Here I sit in the familiar state of madness induced by tapering from a strenuous training cycle. Am I ready? Am I over-trained, injured even? Should I be running more/less right now? Am I eating right?
I’m not a life-long runner. I never ran in high school, never considered running for fun until I was well into my 20s. Even then, I never took running seriously until I started racing. I’ve never run a 50k (~31 miles) before, much less trained for racing that distance.
|A tough day|
I spent the better part of the month after KBVCM getting ART therapy, rehabbing my legs and rethinking my approach to running. The bitter unhappiness I felt after having put in such an arduous training cycle left me at an impasse with running: Why work SO hard for such little result? The moral of many “survivor” stories is “for the personal satisfaction of it”, but that isn’t the moral of this particular story.
When I started running again, I did it without obsessing about splits, without worrying whether I was hitting a predetermined weekly mileage volume. I forgot about pace and ran for the sake of running. I ran more on trails, in the woods, away from cars and traffic, and I was surprised to find, away from other runners. I would often stop in the middle of a run to look at a group of turkeys off the trail, a deer grazing nearby, or just simply to take in my surroundings. My mental state was becoming fueled by my running adventures. I’d never in my life run slower, but I’d never in my life run for longer; not necessarily in terms of mileage, but in terms of time on feet.
|The Ridge between Bonfcliff and Bond|
I learned a lot about fueling myself on long runs, hydrating and taking in calories. I learned about how far past the “I don’t want to” feeling I can push myself, and how that “I don’t want to” feeling comes at different times and in different ways on every run. I learned about how my mental state is equally if not more important than my physical state for my ability to continue to push on in those “no man’s land” miles beyond where I ever thought I was capable of going.
My lungs and legs felt very strong, but I felt very slow. When September rolled around, realizing the race was a little over a month away, I started to panic. The New River Trail 50k is run on trails, but hardly the trails I'm used to. The race is entirely flat, on primarily crushed gravel trails. Running 25 miles through the White Mountains involves quite a bit of hiking and technical sure-footing. Running up and down hills on trails engages different muscle groups at different times, evening out the fatigue and allowing for a bit of recovery as you shift pitches.
|Charles River Path|
All of these long runs were slow. Much slower than the long runs I did in the lead up to KBVCM. I felt slower, I FEEL slower and certainly, with the lack of speed work, I am. How much slower is very hard to say. A few weeks ago, Todd and I did one of the ever-popular Let’s Run, Have Fun and Be Fit series runs along the Charles River. Last year, we did the same run, the “Halfway to Mardi Gras” race. Last year this was a 4.2 mile race. We had no reason to suspect it would be different this year (and I certainly didn’t read the fine print) and so when it ended after 5k, I had a little bit left in the tank. Even so, I ran my second fastest 5k time. 5k speed has very little to do with 50k speed, but at least my lack of speed work isn’t going to be a primary concern going into this weekend’s race.
|Joel running in Rock Creek Park|
Side note: After having gone through a spell where I felt like I wasn’t recovering well, where I was consistently over-tired and cranky, not able to put my heart into my runs, I did some research. Many signs and the fact that I am a vegetarian made me a prime candidate for iron deficiency. I started supplementing with Floradix. I put 1 tablespoon in a glass of orange juice every morning before I drink coffee (caffeine lessens the body’s ability to absorb iron) or eat anything. I’ve tried a variety of supplements in my life time to help a variety of symptoms; none have had such a clear effect as supplementing iron has. It didn’t happen overnight. It took about 4 weeks for me to notice anything, but it was clear to me then that iron is a very important part of my diet when I am training so hard.