Monday, January 3, 2011

Year of the Grand Prix

I am so excited about all the running events we're planning to do this year. Some of you may know about the difficulty I've had getting back into running marathons. For those of you who don't know, here's what happened.

I started running marathons in 2006 before James and I got married. I didn't run a spectacularly fast time, but marathons are all about finishing, not necessarily finishing fast. Generally first-time marathoners can be split into three groups after the race: those who wish they had never done it, those who are glad to have finished but never want to do it again, and those who are hungry for more. I fell into the third category. Crossing that finish line the first time was such an exhilarating high that I wanted to do it again and again, despite how much pain my body was in.

So after taking the recommended two to three weeks off after my race, I started running again. I wasn't training for anything specific, but I wanted to keep up my fitness level so I would be ready to resume training as soon as I found a race I wanted to run. My first race was in April. I moved out of my apartment and back into my parents' house in June while we waited for our new house to be built. Over the summer I did fairly well. My parents live in a large neighborhood and there are two other large neighborhoods very close by, so I was able to run without having to worry too much about cars. By the end of the summer, I was back up to 14 mile long runs and I felt great.

In September we moved into our new house, across town from my parents, and got married. The fall semester started and so did my 3 hour daily commute, I started working again on the days I wasn't in school, and James left for his first deployment. My running came to a sudden and very abrupt halt. Our new neighborhood was very small, about a half mile around, and there was no where nearby that I could safely run without having to worry about cars (I would later discover that to be false because there was a 4-mile, paved running trail only 5 minutes away... but I didn't know that at the time). My parents lived about 30 minutes away, too far to be convenient for me to go running every day. And on top of that, the commute to school and back had me completely exhausted and I was lonely for my husband... who was half-way around the world.

That fall I ran a half-marathon with my mom, who'd been bitten by the distance running bug when she came to watch my first marathon earlier that year. After that she decided, at age 53, that she wanted to run marathons too. So I trained with her and we did exactly that the following March (2007). It was freezing cold, so we ended up doing a run-walk sort of race. But that isn't all that uncommon in marathons. We finished in a slower time than I had done the previous year, but marathons are all about finishing and we had a great time doing it together. James had just gotten home from his deployment and was geared up for a full spring racing season.

In April, we traveled to Kentucky to visit some friends and run another marathon. This is the one that did me in. For the record, the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon (they say mini instead of half, don't ask me why) is fantastic. You run through historic neighborhoods downtown, through a great park, and around Churchill Downs. It's awesome. The full marathon, not so much. Once it splits off from the mini marathon course, around mile 12, it's desolate and very poorly supported.

I got dehydrated, I started having severe joint pain in my hip, my fingers were swollen like fat little sausages, and near the end (maybe mile... 22?) I started having shooting pain in my Achilles tendon. I couldn't slow down to walk because I was afraid they would pull me off the course, and I'm too hard headed to give up when I've traveled so far to be there, paid all my registration money, and I'm only 4 miles from the finish. At mile 24 I was almost run over because the Louisville PD had reopened the roads to cars and wasn't paying enough attention to stop the traffic at the cross streets for runners.

The course closed after 6 hours and I think my official finish time was around 5 hours 55 minutes and some seconds. It was terrible and I thought I was going to die. Ok, not literally, but I was pretty miserable and I haven't been able to run a marathon since. Physically, I'm perfectly capable. But I have this mental block that keeps getting in the way. I start training and as soon as I get worked up to a mileage that's 14 or 15 miles, I start to break down. I lose motivation, I start to doubt myself, and I always drop out from the full marathon and run the half marathon instead. It's all in my head. I know that there's nothing stopping me from running another marathon, but I just can't get past it.

Last year we had planned on running the Crazy Horse Marathon in October, but the move and starting school again pretty much killed that idea. We'd toyed with the idea of running a marathon here in March, but I never actually started training the way I planned a few months ago. But then I found out about the Grand Prix conducted by all the running clubs across the state and I got super excited!

The Grand Prix consists of 20 races across the state ranging from 1 mile runs to a full marathon at the end of the year. You only have to compete in 5 races to be eligible for prizes at the end of the year. Points are awarded according to how you finish each race relative to other Grand Prix participants in your age group. So for example, the Grand Prix starts at a 1 hour track run this year that is open to all runners, Grand Prix registered or not. I may finish in 12th or 13th place in my age group, but if only one or two of those women are also registered for the Grand Prix then I get the third place points. Whoever has the most points at the end of the year (they take your points from your best 5 races), wins.

What I love about this race series is that most of the events are relatively short distances (5Ks and 10Ks) and there are two to three events each month (except during the summer when only crazy people venture outside in the heat we get). Even if I did no running except to compete in these runs, it would keep me running throughout the year. And since the events are mostly short, I could run them without having to exhaustively train all year long.

Not everyone goes to compete in every event, but James and I are planning to. Our strategy, rather like a hypothesis, is that if we can compete in every event then we will be able to earn first and second place points for the less popular events where fewer Grand Prix competitors attend. At the very least, we'll get to travel across the state and visit new places throughout the year. I think it will be fun and I'm looking forward to it.

Ultimately, my hope is that this will help me to run consistently throughout the year so that I can complete the marathon at the beginning of November and finally break my self-induced marathon curse. I'll let you know how it goes.

The "Grand Prix" link at the top of the page will keep a running update (no pun intended) of our performance and point totals throughout the year.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

1 comment:

  1. One word: Awesome!

    My brother is a big runner too. He runs those crazy ultra marathons across the US and organizes marathons in Ohio. I know it takes a lot to keep pushing your body and your mind. It is an awesome thing to do though!

    You can do it Jenny!


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