Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Stepping Off the Track

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Several weeks ago I mentioned in this post that I have decided to take a break from training and racing.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still exercising, and even running, just not following any type of training plan or registering for any races.  Now as someone who has run 3 marathons, 2 half marathons and several 10 mile and under races since 2010 everyone is probably thinking "What gives?".  The short answer is I'm burned out.

I've spent the better part of the last few years in training mode.  I would run one long race, take a month break (sometimes) and then turn right around and begin training again for the next big race.  The full marathons in particular are grueling.  Once the training for a full marathon gets into full swing the long weekend runs range from 13-20 miles.  That means I would be spending anywhere from 2-4 hours of one of my precious weekend days doing nothing but running.  Now I do love running, and I am practically addicted to the high of finishing a big race, but I do like to have a life outside of work and running.  It also doesn't help that some of my longest training runs have just happened to coincide with particularly bad weather.  My first ever 15 mile run the weekend after one of the biggest blizzards to ever hit the DC area in 2010, check, 20 miles on the first cold and rainy day of the year this past fall, check, not to mention the numerous long training runs in the hot DC summer.

Remember this, I certainly do.  It was quite a miracle I didn't fall and break something, I definitely came close.
Unfortunately spending so much time running on the weekends, I felt like I had little time or energy to really dedicate myself to anything else.  Between the necessary errands and chores that I only have the weekends to complete and training, I just didn't feel like I had room for much else.

If you know me then you know that I like to have multiple projects going on at any one time.  However, once this blog got moving and I started working on some other plans I have in the pipeline, I realized that something would have to give.  I also had started feeling less and less motivated in my running.  After I completed the Marine Corps Marathon, which was wonderful, I really realized that I just don't have it in me to do another major race anytime soon.  Part of what made the MCM so great was that I had promised myself it would be the last one, at least for the foreseeable future.  I knew that when such a promise to myself became a significant motivator to completing the race, it was time to take a step back.

As winter has moved in here in DC, I love being able to think "Snow? Sure, bring it!" because it won't possibly mess up a training plan.  I also love that I can make brunch, shopping, or DIY project plans for the weekend and not feel stressed about how I'm going to fit it in around training.  While I don't really sleep in too late anymore, I no longer have to face getting up at 6am and realizing that it was still too late to beat the heat of the DC summer.  I feel like my time truly belongs to me again, and I want to savor it and use it however I see fit.  I have so many personal projects I finally feel like I can focus on and actually complete, take my desk chair for example.  If I were in training mode it is unlikely I would have managed to complete that project, or been able to get a blog post about it up so fast.

Racing is an amazing feeling.  Crossing a finish line, especially after spending the past 18 weeks preparing myself, is one the biggest highs I have ever experienced.  I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in entering and training for a race to do so.  I even have to admit every time I get an email about registering for a race I've previously run, I still feel a little temptation, but deep down I know I really need this time off.  I am not saying that I will never run a race again, in fact I really only intend for this race and training break to last for a year.  I am forcing this break on myself because I love racing so much, but I know that if I were to continue the way I've been going I would risk developing a hatred for it.

I am looking forward to using this break to accomplish some new things in my life that I wouldn't be able to fit in with a training schedule piled on.  I am looking forward to being the one holding a sign and cheering for the first time as friends cross finish lines.  I'm even willing to do a couple of shorter runs to help friends with their training plans.  I know that come 2014 I will be physically, but most importantly mentally, ready to jump back on the course myself.  In the meantime I promise to share the new workouts I add to my fitness regimen, as well as my experience when I end up on the spectator side for the first time.

Have you ever experienced burn out?  Are any of you taking a training break this year?

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