I spent the better part of last week trying to recover from my 3:39 Lincoln Marathon. My plan had to be 1) Not go out like an idiot and 2) Not get hurt. My secret third goal, because there is always a secret goal, was to qualify for Boston. I accomplished almost everything I set out to do in Lincoln, perhaps with the exception of not going out like an idiot. I was hurting pretty badly all week and I kept thinking that maybe I should have reined my competitive spirit in a bit on the course. Knowing myself and my personality, this is probably not realistic. It is funny how when I have said to my friends, “I just cannot seem to hold myself back”, the response I get is, “Well, yeah, I knew you would go race hard.” Am I really that predictable? If I line up at a race, unless I am truly running start to finish with a friend, I know I will go hard. As they say, go hard or go home.
In any event, last week involved some second-guessing and wound-licking. I had hoped to train fairly hard for the Bryce 100 last week, but recovery became the most important aspect of the week. I did all I could to hasten the recovery and spent a good deal of time rolling around on the foam roller and tennis balls trying to work out the aches and pains. I still managed to run about 60 miles last week, which is substantially fewer miles than what I have been running, but nothing to sneeze at, either. But, I figure that the hard marathon effort counts for something in the grand scheme of things.
This last week presented a whole host of other issues for my training. In Colorado Springs, we received unbelievable amounts of rainfall over the past week. Normally, we have a fairly dry climate. We used to be able to set our watches by the brief afternoon showers we would get, but rarely would it rain nonstop all day. This past week, it just never stopped raining. We are not talking about showers, either. We had torrential daily downpours with hail and impressive lightning storms. At one point this week, we had rain, hail, snow, thunderstorms and tornado warnings all in the same day. Trails are flooded. I have never seen so much water and water damage in the 16 years I have lived here. This makes training a challenge. I got out every single day, but it is hard to get in runs of any length when I am afraid of being struck by lightning. I did not survive cancer to go out in that manner (with a bang?).
My friend Debby and I went up to the hills on Thursday and got stuck in a very impressive thunder/lightening/hail storm.
By the time Steve and I got around to doing a long run on Sunday, there was snow on the ground. This is May 10th. I cannot remember the last long run I was able to do that did not involve slogging through snow. It is exhausting and takes forever. What was fun back in October or November is now mentally and physically challenging. Furthermore, there is so much extensive flooding on many of the trails in this area, that routes are sometimes cut off entirely. We spent a great deal of time trying to cobble together a passable route yesterday that would give us climbing and elevation gain. I ended up with 20 miles total yesterday with about 4300 feet of gain and loss. This was good, but it took forever and I was hoping for more total mileage.
I hope that by later in the week, some of the trails will have dried out a bit. I have about ten more days of high mileage training and then I have to taper.
I have had a lot of people ask me what you do to train to run 100 miles. My answer is usually some version of, “I run a lot.” The truth is, there seem to be general principles for running 100 miles, but no set in stone answers on what is right or wrong. When I trained for the one and only 100 I did previously (the Vermont 100 Endurance Run http://vermont100endurancerun.blogspot.com/), I just ran as much as I could. I am certainly no expert in the matter. I just figure that if I put in as many miles as I can, it will help build the strength I need physically and mentally to get me to the finish line of the upcoming Bryce 100.
Since Lincoln, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking things like, “I wonder if our headlamps still work?! I need to check the batteries. Do I need more socks? I wonder what phase of the moon it will be on race day? (If there is a full moon, there is more light for the night time portion of the race). Will I get my period on race day? I wonder if I should try trekking poles?” Yes, these are the things that wake me up in the middle of the night. After allowing these thoughts to go through my mind at all hours of night, I can’t help but laugh at myself and think, “I wonder who else is lying awake right now with these questions and concerns running through their heads?”
I have run a lot of miles these last few months. I have not gotten nearly as much time at elevation as I had hoped for due to snow and time constraints. I have not gotten in as many true back-to-back long runs as I had wanted. I spend too much time thinking about the things I have not been able to do. I am trying to remember all of the things that I have done: all of the weeks when I have run 80-100 or more miles. All of those runs through deep snow that were slow but that also build mental and physical strength. All of the runs I have done that had lots of elevation gain and loss, even if they were not as high up as I wanted.
I ran into friend and fellow ultrarunner Larry DeWitt this weekend while out on the trails this weekend. He is an amazing runner who has overcome some physical obstacles of his own. Larry has been a source of inspiration for me throughout all of my recovery and comeback to running. He reminded me this weekend that the big goal is to have fun while I am out on the trails in Bryce. I know when I ran Vermont, I had fun the entire way. Even when I hurt, I had a good time. I needed Larry’s pep talk. It sounds so simplistic, and yet his words have stuck with me. I needed someone who has been there and done that to remind me that this is all supposed to be fun, and if you forget about the fun, then you run the risk of throwing in the towel even when you truly can keep going. I have some amazing people coming out to Bryce with me and their one and only job is to keep me smiling no matter what.
My goal for the next ten or so days is to put in some good quality miles, spend as much time in the hills as possible and continue to try to focus on the fun. I know I can do that much. No matter what has happened in my life, even through my surgery and chemo, I still managed to have fun. “Difficult” and “fun” are not mutually exclusive. Some of the hardest things I have done in my life have also been the most fun and rewarding. As usual, this lesson from running (Just remember to have fun) is applicable to life in general. If we stop having fun no matter what we are doing, even in the most difficult of times, we run the risk of giving up and throwing in the towel. Find the fun. No matter what you face in life, never give up the fun.