It's Saturday morning and I'm about to go out for an hour and 45 minute run. As I sit here digesting my breakfast I think about how far I have come in a year. After my broken leg incident in 2005, I could not run for a year and I found it very hard to get back into a consistent training program when I could.
I spent the months of last summer running sporadically and never really improving. I remember getting winded after only a half a mile. My legs felt like I was running through waist deep sand, my ears hurt and my lungs burned. I used to dread my nightly run, and would always think of an excuse to get out of it. No wonder people who don't run hate it so much. Running sucks when you first start out.
I signed up for the series of Tuesday night runs in the fall. For about 12 weeks there is a run every Tuesday at a different spot around Anchorage. You show up, they give you a rough idea of where the course goes and you just run with about 600 people. This is when I started training consistently and improving. It was only 2 days a week, but even that makes a difference.
I knew that if I was going to be a runner again, I would have to run through the winter to hold on to this momentum from the Tuesday Night Races. But I needed more motivation, so in November I signed up for Team in Training. I briefly considered doing a full marathon in May, but quickly convinced myself that a marathon would entail a bit too much winter training. A half marathon, now that was doable.
I also needed to set a long term goal, so I picked one of the hardest mountain races in the area and decided to try to qualify for it. The Crow Pass Crossing follows the old Iditarod trail from Girdwood, over Crow Pass, across Eagle River and down into the town of Eagle River. It's 24 miles. That sounded about right, way over my head. People told me I should probably run a road marathon before I try a mountain marathon, but to be honest running 26.2 around the roads of Anchorage sounds more like torture than fun.
I was Gung Ho winter running in December. I remember thinking I wanted the winter to bring on the harshest, coldest, snowiest conditions for me to train in. I remember running in the mountains in the snow and loving it. I remember running at 8000 feet in Colorado and having to stop to walk every 5 minutes. I remember running in 5 degrees and thinking I can run in colder temperatures than this! Bring it on. Then I remember running in minus 20, my spandex sticking to my legs with frozen sweat, my eyelashes (the only exposed part of my body) almost frozen shut from frost, my leg muscles feeling like hard taffy that you work and work and it never loosens up. And then coming inside thinking never again.
Today it is April and the half marathon is three weeks away. I will probably run 11 miles today and I am looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to the moments when my mind wanders for awhile and I come back to reality and see that two more miles have just passed. Or the moments when I can feel my body working hard, my heart pumping, my lungs expanding and contracting, my leg muscles warming and I know that I could go on like this for a long time. And especially the times in early morning when it is quiet before everyone wakes up, and the sun is coming up over the Chugach, and it is all for me.