Sunday, February 9, 2014

This. Is. Hard.

Yep. Training for an ultramarathon is hard. And no, at no point did I think it would be easy. Or even just a minor challenge. I knew it would be extreme. That was, after all, the point of taking on this crazy endeavor. But now that I am in the thick of it: wow. It's by far the most difficult physical challenge I have ever taken on in my life. And it's mentally challenging too.

I run alone. I don't have training partners. That is partly by choice (I could join a running club) and partly by default (I don't have any friends around me who run). It's how I have done most of my running since I started running distances longer than 100 meters during my second year of college. For the most part, I like it that way. I can think, listen to great books or music, and generally just be guided by my own whims and decisions. But it can also be difficult. Chatting does help the miles go by and it is nice/would be nice to have someone with whom to commiserate when the miles get long and tough.

Anyway, I run alone. As my mileage goes up and up, that means more and more time on my feet to, among other things, think about why the heck I am out there. I'd say 90% of the time I know the answer to that and it's positive: I love it. I love running, I love nature, I love fitness, I love reaching for challenging goals. But there are times when I am just tired and over it and hoping that the mileage on my GPS watch will move a wee bit faster. This morning was one of those times.

Yesterday I ran my longest training run ever: 24 miles. Before this I had completed a 22-miler during marathon training, so 24 was the longest I've gone aside from the 7 marathons I have completed since 2007. Yesterday went amazingly well. Sure I had some moments of fatigue, a few nutritional problems, and some freezing fingers. But overall I could not have asked for a better confidence-builder as I work my way towards my 50-miler.

This morning I set out to complete 12 miles. In ultra training, the key is to do back-to-back long runs on the weekend. The goal in doing the second long run is that you are running on tired legs, thus getting your legs trained for the longer challenge of the ultra. When I first started this morning I was surprised: my legs felt amazingly springy after their long journey yesterday! But after about 5 miles, they'd had enough. They were just, well, tired. BUT: this story has a happy ending! By the time I hit the National Mall again and was about 2 miles from home, I noticed that though in my head I was tired and over it, my legs didn't actually feel that bad. A look at my watch showed me that while my HR was nice and low, I was actually moving at a pretty decent clip. Running fast was not the goal; the goal was to run easy and keep my HR in check. Which I was doing and, in fact, had done for the whole run.

All this to repeat the oft-stated reality that SO much of training is mental. I had decided in my head that I was tired (and my legs, or course, were tired after yesterday) and got stuck in that grumpy mental state of wanting-it-over-ness. It wasn't until I got lost in my thoughts, snapped back to reality, and realized that I didn't actually feel so bad that I was able to give myself a break, recognize that I was succeeding, and bask in the glory of all the benefits I am getting from my diligent training. In short: it's working. I am becoming a better, stronger runner and I am gaining endurance.

I have a ways to go, but I am glad to feel like I am on the right track. Just 13 weeks until the Ice Age 50-miler!

Over the next 6-7 weeks I will be doing a bunch of organized events as training runs. (To be specific: 3 marathons and a trail 50K). I signed up for these mostly so that I could mix things up, run on courses with aid, practice running trails, and, well, because races (whether you actually "race" them or not) are fun! You will find a list of my upcoming events on the right side of this screen.

And, as always, my fundraising continues. I've raised $2,195 towards my $3,500 goal! Please click on the link on the side of the screen if you'd like to donate - any amount is appreciated! Thank you, again, to those of you who have already contributed.