One of the hardest things to admit as a runner, is that as much as you might want to think of your running as an idealistic and virtuous endeavor in the realms of hard work and courageous determination, the raw truth is that you run for the pleasure of a good run. All the training and disciplined and diligent work put in, is part enjoyment and part greedy planning for an even more pleasurable run. We have our flavors of enjoyment: big mountains, roads, trails, long runs, short and fast runs, but they're all chosen for purely personal preferences of which run leads to the most enjoyment. When I look back on my "off year", it's undeniable that I suffered through injuries and lower energy levels because I was greedy with my pleasure seeking, there's nothing else to say about it. Greed is real.
I write this now with not only a revived running body, but also a healthy and honest appreciation for the how and why of self restraint with my running. It's easy to slip and let my greedy side take hold and leap blindly into training hard again, but the amount of restraint enforced upon me by the setbacks of the year make me see what I do with much wider eyes.
Right now, the best runners in the sport are receiving awards for their performances (UROY), and from my perspective there's nothing discriminating the applause between runners that abused themselves and are burnt out (or about to burn out) or runners that exuded restraint and maintained a healthy relationship with their running. It would be difficult to explain your voting as a judge if you denied a UROY vote to someone that ran incredibly hard and fast 5-6 times a year, yet it would also go a long way towards making the sport more sustainable.
I will admit that I can't deny the excitement I feel watching another runner crush their busy schedule, but I also hear a voice that has grown louder in light of the lonely and depressed moment when I realized I wasn't having fulfilling or enjoyable runs at all. The moment is almost the definition of a non-runner: when you realize all the truth in the standard critiques of "it just hurts and it's not fun at all". Having worked through those heavy thoughts for months at a time, I'm really grateful that I do believe in running again.
All this doom and gloom wasn't for naught, as I now feel these very distinct emotions of "now is a good time to rest" or "those core exercises are critical right now" or "this run is going really well because I'm doing x, y..woooo-hooo! Giddy up!!!" I'm grateful for that clarity because understanding my body does a lot for my personal satisfaction. I enjoy tinkering with my muscles and form, (while intimately aware of failure mechanisms to avoid) and running with a vast awe and wonder for what I'm capable of when everything comes together.
Going into 2016, I might run more or less each day, and my average splits could be faster or slower, but the path to my goals will be more clear and resolute than previous years . I plan to race the Avalon 50 mile on January 9th with the pure goal of re-calibrating my training, and testing my intuition. With the results of the race, I should have a lot to think about (and hopefully write about) going into my 2016 training for Lake Sonoma 50 and Angeles Crest 100. A whole year of healthy and consistent running isn't a pipe dream, it's a powerful reward after learning so many lessons the hard way. With that, I might delve into some cognizant training that makes me a better runner!