Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Running for Joy

I've been training for one race or another for the past 16 months. I've always had the next one on the horizon, so as soon as I'd recover from one race, I'd start prepping for the next, oftentimes bleeding one training schedule into a another. This year I added triathlons to the mix and threw some biking and swimming training in there, along with the dreaded "brick" workouts - which are some combination of swimming, biking, and/or running.

Since I completed the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18th, I've been in recovery and rest mode. This is the first time since June of 2011 that I do not have the next race looming. It feels good.

Resting does not mean I'm sitting on the couch eating cookies, but it does mean that I have no set plan or milage goal for each week. I'm running for fun, for the pure joy of running, something I haven't done  much of in a long time. I'm not doing speed work, intervals, or long slow distance runs. I'm just running however long and however fast feels right on that particular day. It also means not feeling guilty if I skip a run.

I've been wearing my Garmin, but enjoy not checking my pace or distance every few minutes, or even at all, until I finish the run. I tend to be competitive with myself, and I know that if I look at the watch and see that I'm dragging a little, I'll try to speed up my pace. This is not the point of running for joy. For me, part of the fun of this type of running is seeing how I did at the end of a run. Was I as slow or as fast as I felt? Can I run just as fast if I don't know my pace every second of the way?

The past 3 four-milers have been particularly fun because the weather has been unseasonably nice lately. Even more thrilling was that I averaged a sub-9:25 minute mile pace for each run. This is fairly fast for me, especially when I'm just running by feel and am not in training mode.

I think this time of rest is even more beneficial for my mind than my body. I'm still getting the miles in, but running doesn't feel like a chore, as it sometimes can during the months and weeks leading up to a big race. I find I'm looking forward to these runs and I feel great when I'm done.

As of now, my next big race is at the end of February, the Princess Half-Marathon in Walt Disney World. But I'm running that one for fun, not a personal best. My next PR goal race probably won't be until April, so I have some time to enjoy this rest period before I really need to sink back into training mode. I also want to spend some of my down time focusing on improving my biking and swimming skills, in preparation for the 2013 triathlon season.

Just before mile 12 of the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon, which is my favorite race! 
But for now, everything I do is going to be focused on the fun of it all.