This is the first spring in 4 years that I haven’t been either pregnant or recently postpartum. When I made the decision not to have anymore children, I was really looking forward to this spring. I would carry the momentum of my strong racing year right into the next, without any interruptions for pregnancy or childbirth. My childbearing years were some of the most important years in my life and shaped who I am today, but now I get so see what kind of athlete I can become.
Back in December, Jesse and I registered for the Ice Age 50 Mile race on May 9th. This race is so popular that registration opens and closes in one day. This meant that we had to commit to our spring running plans half a year ahead. Signing up for this race was my way of finally acknowledging to myself that I was moving on from having a third baby and going straight into the next year of racing.
When we got back from an epic running trip through Arizona, southern California, and Utah in February, I was excited to be home and put some major miles on back in Wisconsin. But, before we were even unpacked, everyone in our family came down with the flu. This started a spiraling virus pattern that we are still battling. The weather was bitter cold through February, not to mention how grey and dark it was compared to our sun drenched trails out west. I grumbled as I layered on my running clothes and set out to run the snowy country roads around our house, every run was in the shadow of my beautiful vacation. The 20 mile radius around my house is set to the backdrop of rolling farm fields, grazing livestock, steep wooded ridges and valleys, and winding streams traversing the countryside. I know that I am lucky to live in this idyllic landscape, which only makes me feel guilty for wanting to be back in California.
Finally daylight saving came a few weeks ago and I knew my running attitude would get better. Spring in Wisconsin can be very dramatic. One morning I wore long johns, overalls, and a puffy coat to work then ran in a t-shirt in the afternoon. Yes! Running would be awesome again and I was coming into spring in the best racing shape of my life. But as the snow melted, the roads were thick with salt and debris from the winter. The strong spring wind blasted salty dust into my eyes and passing cars and trucks left me in a swirl of sand and gravel.
I decided to hit the mountain bike trails at Blue Mound State Park to get off the road. Then Jesse informed me that they are closed in the spring until they dry out, which could be a while because the snow is packed down all winter by snowshoers. How did I not know this? Because I started trail running after my first child, Paavo, was born and was pregnant that following spring. I ran through most of my second pregnancy but my runs never amounted to more than 10 miles a week. It is so strange to me how unfamiliar I am with running during the season that I was looking forward to so much.
I am 48 days out from my next big race – Ice Age 50, the race that helped me move to the next chapter of my life. This is a critical time in my training and I will need to lay on serious miles over the next few weeks. One of the hardest things about running for me is not the running itself, but finding the time and inspiration to do the work. Running is about finding beauty in challenges, so I will let these long, windy roads be my test. I will rise above this awkward low point in the year to move out of the shadows and into the dust.