I had planned on doing my long (”long”) run this morning, but when I woke up I was pretty hungry and also I ended up having plans at 11:30, and I’ve found that my runs aren’t very good if I go immediately after waking up, which I would have had to do. So, with some uncertainty, I opted to run later in the day. Now, we all know that when we postpone a run for later, there’s a 50% chance it’ll actually happen – if that. So I got some chores done and watched some tv and ate mac and cheese and was feeling sleepy and content, but only about 50% content. So with some snapchat motivation I headed out into the glorious end-of-September evening and had an excellent run.
This afternoon, while the sun was still high in the clear blue sky and the windchill was still in the high teens(!), I set out to do a quick three-miler. I’d taken the past three days off, one for recovery and two for lethargy (laziness + cold), and spent the five and a bit hours I’d been awake mostly just watching Friends. A good Saturday. After walking the dog woke me up, I got myself out the door. Just three miles, I told myself, then you can go back to bed and eat chocolate.
Two hours later, I came back.
You see, the planets aligned for my run today. Three and a half rest days, loads of carbs, and nice weather had me feeling great. By the end of the first mile, I knew I’d be running more than three. I felt six, at least, easy. I felt smooth and fast and fresh. Fresh legs do wonders. The miles began to tick by as my mind wandered in a way that it hasn’t been able to in months, and as they did, I noticed that this was indeed a Very Good Run. I wasn’t checking my watch, but I felt that my pace was good. I continued down the same dirt road and ventured into uncharted territories – no mile markers here. It was all by feel.
The sinking sun at my back cast cold golden light over an otherwise blue and brown landscape, fields and fences and closed woods. It was quiet, just the crunch of my feet on scattered dirt and snow. Herds of deer peered out at me between trees, nervous, silent, still. Curious? Scared? Mourning doves and possibly owls cooed out, resounding weirdly through the empty forest. I slid around on ice-sheeted sections of road; I flew over the rest.
Though I was still in the zone, I eventually realized I couldn’t just keep running out – I had to turn back at some point. (Well, I didn’t have to, but I didn’t have a phone, so my other options were hitchhiking back or a slow-freeze death overnight.) I turned around at what I thought was around 5. Keeping pace on the return, I ran off into the sunset, pastel streaks above the shadowed ground giving way to dusty blues and purples of the night sky. The sun finally dropped and, as I turned east, the moon rose low and orange, gradually turning yellow to silver as the sky around it darkened and stars emerged – Orion’s belt, the dippers big and small, the North Star. I kept running. I had glanced at my watch and based on what I thought my pace was, and how I felt, I figured I could probably make it 13, or an even two hours. I passed my apartment and added an out-and-back section of paved road, then passed it again to round out the final ten minutes. One hour and fifty-five minutes after I’d left, I opened the door and greeted my (rightfully) concerned roommate and her ever-energetic corgi. My knees hurt, my back hurt, and my breathing was still a little ragged, but I was happy. I took the dog out for a little cooldown walk and, after some stretching, crashed on the couch. Amazingly, I managed to not only make dinner and shower, but I scavenged up the energy to shave. What a champ.
While today’s run was definitely not a wise move, it came naturally to me. It wasn’t planned at all, and I didn’t question it for one minute. I felt good during the run and surprisingly not sore afterwards (muscularly, anyway – joints are another issue entirely). Most importantly, for me, was the motivation behind it. I wasn’t dragging myself through a slog of a long run because I had to, or for any number of weird guilt reasons. I was just back in the zone, and boy have I missed it there. For so long – years – I’ve worried that I would never be able to run long again, or want to. Running had become such a powerful part of my identity that that questioning led to some issues. Over the past few months, even with all my other health issues, I’ve felt that intrinsic motivation so necessary for long distance creeping back. I began remembering my goals and how good it felt to be working towards them – to be able to work towards them – with all the ups and downs that come with it. I’m not going to let running take over my identity again, but I certainly welcome it back into the mix.
Now the trick will be to not run stupid and get injured… and that’s where my friends come in, always ready to talk me down from signing up for races I’m not ready for and reminding me to rest. It’s hard to do those things on your own, and I’m glad I have them.
That being said: I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions in the traditional sense. It’s arbitrary and it doesn’t work for me. But I feel like this is the year in which I will be able to do an ultra again, even just a 50k. I need to be smart about it, but I’d like to do it before grad school starts (assuming I get in somewhere). Today’s 13 actually felt pretty easy, but I’m not going to take that and run with it – it was most likely an exception to the rule, given the rest and carbs. So I’ll stick with building base miles, probably 30-35 miles a week, and go from there. (All my crazy inflammatory issues will likely keep me in check, anyway – blessing in disguise?)
So that’s where I’m at. And now – SLEEP.
peace love and running,
Good morning! Happy monday!
So according to the 50k training plan for June I was following, I was supposed to run 16 miles on Saturday for a total mileage of 40 miles. My mileages the last two weeks of January were 21 and 31, respectively. And before that, basically nothing. Like one run a week. So I wasn’t sure about running 16, although 14 last weekend went pretty well. My concerns were:
– My right arch has been bothering me for a while. I’m pretty sure it’s just the way I strike with that foot puts more pressure on the big toe and I’ve strained that tendon a bit, but whatever it is, it’s annoying and painful to try to run with. I didn’t want to get 8 miles out and have that happen and have to walk back.
– My ribs are inflamed! Hooray! (Based on self-diagnosis and webMD) Since about the beginning of last semester, in September, my sternum/upper ribs have been getting progressively more sore. I stopped lifting for upper body and climbing, but it’s still getting worse. It doesn’t hurt when I run, but then for the rest of the day it hurts when I breathe. So there’s that.
– My right shin has been sore too. Red flags all over the place.
– The main concern was bumping up my mileage too quickly – as always. I have a problem. The book plan assumes you already have several months of solid base mileage training in, which I super duper don’t. Hence the arch and shin pain.
All this is bascially my run-up (ha) to saying that I don’t think I’ll be doing the 50k in June. Or if I do, I won’t be following that plan. Which is a bummer, but a quote from I think Rob Krar in this month’s trail runner really resonated with me: “It’s better to toe the line a little unprepared than not at all.” After a year and a half of not being able to run, really, I’m still just grateful to be able to get out at all. Waiting a few more months – August or September – is worth not getting injured and not being able to run at all. I’d rather only be doing shorter runs up to about 13 than trying to run 24 and failing.
I’m still going to train with a 50k in mind as soon as possible, but I’m going to focus on just building up a good distance base like I had in the past. I’m just not going to fixate on any one race for now. It’s been three years(!) since my Golden Year of Ultras and I like to think that I didn’t peak in 2012 at the ripe old age of 19. Which of course I know isn’t the case. I got really, really bummed when I decided not to do my run on Saturday – I was already two miles out, but something was just off. Nothing hurt, really, but I just felt heavy and tired and burned out. I think I probably just psyched myself out, which didn’t help as I trudged back home, arms folded and head bent, trying not to cry on the trail. I felt like a failure and a quitter and like I was losing who I was – a runner – and that the one thing I knew I wanted out of life, running ultras, just kept slipping away and I didn’t know why. I beat myself up way too much about really what amounted to just one bad day. Hell, not even a bad day – I was just having an off running hour. So I moped for a while at home, but a few hours later, after hanging out with my family I was fine. Running is really, really great, but it’s not everything.
Safe training and a balanced life!
One of my good friends is a photographer, and she wanted to get some shots of me running (and do an interview for a project, which makes me feel special). So we went to the Arb, a hotspot for hill repeats and – let’s be honest, it’s a college town – ingesting various illegal substances. Needless to say, we were there for the former reason.
The morning had been overcast and a little chilly, but because we both slept in, we weren’t out until after one. By then, the clouds had cleared and the sun was beaming warmly down on us. Which was good, because there was a strongly-gusting October wind for several hours. There were plenty of people out and about, which was nice to see but was also a little inconvenient since we were trying to get nature-filled shots of me and the leaves, not a gaggle of sorority girls venturing off the sidewalk for the first time. (Forgive me, I shouldn’t judge.)
Anyway. We were just out a few hours ago so I don’t have any media to share yet, but it really got me thinking about what a huge undertaking it would be to try to get good enough to get sponsored. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Have someone give you race money and shoes and food, allowing you to just train and run, and to hopefully run well… sigh. I’ve been focusing on just building up mileage, but recently, I’ve also been thinking about the quality of my training as well. Seems like a no-brainer, but upon reflection, I’m pretty sure – no, I know – I could be running better, harder. It’s just so easy to plan 10 miles after class, then have an easy 10 instead of a good, moderate effort. I get stuck in the long slow distance mindset; I think I mentioned that in a previous post. So I need to make a real effort to work harder on my middle-distance runs, and that should help with my long runs. I just need to go out with a specific goal in mind on each run – a pace to hit, faster middle miles, something like that.
Let’s sidestep into the speedwork debate. It seems like the distance community will never come to an agreement on whether or not doing 800 repeats will help in a 50-miler. Personally, speedwork feels good, but I don’t really do it much, and I tend to think that more moderately-paced but longer runs, like 10-13 miles, are more beneficial for someone whose goal is more ultra-based, especially trail versus road. Hill repeats seem like a much more practical workout, since you rarely encounter a 400-meter oval in the middle of a trail ultra (other than the Western States finish, of course). Hills, though, you do run into. (That being said, there’s just something so fun and satisfying about ripping off a few sets of fast repeats. Like… bam. Still got it.)
I wish I could afford a coach. That would be so great. I’ve read so many ultrarunning books and blogs and listened to podcasts and watched videos, but there’s such a mass of knowledge out there (and so many conflicting viewpoints) that it would be nice to have someone to help me sort through it all and to develop a training plan for my goals. Which, other than getting back into better ultra shape than I was in 2012 and, more eventually, UTMB, are essentially nonexistent.
In short, I need a plan – but a plan for what?
I’m pretty pumped right now because tomorrow morning, I’m going back out to Pinckney Rec to run 26 or, if I’m feeling it, another 5 for a practice 50k. So depending on how tomorrow goes, I may or may not race a 50k in November. I’m torn – do I enter a race (pay for it, get there, etc.) if I’m in suboptimal shape? That result will be out there, good or bad. We’ll see after tomorrow, but I’m guessing it won’t be stellar. But on the other hand, races are fun no matter what, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t totally suck since I’m feeling good about where I am with my running right now. I feel solid, but still improving. And there’s always the need to be aware of how my shins are doing – can’t overdo it.
Ah well. These are just thoughts. The real decision-making will have to happen tomorrow. (And don’t even ask about my post-graduation plans. Right now, it’s “Move back in with my parents until I can bear to face reality. I’ll be hiding in my room if you need me.” Plus I have field camp in July-August, which complicates internship hunting.)
So if anyone is reading this and wants to give me free shoes or a sweet tricked-out van for traveling the country and training out of, email me. Until then… *desperately thinks of things to do other than study* I’ll be doing dishes.
peace love and grand aspirations,
I had 23 scheduled for this weekend, out at Pinckney Rec Area. I think I did a little less than that because (a) 3:35 seems pretty speedy for 23 trail miles for me, and (b) I think I cut off about a mile at the beginning, based on what I remember from races there. So I’m guessing it was closer to 22, which is still the farthest I’ve run since (pulls up years-long training log) WOW. December 2012 – the Bigfoot 50k. Wait, really? That can’t be right. But maybe it is. Sheesh. Wowzers.
Anyway. When I checked the weather last night and saw that it would be in the low 30s this morning, I thought, Screw it, I’m not sacrificing a sleep-in to shiver through the first half of my run. Having skipped setting the alarm, I woke up a little after 10 a.m. and was at the trailhead about half an hour shy of noon. Early bird gets the frostbite, I always say. I was chilly for the first couple miles in just a tee and capris, but warmed up quickly enough and was soon comfortable. A little too comfortable, in fact. About 40 minutes in, as I was sailing along a little ridge between two golden leaf-filled valleys, my mind drifting to who else but Tony Krupicka and one of his interviews (maybe in In The High Country?) in which he talks about the need to be outside pushing yourself, making yourself at least a little uncomfortable every day. Literally – literally – as I thought, “Hmm, I’m pretty comfortable right now,” my right foot rammed into some rock or root hidden by leaves and BAM. I ate it. Comfort gone, replaced with some scrapes, a little blood, and a hole in the knee of my favorite capris.
What’s fall without a little fall?
Other than that minor spill (which mainly reminded me to pick up my feet), the run was relatively pain-free, although my left hip was once again giving me shit on the uphills until about two hours in. I hit 18 miles around 2:40 into my run; I wasn’t speeding along, but I felt good. I almost always hit an anti-wall about two hours in. I’ve never had a problem with a “wall” at 18 miles because, up until a certain point (50-miler, I’m looking at you!), I just kind of hover at the same level of pain and weariness. Before that, my hip might bother me on hills or my foot might threaten to cramp, but after I pass that point it all kind of evens out and I just push on. Hip feels weak? Go up the hill anyway, hands on thighs and keep up the pace. Knee’s bleeding? As long as you’re not bleeding out, no worries. Tired? Well, yeah, you’ve covered 20 miles. You’re tired and sore now. This is your existence. No use feeling worse about it, it just is. And so you keep going until you’re done, because bailing is failing and failing is DNFing and DNFing is the runner’s nightmare. That’s the mentality that takes over and allows me, and all you other distance fiends, to keep moving – it’s that not moving forward isn’t an option. It doesn’t cross your mind. Because if it does – if the couch and its giant heavy fuzzy blanket pop into your head, if you imagine what it would feel like to lie down in the warm crunchy leaves and watch the sun fall and slowly freeze to death overnight (if it’s one of Those runs) – then it’s awfully difficult for the distance mentality to prevail. The spell is broken.
That’s one of the things I love about running, especially distance and trail running. It requires a strong mind in addition to a strong body. Training miles will only get you so far; you have to train your mind too, otherwise your dedicated hours will have been for naught. It’s a strength that comes entirely from within, and is then translated to the external physical form of you, and only you, pushing yourself (mind and body) to greater feats and beyond greater boundaries – reaping greater rewards.
Pain and ecstasy. These are two things which running offers us, and though neither is guaranteed, we sign up for both every time we step onto the trail, having mentally committed to spending three, four, six-plus hours out there. Pain is expected, assumed, sometimes sought. Ecstasy – an endorphin high – is bestowed upon those who are dedicated enough to put in the time and lucky enough to have one of those perfect, or maybe imperfect, runs with just the right combination of… I don’t know what. Mood, chemicals, mud, music, anything. But not every long run ends in a rush of happiness and satisfaction and contentment and positivity. Sometimes we trudge to the car, cold, damp, and broken, and huddle miserably by the heaters and are just thankful that we aren’t running anymore. Pain rules those days and takes its mental toll. Ecstasy seems worlds away, a physical impossibility. But as the aches subside and we warm back up, it seems less impossible. The next run holds not the promise of ecstasy, but the possibility. A chance at reaching that perfect state again, and not through drugs or booze or anything else external. The utter bliss felt from an endorphin high, like the distance mentality and tenacity required to cover that distance, is produced entirely by you. Self-produced high. Now that’s satisfying.
And when you do have one of those excellent runs where you reach the parking lot tired but revitalized, weary but satisfied and proud and content, and stretch in the sun, and climb exhaustedly into your car and blast your favorite post-long run songs, you’re hit with an overwhelming surge of pure ecstasy. It’s not just about how great the last 22 miles were. It’s a culmination of all the miles you’ve run, the places you’ve run, the people with whom you’ve run. And where you’ll run in the future, and with whom, and all the miles you’ll cover. It’s where running has taken you and where it will take you. It’s… inexplicable. Many have tried and many have failed, myself included, to fully describe the near-religious experience that is the ecstasy of completing a long run. It is impossible to be sad or negative. It’s almost impossible to think, it’s so overwhelming. It’s a tidal wave of emotion and memories and thoughts all so near and dear and happy – flashbacks to standing atop mountains, running along bare ridges as storms brew, crossing finish lines… every run you’ve ever been on is suddenly there with you again, and all the time you spent and struggles you got through to get you to where you are now.
Which is tearing up in a parking lot full of mountain bikers as Alpha Rev’s Highways comes on.
No shame. ALL THE FEELS. *mic drop*
So yes, today’s run was phenomenal. Depending on whether or not I was running uphill at the time, I toyed with the idea of doing the 13-mile loop after the 18 and just going for 50k today. Wisely, though, I stuck with my plan and found that 22 was quite enough, thank you (say my knees). But I suspect that in a few weeks, I’ll be out there loping around by myself for 31 miles, because races are far away and cost money and I’m just running for myself anyway. Although they are fun. I drove home to an awesome playlist, took a hot shower (heaven), and ate many an oven-roasted potato. And completely neglected studying, which I should probably do at some point.
I hope you all reach ecstasy after your next long run.
I planned on running out on the Potowanami trail this morning. It’s a good half-hour drive from here, so I set about eight alarms knowing that it would take a lot to get me up between 7:30 and 8:15, which is when I’d planned on leaving. And it did take a lot – but it wasn’t the alarms that roused me. It was my cats scratching and meowing at the door.
At 6:45 a.m.
After a grumbly fifteen minutes, I decided I was up for the day and got ready for the run. I filled up my Nathan pack and applied BodyGlide. I laced up and headed out. On the drive there, which takes you through a winding green tunnel this time of year, I listened to some of my favorite songs and got really psyched about the run. The last time I ran this loop was March 7, 2013 and, according to my log, the trails were frozen and terrible but I had a decent run (no time recorded). I pulled into the parking lot as I have dozens and dozens of times over the last eight years and stepped out. The sun was shining, it was barely 60 degrees, and there was a nice breeze. Absolutely perfect. So with a happy spring in my step and pack straps secure, I finally pressed start on my watch and set off.
The 13-mile loop (which I think is closer to 12, but maybe not) has three sections in my mind. The first bit, I don’t know how many miles, is somewhat hillier than the rest and serves as a good wake-up, adjustment phase. You have to get right to it, but at the same time the hills are all very runnable. It’s just a lot of up and down. It has a very nice flow to it – the whole trail does, it’s also (primarily?) a mountain bike trail – and it keeps you alert, keeps your stride short and quipped and your feet nimble. You fly up and down, over roots and rocks, feet barely skimming the surface as you round turn after turn. You cross a few bridges but don’t pause yet, you’ll break the rhythm. This part takes a little over an hour and is the longest section.
Then you hike up the first hill that sucks to run up – long, unshaded, and covered in deep sand. At the top, as it evens out, the shrubbery forms a nice light green tunnel. The trail fades back to soft dirt, mostly free of roots, and after a few minutes you are lulled into that wonderful trancelike state of smooth, fast, easy trail running. These miles really fly by. I haven’t looked at the elevation profile, but I would guess that it’s a little downhill on average. There’s some variation, of course, but by and large you speed quietly through the woods; the only thoughts that float through your head are things like, “I’m flying over this trail. This is great. This is a great run. I could run forever. Of course I’ll do a 100.” During this time today, I kept flashing back to various runs and races that I’ve done on this trail – here’s where I dropped my glove, here’s where that woman was pooping during my first 50k, here’s where my dad fell and bruised a rib… (He’s not so keen on trail running now.) And further back: here’s where I fell during cross country and scarred my knee. Here’s where I caught back up with the team. That sort of thing. Odd how when I try to summon memories of high school, I often come up blank, but then I remember very specific moments (almost all running) very vividly.
Anyway, this magical middle section floats by, and suddenly I’m back in what I’ve deemed “familiar territory.” I call the last few miles “familiar” because I often don’t remember specific parts of the middle section, since I’m pretty lost in my own heads. The only other hill that I usually powerhike is right in the last two or three miles, and it’s a doozy. And it’s rocky and long and long and did I mention long? So that usually yanks me out of my stupor pretty quickly – and harshly. But from then on, it’s a nice coast and I know I only have a couple miles left so I can crank pretty hard. You cross the last two lopsided old bridges, crest a small hill, and burst out of the forest, startling small families who were peacefully enjoying a morning at the lake – picnics and kids and such – until this runner came charging through, sprinting to a finish line that wasn’t actually there, then doing handstands and splashing about in the lake.
I stood in the warm lake, hands on my hips, sun on my face and back, a gentle breeze blowing, and looked around at the green and the blue and the trails and thought, “This is where I belong. Not lifting in a stuffy gym, but here, outside, for hours and hours.” I’ll still lift, especially squats for my legs and hips, but my focus is definitely going to shift back to running.
So: this was a great run. One of the best I’ve had in a very long time. My shins are a little tender, but I don’t think it’s anything rest and ice and some more rest won’t heal. I think it was so great because of two things: how easy I’ve taken the last two weeks (my “rut”) and my sheer joy and enthusiasm for running. I just love it so damn much. Very few things in the world make me happier than running. I felt strong the whole time, worked up the hills instead of trudging, and only stopped once to take a few quick photos and to stretch my calves. (The horse flies were definitely an incentive to keep moving.) At the end, I still felt strong and fresh, like I could easily throw down another 13. Now, writing this 11 hours later, my legs aren’t sore or tired at all. Maybe it’s from the rest, maybe it’s from the protein I’ve been eating over the last couple months, but I feel superbly excellent. My motivation has definitely returned.
So, about that marathon next month… we’ll see. I’m definitely going to try at least 18, maybe 20, within the next two weeks. If that goes well, I’m going to tentatively say the race is GO. But I will always defer to the state of my shins.
Love running always,
PS. In case you were wondering, here are some songs I listened to on the way to and from my run.
Crystal Colorado – Alpha Rev
Highways – Alpha Rev
Today is Mine – Jerry Reed
On top of the world – Imagine dragon
Carry on – Fun
Get there from here – William Elliot Whitmore
Let’s do something impossible – W.E.W.
Country roads, take me home – John Denver
PPS. Here are some pictures from today.
Who says running isn’t sexy? Look at those compression sleeves and flips!
I ran that 15-miler a few weekends ago, my shins threatened to feel sore, I took a few days off, and my motivation went down the drain. Which is odd because (a) I love running and (b) that run went pretty well. But I’ve only run 5 times in the two weeks it’s been since then (early July), and they’ve all been short. This has led me to examine my own motivation and think about why it might be low.
A big part of it is a simple time conflict, feeling pressured at the end of the semester. I have only two weeks of calc and chem left (physics is already over, thankfully!), so it’s crunch time. There’s also my conflict of running vs. lifting. I can’t go 100% at both, which is frustrating and confusing. And there’s the simple matter of getting up early enough to run without it being disgusting, which has been a problem because I’ve been staying up late doing homework and being productive.
But at the back of my mind, one word threatens. Dare I even say it? Laziness. Running far takes a lot of time, dedication, and hard work, and sometimes I worry I’m lulling myself into an easier, albeit far less satisfying, lifestyle of complacency. I don’t really think that’s the case – at least, not 100%, because I still do get out and run or lift or climb pretty much every day. (That’s another activity to throw in the mix of competition – climbing. Once I’m less broke, I’m going to start going to Planet Rock at least once a week, hopefully twice, so that will probably replace lifting those days.) But it’s haunting me a little. But I guess since it’s haunting me, it’s not real?
(A bit later…) I took a break to go to class and do other things. In that period – maybe or maybe not during calc – I read Dakota Jones’ Hardrock recap and that sure got my motivation back in a surge. Hopefully that motivation will be there in the morning so I can actually get up, drive to the Poto, and run 13 on trails for the first time in ages. I think it will. But just in case, I’ll set about 20 alarms to get me up and out of bed and on the trail.
PS. With all this in mind, but first and foremost my shins, I’m doubting that I’ll make the marathon mark by this time next month. The longest I’ve done was 15 – only 11 more miles, right? But all joking aside, mainly I want to come back to distance as quickly as possible without getting injured again. If that means taking a $70 hit and missing a great race, then so be it. I’d rather take my time and come back in December with more miles under my belt and a shot at a better time anyway. Because really… why mess around with marathons when there’s a 50k in December? 🙂
PPS. I’m trying to cross-train more. Or rather, I need to start trying to cross-train more. As I mentioned in a previous post, once I get some appropriate-length spandex/biking shorts, that won’t be an issue. But diving back into swimming might mean rough seas ahead (holy swimming metaphors, batman!). Luckily, I have several friends who swim/do tris and want me to swim/do tris, so I will have company. And really, it’s not so bad once you’re in the water… except for the lack of oxygen… And I should really start doing yoga again, just to get some hip flexibility back – along with the sunshine-blissed-out mental state it gives me.