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.