If not now, then when?

Since the Philly half two weeks ago, I’ve run less miles than I have all year. I had planned on this and was actually looking forward to some downtime, but since the race didn’t exactly pan out as expected, I feel like I didn’t get much closure on my training cycle. I had hoped to cross the finish line with a big PR and then rest on my laurels for a few weeks. Instead, I found myself contemplating a redemption half marathon sometime in December (for the record – that would have been an awful plan) and just generally feeling dissatisfied. Here’s the the thing – I know I need to chill out these next few weeks. I need the break both mentally and physically if I’m going to have a successful training cycle for the Boston Marathon in April. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy pill to swallow. After months of running 50-80 miles per week and doing long runs and workouts with a goal in mind…I feel a little directionless. There were a few days this week when I set out on my run and thought…4 miles? Why even bother? When I don’t have a running goal (or a running buddy to chat with!), I often find myself asking “Why am I doing this again??” I mean, sure, I do enjoy running most of the time and I love how I feel once I’m done, but that can be difficult to remember in the moment. Especially if that “moment” is after a long day of work and it’s already dark and cold outside…

I’m trying to not freak out about this (temporary?) lapse in mojo. No one (and I mean no one) can stay motivated to train year-round, year after year. That’s a one-way ticket to burn out city, so whenever I start feeling blah about my low mileage and attitude towards running, I’ve been repeating the following phrase to myself: “If not now, then when?” If giving myself a break after months of hard training, during the busiest time of the year (holiday parties, yay!) isn’t going to happen now, it’s never going to happen. Dear self – It’s perfect timing. Don’t be dumb. That dissatisfied voice in my head is just going to have to deal with it until Boston training starts in January.

So Megan, are you just going to sit on your butt and eat Christmas cookies until New Year’s?

As much fun as that sounds…the answer is no. I know myself well and not running at all this month would probably make me really unhappy. Running (even if it’s just a few miles) provides routine. Let’s be honest, if I didn’t make a running date with my friend Sari this morning, I probably would have stayed in bed watching Gossip Girl and eating ice cream for lunch. No one wants to see that. Running also improves my mood, which is essential during one of the darkest and coldest months of the year. I also like to eat delicious food and drink good beer. I don’t think in the mindset of “I ran X miles and burned X calories, so now I can eat!” That’s messed up and I don’t run with the goal of “burning calories”, but that being said, it does give me a little leeway when it comes to holiday goodies. If I wasn’t a runner, I probably wouldn’t enjoy food as much or sleep as well at night.

So where am I going with this? Well, I’ve decided to participate in the Runner’s World holiday running streak. Basically, I’m going to run at least one mile, every day for the month of December (the streak started around Thanksgiving, but I joined late…). Stay tuned. Here’s a recap of this week’s running:

Monday, November 28 – 6 miles (in the morning in Central Park with Nicole, Jacqui, and Lindsay. My legs felt like wooden sticks, but the company was great!)

Tuesday, November 29 – 8 miles (it was dark until mile 5 and I did not love that)

Wednesday, November 30 – Rest Day.

Thursday, December 1 – 4 miles (on the treadmill because the crowds in midtown Manhattan are soul-crushing this time of year and I couldn’t face the 10 block run to Central Park)

Friday, December 2 – 5 miles (listened to some awesome pitbull songs on this run, the highlight for sure)

Saturday, December 3 – 4 miles (was really cranky during this run, the promise of beer once I finished got me through)

Sunday, December 4- 11 miles (Thought about stopping after 8 miles, but then I needed to get my butt to Williamsburg and it was most convenient to run. Can you believe that running 3 miles is faster than taking the MTA? Yeah.)

Total: 38 miles

While running has been a little boring, my evenings have been not. I think I’ve had about 10 minutes of free time since last Sunday and I’m embracing it. Bring on the parties and holiday festivities! Some friends of mine had a “rare beer tasting party” on Friday and it was genius. Why didn’t I think of that? It was a great ice breaker because everyone was interested in what beer you brought and why. I brought some delirium tremens beer and while it’s not exactly rare, it’s good and I think it gives me some cred. Also, semi-related, I think I’m becoming a beer snob. There must have been at least 30 beers total at the party, so it’s a good thing we only had small samples of each. Hahaha. Right.

Since my evenings have been so busy, I try to do some cooking on Sunday nights. The other day I made mini lasagnas in the Rachel Ray casserole dishes that I received for my birthday. Thanks Nana! They were perfect for this recipe.

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Caramelized Onion Lasagna (makes 4 individual servings)

I didn’t really follow a recipe for the lasagna, so there’s a lot of room for creativity and substitution. Basically, you just want to cook your lasagne noodles (I used 1/2 box), drain them, and set them aside. Meanwhile roast some butternut squash with a Tbs of canola oil until tender, caramelize some onions on the stove top, and steam a bunch of kale. And then go crazy with layering! I alternated layers of noodles with veggies, Classico light creamy alfredo sauce, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Once everything is all nestled nicely in the dish (or individual dishes), bake at 400 F until cheese is melted and bubbly. Maybe 20 minutes? Alfredo isn’t really my go-to sauce, but I received a sample jar as part of the Foodbuzz tastemakers program, so I thought I’d give it a go. For being “light”, it tasted really good. I couldn’t tell the difference and making white lasagna was a nice change from the usual.

That same night, I also whipped up some Buckeye Candies. The recipe makes about 30, depending on how much pb dough you eat…

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup of peanut butter
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt plus fleur de sel or sea salt for sprinkling on top
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp canola oil or coconut oil

Directions:

  • In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), combine the butter, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt until cohesive. Slowly add in powdered sugar. Keep your mixer on LOW when you do this, otherwise sugar will fly everywhere. Believe me. Dough will be crumbly, but that’s ok.
  • Roll the pb dough into balls about the size of ping pongs and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Freeze for 15 minutes or until firm. Meanwhile, in a small-medium bowl, combine the chocolate chips and oil. (The oil will help the chocolate coating set.) Microwave for 45 seconds, stir, and then microwave for another 15-30 seconds, until smooth.
  • Carefully use two forks to dip the pb balls into the melted chocolate, they should be about 2/3 covered. Set them on the wax paper, sprinkle with fleur de sel, and pop them back into the fridge until firm. These will keep about 2-3 weeks refrigerated. They never last that long in my house though!

Alright, that’s all I’ve got. Time to go organize my google calendar for the week. I don’t play around when it comes to December commitments.

  • Buckeyes are the best! My dad used to have a co-worker from Ohio who would make them for us every Christmas. Now I guess I have to make my own. I will definitely be referring back to this recipe! 
    I think its a good idea to give yourself a break from high intensity running for a while. I feel like the weeks when I scale back and the days I don’t run make me appreciate running even more. Forcing myself to take a break or to only run a few miles one day just makes me that much more eager to go running tomorrow. 

  • Ericka Andersen

    I totally get how you feel right now. I’m in the same running funk….feeling kind of lost. I ran 9 miles this weekend but it was like I didn’t understand the point without a racing goal in mind. Luckily, training for my March marathon will start soon but until then, I’ll just embrace the endorphins of the run all on its own!

  • Anonymous

    ooh that lasagna looks amazing. 

    I think you definitely need a little break after a tough training cycle! This is such a weird time of year – after goal races, before next training cycles – kind of like a black hole of running. Does that even make sense? Meh. The holidays are a good distraction for loss of mojo. The streak (which I wish I could do too!) and Boston training after the new year will set your mojo straight, I’m sure 🙂 

  • Anonymous

    i like the term “black hole of running and training”! YES. it definitely feels that way.

  • Do you have an extra of those candies for me? K thanks…

    I also feel directionless.I was all down for taking like 2 weeks off and then social running through Dec, but now I can’t even do that. UGH. I found some aqua jogging training schedule online just to give me some semblance of peace that what I’m doing is helping.

    You’re right though. NO ONE can remain super motivated all year round. Fast track to burnout and injuries. A break is well deserved!

    If I could run, I’d be all down for a social run.

  • Megan, after all you’ve accomplished this year, you deserve a break!  Thanks for inspiring us all to keep on running even when things get boring or tough!

  • Galk

    I know how you feel! I’m having a hard time since finishing the NYC marathon – these mornings are so dark and cold! I too felt directionless so I just signed up for a 1/2 marathon in March so that goal helps get my butt out of bed! Loved the buckeyes too! I used to make them as a child with my friend – the picture brought a smile to my face! Give yourself the time you need this holiday season – you deserve it and it will help in the long run – no pun intended!

  • Buckeyes are the best! I had a friend/roommate whose family was from Ohio and she made them from time to time. Needless to say, those were the best of times.

  • you’ll get your running mojo back, i’m sure. i think this unpredictable weather is kind of a tease and making it hard for us all to settle into any type of winter routine. bah.

    love those little lasagnas – they look great!

  • Holly

    I totally hear ya! I posted something kind of similar today about being in a lull but being OK with it. I ran 1 mile on Thursday and did some yoga over the weekend but didn’t seem like enough. I’m thinking I might just start tackling 1-2 miles a day and see what happens.

  • Pearson Smith

     Cheers to that. The hardest part of being a runner is taking time off. I even though the logical side of our brain knows what do, the lack of endorphins says something else… you are doing it right, especially if you want to start ramping back for Boston. You rocked so many race this season–
    Happy holiday

    http://www.wyirun.blogspot.com/

  • Congrats on even getting out a few times.  The new york winter can be a real motivation killer.  I think now seems a really good time to take a break.  You will be so refreshed for the new year.  Maybe do just fun fitness stuff- social runs as you said, or going to gym purely to watch E channel! Have fun and lovely break! 

  • For the beer snobbery, you must go here, if you haven’t already! http://www.bierkraft.com/

  •  I am so happy that you featured Buckeyes!  This OH girl LOVES those suckers!  I also am a beer snob and love the idea of a beer tasting party!  And I also find this time of year terrible for running motivation.  Basically, this entire post speaks to me. 🙂

  • I love buckeyes!  My Mom always makes them for the holidays. Also, that “rare” beer party is a really cute idea.  I love it!

  • I am so feeling the same way! All of my runs felt forced last week. I kind of wish I was training for something for motivation, but know I need the break. I am, however, totally scoping out spring races (Cherry Blossom and maybe NYC Half!)
    I love the idea of the rare beer tasting party – fun!
    Sorry we didn’t get to meet up this weekend! Hopefully in Jan in Philly!

  • soooooooo every other blog post since my marathon on nov.12 has been about me whining that i want to run more, rest less, but how i should run less, rest more and im a big bag of mixed emotion. ofcourse my mileage decrease has me hovering around 25mpw, while you’re still well over that…but i feel your pain! sort of 🙂
    both recipes look DELISH!

  • hi!! don’t get down on yourself, embrace the down time that you just had and use it to propel you towards entering your Boston training cycle focused and ready because you will be kicking some serious booty there!!
    I want to join in on the Runner’s World holiday running streak!! so fun!
    I hope your week is off to a great start!

  • I know the feeling. Rest is really important after a hard training cycle (whether you met your goal or not, it doesn’t change the fact that you trained really hard) but then not having a goal can also make it harder to stay motivated to get out there. Especially when it’s dark and there are many other more fun things to do (like sit on my butt and eat Christmas cookies and watch movies). I like the “if not now, when?” mentality AND the idea to participate in the Run Streak. I thought about joining in but I haven’t run even close to everyday since Thanksgiving…so I think I’ll have to stick to other challenges this month.

    Anyway, like you said – no runner can stay motivated to train 365 days a year and so the loss of your mojo after a training cycle is completely normal. If you didn’t have it, I think maybe you should worry that you didn’t train hard enough. Taking the break now will leave you rested and excited for Boston training in 2012.

    Also – the buckeyes look delicious! I grew up in OH, so these were pretty much a childhood staple.

  • I think you should IN NO WAY feel guilty for taking a break after all that!

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  • Ali

    I would like some Buckeyes please!

    And I’m glad you took a little break — perhaps I could take a cue from you?

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  • Tusker!!  I have a special place in my heart for elephant beer.  (Gatsby does too.)

    Do you like those casserole dishes?  I might ask Santa to get them for me…