2015 Season Recap: Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Yesterday & Much Happier Things

from Polina’s Blog

Wow…what a year it has been. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year, but through it all, I still have a lot to thank God for.

Even though 2015 brought me four PRs in the 3K, 5K, 10K and a half-marathon, I’ve realized that the journey isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts. It can even break your heart.

But that’s okay.

This year I’ve had some setbacks as some of my races didn’t go as planned. Some of my race times were disappointing to me, and it was heartbreaking. At times, I’ve felt that even though I’d work my hardest my hard work wouldn’t pay off. During these times, I had to remind myself to enjoy the process of running rather than just putting my focus on chasing times.

I was so happy to win the Shamrock Half-Marathon with a 2 minute PR in March. This one was one of the rare moments this year when I actually felt great during a race, I felt joyful, and I tried to soak up every moment racing in the cool Virginia Beach weather. I felt like things were falling into place, and I was looking forward to racing Grandma’s marathon a couple months later. When I arrived in Minnesota, I felt my achilles tendon flare up during my shake-out run a day before the race. I ignored the pain. I’d been having this injury for a month prior to that, but I was hoping that it would not sabotage my race. Well, I was wrong. The race wasn’t pretty at all, and I finished 3.5 minutes off my PR. After the race, my foot was burning with pain. I was crushed that the marathon didn’t go as planned. I was really hard on myself.

ALL races won’t be amazing. Some will. Some won’t. It’s part of being a professional runner. The hard part of running is staying in the game even when sometimes it feels like there is no progress;
After the injury, I took over a month off from running, but I had a blast discovering new and different ways to cross-train.

I started slowly getting back in shape and this time I craved trails. So, I started doing most of my runs on jungle Hawaiian trails which helped my tendon to heal quicker. Training in the woods brought me a new passion for running.Two months later, I signed up for XTERRA Trail Gunstock Half-Marathon and won the race. It was a tough one! Upon crossing the finish line, I was pooped. But, I had a feeling of awe that I’d just conquered an epic course. One that had taken me up and down through mud patches, rock piles, fresh cornfields, single-tracks, and streams. It was so amazing, and it felt so good to be back!

Polina Carlson trail Polina Carlson trails

My next race was the Philly Half-Marathon, and I expected nothing but great results from the flat course in downtown Philadelphia. Three weeks before the race, I got terribly sick. Chills. Cough and fever. I can’t recall the last time I’d been that sick. It forced me to take two weeks off from training. I started feeling better 12 days before the race, so I made the decision to not cancel my race hoping that I could bounce back and still maybe not run a PR but at least have a solid performance. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel strong on that day and I  struggled to stay on pace during the second part of the race. Oh, well. I was disappointed, but I knew there would be a next time. Nothing motivates me more like missing my goal.

After I recovered-both physically and mentally, I dove right into training again to get ready for XTERRA Trail World Championship 21K.

On race day my main goal was to run with joy. Even though 2015 was a great year for me and I’d had many breakthrough races and big PRs, as my times got faster, I thought I needed to work even harder to achieve all the running goals that I’d set for myself.

Instead of joy and feelings of appreciation, my training turned into pressure to hit the marks and the expectations that I put on myself. In the process of that I felt like worry started forming a big cloud around my training and racing slowly replacing my joy for running.

2015 had a lot of ups and downs, and yet, it was so beautiful as I feel like my past experiences have strengthened my faith. I know that God has already been blessing me so much, so the last race of the season in December 2015 my goal for the day was…to just enjoy it and remind myself why I started running in the first place.

XTERRA Trail World Championship 21K is a tough hilly race with gorgeous scenery. My main goal  to “run happy” was accomplished as every time negative thoughts would creep up I found something to be joyful about even during the most challenging parts of the race.

I had an amazing time scooping the trails at the XTERRA Worlds. Honestly, even though I finished 2nd overall, I feel like my joy for running is back.

Polina Carlson XTERRA

There is nothing more exciting than bouncing back from a disappointing race and experiencing success at the next one.As for now, I’m taking a break from running and trying to hold the horses (and not search for a next upcoming race). I am also very excited for the 2016 year. It’s going to be good. I just know it. Not that I’m wishing for any year to just pass already, I am just sure there are some good things on the horizon. It won’t be any easier, I already know that, but 2015 feels like it has been the year of on-going lessons, really hard ones. It has also been the year where it felt like I grew the most in a long time. That said, I am ready to see what 2016 has in store for me!

I’m thankful for my family, friends and sponsors. You all make what I do possible! Cheers!

Polina Carlson coffee

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