After a pitiful attempt at the Wasatch 100, I took the remainder of September off from running. Running was not fun or enjoyable. It was a chore I felt I was forcing myself to do. The break was a long time coming. The hope was to step away briefly and then return to running with renewed focus and energy.
I wasn't idle during that time though. I returned to the gym to work on the strength that had been lost over the past two years of running. Trying to climb the mountains had exposed a huge weakness. Lifting weights again for the first time in a while was hard but fun. It is a very different kind of hard then running for an extend period of time. There was some frustration. Back when I was young and played football it was all about putting up as much weight as possible and that is not what I need to be doing to improve my running. That old mentality is still ingrained but I have come to realize that as a middle aged man I don't really care if I look silly lifting small weights. Working on core strength is also an area I have neglected immensely and will be working hard to keep that a regular part of my routine.
In order to at least maintain some endurance, I would use the elliptical. This was very boring but it was zero impact and I hoped would allow my toe, which I banged up at Leadville, to heal. Once I started running again at the beginning of October there was still some pain so I am concerned that it is not going to improve without significant time off and I'm not prepared to do that right now.
Getting back to running felt good again. I'm still slow but will try not to worry about that. I'm feeling better about my running now. I have upcoming goals that I will get to towards the end of the year. Finally being able to focus on proper training is good both physically and mentally.
An opportunity to assess my current status was the St. Pat's 24 Hour in South Bend, Indiana. I first ran St. Pat's last year. I put it on the calendar again because it was relaxed and extremely fun. The race has you running a flat 3.1 mile loop through a wooded park as many times as you can within the time limit. The course is very flat with one small hill to climb towards the end of the loop.
The beauty of a timed race is that you can do whatever you want. If you want to bang out lap after lap, you can. You can walk a lap. You can set a high mileage goal and try to reach that or set a lower goal, get to that casually and then hang out.
I came into this year's run with no real goal in mind. I suppose I wanted to get around 50 miles but mostly wanted to see how I felt. After spending the night in the barn at the Start/Finish I felt ready to go. The weather for the weekend was perfect. Highs in the mid 70s and lows in the low 60s. A blanket of leaves softened the trail. Everything was aligned for great weekend.
On my first two laps I felt very good but kept telling myself not to get too excited about that. The lap times were consistent and passing by quickly. I would occasionally think to myself that if I kept this up I could get my first sub 24 hour 100 miles. That would be really nice to do but I also believe it would be too much at this point, set training back and require significant recovery time. So after getting to 31 miles at the 6 hour mark, I backed off and walk/jogged a couple laps. It was around this time I decided that getting to a 100k (62.2 miles) would be about right. That way I could get good miles in and still get a chance to socialize.
|Smiles all day|
photo credit: Barry Adams
I spent the next 18 hours putting a lap or two in and then hanging out and eating. The food at this event is fantastic. I may have burned many calories running more than 60 miles but I am almost positive I ended up breaking even with all the delicious treats they offered all day and night. The people were great too. Nearly every lap there was some time spent talking with someone, hearing funny stories or about interesting races. Many of the same people return year after year so it becomes a type of reunion. I think I will be going back as often as possible.
St. Pat's raises money for ALS research, which is a great cause. The organization of the race is excellent. Jeanne and Sarah who put on the race do a great job organizing the event as well as being there the entire time encouraging the runners. They know everyone by name and are the friendliest race directors around, and that is saying a lot.
Now the training continues. The winter racing season is nearly here. A few days prior to St. Pat's, the official Arrowhead 135 roster came out and I will be out there again this January but we will get to all that in due time.