Thursday, May 10, 2018

Making Running Great Again

Oh hi, it's been awhile...

Basically this is how I've felt about running, races, and training in general going on almost 2 years:


Honestly I haven't really been running, I haven't been motivated to run, I haven't even been motivated to sign up for a race. I can probably list pages of excuses and some of them would be super good and convincing. Some could even pull on your heart strings a little or a lot. But that's not why I've dusted off the old blog.

It's almost too fitting that my last post was almost exactly 2 years ago. Showcasing a picture of me running Quad Rock in my unplanned telly-tubby outfit for the conditions. I looked back at some past posts and realized what a champion I was for getting out there and running despite [fill in the blank]. And here I sit, 2 years since I ran a marathon, a few months after some rather disappointing half marathons, and looking Quad Rock in the face.

I could dwell on why I didn't run seriously for so long, but that doesn't do much for me now.
I'd rather focus on motivation, what to do when you lose it, and my struggle to find it again.

It's not like one day you wake up a runner and the next day you wake up a couch potato. The opposite isn't true either. I don't remember when my motivation started to disappear because it wasn't a single event. It just became easier and easier each day to not run. Signing up for races is a big motivator and I could just as well say I didn't sign up for any races so it's hard to train when you're not training for anything. But in one case I actually signed up for a race, paid, and then didn't run it. Weeks went by where I promised myself I'd start next week, tomorrow, soon! Weeks went by and I didn't. I picked up some other outlets, signed up for more frisbee leagues, even loosely committed to a lifting/strength program I could do at home. I wasn't being lazy, I wasn't even getting that out of shape. But I was missing something, I knew it, I just didn't know how to get it back even though my running shoes (and there are a lot, for someone not running races I still managed to accumulate shoes) were sitting right there by the door.

In the past I've stressed finding a balance between running and life. Don't let it take over, but also don't let it be something so easily replaced. In the present, I've been consumed with the guilt of not doing this thing I supposedly love to do (and write about) and not sure how to over come it. As I work my way back into running I am digging deep for some motivation. It was so much easier 4 years ago! I've managed to get myself slowly back into a training schedule and race schedule and am proud to say that I've gotten out and bagged some miles more and more each week. It didn't happen over night. This post and this plan have been in draft form for about a year. I'd go on a run, think "I've got this again" and then give it up a few days later. I'm proud to say for almost 2 months now I've been getting after it and having a little bit of fun too.

So here's my guide to making running great again.

1. Forgive yourself

I gave myself permission to be ok with taking time off. With no qualifiers.

I am allowing myself to be ok with not running or racing for a big chunk of time because I just didn't. It was ok to tell my inner voice it was for this reason or that, but in the end it's ok and there's no more explanation, self reflection, or justification to others I need to make. I didn't race or run much, I did other things there were a lot of fun. Running, frisbee, happy hours; those are not activities to be weighed against each other. I didn't run for awhile and now I'm trying to again. Cool.

2. Go back to the basics

For me, it was Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. On some of the hardest days to get out and run, when my legs were tired or my eyes were heavy, I convinced myself that I deserved the treat of my favorite podcast. I was so behind too so I have a wealth of episodes to listen to. Yes, even the simpler pre-November 2016 time episodes. What once was my occasional crutch became my semi-permanent prosthetic. But it works, it gets me excited to at least get outside and put in some miles.

3. F*ck Expectations

I have no goal time for my race this weekend other than finishing. True, finishing comes with expectations - you do have to do it in a certain time. But I'm not going for a PR or anything. I know it will be hard, I'm so poorly trained for a hard hilly race that it will also be hard for the days following, but I know I can do it. I've tried to have this mentality as I've slogged through training runs. It hurts, it's hard, I'm slow, just keep going. But I'm running a 16 minute mile, so what? All that means is in 16 minutes you check off another mile. Do enough of them (5, 10, 15, 25) and you're done. I remember running Quad Rock one year and having forgot most of my running shit, including a watch. I think that was the year I ran my fastest because I didn't really expect much, I had no measure of whether I was meeting an expectation, I just went out and had fun.

4. Avoid Extremes

One thing I learned from my pendulum swing back to running is that it's hard to exist on the extremes. You can do it for awhile, years in fact, but it's not easy. I realized for a bit I was on the running extreme. You don't have to be winning races to get there. You just have to put yourself so much into something that you forget to remember to do it for the right reasons. And as pendulums work, if you swing far on one side it's super easy for the momentum to swing you pretty far to the other. I'm trying to be more mindful of avoid a zero sum game of activities. I don't have to do more of A to counter B. I go run sometimes, I go to happy hour sometimes, I play frisbee sometimes, I do all three sometimes. 

5. Suck it up Buttercup

It's so easy to think about how hard it is to go on a run. And most runners will tell you, the first 2-5 miles suck. Not the in the bigger picture. The totality of the run can be great. But taking the first couple steps, heck putting on stinky running clothes, can just seems really super hard most days, impossible others. Currently, I have to give myself a pep talk and admit to myself that I'm not going to feel great at the start. But I know that if I suck it up I usually feel great a few miles in and I always feel better that I did it after. Even when I've had a horrible run, where I felt sick the whole time, I never think to myself when I get home, I wish I hadn't done that.

So that's what I got. It's not a perfect list, it's not complete either. All I can say is, I'm trying. I'm putting myself back out there. I'm trying to get back to a time when running was great, there was a chicken in every pot, and American Democracy worked. I'm ok with one out of those three to start. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

There's always something, right?

There's always something...right?

I got a lot of compliments on my hoody.
Kircher said I looked like a Teletubby
Quad Rock 25 2016: 6hours 23min 21sec
When you prepare for a race, a tournament, a big event you always imagine perfection. How everything leading up to it goes just perfectly and you seamlessly float from waking up to kicking ass. In reality, at least in my reality, that never happens.

Looking back at races there's always something that puts a kink in my perfect armor. There was the year before the Salida Marathon when my whole life did a 180. There was the year at Quad Rock I left all of my race food and my watch at home. There was my first 50 miler when I managed to severely roll my ankle just a few weeks out from the race. There was this years Quad Rock when I neglected to bring any of my proper cold/wet running gear to the start.

There really is always something and I'm beginning to think that something is the new perfection. I begin to get worried if something hasn't gone wrong or isn't ideal before a race. When I forgot my food and watch before Quad Rock I ran my fastest race time on that course ever. When I rolled my ankle I finished my first 50 miler. When I forgot my proper running attire, I got more compliments on my "cool hoody" then every race I've ever run combined.

The Dashing Divas Dashed to finish the marathon.
Signs made by yours truly.
We all have a fear of something going into a big race, my friend Carissa lived hers out a few weeks ago at the Colfax Marathon. She was running the first leg of the relay, the race started at 6:00am, she woke up at 6:10am. By the miracle of her two legs and some help from an uber driver she got on the race course and managed to make up a ton of time. Basically shit happens, there's always something, and despite all of that we still go on, we still run, hopefully we still finish.

My lack of posting is not evidence of my lack of running. Since the 50 miler in December I've gotten out quite a bit. I had the Salida Marathon in March, Quad Rock in May, and tomorrow is the North Fork 50k. As I get ready for tomorrow I'm again reminded...it's always something right?

First off I'm moving. No not I will be moving or I am moved. I'm in the actual act of moving. Thankfully most of my stuff has made it to the new place, but up until yesterday most of my race gear was still at the old place. I honestly can't say for sure where everything is except I made it a point to keep my running shoes in my car since the last race. Partly so I wouldn't forget, mostly because they were really dirty.

Second, I need new contacts. Honestly I've needed new contacts for almost 2 years, but I didn't drag myself to the eye doctor for a new prescription until last December. It's now been a 2 month process trying to get 1-800contacts to send me my contacts. I was hoping for some before tomorrow, I'm on my last itchy and dry pair. No such luck, the earliest arrival date is now Monday.

Third, I'm doing this race almost 100% solo. I say almost because thankfully my buddy Ryan will be at my favorite aid station, hopefully with a beer (hopefully? who are we kidding when there's Kircher there's beer). But I'm driving there solo, running solo, finishing solo, and driving home solo. It's hard to not be a little bummed by that. Running is a solo sport, but so much of what I love is the joy of being with crazy runners going out on the trail from 4, 5, 6, sometimes 13 hours. It's in my nature to want to share this so I'm sad that I won't have a predetermined person to share it with at the finish line.*

Despite the above, I feel good about the race. I feel good about my training and my conditioning. I'm really excited to just go out and run. I'm hoping to get up a good recap following the race before I jump right into another one in two weeks; Grandma's marathon!

Here's hoping that again there's something and that something turns into a good finish tomorrow.

*before you go thinking woe is Emily she has no friends. Race timing, work logistics, and health issues have taken away my usual support suspects. They aren't ditching me, they are just humans with human things. It's always something right?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Journey to Endor




it was pretty damn beautiful out there
California came and went pretty quickly and before I knew it, Christmas - New Years - 2016. So much of the last few months have been consumed with this race I feel like I crammed in a fall/winter's worth of activities in one month. So 2016 is almost  is here. I had a pretty full plate, race wise, in 2015. All of it was capped off with the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler December 5.

Obviously I've been struggling writing this post since it is now more than a month post race. I could easily blame the hubbub of the holidays, which is partially true, or I could admit that this post, like this race, was difficult to finish. Running  any distance is a journey and rarely do journeys happen without a hitch or two. The longer the distance, the more chances for these bumps in the road to catch you. Trying to some up 13hours and 42minutes of running in one blog post isn't easy. We laughed, we cried, we talked about Portlandia, and I came to some truths about where I want to go next in my running career.

Waiting for the start!
Not Pictured, Donny cause he was in line for coffee
First and foremost, the race was amazing and my crew was out of this world. I couldn't have done this without Donny, Beth, and Carissa helping me out. We had such a blast the whole weekend there were many times when all the prep and running hardly felt like work. Kudos to all the friends we met out there and especially our hosts who provided me with such a comfy couch and bed to recover on. The race was very well organized, parking situation aside, and all of the aid stations crews went above and beyond making sure you had everything you needed, including a bit of conversation.

In the course description of this race they focus a lot on the "mysterious car wreck" which you run by twice on the trail. Seriously, they bring it up several times and make it sound like a pretty sweet part of the course. Coming from Colorado, it really just looks like any rusty old piece of mining equipment you can see on a 14er or in the middle of Downtown Breckenridge. What I can't believe is the race promoters focused so much on a car and not even one footnote caption on the fact that we ran through ENDOR!

No, not that we ran through forests that reminded you for Endor. We ran through  Endor, A large chunk of the back half of the course was through the Muir woods which is where George Lucas filmed the Ewok parts of Return of the Jedi.

According to Wookieepedia: By the time of the Galactic Civil War, the Ewoks had reached a level of civilization where they engaged in religious, artistic, medical and even political activities. Nevertheless, they still focused most of their energies on the daily provision of food.

What a great segue because I'm sure everyone is wondering, how's your stomach Emily?

Well it's great! I had almost zero food issues during the race and more importantly no major issues after the race. My post race success is largely due to Beth forcing me to "drink this", "eat that", "now drink this again". Front loading calories was huge because I wasn't very interested in eating later on in the race. I managed to get in a good 200 or so calories every hour and mixed it up between Raw Revolution Bars, Honeystinger Waffles and chews, and even a PB&J sandwich. Bringing pickles was also the best decision I've made so far in my 30s, they had NO pickles at any of the aid stations. Are pickles just a Colorado thing?

Now, over a month post race, I'm happy to report I have had no real digestion issues. I did notice a small lack of an appetite initially, but no where near what I felt like after the North Fork 50 in 2014. I could most definitely eat half a sandwich a week post race.

Overall I felt healthy internally and the real struggles came more from the physical difficulty of the race rather than me sabotaging myself.

Stinson Beach - we ran down to it then
back up with zero shark attacks 
The first 26 miles or so were great. I kept promising myself not to "be an asshole" and run conservatively. The challenge was the first half of the race was so runnable. It was hard not to blast through it even if I was trying to play it cool. I will not sit here and try to tell you that running uphill is the easiest part of trail running. It's not, but running downhill can be so much more painful than you can imagine. I first noticed the toll all the downhill running was taking on me as I came into the Mile 27ish aid station, where I would pick up Carissa for pacing. The trail went from flat/mellow rolling to a steep decline into Stinson
Beach.

The climb immediately after the 27 mile aid station was obviously concocted by Satan within the bowels of hell.

It was 3ish miles of this:
Honestly these stairs looked a lot taller in person and
lot more frequent in occurrence then this picture shows. 
Just stairs upon stairs. As an avid "Pro-Stair" person, never in my life have I wished more for an elevator. They just kept going and my legs just kept going and then my legs and I had to go down and suddenly the stairs going up didn't seem so bad.

The race was really rough for me from about Mile 40 until Mile 48.9. I tried to spend enough time at aid stations to get some food, but I knew if I stopped and sat down the likelihood of getting up again wasn't high. I tried my best to just keep moving forward and focused on Beth retelling me an episode of Portlandia and how the same thing happened to Donny when he tried to donate clothes to the thrift store in Crested Butte. The great thing is, despite all the pain I experienced the 9 miles, the thing I remember most about that stretch is the story about the thrift store* not the hurt in my legs or frustration in my head.

Beth and I at the finish, all I wanted to
do was sit down but I had to take this picture
I'm really excited to have finished this race. It was a lot more challenging terrain wise then I had
anticipated (Rocky Mountain Hubris). It was also a lot more beautiful than I could have pictured. The first half of the course is really fast and awesome. The only real disappointing part of the course was the section by the "famous wrecked car". It was beautiful running, overlooking the ocean, but it was also two way traffic on the most single-tracky parts of the course. The perks of being a faster runner were seen in that section since return traffic had the right of way. I got real good at balancing on the slope side of the trail.

As I finished the last few miles of this race I realized I still have a long way to go before attempting a 100 miler. With that in mind I chose not to enter the Leadville 100 lottery for 2016 and instead focus on improving my 50 mile running and give a go at a 100k.

I may make a return trip for this race. Whenever you have a less then amazing race performance there is always the drive to return to the scene of the crime and do better. I think I can give this course another shot now that I know what to expect trail and terrain wise.

Physical prowess aside, mental toughness is the biggest asset you can have when ultra running. The sheer desire to finish and finish under the cut-off can overcome some of the worst quad aches you can imagine. I knew I could do it, even when I felt the absolute worst, the concept of not finishing didn't take up much real estate in my brain. People usually say I'm crazy for doing this and that there is no way they could ever do a race that long. You totally can, if I can, you can. But you have to go into it knowing you can overcome all the stuff/hitches/roadblocks/demons that will most certainly try and root themselves in your brain. Training for this race I wrote about Doubt and how dangerous that thought can be. Knowing I have the mental toughness to not even let doubt in for 50 miles reminds me that I can do this again and I will.

*Bonus the thrift store rejects became that nights Rocky Horror Picture Show outfit if only I had a picture. 


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Great Expectations

It is now under a week until the start of the North Face Endurance Challenge. In less than 4 days I'll be venturing out into Golden Gate National Recreation area for a short 50 mile jaunt in the woods. Cue: freakout.

Yes, I know I wrote a month ago how eerily calm I was. I also wrote that I would have the pre-race freakout and here it is.

Carissa (my pacer), me, and Denas just Denas prepping for the race!
A large part of freaking out, at least for me, is knowing that there really is nothing else you can do to
prepare for the race except get sleep and avoid injury. Looking at my checklist as long as I pack my running shoes I can stumble into California and figure it out until my foot crosses the finish line. Have more inspiring words ever been written?

My biggest goal for this race is to finish. Coupled with finishing is finishing healthy. I want to prove to myself that I can manage my body and nutrition for 50 miles and live to tell about it. The less time I spend huddled in the fetal position in my bed fighting off fever dreams post race the better. Here's how I'm going to do it:

Eat Smart

I have a huge bag full of Raw Revolution bars. But I know I cannot depend on one item to get me through the race so I am also bringing honey stinger waffles, other energy bars (TBD what is on sale at whole foods), electrolyte chews, various types of gels, sour patch kids, peanut butter cups, salmon jerky, nut thins. I am probably going to stash a tuna packet in my drop bags as well as pickles (duh). I'll also have nuun for my water bottle.

Drink Smart

I have forgone beer since Saturday night and plan to until Friday night. You're not supposed to mess with tradition and I always drink a beer the night before races and this one is no different. Thanks to Kircher, the accidental pedestrian, for instilling this important pre-race strategy in my head oh so long ago. Perhaps most importantly will be drinking smart after the race. Yes I will also drink a beer after the race, but what really killed me last time was failing to hydrate the next 24 hours post race. I am going to make sure I am not just drinking water, but drinking plenty of electrolytes.

The big test will be the Saturday after the race. Jill "drilltime" Fairchild and I are going to run a 5k. Yes, a week after running 50 miles I am going to run a 5k. Seriously though you guys, the shirts they give out for this 5k are so soft and comfortable it's worth it.

Despite what it sounds like, I am still hella nervous for this race. Last Saturday I was skinning up a mountain to ski it and all I could think was: next Saturday I'll be running on dirt in shorts for 50 miles. Mentally my brain is having a really hard time understanding that this race is happening. There's snow on the ground, the trails are covered, it's ski season not running season.

While my primary goal is to finish and finish healthy I do have some other goals for the race. I would like to finish in 13 hours. My last 50 miler took me 13 hours and 41 minutes (ish, I might have been 47 I don't recall). I think I can run it in 13. I'll have the aid of altitude and a kick ass pacing crew to get me there. Running smart will be key, unlike Colorado these trails will be very tempting to run the hell out of right off the bat so starting out at a smart pace will only help me in the long run. I remember Liz's only advice before my first 50; "don't be an asshole on the first hill". Wise words indeed.

As a final note regarding goals and hopes for this race the phrase "Great Expectations" comes to mind. So often we have expectations. Expectations that people will do a certain thing or react a certain way. Expectations that a race will go a certain way. We cannot force a race to be exactly what we want it to be the same way we can't force people to be what we want them to be. You can train, prepare, follow a plan, but in the end you just have to let it happen and take each step as it comes. I read recently; "we cannot remake the world to suit us". I cannot make a race be a certain thing I just have to take what I've done the past 6-7 months and go. Come 5am December 5th I'll be on my way.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Shouting through an open window

As I'm one to do, I was listening to a podcast on a recent run. Due to some glitches with my itunes account and a slow reorganizing of my room I didn't have my normal WWDTM podcast to rely on so I switched to Radiolab for my quick run around Wash Park. Typically Radiolab, This American Life, and Risk are saved for longer runs when I really need the motivation to pound the pavement in my  now familiar neighborhood. It was one of their update podcasts so I assumed it would be shorter, perhaps with not much new material. I was wrong.

The recent podcast "Update: New Normal"from October 19, 2015 looked back at their podcast "Normalcy" from, I believe, 5 or 6 years ago. In the intro story Jad Abumrad brings up an antedote written in the New York Times by Martin Bunzel a philosphy professor. As an 18 year old, Mr. Bunzel over hears something on a plane in 1966 regarding race. He remarks that given the particular time period, 1966, the man who made the comment was in an interesting spot. Had he said it a few years earlier it would have been common place, had he said it a few years later it would have been intolerable. However the time he said it America was on the cusp of change, a grey area. Mr. Bunzel said it was as if the man was "shouting through an open window between worlds".

There are a lot of points in our lives where we feel we are between worlds. When you transition from high school to college, when you transition from college to the "real world", when you get married/divorced, etc. These are pretty big worlds to transition between and are a lot more obvious to chart and see. What's more nuanced are those smaller shifts in the world and in your life. These shifts may take a long time to recognize, if at all. You may be shouting between two worlds and not even realize it.

Spare me the groans for a moment, but the best comparison I can think of is dating. No not Tinder, Tinder is it's own potentially interesting blog post related to running at a later date. What it feels like is that grey area where you have a friend and a great friendship and everythings fine, but there's maybe a possibility for a new type of relationship with that person. You can sense that things will change with this person but you don't know how. Will our story be the next big Hollywood RomCom or will we be a cringe worthy memory? I'm not talking about the actual shift, when that change happens. That's usually a pretty obvious time marker. What I'm talking about are those moments before that shift that actions and reactions (the shouts) that signify what everyone hates: the grey area. An innocent text here, a chance meeting of just the two of you there. A few years prior it may have meant nothing and in a few years after it might mean lot more but for now that "hi (and emoji?)" is a shout through an open window between two worlds.

Harvest Moon 2015 Champs!
I'm feeling that way about ultimate frisbee and running right now. I'm super excited about my upcoming race (and slightly terrified). I also got super excited about ultimate this past season with women's masters and RUA. Now, coming off the high of a big Harvest Moon Championship (Christmas Town!) and the thought of "what am I going to do December 6th?"

My current friendship with ultimate and running has been figuring out how to do both (logistically and physically). I love how things are right now but I can sense a shift coming. We've been making due with some tweaks here and there but it's been working for the most part. A few years ago I thought I made that leap when I quit competitive women's frisbee and started setting my sights on ultra running. And up until this year I would have thought my shout was the Molly Brown end of season party and my "roast" to Lauren Boyle. I snuck in a little line in my poem to her about running and that was it...ultimate and I were more just friends and ultra running and I were going to fall in love.

I've grown a lot as a runner since then. Conquering my first 50 miler was a big piece of that, but so was learning a new way to train and prepare my body for this type of work. I came off this summer healthy and relatively unscathed. I signed up for a 50 miler in December and began setting my sights for 2016 and a possible push for a 100 miler.

I've also grown a lot as an ultimate frisbee player. There was Master's Nationals with Jezebel. A semi-finals appearance was awesome but more exciting were the awesome ladies and the laid back fun of playing ultimate for just that reason; fun with friends. There was MHU league with Shiny Happy People and Part Time Models. There was RUA and regionals. At the end of regionals this year, sitting in a circle with my team, all I could think about was how much fun I had playing and how much more I felt like I grew into myself as a player this year. The timid, always worried about making a mistake women's player got out of my head and the ultimate player started to take control. I felt a passion for a sport that wasn't out of fear of failure for the first time in a long time.  

The interesting part about the New York Times story is that shift, that shout between two worlds, was only really identifiable when that shout reaches the new world and you're in it. I don't know if that new world will be all ultimate or all running or a new hybrid of both or even neither. The ground is shifting beneath my feet.






Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dream Weaver

I had my first race dream last night.

Let me back up...

I haven't been neglecting running or training, just neglecting writing about it. I ran the Denver Rock and Roll Marathon without so much as a peep and did an epic training run with Carissa with nothing more than an Instagram post. I've had a lot in my head to write, but it's all just been stuck there. Perhaps that is why I had my first race dream last night, these thoughts have got to escape somehow.

I typically have a race dream either the night before or the night before the night before a big race. The night before type dreams usually involve me sleeping in and missing the start of a race. I occasionally have a random dream running Grandma's marathon way faster than I would run it and suddenly being unable to run near the end of the race and trying to run backwards to break through the molasses surrounding my legs. Both high anxiety dreams that either happen right before a big race or randomly unrelated to the specific race I'm training for.

This dream was different.

The North Face Endurance 50 miler in San Francisco is fast approaching. The race has come up a lot in conversations so it's not a surprise to me that it's on my mind. But my dream last night caught me off guard because I rarely have a dream about a specific race, this far before said race, and without something stressful happening related to the race. Nothing in my dream caused me anxiety. I wasn't rushing because I missed the start, I wasn't mid race with molasses legs. I was in San Francisco, driving on and around the race course, and realizing that I would be running it soon and getting really excited about it.

[there was a slightly less believable part in the dream where we were driving and took a corner too fast and instead of falling into a valley we all leaned uphill and the car somehow righted itself]*

I try not to read too much into dreams because dreams are your minds way of sorting out all the experiences/thoughts from that day. However, this dream did remind me that it's about damn time I write a bit about running or it will start consuming not just my waking hours but my sleeping hours.

The North Face Endurance 50 miler is exactly a month from today. I am averaging 30 - 40 miles a week with some 50ish weeks mixed in. I'm honing in more on the purpose behind the structure of my training program and beginning to get the method to the madness. Plane tickets are purchased and lodging is more or less figured out. Donald Rogelstein has the car rented and all that is really left for me to do now is finish off these next 30 days healthy and strong. Going into this last month I feel the most prepared for a race that I've been in a long time. I feel a lot more prepared than my last 50 miler.

I'm still anticipating the usual "Oh no I slept through the start" dream in a few weeks which is why I have a crew of 4 people to back me up. Until then I'm going to enjoy my physics defying dreams on the trail.

*I do not advise attempting this method IRL, best to just take curves at reasonable speeds.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Doubt

One of my favorite Avett Brother's songs is Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of promises. It came to mind over the last two weeks on training runs. Doubt is a sneaky feeling. It never comes out in full force right away, it slowly seeps into your thoughts and waits until you acknowledge it and say the words; "I don't know if I can..." Then it feeds off of anything it can to plant itself firmly in your psyche.

The full force of running another 50 miler hit me as I ran around Cheesman Park two weeks ago. Although the race is a full three months away, as my legs moved at a sluggish pace, I started to doubt if I could take on a 50 miler again and finish. As soon as I let my brain wander towards doubt, the doubt monster started feeding on every fleeting thought that came bustling in: do you have time to train, what about food, what about pacers, what if it rains....what if you can't finish?

What if I can't finish?

What if I don't finish?

I've tried to be realistic about my abilities as a runner. I'm not fast, but I know my pace. What I lack in speed I make up for in knowing I can keep going despite the pain of an empty tank. The thought of not being able to finish something is a thought I ban from my memory. Doubt, like an ex-boyfriend who lives in your brain, needs a wall built around it. It's there you just hope that the wall is tall and sturdy enough to keep it contained. I let myself creep over that wall over the last two weeks and it's been a struggle not letting that doubt climb out.

I can't take back the doubt I had/have about not being able to do this race. I thought it, I can't unthink it, so that's what I have to deal with. A healthy dose of humility is not a bad thing. Fully accepting and embracing the difficulty of a race, event, task is a great motivator to do the work early on to be successful later. There's no 10 week couch to 50 miler program out there. If there was I would be highly skeptical. While the fear of a bad race is a good motivator at time, I felt the doubt start affecting my training runs and I knew I had to do something to turn that around.

First and foremost, I needed to get off the road. Road running isn't bad. I enjoy it from time to time. I indulge in lots of road races and Denver's mostly mild winter means I can run outside a good portion of the year. However, I suspected part of the doubt crept in because I haven't been doing any trail running. Even in Wisconsin I ran on the road. Sure it was around lakes with tall trees shading me, but it was still on pavement. Too much time to think about being too slow. Too much time to think about not running on the terrain the race will be on. Too much time to come up with reasons why I won't be successful.

My friend Tom and I took a Tuesday night and ran out at Apex Park. I was reminded how hard running uphill is when you've been neglecting it, but all that faded away as I darted through the Aspens and powered up the little climbs on Enchanted Forrest to be rewarded with fun rocks and root dodging on the downhills. This past weekend I was up in the Mountains and got to hop on a trail in Summit County and get some altitude training in. Not that I need altitude training for the 50 miler (the highest elevation we get to is 1890ft), but I needed to do something tough and finish it. I needed a success, to triumph over a run, shove any doubt in a sack and toss it aside. It felt good to be out and I needed a reminder why I love trails.

Doubt also reminded me I need to be more proactive about training. I recently took on an additional
contract research job which eats into my nights and even lunch time runs. I can't be quite so loose about when/where I run over the next few months because my "loose" time is limited. That's not a bad thing. It's just a time management thing I haven't had to be quite as strict about the last few months. Happy hours will suffer, but the lack of happy hours now will hopefully translate into Happier Hours on a trail December 5th.

I really wanted to write this post to help ease my mind about the fears I have going forward. Reading old posts I sound pretty darn optimistic about things and felt it was about time I admit that I'm not always 100% confident heading into races and life in general. Truthfully, my mind is not always Taylor Swift songs as I run. I think about why I run, if I'm having fun, if all of this is worth it to me. Right now the answer to the last question is still yes. As long as that is a yes then I'll keep fighting off doubt and lacing up my shoes. I'm still nervous about the race, but I'm excited for  my training leading up to it. I'm so fortunate that I am able to do these crazy feats of athleticism and I'll get to the finish line one day at a time. California, here I come.