Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Did I Shuffle?

The Shamrock Shuffle was Sunday.

So...did I run the race? To put it simply, no. No, I did not run the Shamrock Shuffle this year, even though I was registered. I broke my own tradition of running the Shamrock Shuffle every year and my own rule about always running the races I sign up for as long as I am not sick or injured (and even then I sometimes run).

To be honest, I don't really feel that bad about it.

By the time I got home from work on Saturday night, I was starting to feel better about the idea of racing on Sunday. I was even starting to get a little excited for the race. Before going to bed that evening, I packed my gear check bag and laid out my special Shamrock Shuffle gear - Shamrock Shuffle neck gaiter, green sparkly visor and skirt, four leaf clover compression socks, etc.

When my alarm went Sunday morning, however, I was no longer excited. I got up, had breakfast, got dressed, and made my way to the train. I felt like I was on autopilot. Then, sitting on the train on my way downtown, the panic set in.

I just couldn't do it.

I couldn't deal with the crowds or the noise. I fet the tears coming on. I tried to catch my breath. I was on the verge of a panic attack. I had signed up for a race that I've run and enjoyed before, so what was the problem? It was only an 8k. It wasn't like I was on my way to a marathon. Why couldn't I pull myself together?

I got off the train and transferred to one heading back towards home. Once home, I changed out of my running clothes and went back to bed. My cat, Hannah, snuggled up next to me, and I fell asleep.

I woke up a few hours later feeling infinitely better. I felt refreshed. I expected to be disappointed in myself, but I surprisingly felt fine. There was no resentment towards those I know who ran. There was no feeling of remorse for having missed another race.

I headed out for a run alone that evening. I haven't enjoyed a run that much in a very long time. I ran without music or distraction. Listening to the sound of my own breath and the sound of my feet hitting the ground was exhilarating. I felt free. I felt as though a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. It was incredible!

I still can't quite pinpoint what caused my panic, but I know that skipping the race was the right thing for me to do. There will be other races to run.

Right now I find solace in the knowledge that I can still find joy in running. Even if it comes less often than it once did, that feeling is still something that is worth chasing.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Race I'm Unsure About Running

In my last post I talked about how you don't have to run races to be a runner. You just have to run.

I talked about how once upon a time I loved running races, but lately races just haven't been fun. Racing has begun to feel like a burden and reminds me of all my shortcomings. I said I was going to be more careful when selecting races and choose only the races that I was really excited to run or ones that I could run with friends.

So guess what managed to sneak up on me?

I, like many runners in Chicago, run the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k every year. It was always a lot of fun with a great course through downtown Chicago, great energy from runners and spectators, and I usually love the 8k distance. I had forgotten that I had signed up for the race this year until I started getting emails with the participant guide and reminders about packet pick up. Now I find myself, the day before the race, sort of dreading it.

Last year, the race wasn't fun for me. In fact, it was pretty terrible. I was planning on running with friends (a sure way to improve on a race day experience), but that didn't happen because the folks I was planning on running with ended up assigned to a corral in wave 1 and I was stuck back in wave 2. My friends were unwilling to move back to run with me, and you aren't allowed to move forward to earlier corrals, so I had to run alone. I also ended up being slower than usual, so what I had hoped would be a PR ended up being far from it (my slowest ever Shamrock Shuffle, in fact). During the race, I couldn't get the negative thoughts out of my head. I was too slow, too fat, I wasn't a real runner, etc, etc. By the time I was finished, I just wanted to go home and never run again.

So here I am, with a bib number that I don't know if I want to wear, debating whether to run or not.

I don't want to be a negative person. I want to be happy and have fun. But you don't always get what you want.

To race or not to race?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Deciding To Race or Not

As I watched friends begin their spring half marathon training this past weekend, I was hit by pangs of jealousy. I wanted to be out there with them, running my first long run of the spring season, getting excited for an upcoming race. But I've chosen not to do any distance races this spring. I'm only currently signed up for three races this year, two 5ks and one 8k, and I'm honestly on the fence about all but one of them, and the one I am sure about is the only one that I'm running with a friend.

Though I have been a big fan of racing in the past and regularly talked about how fun it is and how everyone should run races because racing is for everyone, regardless of pace, I've been starting to change my tune a bit. Deciding whether or not to race is a personal decision, and everyone needs to decide what is best for them.

I once loved races. They were fun and motivating and helped me track my progress, but I honestly haven't had fun at a race in a very long time. What was once motivating has become demoralizing. An experience that was once joyful and exhilarating has become horrible and anxiety ridden.

When I got sick the weekend of the F^3 half marathon in January, I was initially sad that I wouldn't be able to run the race that I had trained for all winter, but my sadness quickly turned to relief, because being sick gave me an out. It meant that I could skip the race without feeling guilty. It meant not being confronted with proof of how slow I've become.

The only race I truly enjoyed running last year was the Hot Chocolate 5k, and the fun part wasn't the race itself, but watching my friend Sarah finish her first ever 5k. I have a standing promise to all my friends and co-workers that if they ever decide they want to try running, I will run their first race with them. Sarah took me up on that offer in the fall and chose the Hot Chocolate 5k for her first race. On race day it didn't matter if we took walk breaks, it didn't matter what our finish time was, it was just a joy to run together and see a friend achieve a goal. We had fun walking, running, talking, and laughing.

Moving forward, I will think more carefully before signing up for races. I will consider not only if I have the time and energy to put in the proper training, but whether or not the race is going to be good for me and if it is something I really want to do. I want to walk into a race with the right mindset, feeling good about myself and my running. Chasing and achieving a goal is a great feeling, but there are more goals to work towards then those that include a finisher's medal.

Running races does not make you a runner. Running makes you a runner.

Friday, March 2, 2018

I'm Back. Again. Now What?

It has been almost a year since my last post.

I not only stopped posting, but I actually shut off the blog for the last several months in anticipation of eventually shutting it down completely.

Where have I been?

Still running. Sort of. Still working out. Sort of. Still eating healthy. Sort of.

But also working seven days a week, generally being exhausted, and wondering why I can't ever seem to do anything right.

So why am I back?

I've been encouraged to start posting again by a couple of friends because they think that it will be good for me. In terms of running and fitness, it will allow me to track my progress instead of focusing on the negatives. In terms of life, it will allow me to express my thoughts and feelings instead of keeping them bottled up.

I have a plethora of drafts that I wrote while I was gone (posts about marathon training and my marathon recap, for example), but I could never bring myself to post them at the time. I still don't know if I'll post them in their current state, but perhaps after a few rewrites they will be ready for public viewing.

2017 was, to put it mildly, a struggle for me. It was basically a repeat of 2016, but intensified. Depression and anxiety have been my constant companions for most of my life, but things have been the worst they have ever been the last couple of years.

And you know what? It sucks. It sucks so much.

When both depression and anxiety hit at once, it is paralyzing and exhausting and terrifying. And the worst part? You can't escape it. It is always there with you. And it impacts every aspect of your life.

I'm trying to figure out where to go from here. I know what I need to do to get back my health and fitness, but I have a serious lack of motivation at the moment.

I'm trying to be more positive. I'm trying to practice gratitude. I'm trying to be more gentle with myself. It isn't easy, though. Thankfully, the last couple of months have been at least slightly better and more manageable, so I'm hoping that that trend continues.

Fingers crossed.