Last week I went on vacation with my family in Hawaii. It was the first vacation of my son Colt’s life that: 1. Wasn’t a business trip with a few fun days added on, 2. Wasn’t a trip done with other people, 3. Wasn’t a trip to visit family. Now I love (most) of the many other trips that we have taken, but this one was special. We weren’t going somewhere because I had an appearance, or because we missed grandma, because someone was getting married, because I was racing somewhere, or because we needed a weekend up in the mountains with friends. We were going on a trip to take a vacation.
When we first planned the trip I said to my husband Adam, “Maybe I should take time off from running while we are there.” Adam smiled at me and said, “yeah right.” After 17 years of marriage he has learned that I never take time off. Even if there is no race on the calendar, the ritual of getting up and pushing my body is the same as brushing my teeth before bed. I workout everyday. I run even when we are visiting family in Minnesota over Christmas and it’s -40 degrees with windchill, I run when I’m in Hawaii for my friends wedding, I run when we escape to the mountains in the summer, hell- I even ran on my honeymoon. Yes, I realize I might have a slight addiction. The only time in my life where I didn’t run was when in 2008, after the Olympics and the NYC Marathon, when Adam and I went to Mexico. It was wonderful and needed after a very stressful year (making the Olympic Team is stressful!), but each day that went by I felt a little more guilty over the runs that I was missing. I did relax, but with every margarita I drank I was also served a dose of guilt.
I have perfected the run on vacation. When I went to Mexico with my in-laws after the 2012 Olympics, I got up at 6:30AM every day and knocked out 10-12 miles before anyone else woke up. I usually try to sneak out of the room wherever we are and be back in time as everyone is finishing up breakfast. Sometimes if we’ve had a long day, I’ll sneak out as everyone takes a shower, making it back to quick shower myself before dinner. I’m really good at this, I’ve been doing it for years. I just sacrifice a little sleep and get my miles in. But the truth is that I never truly relax. Even though I may have gotten 12 miles in by 9AM, I am aware all day that I’m not recovering and that I’m going to get up and do it again tomorrow. Even though I’m having fun, my training never really leaves my mind.
And so now here we are. In Maui with my family. We arrived late Sunday night and Monday morning I was wide awake at 4AM. After all, that’s 8AM back home. I thought about sneaking out. I packed one running outfit just in case. I could leave the room, run along the beach or in the gym and get in 10 miles before the boys wake up. But then I thought about how much I wanted to be there when the boys woke up. How I had just put in a huge week of training and a really big day the morning we flew out. I deserved this rest. I told myself to relax. And I did, I fell back asleep.
That was the last temptation to run on the trip. Everyday I just hung out with my boys. Getting food, playing on the beach, throwing the football in the pool. I had so much more energy than I usually do! You want me to boogie board, Ok! You want to walk down to that cove (that would normally kill me), Ok, let’s do it! I was so present. And here’s the thing, it was truly life changing. I know that sounds silly, but it really was. I was so connected to my family and we were experiencing all of these adventures together. No one had to tell me about it later, I was there, in the now, appreciating my family on a level I never had. Halfway through the trip my son said to me, “Mommy, this is the best trip ever. You wake up with us and do everything with us. This is the best time of my life.”
Now I’m not going to lie and say that I’ll always take time off when I go on vacation or on a trip- not going to happen. But I am so thankful that I did this time. I felt so present and close to my husband and son. It deepened the experience in a way I didn’t expect. Yeah, I felt a little sore and beat up when I got home and went out to run. But today I did a run up the mountain and I ran it the fastest I have so far- right after 6 days off. So it didn’t hurt me too much. I’m not saying that you should just throw caution to the wind every time you travel or go on vacation, but I have learned that taking this unnecessary break turned out to be the most necessary of all. What I gained by giving up 6 days of running? It’s impossible to measure. I am addicted to running, to the joy it brings me. But this was a powerful reminder that it will always be second to those I love.