Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Three Months Out

As I knew it would, running has gotten better. I am still not back to where I want to be or feel I should be but that is ok. I don't dread going out for a run any more. I am able to get through a longer run without wanting to quit after half a mile. I'm even able to go a bit faster here and there, and also having to back off on my easy runs. I'm still slow. The confidence is starting to come back and that is most important to me. I know that the key to the upcoming races is the mental aspect. The physical part will take care of itself through consistent training and diet.
Speaking of diet, I am conducting an experiment on myself with a low carb diet. The theory being that without carbohydrates the body becomes more efficient at burning fat. During an ultramarathon it is impossible to eat and absorb enough calories to keep up so fat burning efficiency is important. I don't know if this will work but the theory seems to make sense. The science is still not shown anything conclusive so I will just have to see if it works for. Eliminating sugar and grains from the diet can be a huge change but it has not been too bad for me so far. It has made me eat more vegetables, like cauliflower, broccoli and zucchini, which I like. So far so good. I feel full and I find I'm less prone to over eat. I'm hoping to drop down to better race weight for the upcoming Slam. I have been fine with more weight during the winter races since they are slow and cold. Anyway, like I said, this is an experiment and I'm not religious about diets. Many people love to argue about diets, but I am not one of those people. I'm just trying to find something that works for me and this seems to be so far. 
There are less than 90 days to go until Western States. I've seen a couple new films on last year's race that have gotten me excited about it. My mileage is going up according to the plan I laid out. I am trying to get some strength and core work in but I am not as good about that as I should be. At some point I will have to get serious about hill climbing and leg strength. I do have a muscle issue in my right hip and down into hamstring that I am trying to fix through stretching and massage. Its nothing to stop me from running but I'm keeping an eye on it that it doesn't become something worse. That is my main concern right now. 
Next week I will be travelling for work and decided to look for some running opportunity during my trip. Yes, I look for chances to run on work trips. My trip will be to the Pacific Northwest and the Lumberjack 100 is over that weekend. They also have a 100k and 50 mile so I decided I can to sign up for the 50. This will be a rare chance to run out there so I can't pass that up. The race looks like a small, grassroots kind of thing so that should be fun. I had not planned on any races prior to Western States but this will be a good early indication of where I am at, with plenty of time to recover and work on what I need to. I'm looking forward to it. Race report and update next time.
Finally, I'll just throw some numbers out there for the record, so we can all see how they trend as the training goes. Like I said when I started this, I am writing this as much for myself as a record for future reference. 

Post Order of Hrimthurs Feb 22  -  216 lbs
Today  Mar 29  - 206.8 lbs
Goal - 195ish

Week of March 5    31 miles
Week of March 12  33 miles
Week of March 17  49 miles
Week of March 24  40 miles

Monday, March 20, 2017

Starting Over

No races for few months so the posts in the interim will be mostly training/mindset updates or just random thoughts. Read on only if that stuff interests you.

You may think being able to finish a difficult physical task like the Order of the Hrimthurs, 400 miles across frozen terrain in 3 races in a 6 week span, would mean I was in great physical shape. You may think going for my next goal of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning would be just a matter of maintaining. Unfortunately that is not the case.
It is my normal practice to take at least a week off after a 100 miler, sometimes a little more. I like the rule, when you start to feel like you can and want to run again, wait one day and then start. This worked during the grueling Midwest Slam last summer. For me, it seems after about a week I start getting antsy and feeling like I am being lazy. Those first couple runs are pretty awful. They are slow. The legs feel heavy. The heart rate shoots right up without putting in much effort. The mental struggle to keep going or, even just start is exponentially harder than during a normal training cycle. A 100 mile race drains all of that out of me. I literally feel like I am starting over, like I have never run before.
Post Actif Epica I spent that week doing nothing, enjoying the feeling of accomplishment , though I'm still not sure it has completely set in, even now, a month later. Just 6 days after finishing the final race, I was at the annual Paczki Run 5k to run with friends. It was a very comfortable pace and I felt better then I thought I would but it was definitely nowhere near my 5k pace, nor could it be. I ran again the next day, a 4.5 mile loop of the block around my subdivision. This one felt horrible and filled me with a ton of doubt.
 Here's the issue. I've just finished 3 very difficult races. My body and mind are tired and need time to recover. Yet, I am only 4 months away from what may be my once chance at the Grand Slam or Western States. Being my one chance, I don't want to blow it by not being prepared and, therefore, I need to train and train hard. But I also need to recover. But I need to train. On and on, over and over, this is what has been going on in my head. So what do I do?
There is saying I've heard many ultrarunners use. You have to listen to your body. You should rest when your body tells you it needs rest. This is decent advice for the most part. The problem is that to get to the point where I could run these races, I had to not listen to my body. I had to ignore it telling me to quit during those long back to back runs. So again, I'm stuck as to what to do.
I have made a plan to build up my weekly miles and I will do my best to stick to it, constantly evaluating how I'm feeling and if I am improving. I have decided that I will not worry about my pace. I will swallow my pride and let my easy, slow runs be very, very slow. I mean 2 to 3 minutes a mile slower than what I was doing a year or two ago. It's frustrating. At times it feel like all the joy in this is gone and that it will never come back.

However, it seems to be getting better. I am still struggling to get though a majority of my runs. I want to quit only a mile or two in. I have a hard time making myself go but I am. I have started doing some short "speed" work, increasing pace for a few intervals during a longer run. It is getting better.
OK. That is enough whining about getting back into the training mode. My weekly mileage will be slowly building up. The previous two weeks were 31 and 34 miles, respectively. I ran 50 miles this week and now I'll be stepping back to 40 next before building up again. The plan is to build to a 100 mile week in early May. If I can do this and avoid injury, I should be in good shape for Western States, though there are many other things to work on (core strength, hill work, heat acclimatization). Running a 100 miles takes patience. I'm learning that you not only have to have it on race day but throughout the process. A lesson like this is one of the reasons I love this so much.

Friday, March 3, 2017

On being called inspiring

Often I receive comments online in response to my latest running post stating that what I am doing is inspiring or motivational. I am still dealing with how to handle and respond to this. What do I mean by that, you are probably asking yourself. I should take it as a compliment and be happy. Yes, I should and I try to. It is obviously nice to hear but I'm not curing cancer or feeding hungry children here. I'm just a less fat than I used to be guy who runs now.

I see inspiring people as those who have figured things out and are doing things I could only hope to do. I see myself as flawed, trying to improve and not doing anything out of reach for anyone given the opportunity and effort. I'm just a guy who stumbled into this thing I'm doing. While I am happy with what I have done so far, I wish I was better at it. I wish I was more disciplined in my training and diet. I wish I was tougher mentally and emotionally. Behind the results that bring the praise, are months of struggle and self doubt. There is sometimes disappointment my results weren't better or that I could have worked harder.

No one hears the voice in my head telling me to cut short a training run and the guilt I feel if I do. Nor the internal struggle to just go out and run some days. Nor the voice telling me that I'm wasting my time because I'm barely finishing some of these things and I'm just a pretender and nearly anyone else could do this better than me given the chance. Nor when I am bent over on the trail, alone and crying because it hurts and desperately wanting the race to be over.

Being told you are inspiring for someone brings a sense of responsibility. Now there is someone other than myself I feel I am letting down if I "fail". This is double edged. While it does add some pressure, and it is only up to me to allow to do so, it does also provide motivation. Knowing friends and family were following my Tuscobia run was a very large motivator for me at some of the lowest points and a huge factor in my finish.

It is also a little strange to be told you are inspiring by someone you admire and are inspired by. If we inspire each other, do we reach some state of harmonic resonance where the amplitude of inspiration reaches infinity? Maybe or maybe not but then again, a world where we all inspire each other is fine with me.

I see many people out there doing things that I don't have any skill in or much understanding of, but I have learned to appreciate the passion with which they pursue it. That passion interests me. The passion for doing a thing can be the common ground. We can and should support and encourage it. I believe it makes our lives better, gives a sense of purpose, and just makes things more interesting.

So I have been thinking this over for some time and here is a deal I want to make. If you are truly inspired then return the favor. Inspire me back. Do so by sharing what you are passionate about, your work at improving at it and your successes and failures. If you want it to be running then go run that 5k (call me, I'll run with you) or whatever and share the experience. Better yet, let it be something else entirely but share the struggle and ultimate success. Inspire me with the thing you love to do and work towards the goal you want to accomplish. Do that thing you have wanted to try but put off because you were afraid of failing or looking silly.

Let me know your thoughts and please share what you are passionate about.