Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What 5 years of running has taught me.

This morning my Time Hop helpfully let me know that exactly 5 years ago I posted on Facebook that I was about to tackle the Thanksgiving Day 4 miler with my sister.

As most of you know, not only was that my first race but my first run. Yikes....

I did not jump right onto the running bandwagon, it was actually about 6 months before I ran another step! However, on that day I discovered that I could do something that I had previously thought impossible and that was pretty cool.

My second race EVER, 4 miles was SO FARRRRRRRRR!

Over the past 5 years running has been a lot of things to me.
An outlet, an interest, a passion, a frustration and most recently a truly enjoyable activity.

Interestingly, the thing that has taught me the most about my personal running has been my years of training and riding horses. I'm not sure why it took me almost 5 years to put the pieces together- other than a 2 legged journey is different than a 4 legged one.

What do I mean by this?
WELL. In short: "SHORT" being this freaking lecture..... Oops.

-With my horses I have a training agenda, as most trainers do but within that there is a good amount of flexibility. There are many paths to take to reach the same destination and the same path does not work for every horse (or runner!)
Just because your colleagues horse went from Training to Grand Prix in 5 years doesn't mean yours will, and just because your buddy went from a 4:30 marathon to a 2:28 Marathon doesn't mean you will. You follow your own path to success and have your own definition of a good result.

This horse did not follow text book path- but is certainly en route to a great career!
With my horses I listen to what they need. I went years NOT listening to what I needed as a runner and it showed in injury and burnout. (I always listen to my horses. apparently I do not extend the same courtesy to myself! rude!)

Well, I was polite enough to ice my legs....
-When I think about how I prep my horses and client horses for competition I know that I tighten the screws sometimes, but I listen to them- we play, we have fun, we gallop in the rain and push the envelope, try new things, attempt jumping (only on a horse) and have days of complete relaxed happy easy work. Sometimes a little kick in the butt is needed, as results don't come from complacency. But at the end of the day every training session has left the horse (or runner) better for the next day and excited to see what is next!

 -I have gotten the hell off the internet.
(important to note, as an equestrian I am lucky to have a trainer and plan I trust. I also rely on years of experience. I do not look to the internet for validation, I do look to the internet for inspiration and sweet deals on tack :-))
As an amateur runner I completely fell into the trap of comparing myself to other runners, other training plans and becoming frustrated. This is just plain silly- as I noticed my frustration level rising I cut myself off.
I needed to trust my training and what was right for ME. Not what was right for Joe Schmo with a completely different goal, body type and goal than my own.

-Prepare to be humbled. The second you think you have it "figured out" you will be side swiped with a new challenge. 
As a 20 year old I imagined that by 25 I would be a gloriously successful Grand Prix rider, that I would have many fabulous horses to ride, and possibly buckets of cash. Well..........
At 35 I know it turned out differently but better! I know how to work hard, how to problem solve, how to ride difficult horses and how to teach people to ride DAMN well.
5 years ago I was convinced that in no time I would bust our some kinda absurd 16 minute 5k and be a legend. Hahaha well...... Same story, work hard, figure it out and laugh a little.

First Marathon. so young and full of hope! (well, 32 and full of fear....)
-I have learned to take my day to day training with a Plan B in full effect.
For years I have firmly believed that with horses YOU might have a plan but so might THEY. Flexibility is critical! Throw plan A out the window when your horse friend feels stiff, or suddenly has forgotten how to do flying changes, or is just being a goose. Find that plan B- make it work, figure it out and get ahead in a different, creative way. And if all else fails, bail! Screw it! Tomorrow is another, way better day.
(or fix it by Wednesday. Susanne knows how well I an fix things in a week!)
If you go out to run and just feel like junk- find that plan B and make it work. Skip the impossible speed repeats of death in favor of something a little fluffier (and guess what- those speed repeats will probably want to come out and play tomorrow!)

I guess the moral of my story is that in my life, both with horses and running it's really important to take it day by day and do what is right for you. Or totally wrong- mistakes are allowed just work on picking up the pieces gracefully. I'm good at that!

And, you have to figure out what is working and how much is TOO much.
Last year, I put my old (er), wise, FEI horse in his first Grand Prix and he said "lady, this is just too much for me. sorry."
Being the plan B person that I am, I listened. He is now happily (at 19 years old) continuing on as a happy, sound, delightful small tour-ish horse who is NEVER asked to piaffe unless he offers. Both of us are thrilled with this arrangement. I did not need to pursue the highest level to feed my ego and he is happier because of that (and he loves to trail ride to my house, where Eric comes out and feeds him apples.)
Baffin has taught me more about flexible training than anyone I have ever met!

After Boston this Spring I seriously questioned whether or not I was made of the right stuff to marathon at a competitive (for my age group) level. I thought perhaps I would be better suited for  life of shorter, easier distances.
Or maybe competitive cupcake eating.
No lie, I really had to mull this over. After the summer of reevaluation I knew it wasn't time to retire just yet to take up knitting.  I still have the drive, motivation and fire to see how much my marathon times can improve.
And honestly, if they don't? I still have a really deep love for running. I would run every day just for fun, even if I did not wish to race. (but I still think I have a decent marathon time in my old legs.)

It's interesting to me to see my sports walk a parallel line. With both horses and running you have to enjoy the journey so much- there are so many hours, days and years put in to get a few moments of competitive glory (or... a finishers medal.)
My feeling? Totally worth it.


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