Nobody ever said training for an ultra would be easy…

Nobody ever said training for an ultra would be easy…

14 days until race day.  Fourteen days.  I’ve put in 10 hard weeks of summer training and here I am now just a mere two weeks away from 2017’s Green Monster 50k.  It wasn’t until the end of week 9 when training caught up to my body.  I’m not injured.  I’m not sick.  I’m not mentally defeated.  Simply put, I’m just tired.

Last week’s 20 mile training trail run took a lot of physical strength.  It was an unusually hot day for mid-September (low 80s by 10 AM).  The humidity was at 100%.  I was rationing the water in my Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta.  It took me a long 4 hours and 25 minutes to log 20 miles with 3,005 feet of elevation gain/loss.  To put that into perspective, I ran the Philly Marathon last November in 3 hours and 45 minutes.  I covered 6.2 fewer miles and ran for 40 minutes longer.  Yes, I was on hilly, technical, and tough trails compared to the smooth and relatively flat roads of Philadelphia but it just takes a lot out of a runner’s reserves to exert that much energy in a training run.

This past week was relatively uneventful until Friday when everything finally caught up to me.  I hadn’t had a legitimate rest day for nearly 24 days.  In those three weeks, I had logged 48, 50.5, and 54.7 mile weeks, in that respective order. Six of those 24 days, I had ran twice in one day.  Two weekends ago, I ran an 18 mile long run followed by a 10.8 mile day the next day.  I had logged nearly 60 miles on my bikes in those 24 days (which is actually extremely low compared to logging 60 miles per week during the summer months).  I’m not listing all of these numbers to brag – that’s the last thing I am trying to do.  I’m not listing all these numbers expecting pity.  Every single one of those miles I logged were 100% my choice.  I was feeling great.  I was feeling strong.  I was feeling like I was preparing myself fully for my upcoming race.  But….it took my body 24 days to react to the amount of exhaustion I was putting my body through.

On this previously mentioned “eventful Friday”, I completed a 3.1 mile walk/run with one of my clients at 8:30 AM.  Then at 1 PM, I completed a 4.5 mile Fartlek workout with two of my other clients.  Then at 3:30 PM, I ran a short 2.6 mile recovery run with one of the cross country runners I coach.  After that, I went to my local town’s 4th Friday event and worked there until 9 PM.  Friday afternoon I still had it set in my head that I would be completing my last long-ish run during the upcoming weekend (15 miles of rolling hills rather than torturing my body with another 3000 feet of elevation gain/loss).  After that long run, I would start to taper.

Fast forward to Friday night.  My body was physically exhausted and my mind was trying to fight back – trying to convince me that I needed to get in my last long run before tapering.  My mind was wrong, my body was right.  Another long run would exhaust me even more.  It would snag up my energy stores again. I wouldn’t be resting my body.  I would be torturing it.  So do you know what I did this weekend instead?  I rested.  I ran one mile yesterday with the women’s cross country team during their warm-up.  I ate a slice of pizza at the mall.  I went to a BBQ and had chips and salsa, cake, and cannoli dip.  Today I stayed off my feet.  I went for a no-pressure bike ride with Josh.  I watched the Eagles game.  I’m not running tonight.

Tomorrow I officially start my taper.  The 15 mile run I thought I “needed “to run has no place in the remaining two weeks of my training plan.  Regardless of if I had ran 15 miles this weekend or not, I still have a 50k to race in fourteen days. I’d rather be energetic and well-rested for this race than exhausted and broken down.

I don’t regret not running this weekend.  I know that I won’t finish my 50k and wish that I had really put in those extra 15 miles.  Sometimes training for an ultra takes guts, sometimes it takes determination, sometimes it takes perseverance, but most times it takes smarts and respect for your own body. The human body is an amazing thing.  It allows us to do things that we sometimes can’t even imagine.  Because it’s so amazing, we need to care for it, we need to listen to it, and we need to know when enough is enough.

Training for an ultra is humbling.  It’s rewarding.  It’s joyful.  It’s tough.  It’s mentally challenging just as much as it’s physically challenging.  Nobody every said that training for an ultra is easy, but I can tell you that it’s always worth it at the finish line – no matter what you did to get there.

 

 

Training for October’s Ultra

Training for October’s Ultra

Training for an ultra is not easy.  As a matter of fact, training for any race that you set a goal for (of any distance, short or long) is not easy.  Training requires discipline, resiliency, and mental determination.  Training can be extremely rewarding but it can also be exhausting.  Runner’s highs are just as common as mornings when you force yourself to stop hitting the snooze button on the alarm.  The physical training is just as tedious as the mental training.  Doubts, fears, and confidence levels are constantly fluctuating.  But if the goal is significant enough to you, you’ll find a way to overcome the obstacles you are bound to face.

This morning, the first of September, with a cool, crisp air that signals fall is coming soon, I was planning on doing hill repeats.  I had everything ready to drive over to Delaware and run up and down Rocky Run and Bicycle Trail for 7 miles.  But my body had different plans for me last night.  I was awake for at least two hours feeling sick to my stomach.  *(prepare for unnecessary details)* I threw up twice and just couldn’t seem to settle back in to a slumber.  I knew even before the sun started to rise that I wasn’t going to be able to get my workout in.  When the alarm went off early this morning, I just stayed in bed.  I still had a weird feeling in my stomach.  I was tired from being awake at 2 AM. My body was drained of fuel & liquids.  Those hills would have to wait for another day.

It would’ve been ideal weather for a morning out on the trails.  Disappointment still lingers in my head and mentally I know I need to get out and run those hills. Yet, I’ve learned through the years that listening to my body is imperative.  If I were to force myself through the workout, my body would’ve fought back.  I would be miserable.  I would be weak.  I would be hindering my goal rather than facilitating it.  So here I sit, writing a “confessional” about a workout I couldn’t do.

Training for October’s 50k has met its fair share of challenges in the last 7-8 weeks.  I’ve been overwhelmed with other life stressors – applying to grad school, applying to jobs, helping the family business, working with my clients, the list goes on.  I’m not upset that all these things have accumulated over the past few months.  Life happens.  I constantly preach to my clients and other runners that flexibility is essential when it comes to training.  You must be willing to be flexible with the training plan in order to achieve success.  Sometimes we cannot control what life throws at us.  However, we can control how we react to what life throws at us.  I try my best to react by “going with the flow”.  Be flexible with yourself.  Life is rarely a smooth ride but the destination is always worth a bumpy journey.

I have exactly one month and 8 days until my race.  The next month and 8 days will include new beginnings – happy beginnings – , new challenges, and new ambitions.  When I wrote up my training plan, I didn’t seem to schedule in life’s non-running plans.  Even though the schedule has been and will continue to be altered, the end goal has remained the same.  I want to finish this 50k.  I want to embrace its challenges and learn from whatever the course throws at me.  At the end of the training when I reach that finish line, I want to be a more humbled, grateful, and motivated person.  I want to proudly say “I ran my best and I am a better person because of it”.