2016: A Year of Heartbreak and Breakthroughs

2016 was AWESOME but it was far from easy.  I completed graduate school, bought a hatchback (yes, they are awesome), ran in my first Olympic Trials, DNF’d a marathon, ran a 2016 top 25 US marathon time, watched an athlete of mine battle through something unimaginable, and ran my highest weekly mileage ever.  It was a year of tears (both happy and sad), a year of heartbreak and a year of breakthroughs.  Running taught me so much about myself and life in 2016, but I wanted to share the 7 that impacted my life the most.

 1. Working full-time, going to graduate school full-time and running 100+ miles a week is hard but doable. 

From January-May, I was frantically trying to balance coaching, taking grad classes and running 100+ miles/week—I read blogs about supermoms who work, balance a family and continue to train and I give them so much credit.  Even though I don’t have any children of my own, the 35 distance runners I coach feel like my own children at times.  While it’s not easy, if you are sincerely passionate about something (in my case running and coaching), you will find a way to make it work. 


2. Find a support system who wants to see you succeed.

I have a super supportive boss (who also joins me on afternoon runs when I am dreading the idea of a run after a long day at work), a coach who is flexible and willing to make changes on the fly and family who cheer me up on my darkest days.  


3. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

My college coach, Andrea Grove-McDonough, shared this with me during my final college track season is 2014 and it was once again very relevant in 2016.  I learned a lot about myself at the Olympic Trials.  Initially I just saw the entire day as a failure but turns out, it was probably necessary for me to feel that pain in order to become a better runner.  I was 24 years old and had never even ran in an NCAA Final Championship as an individual so the Olympic Trials were by far the biggest stage I had ever competed on.  Looking back, I was not mentally prepared for the experience as a whole—which may be due to a lack of experience but I could’ve done more to prepare myself.


4. Heartbreak is temporary.

Competing at the Olympic Trials in 2016 was a dream I had for years before I started training for the marathon so seeing a DNF behind my name on February 13, 2016 was heartbreaking.  I sulked for days after that race but guess what?!  Life moved on, the sun came up, I still had a job that I love and I set new goals for the year.  Sometimes you need to experience heartbreak to find your love of something again. 

5. Food is fuel.

6. Comparison is the thief of joy.

“I’m not pretty enough. I’m not skinny enough. I’m not lean enough.”  The list goes on and on—I’ve been guilty of saying them and it breaks my heart to hear others say these comments about themselves.  I remember being at the Olympic Trials and seeing many runners who were a lot thinner and leaner than I was and since I DNF’d the race I started comparing myself to those women.  Maybe if I looked like them, I would run like them?  In May, my mileage was pretty low because I was struggling with some nagging injuries but I had also dropped to my lowest weight since my freshman year of college.  Was I skinner?  Yes.  Was I running well?  No.  I remember going out of runs and feeling “off” and to be honest, running wasn’t fun.  Luckily, I was able to catch this trap I was falling into and put on 4-5 lbs which was exactly what I needed to get back to my “normal” self.  In running, your body will find its perfect weight if you eat right (and enough) and continue to train.  Food is not your enemy…food is the fuel to allow you to do what you love!!!

7. Breakthroughs happen when you least expect them.

2016 was a roller coaster of a year but if you are relentless through the hard times and humble through the good times, you can accomplish things you never imagined.  I saw heartbreak in February, I let comparison steal my joy in May and I had a breakthrough in December which made my year beyond memorable.  Running nearly a 5 minute PR and a top 25 US time for 2016 at CIM was a bit unexpected at the time but looking back, the challenges I was faced with prepared me mentally and physically for the 26.2 miles.  The thing about breakthroughs in running is that they rarely happen when you try to force them—they happen when you deep down trust in your training and yourself. 

Peace out 2016.  It has been fun.  I learned a lot but can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for me.

Twitter: @samantha_bluske
Instagram: @sjbluske

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