate running. Who knows where you’ll end up, and you don’t have to stay there if you don’t like the change. You can always return. That’s the best part about it. Running is always there for us, in whatever capacity we want, and we can even walk away. Love this post and your blog and your spirit. Thoughtful and inspiring.

    • Tara, thanks so much for sharing your experiences, and for your kind words and feedback! I’m so glad you found this post relatable, and I really appreciate your insight and your readership. Wishing you all the best in life, running, and the new year ahead!

      Ellen

  4. Pingback: Touch WHERE? for Power | Best Race Signs

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