My 2018 Running Year - The Worst and Best Year

Yeah, yeah, almost 2 months into 2019 and here comes a recap of last year?
Forgive and indulge me a little bit - even though we are well into 2019, last year's experiences still continue to mold me and I constantly need to be reminded that success does not hinge on running "X" miles a week. Read on to get the rest of the story:

2018 - It was the worst year of running, it was the best year in spite of that.

Coming off my 2017, with all its accomplishments, why wouldn’t 2018 eclipse it all? Several reasons emerged - my Pride went before the fall, age caught up with even me, and well, maybe it just wouldn’t be the year where I smashed all my goals regardless how hard I tried to control things. Yes, I am an admitted control freak (just ask my kids and they will resoundingly nod their heads).

I couldn’t control my left hip’s pain and I didn’t foresee tearing something in my right glute (an injury obtained while doing yoga of all things). I could only adjust and force myself to be patient. But, these injuries forced me to slow down, adjust my workouts, divert my focus and in the end, resulted in a 2018 full of rich experiences.

What went down: due to nagging left hip pain and lack of trail miles, I withdrew from my planned spring ultra. What I did instead: after a year’s hiatus, I returned to the pool and realized it wasn’t so bad. I drew solace from the dark and cold winter mornings, somewhat thankful I didn’t have to brave those elements on the road.

Instead of running that ultra during spring break week, I traveled to Thailand with my daughter, sister and a local running friend! The impetus of the trip was my daughter’s desire to visit a high school friend studying abroad. We flew over together then parted ways once I had delivered her to her friend’s place in Bangkok. My local running friend, Brenda, and I met up with my sister in Chiangmai. We hiked up a mountain, visited temples, took a Thai cooking class and interacted with elephants. We flew to Phuket, relaxed on the beach, kayaked in sea hongs of Phang Nga Bay, experienced bio luminescent show and had a wonderful vacation.

Up close and personal with these giants #elephantsanctuary #thailand #chiangmai

Towards the Sea

I rested my hip and returned to running in time for the Illinois Marathon weekend. But no Marathon for me. Instead, our family (me, husband Scott, kids Erica and Brian) formed a team and ran the Marathon Relay. I have wanted to do this as a family for many years but could never convince the non-runners. While we’ve all run 5ks , the 6+ mile distance seemed long for the kids. Erica has been running more and it was her desire to field a team that tipped the scales.
Scott ran the first leg, then I met Erica at the first exchange (she had to work earlier that morning). Erica took the second leg and Scott and I made our way to the next exchange point. I ran the third leg, enjoying the thinned running field. The last exchange is located approximately 2 miles from our house, perfect for our son who would run the last portion of the race. Perfect because this allowed him to sleep in while the rest of us were on the course!
We met Brian at the entrance to Memorial stadium, ran in together and crossed the finish line. We were blessed with perfect weather that day - sun and mid 50s. It doesn’t get much better.

I spent the rest of spring slowly regaining mileage. Winter's grip held spring captive and when it let go, summer barreled straight in. Cold then hot. Brian graduated from high school, and suddenly it was summer.

Brian Graduates

One morning, I received a text from my sister about a “vendor she uses at work who is the title sponsor of the NYC marathon” (TCS! Tata Consulting Services) and “extending an invitation for her work team to participate in the NYC marathon”.
OMG, the NYC Marathon! I've entered the lottery 4 times and 4 times been rejected....

Long story short, my sister manages to get me and her husband entries into NYC. And not just regular entries but VIP entries (special bus, special area in the Athletes' Village, special Finish line treatment and more).

I start rebuilding miles. Cross training. I get the official invite in mid June.
Then I injure myself doing yoga on Friday, July 13. I’m not a superstitious person, but seriously?
I assume the pain in my butt will go away in a few weeks but it doesn’t. By September I realize that I won’t be able to execute a normal marathon training cycle and start weighing options:
1. Drop out of the NYC Marathon
2. Do whatever I can from a training perspective, start the marathon and do the best I can. I could take a DNF (Did Not Finish) if things got really bad.

I go with Option 2 - because when will I ever get this opportunity again? I follow several talented runners from my Run club via Strava and one of them is injured yet continuing to train for her fall marathon via the elliptical. I follow her lead and embark on a non traditional training program of swimming, cycling and elliptical. I incorporated a run-walk strategy 3 weeks prior to the race. My “20 miler” was replaced by 50 laps in the pool, 30 minutes of pool jogging, one hour cycling class then 6 miles using a 1:30 run, :30 walk cycle. I peaked my running at 8 miles, the week before the marathon.

Instead of my normal 10 minute pace, I ran - walked the marathon with my sister and had a great time. If I hadn’t been injured, I would have run my own race. In the end, this was a great way to soak up NYC, support my sister and her first marathon experience. I wouldn’t change it for even a BQ. (Ok, maybe I would for that).

Ready or not, this is happening! #shirleyruns #tcsnycmarathon #26point2

So what did 2018 teach me from a running / fitness perspective? To be patient with injury recovery, to embrace the circumstances and do the best you can. Don’t let past accomplishments dictate how you face current challenges. I will never repeat the 5K PRs I earned in my 20’s. I doubt I will ever BQ. I’m ok with all that. Even with the lowest yearly mileage since 2012 and my worst marathon finish, I had an incredible running year. I expect 2019 will have its ups and downs but I intend to keep moving forward.

Barb  – (February 18, 2019 at 4:29 PM)  

I loved your recap, Shirley, and like the lessons you learned. I've had to learn similar lessons (each year more of them because I'm getting so old)! I had that glute injury when I was still running, and I could barely walk fast enough to cross a street! Finally, when I was about 67, I stopped running altogether and now just do fast walking - I still try to keep up some decent mileage. I missed the running at first (I was beginning to place in races because I was faster than the other old ladies). However, several of my younger friends were having hip/knee issues, and I didn't want to disable myself. I like seeing your photos of Thailand and of your family. You are blessed!

Denise at Autumn Sky  – (February 19, 2019 at 9:40 AM)  

It sounds like such a special year with the extra family time that came from you being in a different training mode. A silver lining!

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