A 20-year Relationship with Sleepy Hollow Road Run RouteAugust 17, 2017
Home for vacation on PEI, slowly working my way back from this chronic injury, I laced up my shoes to do one of my PEI favourites, an 11km out-and-back on Sleepy Hollow Road. This was to be my first workout since early May. This route has everything that a runner’s soul loves: beautiful scenery with iconic PEI farm fields, gently rolling hills, water view, badass cool name, predictable km markers engrained in my mind. As I was thinking of those predictable kilometer markers, 2km is at the soccer field, 3km is at the beginning of Sleepy Hollow Road, it struck me that I’ve been running this route for 20 years. I started running as a teenager and I started here.
Sleepy Hollow Road has seen me through many seasons of my running life. It was there for me as a teenager as I ran through the angst that those years bring. During university I preferred the indoor track at UPEI but the road was still there when I choose it. When I was living in Boston as a young nurse and enjoying the urban running playground this terrific American city offers, I appreciated coming home and getting my legs onto this route to reconnect with my roots. I appreciated it in a way that I hadn’t in university. When I returned home from my run across the Gambia in 2011, running by these farm fields helped me feel close to my team of Pa Modou, Kebba and Spider running by Gambian farm fields across the Atlantic. When I became a mother 5 years ago, I ran this road with my sleepless travelling infant in the running stroller, getting her to nap. When I had a second child, I was smart enough to leave them both behind with their grandmother. And now, Sleepy Hollow Road is there for this season of my running.
I don’t have a name for this season of my running life but it’s not business as usual. Today I certainly felt like I was 20 years older on this route. I was away from running for the longest stretch of time in 3 years. I had an accumulated 6 weeks off, like total rest, to try to let the overuse injuries from my pelvic floor injury heal as much as possible. I’ve been easy running now for 6 weeks but only arrived at 4 days per week last week. Post-chronic-injury, I’m working on establishing my new normal. Warm up felt so hard today that I was worried if I would find marathon pace for the workout, even at 4:35/km current marathon pace. Would I be able to dial in to pace and effort after so many weeks away? My watch beeped and I ran and it was there. I learned years ago that warm up feels don’t matter. Years of running helped me feel marathon pace. I can still dial it in. The number is slower, but the experience is still there.
“New Normal” might be be as fast as previous-racing-Erin and that needs to be ok. I’m honestly just grateful to be out there running. In this long injury journey, I’ve learned that dealing with it is all about choice.
I could choose to feel angry that this unlucky childbirth-related injury happened to me; I could choose to be disappointed that I’m so much slower after required time off; I could be sad about missing the summer racing season. But I will not make any of those choices. They are not good ones. I didn’t nurture a 20-year relationship with running to let it be filled with negative emotions. Running is what I choose to do for love of sport and for passion and enjoyment. It can’t be filled with negative emotions. So instead, I choose to be grateful. I choose to be hopeful that I will keep my loved sport in my life. I choose to feel happy when I’m on the roads and with my running friends and when my daughter proudly tells people, “Mommy won that coffee cup for her age.” I deeply appreciated my Sleepy Hollow farm fields today and I deeply appreciated the beautiful body of water beyond Miltonvale Park where I played softball growing up.
My fitness isn’t gone forever, it’s just somewhere down the road. One day, I’ll be out there and something imperceptible will click and I’ll say “ah, there you are.” I don’t know how far down the road this is. The unknown right now is how much training stress my body and chronic injury are going to let me apply. After all of this physio and osteopathy therapy between June and August, my body might be at the best that it’s going to get. I have some tightness that I don’t like with some runs but instead of choosing despair, I choose to be hopeful that the next one will be better. I run a smart schedule. After my Halifax Road Hammer teammates and coach teased me for “going rogue” and doing my own thing for most of July and August, I’ve come back to the guidance of my skilled coach. The rest of 2017 won’t be for PB’s but maybe 2018 will be.
Because the ability to train like I want to is unknown, I’ll just carry on choosing to be hopeful and grateful.