Surf-n-Santa 10-Miler: How a holiday-coping worksheet from hospice guided my race plan

It’s race-day eve for the Surf-n-Santa 10-Miler, and all forecasts suggest that race day will dawn warm and humid, with a chance of rain—everyone’s favorite weather for distance running in December! (Shudder).

I probably won’t feel this way tomorrow if the forecast holds, but at this moment, I’m kind of grateful for the icky weather, as it will basically force me to honor my race plan of chilling out, slowing down and enjoying the atmosphere of race day without any pace expectations.

I found my other last-minute race-day guidance from an unlikely source: A handout about surviving the holidays I received from a grief counselor at the hospice that helped my dad. Stick with me—I promise this is good stuff.

As I scanned the handout looking for explicit permission to skip sending out holiday cards this year (if you don’t receive one, it’s because I found that permission—sorry! See you in 2013!), I was struck by how the advice could apply to just about anything in life, including a 10-mile race. Some tips I plan to keep in mind tomorrow:

Know your limits/boundaries and pace yourself accordingly. I’ve done most of my long runs at a relaxed, happy 10-minute mile pace. So it’s kind of silly to start a race at 8:30-minute mile pace, because it feels good at that moment in time (I’m looking at you, Philly Half!).

Don’t argue with reality—accept who/what/where you are at this moment in your life. I shudder to think about the time I’ve spent in races (and, let’s face it, in life) arguing with reality. The 2009 Marine Corps Marathon comes to mind—though I knew from the first step that something was off for me that day, and though it became clear fairly quickly that this was not my day to run a four-hour marathon, I treated every new pace group that passed me as a new and shocking affront, thinking: “Now, it’ll be even harder to catch up to the four-hour pace group! Nooo!” Imagine the time and heartache I would have saved had I accepted reality and readjusted!

Make this a basic principle underlying your plans: “I will do what I know is best for me, not what others have told me to do, or what I think others want me to do.” How many times have we (or maybe just I?) felt ashamed of perfectly good races based on what They will think? Whoever They is, Their opinion doesn’t matter, and only serves to subtract from my overall goal of running happy and strong. It’s much harder to listen to your own body, heart and soul and devise honest goals based on what you hear, but I’m pretty sure it’s the only path to peace.

Happy race-day eve to everyone running tomorrow. Look for me on the course—I’ll be the one whose costume theme is “Christmas threw up on me.” (Seriously—wait til you see how “well” my custom Santa hat from middle school and my maroon leg-warmers match!).


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4 responses to “Surf-n-Santa 10-Miler: How a holiday-coping worksheet from hospice guided my race plan

  1. Good luck, Amy!! I look forward to the photos of your Christmas race outfit in your race report post!

  2. Gretchen


    I’m so glad I found your blog . My story is similar to yours in that I’ve been plagued by injuries since April of 2010 when I had shoulder surgery. I ran the Boston Marathon and a week later had surgery. Since then, I’ve been suffering from hip bursitis, a partially torn hamstring tendon, SI joint issues, and now a stress fracture. I had to take almost all of 2011 off and couldn’t run the Boston Marathon. My husband, son, and I still went to Boston and turned it into a family vacation. I still got my race number and marathon shirt. It was very difficult mentally. I still had a qualifying time for Boston 2012 but was dealing with hip bursitis. It took a cortisone injection, a month off, three months of pt, and running only three days a week to make it to Boston.

    Knowing that I wasn’t going to run a fast race, and given the high temperatures, I used Boston 2012 to take in all of the amazing aspects of the race I miss when running for time. It was the most amazing experience! I had started taking yoga when I couldn’t run and learned to honor my body, that less is more, and to enjoy the present moment. I high-fived my way along the course. The spectators were the heroes of the day. They handed out ice, cold towels, popsicles, and more. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much during a race. And when I turned the last corner, I paused and took it all in knowing that I may never make it back. On a day when hundreds decided not to race due to the heat and hundreds still tried to run their original race plan even with the heat, I had the best race of my life. It wasn’t the fastest but it was the most amazing!

    Once again I am sidelined with an injury. After Boston, my coach and I decided I would focus on 5K’s, and 8K’s to give my injured body a break. I did well, was placing in my age group, and having fun doing something outside my comfort zone. I prefer the longer distances. Starting in the fall, I was going to train for the Disney Marathon. However, I started to get a pain in my lower leg. I ignored it for a while because I just couldn’t face not running again. While I wasn’t able to run in 2011, I cycled on my rode bike on the trainer and swam. Neither one gives me the endorphine rush like running does. When I run I feel most like myself.

    But, I started limping at the beginning of my runs and knew I had to stop. I have a medial tibial stress fracture. In addition, when they did the MRI saw a lesion. I had a bone biopsy two weeks ago. It was one of the most painful procedures I’ve ever had done. Luckily, there’s no sign of cancer.

    I’m on week two of no running. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I won’t be running for at least another 3 weeks and maybe more. I’ve finally gotten past being angry and sad. Now, I’m trying to embrace cycling and swimming again. My goal with the swimming is to be able to swim a mile in under 30 minutes so I can train with our local Master’s swim group. Who knows, maybe I”ll do tri in the spring. The last time I was sidelined I took flute lessons. I hadn’t played an instrument since I was in 5th grade which was 30 years ago. It was a good way to challenge myself without hurting my injury. So this time, I’m focusing on other interests I have that get pushed aside when I’m training.

    I have to admit though, there are moments when I doubt whether I will ever be the runner I used to be. Or, if I will run pain free again. But, then there are moments when I know that I’m more than just a runner. Who knows, maybe I’ll turn out to be a great swimmer. Like the quote from on of your blog posts, anything is still possible.

    Sorry this message is so long, but I’ve been able to relate to a lot of your posts. My friends who don’t run don’t understand why it is so difficult not to be able to do what you love.

    Have a great race!

    P.S. I’m a fellow Marylander.

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful post, Gretchen. It does, indeed, sound like your journey is similar to mine: a physically painful one on the outside (thankfully, I’m healed externally at this point—knock on wood!) and an even-more grueling one inside. I’ll keep your wonderful-sounding Boston experience in mind tomorrow when I’m looking for motivation to accept the race for what it is, and to accept myself as I am. Be well, and hope to see you at a race somewhere in MD sometime soon—maybe we’ll exchange high-fives!

  3. Virtual christmas card. So much easier. Go have fun. Don’t worry about the rest.

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