Sunday, September 24, 2017

An ode to my runner widower

Being married to a runner is often thankless. I leave for work at 7:20 a.m. and often don't return home until 8:30 p.m. during peak training weekdays. Dinner is often whatever the quickest thing I can put together - half the time while still wearing my sweaty running clothes. I spend a good chunk of the weekend racking up miles in the woods and then fail miserably at adulting when the nap monster takes over.

I use up all the ice for ice baths and filling my beer Gatorade cooler. My sports bras hang from the laundry rooms for days. I ate both bags of your chips and I'm not even the least bit sorry. I spent approximately $700 on shoes last year. Running shoes. If you know me, you can vouch for the reason why we never take my car anywhere.

75% of our travel expenses over the past 5 years have been to travel to a race. I talk to you about tempos, rabbits, PRs, fartleks, sub-3s, and BQs and you know exactly what I'm saying. I pop blisters on the kitchen floor and haven't had 10 toenails since 2014.

But I'm one of the lucky ones.

You always say you're crazy, I love you, be safe when I'm leaving for the woods at 5:00 a.m.

You brag to your customers about me and always let me know when you helped a runner.

You celebrate when I do well, you know to back off when I've had a tough race or training run.

You have woken up at 3:00 a.m. to see me run for 60 seconds.

You always ask me how far I'm running today and when I get home, you ask me how it went.

You never give me (real) grief about the time and money I spend on running.

You have made friends with my running friends all over the country.

You have volunteered at races and walked 5Ks even though you aren't a runner.

You give me bittersweet inspiration every day to appreciate every moment I get to do what I love.

I don't say it enough - thank you for not only letting me be me, but giving me a reason to be a better version of me.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Don't be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.

I blinked and it was September. The malaise of August securely behind me now, I was greeted to the first month of fall with crisp mornings and that thing in the air. At the end of the month, I am attempting to tackle my biggest challenge yet. The base has been built, the miles have been run, and (most) of the hard work is done. 
Last summer, I just raced and raced and raced and tried to learn as much as I could about night running and ultras. This year, I've just been running. Luckily, the new job has been pretty conducive to having a schedule of sorts and I am finally able to say yes to every weekend trail run. Funny thing is, I don't actually need any trail runs in my training. Hinson is basically flat and scores 0 on the technicality difficulty.

But the trails have been good for my heart and my head. Running in the summer in Hotlanta is defeating. I typically do all of my running after work and paces in 90°+ are ugly. I try hard not to compare too much to winter paces, but I am human. Sometimes, I get on the treadmill just so that I can run in 75° and nail some faster times.

I have felt especially tired in the last 2 weeks, but I think that is probably the point of ultra-training? A few times I have started a run and it has been so hard to not just throw in the towel in the first half mile. Taking it to the next level by adding a 6th day and hitting 60+ miles each week has taught me a lot about myself. Mostly that I am hungry all the time. But a little bit about gritting it out when the mind and the body are totally against me.

Truth be told, I feel my running has been subpar lately. I am going into these last few weeks feeling like it's been more of an exception for me to have a good day. Part of me wants to believe it is because I have been putting my legs through the ringer - 600+ miles in the last 2 months and nearly 30,000 feet of ascent. 
But there is always the self-doubt that it feels harder because I'm not as strong. I think that any runner or athlete that has any sort of competitive nature in their blood understands this notion. There is that feeling that you don't want to leave anything on the table to give it your best shot.

This is the last big(ger) week. I am ready to start winding down and see if a little freshness makes me feel better. Last year, I had the goal of hitting 100 miles in 24 hours. I really didn't have any idea what to expect. I had never run beyond 12 hours and my peak distance was 68 miles. Honestly, I don't have that much more perspective this year other than the knowledge that I am capable of running 100 miles in 24 hours - 109.866 miles if you want to get technical about it and yes, I do, thankyouverymuch.

When I learned about the 24 hours US National Team qualifying distance (125 miles) earlier in the year, this seemed like an outlying goal to aim for. Another 15ish miles is only .62 more miles each hour. Seems reasonable in theory, pretty tough in reality. I found out a couple of weeks ago that they raised the bar to 130 miles for women. Those 5 miles are big. This is a whole new kind of runner math. 

So I'm sticking with my original goals in ascending order because it is far easier to tick up, than tick down (mental trick #45082348): 1) finish upright 2) 100K 3) 100 miles 4) PR 109.866 5) Course Record 114.6 6) 125 7) Seriously?

The thing about having a plan for one of these races is that there needs to be not much structure to said plan. You cannot just plug numbers into a spreadsheet or calculator and expect it to happen despite all the history and training. The human element is far too great, especially in longer distances and there is no telling what sort of shit will hit the fan. I cannot control the heat or the rain, the nausea in my stomach, the soreness in my legs, the chafing everywhere, or anything else causing me physical anguish. But I can control how I react to it. 

And much as in life, there is very little I can even begin to feel sorry for myself about. To get to do what I get to do, I'm one of the lucky ones.