Wednesday, May 26, 2010
How to Train Your Draggin'
“Quite a bit more, really, than the simple exhaustion of a single difficult workout, breaking down was a cumulative physical morbidity that usually built up over several weeks and left the runner struggling to recover from one session to the next.
The object, according to Denton, was to ‘run through’ the thing, just as he maintained one should attempt to ‘run through’ most of those other little hubcaps life rolls into your lane; everything from death in the family to cancer of the colon.”
-John L. Parker Jr., Once a Runner
A number of things have occurred to me recently. One, is that I am tired. Quite tired. While my weekend long runs have remained refreshingly fun for the most part, the only word I can come up with to describe my mid-week training is “lackluster.” The physical exhaustion breeds the emotional, and my motivation wanes. I know this is no time to slack, but it’s not easy.
I am draggin’.
Another thing that occurs to me: “not easy” is good. This brilliant epiphany came my way during the struggling middle miles of the Silver State 50, which fell just a week into this current episode of fatigue. (And yes, I realize that I am remiss in getting out a timely race report, but I’m getting to it. I promise. It’s just that … I’m tired. Remember?)
Struggling in training is not necessarily a bad thing. I was immediately reminded of what Quenton Cassidy knew as “breaking down.” (I do, of course, recognize the irony of being an ultrarunner who compares herself to a fictional miler. I can’t help it. This is just what I know.) In many ways, making it through this period of exhaustion is about conquering my mental and physical weaknesses. I don’t mean to sound all full of bravado in saying that, but I have a healthy amount of fear about running 100 miles. It’s not going to be easy, and in order to train for it, I need to experience plenty of “not easy.” I need to run through this period of breaking down.
During Silver State, I battled a bit of both mental and physical fatigue through the middle of the race, and it felt weird. I realized that most of my races over the past year (Helen Klein being the notable exception) have been relatively easy. They follow a similar pattern: Start conservatively, stay relaxed, pick up the pace a bit, pass a lot of people in the second half of the race and maybe push things towards the end. To be honest, I love this pattern. I feel good, and I’m generally pretty satisfied with my races that go this way. But if I’m using my races to train for a 100 miler, it would make sense that I should mimic the race conditions as much as possible. The pattern I just described has me feeling good for most, if not all, of the race. That doesn’t exactly mimic the race conditions of a 100 miler. At least, not in my limited experience.
So, I’m okay with being tired. I’ve never been one to overtrain, and I can promise you that’s not what’s going on here. I’m still sticking with my 5-day-a-week training plan, even if my weekly mileage is high. (I like my days off!)
Training while tired, getting out the door when I don’t really feel like it, doing my best to maintain some amount of quality in those tempo runs, knowing what it feels like to race with heavy legs—these are the things that will help me (hopefully!) somewhere in those dark reaches beyond mile 70.
Memorial Day Weekend is coming up, and you know what that means. Big sale at the Patagonia Outlet! (Also, Western States Training Camp. I'll be there, running through. I hope to see many of you out doing the same.)