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.)


  1. Oh, how I can relate...but oh, how important it is to push through! And funny thing is, when the time for a "workout" comes, and the watch gets set, body reacts. But then the easy, draggin' IS the word:)

  2. Olga - Actually, you're completely right about the body reacting. It's those "just get 'er done" 8-10 milers that seem to drag so much. My strategy for this week has been to eliminate those and incorporate speed into every workout, whether it's hill repeats, fartlek, track work or tempo run. Seems to be working so far, as I'm feeling better mentally that I was in the past 2 1/2 weeks.

  3. Awesome. It sounds like you're right on track! And it it weird that I'm kind of envious of the fatigue you're describing, because I wish I were in that place too?

    Keep gettin' it done, chica. July's not that far away now.

  4. Ooooo, I'm super jealous you have a Patagonia outlet nearby!

    Draggin', eh? Sounds like how I feel around miles 60-80 in a race!! I keep my training mileage pretty low (below 50 mpw, generally) so I never reach the point of dragging during training, but I sure do reach it during my RACE. The thing you have to remind yourself of is that you WILL get past it. It's all a part of livin' the dream and being out there. I wouldn't have it any other way.

    100 miles isn't that scary :) It's a deliciously fun 20-30 hour adventure that you're going to totally dominate!

  5. Donald - It's not weird, but I don't think it's the fatigue you're jealous of, it's the fact that I'm going to run 100 miles this summer. You'll have your races though. (And you get to run half of this one with me! Yay!):)

    Paige - Yes, Patagucci outlet is so wonderful!!

    I am impressed that you don't find 100 milers to be scary. But you're right, we are livin' the dream!

  6. Well, if I were a fast hundo runner, maybe I'd be scared a little :) But since I'm a slow/leisurely hundo runner, I just look at them as fun and supremely cool!

  7. Paige - Yeah, I think I could learn something from your attitude. I have only run one hundo, and it was definitely not fast. I need to relax!

    Also, I just realized, you said 'dragin' is how you feel from miles 60-80. Uh ... so what happens during miles 81-100? Please tell me it's that you have a total comeback and feel awesome! :)

  8. Around mile 80 I would have a spurt of great energy and get moving. Then another little slump before 90 (I've learned this is when I need a nice power nap!) and from 90 to the finish I move like my feet are on FIRE. I'm talking, moving faster than I have all freakin' day, and at Rocky I was running faster than I had during any subsequent training run even (sub-8:30s). The sun started to rise and I felt like 5 million bucks! That was with a torn muscle, too, so I can only imagine how much better I would have been moving had my leg been better :)

    Oh how I miss the long race! Really looking forward to Leadville :)

  9. Looked for your results at SS50 and didn't see them (maybe just passed over your name?) and then no race report so I was a little worried. Glad to hear you're still running and training. Have a great time running this weekend. My work schedule doesn't cooperate even tho I will be able to get a few miles in tomorrow (Sat). Maybe Quarry Rd/Ball Bearing/Browns Bar loop.

  10. Gretchen, Keep on keeping on...and keep on inspiring. Have fun at WS training runs this weekend.

  11. Catherine - Yeah, somehow my name got left out of the official results for SS. Oh Well. Race report coming this week!! : )
    Hope you had a great run this weekend.

    MSH - Thanks! Training camp was sweet!

  12. Looking forward to experiencing some of that fatigue in the near future. :)

    Hope you're having fun at WS camp this weekend. Is there snow where you're at?