Training for Tuesday: 2015 in Review

alyssagoesbang

2015 was a big year for me - considering the fact that I spent a good portion of it training for my first half Iron distance triathlon, that only seems logical. My total running mileage fell just short (16 miles) of my mileage from last year, but I swam and biked a lot more than I have in previous years. More than twice as much for each, in fact. While I love looking back on all the data and the hard numbers for the year, I have to admit that this year was so much bigger than I ever thought it would be. Not just in volume, but in experiences. In 2015, I...



Earned 17 medals. 
Two 5ks, an 8k, four 10ks, one 10-miler 3 half marathons, one 15-miler, 1 marathon, 2 sprint tris, 1 international tri, and one half Iron distance tri. My next race is at the stroke of midnight on NYE, which I suppose will technically make it my first race of 2016, so that's a wrap for 2015!

Overcame my fears.
Learning to run without music or distractions might be my best running accomplishment yet. Ultimately I have always thought, and still do think, that the headphones debate really boils down to personal preference, and neither way is superior to the other. But for me, I used music as a crutch for a long time and didn't trust myself to be able to stay motivated, engaged, and focused without it. I was sure that eliminating it would leave me lost in a sea of my own thoughts and the voices in my head telling me that I don't want to, I don't have to, and I can't.

To my complete and total surprise, I actually adapted quite quickly and even learned to sometimes prefer running without headphones. I've started using them again after B2B but it's definitely been different and I find that I just don't need or even want to listen to music like I used to. I'm still not positive that I'll be able to run a full marathon sans headphones, but I have until October to work on it!

Forgave myself when things didn't go right.
I have had more failed runs this year than in any of my previous years of running, or at least it feels that way. If I added them all up I'm sure the successes would far outweigh the failures, but the failures are the ones that tend to stick out the most (isn't that always the way it goes?). This summer was particularly hard for me; hitting the pavement at 6am still wasn't early enough to beat the heat, the humidity was outrageous, and I lived at the beach with really no refuge from the sun. I can remember slogging through many of those boardwalk runs, wondering when the torture was going to end.

One day in particular, I made it a whopping 1.5 miles before stopping and panicking because I just did. not. want. to continue. That's not the first time something like that has ever happened to me, but instead of quitting and then beating myself up for it, I stepped off the boardwalk onto the beach and just...sat. I don't know how long I was there or what I was waiting to happen, but as I watched each wave roll in I could feel my frustrations - with the weather, with my body, with my mind - start to dissipate. And that day I realized that I don't have to associate things not going as planned with failure. Failure doesn't have to be negative, it doesn't have to be something I get upset about. Failure can just...be. And it can be okay. Ever since then my running, whether good or bad, has ultimately just...been. I do what I can with the body and mind that decides to show up on each run and at the end of it, it is what it is.

Celebrated my successes.
This year was wildly different for me than previous years because, even though I trained for and succeeded at my two big goal races, the training itself never really felt worth celebrating. When I had trained for a marathon previously, each new distance felt like a huge victory.  This year, I was just too exhausted to relish in faster long runs than I'd ever seen before, or hitting a new distance in the pool or on my bike. A lot of the time I'd finish a workout, look at my watch, and say, "That's it?" because on paper, some of hardest workouts of my life had mediocre results, at best. It was hard and I was tired and while I was training, I could barely see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was difficult to remember what I was working for and why, and without those benchmark victories along the way, there were so many times I just wanted to throw in the towel. But for all the seemingly never-ending work I put in, the final payoff was huge. I succeeded in my two big goal races this year, with a marathon PR in the spring and my first half Ironman in the fall, and finally found cause for celebration.

What's more, I now realize that I don't need small victories to keep me going. They're motivating and it's nice when they come along, but I can't and shouldn't expect them to be present. I can't depend on them to get me through a tough training cycle. I've learned that neither their presence nor absence guarantees success on race day - and because of that, I've had to redefine what "success" means to me. Success is putting in the training to the best of my ability, and showing up on race day ready to take on the task I've trained for. Success is meeting my body and mind where they are. Success is having faith that while today might not be my day, tomorrow will be. Celebrating these successes looks different now too. It's not necessary jumping for joy, but it's accepting that what I did was good and right and that it's part of a journey that's much bigger than a single workout or even a single race. 

This year was the first one I've had since I started running in 2011 when I realized that the honeymoon is definitely over. I haven't added them all up, but I would guess that the workouts that felt okay at best and miserable at worst vastly outweighed the ones that felt good. But sitting here, at the end of a tough year and heading into what will, without a doubt, be the hardest 10 months of my life, I can say that it was absolutely worth it. Training through harsh winter conditions, dressed in so many layers I looked like the Michelin man, coming inside with my tears frozen in droplets on my eyelashes...it was worth it for a bright sunny day at the beach that ended in a 31-minute marathon PR. Waking up at 4am to run before work, being unsure whether my workout counted as a swim or a run thanks to the oppressive humidity, developing a permanent sports bra tan line on my back from hours under the sun on the bike and run...all worth it for the sweet, sweet victory of finally getting to call myself a half Ironman. It's hard to believe that, looking back on how hard I had to work to get through 2015, that 2016 is slated to be at least twice as hard. I hope I'm up for the challenge!

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7 comments :

  1. marathon training is NO JOKE. i worked my butt off for tough mudder which is a measly 21K (plus a ton of obstacles) but i can't even imagine what marathon training (or triathalon training for that matter!!) is like! you did so awesome this past year and bad training sessions just come with the territory. we all have our off days (sometimes even off weeks) but it's our determination that keeps us going.

    Here's to an even more awesome 2016!!

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  2. What a great year you've had! I felt similar during training...like "yay me for running 18 miles today, but I'm too exhausted to be excited about it and I just want to lay down." Ha! But the outcome - a successful race - was totally worth it!

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  3. ah! love this post, for one. that chart thingy is super cool and interesting. yay no headphones :) haha. i'm sorry this year was a bit tough but glad it was worth it in the end -so true about just 'be' with running and everything you said about success. i can't imagine how hard 2016 will be (sorry, debbie downer much) but i'm sure it will be the same and be amazingly worth it when you hear those words at the end of the ironman :) cheers to 2016!

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  4. I can't believe the personal growth you experienced this year through all that you accomplished. From your thoughts on failure to your understanding of what motivates you and the role of small victories. I look forward to continually witnessing your progress, your positive attitude and most of all your badassery.

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  5. I love this post! The infographic is awesome! It's so important to celebrate your success...I definitely didn't do that this year. After almost 2 full years off due to injury, I was so hard on myself during and after the Chicago Marathon. It took me awhile to feel good about the fact that I actually finished! I've been running without music for awhile now and I love it. I did try some audio books on long runs this year, but I don't think that's for me.

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  6. You, my friend, have SO much to be proud of this year, and have given the rest of us so much to aspire to. I don't know why I continue to be amazed, because it's perfectly clear that you. are. incredible and can do absolutely anything you set out to do, and do it in a big and fantastic way. Even when you're overcoming the things that try to drag you down, you do it with grace.

    2015 has shown you something amazing, and given you a lot of gifts and blessings in disguise. If anyone can make 2016 even MORE profound and important and accomplished, it's you. I can't wait to watch it happen.

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  7. You're such an inspiration! Congrats on having such an amazing year, and here's to a great 2016!

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