For the past few years my training hasn’t always been focused in terms of the day to day plan. Run 5 miles this day, do speed work or hills that day. Saturdays are for long runs and Sundays are for recovery.
Instead much of it has been centered around feel and fitting in workouts when I could between road trips and games when I was back home.
The one thing that kept training focused during that stretch was a number of races scattered through the year that not only kept me honest but also gave me chances to get in long runs and plenty of time on my feet as well as keep the mind/body engaged & sharp.
This summer due to a scheduling quirk things have changed, I was able to ramp up early in the season for a couple 50k’s and kept training solid during that time, but then there was a huge gap. Nothing was planned from late May until Twin Cities Marathon in October.
At first blush this seemed like a great opportunity to really get back into focused training without having to take time to recover from some of the longer races I normally do during the summer time. A chance to try some new training methods (HR training, hills, speed-work etc.) and at the same time allow my body some much needed time off after years of building a base.
But soon after the Superior 50K I already missed having a race on the horizon and haphazardly threw Afton 50K on there. I wanted a challenge and little did I know it would be more than I bargained for. My body was exhausted from moving apartments, travel and a summer cold and I was forced to drop after 24 miles, more so due to malaise than any real injury. I was just plain tired, worn out and wanted to relax.
But that bothered me and I wanted to get back to where I was before, build back my ability to push through those mental barriers and finish no matter what.
Despite a ton of travel I tried to ramp things up, looking at my calendar and seeing where I could put in some serious time on my feet.
We had a noon game right before the All-Star Break, I hatched a plan to cover a chunk of the Border Route trail at my cabin in a self-supported run with my brother and my cousin. But like Afton it was a bit of a half-baked idea. I went into it tired, having just finished 17 straight days of working or traveling, dehydrated, and without the proper nutrition I needed. The first 13 miles were great, bushwhacking through the woods with great conversation and incredible views when we got up above the Border Lakes.
As we neared the Rose Lake waterfall I was hit with a cramp in my leg that forced me into an incredibly painful march over the final four (probably the toughest miles of the whole thing) as cramps attacked my legs up and down.
My brother & cousin were bothered by cramping due to the heat & lack of sodium/electrolytes but not to the extent that I was. It was frustrating, the two times when I had time to actually get out there I was not prepared and both ended with me searching for answers.
Was it the new HR training that was messing me up, not going fast enough, not pushing hard enough, not enough hills? Was I not eating enough, I’d dropped some weight but thought that would help not hurt but was I not fueling properly and if not why? I had been doing these types of runs for years why now am I suddenly acting like a rookie who has no idea what he’s doing?
After some serious soul searching, and discussing with Ali, going over every detail of what went wrong, what was different, what went right, and why the change, we still didn’t have too concrete of an answer except this.
Much like when I was a rookie in these events, the excitement to get out trumped all. I would drop everything to hit the trails, in my haste forget water, electrolytes, food, wouldn’t care the time of day or temp just get out there. I was pushing everything, pushing the pace even though I might not have the fitness for that speed at the moment.
I needed to slow down, to really pay attention to what my body was telling me, what it needed to go on and be mindful of the pace so that I didn’t go out too fast on a hot day & blow up. Maybe lay off the coffee on a humid day so you don’t go into it already at a deficit.
All of those things and other factors, namely needing sleep and proper rest, played into my early season mistakes. I would love to say that since that recognition all is right in the world and I am bounding over trails like a deer again but that’s still not the case.
Little by little I am making the adjustments, it’s not easy when you only have a small window to commit and you want to do everything in that window. Need to really focus on the most important parts of the training. For me right now that’s not speed, but instead regaining the endurance. The ability to move for long stretches without stopping, to put in the time on my feet.
To drill down on the nutrition, sodium, hydration needed to keep me moving. Every run is a step in that direction but also the recognition it doesn’t end when the run does. The recovery & pre run planning is just as important. Rather than think I can just toss in a 50K the morning after a game & a week of moving/travel realize that doesn’t set you up to be successful. And if I am going to do that then the time when not traveling/working needs to be spent wisely to prepare for that rather than trying to jam in more meaningless junk miles.
Less than 2 months away from a big October I am glad I was able to spot these things and start to figure them out, with Twin Cities followed by the Zion Traverse, followed by a Grand Canyon excursion, I need to be able to move slow and steady for many hours straight but also recover quickly in between and fuel right so I can wake up the next morning and do it again.
So while my time earlier in the summer was without purpose, that purpose or goal now looms large. The rest of my training may be haphazard in terms of when it happens and where, the focus before during and after each effort must be there.