I ran my first marathon severely undertrained. I was still in college, and I really wanted to call myself a marathoner. I didn’t, however, want to stop going to the bars on Saturday nights (okay, and several other nights) and I also didn’t particularly enjoy heading out for 2+ hours running by myself (the other people I knew running marathons at that point were MUCH faster than I was). So I ran 16 miles the weekend before the race, showed up for the 2005 Nike Women’s Marathon, and jog-walked my way to a 4:41 marathon.
I was excited to be able to call myself a marathon finisher, but I knew I could have done much better if I’d actually put in the time and effort to train properly. I was a year older and wiser for my second marathon, trained a lot smarter, and dropped 27 minutes. I started running more miles, doing more speedwork, and finally managed to qualify for Boston at my fifth marathon. It was a lot more satisfying to run a hard race knowing I’d put in the work to get there.
When I signed up for Wildflower, I knew I wanted to try and train hard for it. We’ve had to make some sacrifices (especially Mike, who ends up hanging out with Ellie a lot when I’m at the pool or on my bike), but I didn’t want to repeat my last 70.3 training regimen, which lasted about two months and definitely did not contain nearly enough mileage. The whole point for that race, just like my first marathon, was to be able to say that I had completed a half Ironman.
Whereas triathlon training used to be something I had to squeeze in around my social life and school work, now it’s something I prioritize and genuinely enjoy doing. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother signing up for triathlons. I love the feeling of finishing up 54 miles on the bike with a good friend, nailing my 15th 100 m repeat in the pool, squeezing in a 7 mile run between the time I leave work and when I have to pick up Ellie from daycare, and hopping off my trainer after an hour long sweatfest at 5 AM. I still have bad workouts, obviously, but the process of training and the routine I’ve gotten into feels amazing.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea of chasing new distances and fast times without thinking about what’s involved or whether you really even want to do it. I know, for instance, that I’ll probably never have the desire to train for 100 mile trail races even though I think crossing the finish line of one would feel completely awesome. With the limited amount of time I have, I need to make sure that I’m spending it doing what I love, not just trying to have new finishes to brag about. At the end of the day, nobody really cares what you’ve run or what your PRs are. If you’re doing it because it’s something you think you should, you’re wasting your time.
This morning I took Ellie out in the stroller for a 6 mile run on a path I run all the time. There was nothing out of the ordinary, and my pace wasn’t anything special, but it’s workouts just like this that remind me how much I love to run. My legs didn’t feel particularly fresh, but I was so grateful to be able to be out running, listening to Ellie point out dogs and squirrels and enjoy a calm morning outside. In the end, it’s not just about crushing PRs and chasing new distance records, it’s about finding the joy in training.