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.