06
Jan
10

It’s not about the race

The new year is barely a week old and I’ve already gone on a memorable run. If fact, Saturday’s Fat Ass run at Headwaters State Park has been my only trot of 2010. It was fun to run up and down that road/trail and wave to everyone else who was out there just enjoying themselves; no pressure, no tension – just a run.

And that’s what I’ll remember most about 2009: the days when I just ran. Not the races.

The year was what I consider a “down” one when it comes to race times. I think I’ve hit my plateau.

But while PRs are always enjoyable, that’s not why I enjoy running. Use to be, but not anymore.

Much of my ’09 was spent ramping things down. After two strong race performances at the Run to the Pub (Bozeman) in March and at Bloomsday (Spokane) two months later, my legs rebelled. First it was a knee, then a big toe, an Achilles (yes, my Achilles was a-killing me) then a staleness that took over for much of the summer. My legs didn’t feel tired per se, just … blah is the best way I can describe it.

It was my body’s way of punishing me for not taking enough time off over the winter, which is what I usually do. But it was finally summer, and I didn’t want to just cut out running altogether – in Montana, we wait all year for the chance to run in the early-morning light or to just walk out the door without having to put on put six layers of clothing.

So I ran maybe two days per week. Maybe an hour at a time. Maybe at a 9:30 pace. I didn’t want to have to start over again at zero following an extended period of not running. I didn’t race all summer. But I still had two stretches of time that were more enjoyable than any race could offer.

The first was in early August when I went back East to visit family in New England. I kept thinking that the trip might help me “get my legs back.” Then I figured, “how is running in a different time zone going to help me any?”

Well, it helped. I ran the morning after arriving in Massachusetts (at 1 a.m.) and hardly stopped for the two weeks I was away. I put in a 60-mile week, mostly on Cape Cod, and had to force myself to take a day off so I wouldn’t overdo it.

The Cape runs were great. I was up early each day without an alarm clock (I woke up at 5:56 a.m. two days in a row) and was soon out the door. The humidity there isn’t pleasant, but it keeps the overnight temperature from falling. I’d go to bed and it would be 73 degrees; I’d wake up and it would be … 73 degrees.

The mild conditions also allowed me to run bear-chested, which is something I’ve always enjoyed. There’s  such a feeling of freedom that goes along with it. In Bozeman, it’s either too chilly in the morning or the sun’s too strong later in the day.

I found some nice loops to run or I used the beach or a rail trail. I even did a little tempo work one day. The dead legs were gone, or so I thought.

Upon arrival in Bozeman, my legs still didn’t feel great, but I was rejuvenated. The one thing that kept me going during the down period was that my head still wanted to go for runs; my legs just didn’t. When it happens the other way around, then I’ll drop it for a while.

As September arrived, I planned to take it easy. But then it was 70 every day, with beautiful mornings that brought blue skies and comfortable mornings. This became my second period of who-needs-a-stopwatch enjoyment.

I was able to drop my daughter off at Hyalite School (while wearing shorts) at 8:30 a.m. and immediately hit the roads/trails. I discovered a new section of the Main Street to the Mountains trail system that I had no idea existed. They parallel Michael Grove Road and brought me to the mall and back. I always enjoy new territory. The loops near my neighborhood can get old, so this was quite refreshing.

The three weeks of what I call California weather (you know, where it’s beautiful EVERY day) was such a bonus after the record snows of April and the annual mid-June blizzard.

With another snowstorm upon us, the recollection of those two fortnights of running are what I remember most from 2009. As I get older, I find myself weighing racing against simply running. In other words, if it came down to running and never racing again and racing to the point where I get injured and am not able to go out for daily runs, the choice is simple. I’ll take the simple runs any day.

Yeah, I’ll take an extended period of time off soon. Maybe in 2011.

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