Running Through Deployment: Races #12 and #13

The last two races of “Running Through Deployment” have been one of the best and one of the worst races I’ve ever run, respectively.

Race #12: Grand Prix of Running Classic 10K

On July 21st, I ran the Grand Prix of Running Classic 10K – Race #12 of Running Through Deployment. I’d run much of the Colorado Springs course in various training runs over the past year, so I was familiar with the terrain.

I finished almost five full minutes faster than I’d finished any prior 10K run, setting a new 10K personal record (PR) for myself. I had a truly strong race day, and I felt great both on the course and at the finish. To make matters even better, I met a new friend during this race.

Not only is she an Army wife, she’s also from a small Missouri town, she runs and hikes, and she has a Jack Russell Terrier (my dog is a Jack mix). Her husband and mine share many professional similarities, and they’re both Ironman finishers.

She and I have stayed in touch, and even went on a hike together this weekend. The Classic 10K was an all-around great race day!

Unfortunately, the next race in “Running Through Deployment” was nowhere near as great. The Grand Prix of Running Top Ten was by far my worst race ever. And by “ever”, I mean in the 2.5 years or so that I’ve been running. Still, I’ve had some rough runs along the way, and this one takes the cake. By far.

Last week was so busy with work that I just didn’t get enough rest, and I didn’t eat well, either. I woke up Saturday feeling really tired before the race had even begun, and with stomach issues, to boot. It had been seven days since I’d run at all (work was demanding, and my training fell entirely to the wayside), and my body felt heavy and tight throughout the run.

Race #13: Grand Prix Top 10-Miler

By mile 3, my IT band was so tight that every step hurt, and by mile 8, I was fighting back tears of pain and frustration and fatigue.

My body felt like it weighed 1,000 pounds, and everything (stomach, legs, back, feet) seemed to hurt. I drug my sorry self across the finish line, accepted the finisher’s medal that was handed to me, and hobbled my way to the school bus that was shuttling us back to the start line, where my car was parked.

I drove home, took a shower, and crawled back into bed, waking up six hours later from the longest Saturday afternoon nap in history.

I was really beating myself up over Saturday’s race until the girlfriend who drove in my Uhaul with me to Colorado this time last year shared her “nugget of Monday motivation” on Facebook today:

“If you’re not failing every now & again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” ~Woody Allen

After reading this quote, I’m feeling a little better about the race. Sure, I had a bad race day on Saturday, but when I took a step back tonight, I got some perspective. One bad race out of 13 races isn’t such a bad ratio, and neither is 10 bad miles out of more than 300 miles logged since March.

Mileage aside, at least I’ve made the most of Nick’s deployment. I could be passively waiting for our time apart to pass so that life can begin again. Instead, I’m doing some things I don’t think I would have done if he was here, including running so many fun races and traveling to see so many friends and family.

I can’t speak for wives with kids at home, but I know that my military spouse friends who’ve been through deployments before starting a family have all told me that learning something new or setting personal goals for the deployment has helped them get through things. One friend became a yoga instructor and took up swimming, while another finally followed through on a lifelong dream of learning to figure skate.

I don’t think that deployment is ever going to be easy, but I think there’s a good lesson here in my good race/bad race experience. There will absolutely be bad days (horribly, embarrassingly bad road races if you’re me), but sometimes it really helps to take a step back and count the extremely good and extremely bad days both as “wins”.

Simply by nature of pushing ourselves hard enough to fail, I think we’re racking up successes in disguise. Count your wins, not your losses, and count your losses, too. I think both are necessary if you want to achieve great things.

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