Learning to Fall

The last four weeks have been a struggle. Not just with running…with life. I want to write about so many topics, but I’ll stick to my running and recovery for now.

After North Coast, I didn’t want to run. At all. I was told this was normal…part of the healing process after an ultra. After all, I did it. I met all of my goals for the race and got a huge distance PR…way more than I was expecting. It was OK to take some time off. And that’s where the problem came in. I didn’t leave any.
In a week’s time, I’m running the double marathon at Run With Scissors, a trail course through Hinckley Reservation in Northeast Ohio. I know nothing about the course except for the reports of others, and a few Garmin maps. This should be terrifying interesting. 20131019-125040.jpg
A quick recap…
Week 1: Hardly any running. I managed about 10 miles of walking and a little biking. I was all but convinced my foot was broken. Running on the road for 83.5 miles can do some damage. I iced and massaged, but there was no real swelling. A nagging tightness when I rested…but I could walk without pain. I thought if I could just get my foot to crack, I’d feel better. I paced a 4mi race on Friday night without incident.

Week 2: Time to put in a little mileage. More foot stretches. Finally my foot loosened up enough. Crack! So much better. As it turns out, my Cuboid was slightly dislocated, and it likely popped back in on it’s own. I gave the foot some support with tape and compression for a few days while continuing the stretching exercises. I logged about 30 miles this week.

Week 3: Peak Week? Already? Not good. I’m not ready. I put in as many treadmill miles as I could stand. My “long run” was 25 miles…on a treadmill…over two days. It was the only way I could stand the dread. I wasn’t able to get to any trails this week, and worried I wouldn’t be ready. I knew I didn’t have to run a crazy amount of miles. The race is close, and I’m not going to make that many gains at this point. Maintenance. I just have to maintain cardio fitness, put enough stress on the legs to trigger muscle memory. No time for DOMS, boys and girls.

Week 4: Here we are. Motivation is at an all-time low. I have no goals for this race other than “finish.” I don’t care if I’m dead-last, but I’m fairly certain I won’t be. I ran 15 trail miles on Thursday, and that was a big confidence boost. I left the trail feeling positive and refreshed. Not too tired, and no DOMS on Friday. Perfect. Most of Friday was consumed with the Columbus Marathon Expo, and I did a fair amount of walking around Downtown and the event itself. This week my sleep cycle is pretty much non-existent. I’m not sure the last time I got a good 8 hours…or 6 for that matter. It’s been a while. I should be sleeping right now, but my brain is in this hyper-vigilant mode. It’s not a good place for me. I can’t relax. I feel stressed and paranoid all the time. Maybe I just need to run…

The race is next Sunday. 52.4 miles of trails for which I’m not sure I’m ready. I’ll finish. I recently met a gal who is running her first 50+ race, and it seems we have a similar pace and race plan. I’ll do what I can to encourage her, and that will get me through the race. Now I know why people stack events so close together…there’s no time to fall. You’re always racing. Of course, there’s a danger in there as well…the dreaded injury. I think if you play it smart you can keep it up for a while, but eventually you have to take time for rest and recovery.

This will be my last official race of the year. I have a few other long runs planned…a miles for years run around my birthday, and a FA50k in December that I won’t miss. But really, this is it. It makes me feel uneasy without something on the books. Sure…I have race ideas for the spring. But nothing official…yet.

Maybe it’s my time.

Time to learn how to fall.

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Running through the Valley

I have an electrifying experience to share with you, but let me first tell you a story…

It’s a sad story really, but one to which many of you can likely relate.
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Once there was a girl who ran 50 miles.
Ok…so maybe not that part. Let me fast forward a bit.

I felt fantastic after the race. Honestly. But I did the recommended two weeks of light workouts. I truly was feeling great…physically. My HR was behaving as expected, my appetite had returned, and I could run, admittedly without the previous endurance…all in all, better than expected.

The problem was this…I didn’t WANT to run.
I was warned it could take some time for the “mojo” to return after a tough event. Luckily for me, I didn’t have any mojo before the race…so nothing to lose, right?

Enter the valley.
I’m not talking about that luscious green grass nestled between two peaks.
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More like that dry, desolate space. Lonely and unnoticed, because everyone else is busy climbing a much more attractive mountain.
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A place where no one wants to be. I had to get out of there. I needed a group run.

I contacted a few trail buddies to hook up for a midweek run. They were busy until Thursday.

Thursday? I can’t wait until Thursday!
I’m just going to suck it up and run. I know once I get going, everything will be fine. Just start.

Did I mention it was hot last week? And humid? Downright dreadful. I needed to run midday AND keep my HR in check. Dreadmill it is. Monday & Wednesday. Thursday’s morning run fell through, so that was on the dreadmill too.

Apparently, you have to run through the valley alone. The good thing is, there’s only one way out. Well two really, but I wasn’t going back the way I came. Onward. And up the next mountain. The variable is how long you stay in the valley.

Call it whatever you want, but I’d like to think everyone goes through a period like this from time to time. Especially after some meaningful event.

Yesterday…Friday, and my feet hadn’t touched a trail since last Saturday. 20130719-191657.jpg
So when I saw Andrea was kid-free and hitting Darby Creek trails, I jumped at the chance. Not only had I never run there, but I hadn’t run with her in a while. I was ready to be done with hanging out alone in the valley, and I had a special milestone I wanted to share with her.

We planned to head out for 4 miles, but I knew I would run 5. You see…at mile 5, I would reach 1,000 injury-free running miles in 2013 (and counting). It’s not some huge goal of mine, but any chance to celebrate, and I’m taking it.

The first 4 miles brought no surprises. It was hot and humid with temps in the 90s and the heat index over 100…just as its been all week. The trails offered some shade, but with little breeze, we eased up on the pace. When we finished mile 4, Andrea informed me she was finished, but I wanted that last mile. We hadn’t felt more than a sprinkle, and I thought I’d be fine. I asked her to wait (in case I got lost), and headed out for a 1/2mi…and back.

Within 1/4mi, it was raining pretty hard, but the trees sheltered most of it. Until, that is, I reached an open space. I was instantly soaked. Refreshing!

Lightning.
I counted: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three, four, five.
Five clicks away. I’m good.
The next one was four.
Almost to the turn-around.
Five again.
Turn.
And then it hit. Simultaneous light and sound.

BOOM!

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Time to get out of here!

When I reached the open space, a runner passed me. I made some joke about the weather. He said it felt nice, and I agreed…as long as we don’t get the hail. That was dumb to say. Hail. Not 30 seconds later, we got it. Pea-sized. Damn that hurts. I slid my sunglasses down even though it was fairly dark, just to keep the ice from pelting my eyes.

I thought I was lost. On the way out, I looked back at each fork, hoping I’d remember what it looked like. But it all appeared different now. Downed branches and leaves. Water washing out the trail. I kept going, and eventually saw the cars. I cut through a flooded field…splash, splash, splash…and stopped my watch. More than 5 miles. Goal reached. And then the rain quit.
Naturally.

Special thanks goes out to Andrea for dragging me out of the valley. I’m happy to be back on my way up the next mountain. And I couldn’t get there without my friends.