I know, I know. I failed again. I had promised I'd blog regularly during this training cycle (like I did in the good old days--the grad school days...a time at which blogging was my escape from dissertating). I'm a miserable blogger these days, but I wanted to give an update before I run my next goal race. If any of you are still an even remotely captive audience to my ramblings. Here's hoping!
Lately, lots of people have been asking me "So what are you training for?" Silently, I am somewhat offended and think, "What do you MEAN? DON'T YOU KNOW I'M RUNNING 50 MILES SOON??" But then I realize the question is based in ignorance that is my fault. And my silent reaction is also quite inappropriate--but it stems from a lot of fatigue and stress. I don't say that as an excuse, but as an explanation. I chose to train for the longest race of my running career (to date) during one of the busiest times of my life professionally, socially, and as a parent. 'Tis my style.
Yet another reason I get the question is because I have not been racing. I've been running, to be sure, but not racing. So most runners only get a few glimpses of me. My last race was the Monumental Marathon in Nov. of 2012 (PR at 3:16:09). Most of you are aware of my history with running--a sordid tale that began in 2008. I spent the first 2.5 years of my running career injured or recovering from surgeries to ameliorate those injuries. This was made worse because I loved running more than anyone else in the WORLD, of course. Running was this hard-to-get thing for me. Something of which I would get glimpses (a killer, pain free workout), but most usually was chasing (trying to decide if I could or could not run on the current injury). It was a very difficult time for me (there are some details of it in this blog if you go back far enough--I can't bring myself to type them again).
Most people might not understand such a reaction to running, such a craving for it, and would likely roll their eyes. And that's okay--I feel the same way about hunting or rollerblading. But runners, I know that you get it. I actually suffered some deep depression over my running and lack of ability to remain consistent in it. Being married to a runner who rarely gets injured also became a double-edged sword. In three words--it was hard. Then, in 2009, after recovering from compartment syndrome surgery and training for my first marathon--I got the worst groin injury imaginable. I could not walk, much less run. At the time, I was devastated...but am now so glad that it happened to me. It was a clear instance of Romans 8:28. Anyway--because of what would soon become known as "groin gate," my whole life changed. We had Rowan, and then I changed the way I trained. I went mostly low intensity, but big miles. And, despite a few niggles (I'm not going to lie--I have aches and pains), I have not had a serious running injury since. I don't know how I got to this point in this blog post, but I think I was trying to explain why I haven't been racing. Part of my secret formula is that I cannot race all-out more than twice a year. I just will. not. do. it. I'd love to, but I can't. I will get hurt. PERIOD. So I choose two big races a year, and I give them my all. In 9 days, I'll be running my second goal race of the year--the Ice Age 50 Miler. Not my first ultra, but my first 50.
It's hard to describe how much I've changed as a runner these past couple of years. I seriously don't even keep a log. I mean, my watch tracks it, but I write nothing down (I used to write down the temperature, my pace, who was with me, how I felt on a 0-10 scale...seriously). So it's impossible for me to tell you exactly what I've done this training cycle (without looking in my watch, which seems too much trouble at the moment). I was self-coached this time, and here was my strategy:
1. Run a lot of miles, including lots of back to back long runs.
Prior to this training cycle, my highest ever weekly mileage was 85 (for Monumental). I wasn't sure if I needed to surpass that for Ice Age, but I knew I had to change the way in which my miles were organized. That is, I needed a steady diet of back to back long runs. And I got them. I started with doing 15s back to back on the weekend. Then I jumped to 20-15. Then I did a 25-15-15. Now things were getting serious. I transitioned to a 20-20 weekend, and finally to a 30-20 and 33-17. I topped out at 90.23 weekly miles, and my legs felt very tired the entire cycle. Mission accomplished.
2. Run SLOW miles.
It's not that I want to, but I have to. Even for my fall marathon, in which I PR'd, I didn't do any real workouts. I did progression runs a few times, but mostly just miles. It works for me. This cycle, however, my training runs were the slowest they've ever been. I usually run anywhere from 8:15-8:30 on my easy days. This cycle, I ran mostly 9:00+ minute miles. I felt it would keep me healthy and allow me to pile on miles. I think it worked. I have absolutely NO SPEED right now. But that's okay. I'm more of a fast-twitch person anyway, and can get that back if I ever want to.
3. Help others with running goals.
I added this to my strategy for a couple of reasons. 1. It's fun. and 2. I was running a lot of miles, and I wanted to run them with others. I especially wanted to run them in a way that would help other, newer (or even more experienced) runners meet their goals. So I did a lot of pacing this cycle--I paced my friend Jo several times, including once to a huge 15K PR. I paced Heather to a half marathon PR. Pacing is my favorite thing to do. If I had to stop racing and just start pacing people for the rest of my running career, I wouldn't hesitate. I'd train exactly the same as I do now just to be able to do that. I am also beginning to help my dear friend Sara Jane train again--for her first 50 miler. (!)
So that's what I did: I ran a lot of slow miles with my friends. A runner's dream come true!
I do not have a specific goal for Ice Age. Obviously, I want to finish. But, being my first 50, I don't have some time goal in my head. If I had to guess, I'd say I'll run it in 8:30ish...8:30 probably the fastest I could run it. But it may definitely be slower. I ran the 60K at LBL in 6:05, and that was a fantastic race for me (even splits). If the day goes as well as that one did, 8:30 is likely. But 50 miles is a long, long way. And I struggle with nutrition. So my plan is to start extremely conservatively, take time to eat, and see where I end up with 10 to go.
Amelia and Rowan are coming to my race. Tears well up writing that, because they've never seen me race before. Amelia said "Mom, what are you going to do? What is your PLAN for that race?!" I thought for a minute, and finally said, "Mostly, I'm going to enjoy running a bunch of slow miles in the woods with my new friends." I deeply believe that God wants me to do that as part of my life. And I'm thankful He keeps on letting me. Thanks to all of the people who make ultra marathon training possible for this working (tenure-track!) mom:
1. My mom, for babysitting my kids.
2. My husband, for all his massages/food/carrying of water bottles/slowing down to run with me
3. My children, who are so tolerant of the running lifestyle and don't blink an eye when mom says she'll be back after a 30 mile run.
4. My co-workers, who don't mind me walking through the office all sweaty after a lunch run.
5. My friend Sara Jane, for a whole bunch of stuff.
6. My brother Wes, for listening to me complain.
7. My friend Jo, for running lots of miles with me at 4:45 am.
8. My many other friends who've run tons of miles with me this cycle--Kathy, Rachel, Jimmy, Bill, etc. etc. You know who you are.
9. To all of you who have donated to the charity for which I'm running this race (see https://www.events.org/50miler/cdonate.aspx?e=50224 to donate).
See you on the other side of 50 miles!