The Ugly Side of Ultra Running
|September 7, 2012||Posted by Emily under Uncategorized|
This was not the best week for me and ultra training. I missed a couple of workouts, one key, one not so key, and still haven’t stopped beating myself up for it. I know that nearly every time I talk about running on the blog, in real life, at work, to friends, on the phone, over facebook, twitter, to complete strangers on the street, really, everywhere, I come across as very OMG RUNNING IS THE BEST THING EVER. Which, for me, it really is… most of the time.
However, there are also some very dark moments in training, when the sport really takes it out of me, and I turn into a not-so-bubbly-not-so-running-obsessed person. And this week was not short on those moments. Instead of counting down to every run, I dreaded a good number of them. I resented the 9 mile run that kept me from going over to a friend’s house until almost 9pm. Which, on a weekday, is well past my bedtime. I had to force myself out the door on Wednesday morning, and then cut my mileage because the run was so miserable. I longed for the days when one pilates class in a 24 hour period was sufficient exercise and enabled me to grab spontaneous drinks with friends without feeling guilty about missed mileage. I was tired. This week brought me right back to when I hit rock bottom during the most intense part of Ironman training. I missed a swimming workout during peak week because I was just too damn tired to get to the pool at 9 o’clock at night after I’d already spent a long day in the office and worked out two times earlier in the day. I remember I just collapsed on my apartment floor, curled into the fetal position, and cried about drowning in Mirror Lake while desperately clutching my cap and goggles, as if I could gain some kind of swim strength from my equipment through osmosis.
While I avoided any total ball-on-floor-style-breakdowns this week, I did manage to completely and totally stress myself out about this race. So please forgive me, while I take up some space on the internet to just rant. I promise, I’ll be back to my bubbly I LOVE RUNNING ALL CAPS self in no time. Really, I will.
One of the most common things I hear about ultra training is: “how do you have time for it?” The truth is, my running schedule usually doesn’t feel like a huge time burden. After surviving an ironman cycle, where two of the three sports were total time sucks with excessive equipment to get ready and pools to travel to, just lacing up and running out the door seems so easy in comparison. But since hitting peak training, I’ve realized that making time for running 100 miles, means I don’t have time for a lot of other things. Remember how I moved a few months ago? Well, I may have moved my belongings from one apartment to another, but my new space still does not feel very homey because I choose to spend my weekends running for 8 hours, and tiger tailing the shit out of my calves, and submerging my sore quads into ice baths, instead of hanging things on my very bare walls or buying the bar stools that have remained on my (still-very-long) “apartment needs” list for the last three months. But the lack of a well decorated and fully furnished apartment has not really bothered me since my “home” is really only used for a bed to collapse in and a place to do laundry (made up entirely of workout clothes) approximately every two days.
Another thing I am not carving out enough time for? Fun. Friends. Fun with friends. While I’ve always considered myself Team Captain for the Work Hard Play Hard athletes across the globe, peak ultra training, again, much like peak ironman training, really challenges my ability to rock this position. By the time Friday rolls around, the only thing I want to do after work is go home, eat a bowl of carbs, and go to bed at an embarrassingly early hour so I can have a good long run on Saturday. And after running for 4-5 hours on Saturday, I want to guzzle a protein shake, crack open an IPA in an ice bath, and then nap the afternoon away before carbing up for Sunday’s long run. And happy hours, my favorite way to socialize during the week because it allows me to go to bed at my beloved embarrassingly-early o’clock, are rarer these days. And when I do go (like last night, instead of sweating it out with hill repeats), I feel guilty for skipping a workout. I plan every social engagement around my training needs. I skip eating a home-cooked dinner at a friend’s house because it’s too light on carbs and I’ve got double digits to tackle the next morning. I’m not saying I never have fun. I do. I really, really do. It’s just that my version of fun these days involves cutting myself off from untapping by 8pm and beelining it for my bed.
Speaking of bed, I miss having the option to sleep in. I may be Queen Morning Person 6 out of 7 days of the week, but sometimes a girl just wants to fall asleep without any alarms set and lounge in bed with some trashy TV until the crazy late hour of 8am. I am tired of waking up at 4-something every single day of the mother effing week. On Labor Day, with two hard workouts behind me, I got to indulge in the much-coveted 8 am wakeup, and oh my god, it was divine. But knowing that I won’t be able to do this again for another month. Ugh. Just ugh.
And let’s talk about the next month. This is my last full weekend in DC until after my race. I am about to travel extensively for the next 30 days and I’m a little overwhelmed by the thought of it. Training will be harder to map out, life will be exhausting, and it’s tough to spend so many weeks and weekends away from your own bed and normal routine. I’m excited about all of the trips, REALLY, I am. With tickets booked to Wisconsin, Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont and New York it would be hard not to be excited, but I’m also a little worried about how to maintain a high volume of training and stay relatively healthy and rested during all of this travel. One of the main reasons I signed up for the North Face Madison race is because running an organized 31 mile race seemed a hell of a lot easier than mapping out a 30+ mile long run in a city I don’t know.
Lastly, (promise, rant ending soon) the guidelines available for 50 miler training are SO different from marathon training. Sure, there are a zillion plans for 26.2s, and everyone is different for what works for them, but the basic structure of a marathon training cycle is the same. Run a few times during the week and then long run it on the weekend. Do speed if you want to get faster. Bam. But there is no Hal Higdon of ultra training plans and everyone approaches this distance with a different strategy. I have one friend who never runs back to backs and just logs consistently high mileage (100+) each week. Aron, whose blog I stalk on a daily basis, killed her first 50 by using double workouts, a midweek mid-distance run, and lots of weekend back to backs. Other people keep their mileage slower and rely on speed. Every time I hang out with someone who has done, or is training for this distance, I obsessively quiz them about their training. I read ultra running forums like it’s my job and I stalk blogs and training recaps for every pro ultra runner that I can find on the internet. The result of this obsession? Second guessing my training on a daily basis. One day I’m convinced I’m undertrained, the next I think I’m overtraining. When I skipped a second run on Tuesday of this week, I went home and read all about how great and critical doubles are for 50 miler training. Clearly, a super healthy way to comfort myself after a missed workout that really shouldn’t have been a big deal.
Okay, I’m done. Rant over. Let’s all just acknowledge that ugly, dark days happen in every training cycle and get over it. I’m truthfully over-the-top excited to run this 50 miler, I just had a rough week of running and life. I am officially moving on and gearing up for what WILL be a killer weekend of long running.