I have to be honest. I actually avoided writing on this blog for several months because it reminded me of how much I wasn't running. It's difficult to transition from running 130 miles a week to absolutely zero physical activity. What caused this? Well, in a word... arrogance. Yep, after rifling through dictionaries and thesauruses, that is still the word that best depicts my attitude towards running and my body this season.
I began the season by moving out to Colorado Springs in the dead of winter. It was tough getting out the door everyday when beginning the season in sub-zero temperatures. But as the year progressed I was up to my desired goal of 110-120 miles per week. More importantly, I was having a lot of fun. My first run resulted in a CR even after slipping and sliding all over the course (which actually resembled a mud trough). I then placed 2nd at both the Salida Marathon and American River. It was at this point, I think, that my attitude toward running changed.
I've been told by many people that in order to run with the best runners, you must first consider yourself to be their equal. This saying holds a lot of merit if you are racing. In training it can be dangerous. After American River, I was running 130 miles per week regardless of lack of sleep, illness, how many hours a day I spent on my feet at work, etc. It was 130 mpw no matter what. I was convinced that the more miles I ran, the better I would do in races. After all, I was running Western States and was eager to finish well. But after running at the Collegiate Peaks 50 miler, I began feeling a little more sluggish in day to day activities. I slept more, ate less, I didn't have that natural fire burning inside to go run in the mountains everyday.
As this feeling began to grow I began ignoring the important things outside of running such as yoga, stretching, relaxing, etc. The main focus became hitting the mileage number I had alloted for the week. And after a few weeks of this routine, I was toeing the line at the Blue Canyon 100k. I still think I raced well there, but the effect that race had on my body was crazy. It was the anvil that broke the camel's back. Three weeks later, I ran at Western States. DNF. At Vermont, I ran the first 50 miles well, but the last half was atrocious. I actually had to hold my pacer's hand to avoid collapsing. At Leadville, I promised to pace for 50 miles and could only run 36.5. My runner actually ran faster when I wasn't pacing him. With that, I was done with any and all racing plans for the year.
It's easy to see what went wrong. Too much of a good thing can be bad. As the season progressed, I became too worried about numbers and figures and forgot why I loved the sport so much. Getting out of the door to run became a chore rather than something to I enjoyed. And as with anything you are passionate about, it's easy to become frustrated with something you enjoy when you're not performing to the best of your ability.
After a month of solid rest and relaxation, I started running again. Moving to a new area (Washington) was definitely a good move. I have new trails to explore, as well as two amazing friends to run with every day. I also think the move to low altitude was good for my body. So far, I've kept all of my runs under two hours, and I'm listening to my body rather than fighting with it.
I also ran my first race since Vermont on Saturday. It was the Point Defiance 50k, and I'd only been running for 20 consecutive days since taking time off. Anyway, I went into the race thinking I'd just shoot for a sub 4 hour. When the gun went off, I tried to keep myself from bolting forward with the front pack. But the excitement of running a race was too much, and I began to pursue the leaders after the first mile. Pretty soon a new friend of mine caught up (Mike Lynes) and we led the race together for 26 miles. In the end, he fell back to help some runners who were lost and left me to finish the race alone in a time of 3:40:12. I can't say I felt great the entire race. In fact, I felt pretty awful for over half of it. But I can say now that I haven't lost the strength and stamina that I gained this season. Combined with a renewed sense of respect and devotion to the sport, I think this base phase will translate into an even more successful season next year.