I recently ran the California International Marathon in 4:08:29. Twelve years earlier when I last ran a serious marathon, also CIM, I was 33 seconds slower. In between those races, I wasn't really running much. I did the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon on long training runs consisting of 13 miles. I was too bored to go longer. My race time showed it: over 5 hours of running/walking. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and it's my favorite race to date.
So what happened to help me run faster? It certainly wasn't menopause. I attribute that to my weight gain of about 6 pounds and on my small frame, that's quite a bit more to be carrying around.
A year ago I moved from flat Sacramento to the Sierra Foothills. Soon after I started running and biking on the trails around my new home. Holy shit! Hills were everywhere making me feel like the old, fat lady I'd become. At first, I thought I had emphysema because along with the hills, I was living at 3000ft at the top of a hill. I dreaded going out for a bike ride knowing getting back meant climbing or rather clawing my way home. Every ride was laced with the foulest language, the only thing that gave me energy to finish my ride.
But towards the end of summer, my foul language wasn't needed so much anymore. The rides were still tough but I was getting stronger. And I did my first 100 mile gravel grinder, Rebecca's Private Idaho, on my hardtail MTB. I wasn't fast and it was hard but the hills were not that bad.
So now I'm embracing the new fatter, older me. I have a few races coming up, with The Dirty Kanza 200 being the first and the most worrisome. And after last year's fumbling around in these new gravel adventures, I think I have a better sense about what I need to do to prepare. Oh, and I have these beautiful hills to train on, whether I like them or not.