Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: That's a Wrap! A Year in Review

Turkey Trot 2011
The stars were twinkling in the cloudless black sky as I met up with some friends for my last run of 2011. There was ice on the roads and we could see our breath in the air.  It didn't take long to set off with nothing more than knuckle lights to illuminate the trail. Darkness isn't something I fear or avoid. Today there was a sense of poetic justice in the fact that I started my run in the dark, viewed a spectacular sunrise midway and stretched my pleasantly fatigued legs in the light under the clear blue sky. This phenomena accurately reflected my year in fitness.

2011 started off with a forced two month long sabbatical from all exercise. It was a time of contemplation. Folks around me were eagerly planning their race calendars and setting goals. Things were too uncertain for me to jump on board. I would have to be patient.  The cold, dark winter fortunately ended.  When spring finally rolled along, I ever so cautiously resumed my training. I had to keep a conservative level of activity.  Most challenging was graciously saying no thank you to tempting offers to run with others who were in different places speed, distance and difficulty wise than I. Without a doubt, I missed my long, rigorous workouts and the regular surge of endorphins, but more than anything, I missed the fellowship of other runners and my identity as a runner. What kept me going was that I was able to maintain a moderate level of activity in three sports. I was heading in the right direction and would soon be joining my friends and races again.

I reinvented myself as a triathlete during spring, the time of rebirth and new beginnings.  I had a ball training for and taking part in the Albany Sprint Triathlon and Heart of the Valley Sprint Triathlon.  The later, which I did with fellow tri newbie and dear friend remains a highlight of 2011. While I missed distance running and running my annual marathon, the cross training proved to be better for my body. Cycling was making my legs stronger, swimming was strengthening my upper body and running was an all-around fun, awesome workout.

Tanya and I at finish line at Heart of the Valley Sprint Triathlon

Tri High!
After my short and sweet triathlon season ended, I could no longer resist the beckoning trails. I would need to first overcome what I refer to as my PTS (+I + DNS) D (post traumatic stress, injured, did not start disorder). The trails are where I injured myself while training for a 50K. Dare I try again? Perhaps if I started short, slow and easy? Maybe it would be okay, as long as I refrained from regimented training and steered clear of races? Yes, I would run trails again, but solely for enjoyment!

Enjoying a spring break trail run with my honey and trail hound.

North Shore Trail with my running momma friends

Reflective run at Mt. Pisgah
At around the time I got my trail feet back under me, my dear running partner got injured. It was like deja vois.  She had an injury quite similar to the one I had the previous year, had to take months off running and missed races she had signed up for.  She handled it with grace, wisdom and a sense of humor.  I was such a stink butt when I got injured.  I really admired her great attitude and determination to make her way back to running by taking the time off, running in the pool and doing pilates.  I desperately missed her company on runs, felt guilty running without her and found that running just wasn't the same without her.  We braved the chilly temperatures and swam the outdoor long course. It was super fun swimming together. 

Before I knew it, the school year had ended and it was time to leave for my summer on the east coast.  I couldn't stray too far from my training though.  When my month-long working vacation came to an end, I would have Hood to Coast.  Training away from home in the humid, record heat wave east coast proved to be yet another challenge. I slacked. I whined. I made excuses. I watched the empty entries in my training log grow. Nonetheless, I did experience runs in Central Park, NYC, historic Boston and on the beautiful trails of New Haven, CT.  When I was really dedicated, I headed to the air conditioned hotel and campus fitness centers to slog away miles on the dreadmill and pump iron.

I'm in Central (friggin') Park!
Somehow I managed to stay conditioned just enough to run the 2011 Hood to Coast with my team of fellow parents of twins.  My cantankerous foot started squawking just a few weeks prior to the race so I was quite nervous about running all three of my relay legs. I was pleasantly surprised at how well my feet and legs held up. I even managed to throw down on my final leg down and sail through my final leg straight through the finishing chute at Seaside.  It was quite the rush!

Hood to Coast
After being away from my beloved bicycle for a full month, I was thrilled to throw myself into cycling. It was probably a good thing too as my feet were bothering me enough to resume acupuncture, ART and massage treatments.  I had very little time between September and October to rebuild my cycling base. 100 miles seemed like an impossibly long distance but that was what I had set out to do.  My longest ride to date was only 67 miles.  I hoped that I had it in me to complete the full century that I had blabbed to the whole world about.  I did have a Plan B in my back jersey pocket.  If things got too rough out there, I could downgrade to the 75 mile route. Much to my surprise, the Harvest Century proved to be not only a piece of cake, but a fun time in the beautiful outdoors in the company of fun cyclists.  The weather was pleasant, my bike cooperated and I felt like a million bucks riding out there.

Will it be 75 or 100 miles?

Celebratory beer and dinner with cycling buddies after the century
Running the Warrior Dash with a dozen tutu clad mommas in "bad ass" knee highs also proved to be a ridiculously good time. It was more challenging than I had anticipated and I was more competitive that I had planned.  It seemed that no matter what I did, swim, bike, run, or otherwise, I enjoyed the heck out of it. How amazing it felt to be active, strong, fast and happy again! All those months of recovering and slowing rebuilding were finally fading from my memory. I now had the wisdom to fully appreciate what I was able to do. The sun had finally come up again!

Tossin' back some brews in our fuzzy horned hats and bad ass socks after Warrior Dash
I celebrated turning 40 with my first running ever race as a master, a half marathon trail run and had a dream-come-true prom themed birthday party all on the same day!  Around this time I stepped way out of my comfort zone and joined the Oregon Track Club Master's speed group. My training emphasis would be to stay injury-free, increase my speed and to maintain my multi-sport fitness base.  Silver Falls was a gorgeous event with a great crowd and a nice physical challenge for me.  I was going to hang up my racing shoes and chill out for a while. Then I decided last minute to shoot for a new 5K PR in the local Turkey Stuffer. Holy cow is it fun to run short and fast! Sure enough, I got myself that PR. As much as I missed marathon training and running super long trail run, this shorter distance deal was keeping my body healthy and happy and allowing me to develop the speed that I never thought I had.
Silver Falls Half Marathon
Yee haw! That was FUN!
I decided to put marathons and ultras on hold for a year, however I was itching for a BIG challenge. There's nothing like training for weeks on end for a very specific goal and then going out and tackling it.  I registered for Boise 70.3! This half Ironman event will take place June 8th.  It's almost time for me to officially start training! Last night I did the math for the first time and realized that I will be swimming, biking and running for seven to eight hours! I decided to join a half marathon performance group in January and shoot for a new half marathon PR at the Corvallis.  This got my wheels turning and wondering if I should also seek extra support for swimming and biking.  Last week I checked out Multi-Sport Advantage Tri Club.  I am looking forward to training with fellow triathletes in this amazing gym and tri community.  I think I might have officially gone over the deep end after such a slow, cautious come back.

Today under the rosy glow of the final sunrise of 2011, I said a prayer of thanks for all that I had experienced this year. Thank you body for healing and for all that you've allowed me to do. Thank you spirit for believing that blue skies will follow the dark clouds. Thank you family and friends for supporting, encouraging and joining me in this journey. Thank you beautiful places to swim, bike, run and be with loved ones. Thank you running partner, running buddies and running peers for the countless lessons, reminders of the limitless possibilities and zest for the sport. Before I knew it, we were coming out from the forest canopy on my last run of 2011. When we emerged, a gorgeous, crystal blue sky awaited us. The sky, like my year in training had come full circle. Thank you universe!

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