Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A renewed sense of self

It has been a rough last couple of weeks - personally and on the trails - and it's showing. Personally, I dread going to work. The job search sucks and it looks like I will be joining the company when it moves to Columbia, MD in late May. I'm not looking forward to the commute. It depresses me, so I sleep. I don't want to go to the office even at its current location. The thought of the everyday humdrum intensifies as the week goes on, and I have been 'sick' the past Friday of one week and Thursday of the previous week, respectively. I did work from home one day, but most recently, I just slept. Getting upwards from 10-12 hrs of sleep (sometimes thanks to Nyquil) just might be what the doctor (webMD?) ordered.

Trail wise, I have bailed out on almost all my weekend runs since running the Seneca Greenway marathon 3/1 and following it up with 16 miles on the southern part of the MMT course. On 3/8 was MMT run #3, where I pulled out at mile 17. I was done. I was hoping to get in more miles the following day on the Bull Run course, but stopped after 2 hours. At the Elizabeth Furnace 50k on 3/15, I bailed at the mile 22 aid station. My nutrition was better than it was the previous 2 weekends and I got in a few extra miles after going off course (twice), so I figured I was good for the day. This past weekend was the Chocolate Bunny 50k, which is a night run of the MMT course from 211E (mile 58.2) up to Woodstock (mile 84.1) with an out/back option to get a few more miles to make it a full 50k. So not doing the full 50k isn't really considered bailing out when it's 4:30am and you're cold and the car and warm clothes are right their waiting for you.

The runs had been bad, but getting progressively better, including the CB50K. I was happy with how I ran and how I felt even though I ran the first 1/3 alone. I was fine with that since I knew the course and don't expect to run with others come race day. I wanted to be sure I could navigate it on my own, and I did that. When I did catch up with a group of runners (on the downhills), it was disappointing to get dropped on the uphills. I know my weakness. I was a little upset to see that I ran 15 minutes slower than last year in better weather conditions, but I have to take some positives from the run in that I did well with my nutrition.

Even so, with about month left before tapering (something new I'm going to try), I'm going through a bit of a resurgence with training. I pulled out the calendar again and plotted out weekend training runs from now until early May. It will be tough, and I will be tired, and it's the weekday runs that are lacking, but it needs to get done. I've also decided to not row this spring and not play rugby. My social life sucks, I'm not a great runner, I'm not in the best MMT shape, I have my emotional ups and downs, I hate my job, but all that disappears when I hit the trails, and I love that feeling.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A much needed break

I've been saying it for awhile now, but I finally took the time to get a massage. I needed it; my legs need it. With my bosses okay, I took the afternoon off last Tuesday and joined my GF at a doctors appointment of hers at 2:30. I then headed up to Dupont for a massage a few hours later. Even during the 20 minute walk, I couldn't wait to get off my feet and get on the table. After the cramping and overall awful feeling in my legs from the weekend, it was nice to get the lactic acid flushed out.

After the session, she said that I didn't feel too tight, but she did notice my left side was a little tight and less flexible, which I knew already. I will continue with stretching and yoga as much as I can fit in.

Even so, I was cramping again this past weekend, 16 miles into a 50k training run. I bailed. I hoped to have a better day Sunday at BRR, and again bailed after 2 hours. Mentally I'm out of it. I don't know what it is. My mind is not on the trail. I thought I had my nutrition, foot care, and shoes all figured out, but apparently I have nothing right. It's a mix of cramping, bloating, hot spots, black toenails, and the need for new shoes that bother me as I prepare for long runs.

With another 50k this weekend and one on each the 22nd and 29th, I want to get away from running for a bit. I want to recharge. I want to each pizza and drink a beer (which I do from time to time), and will do it while watching hockey. I saw the Caps opening game and am finally making it back for my second game this season. My GF bought us tickets for her birthday :D and it will be nice to get to another game. Of course, Daylight Savings is still kicking me in the butt, and I feel like I'm still not caught up on sleep. Oh well.. at least my mind won't be on running.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Junk Running vs. Mental Training

On Saturday I participated in the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail marathon for the third year in a row. The conditions were the best they've been compared to the past two years, so I was hoping to improve on my times of 5:50 and 5:56. I put out there a modest goal of 5:45, but was secretly hoping to go sub 5:30. By no means fast at all, it would be a good improvement for me, and my confidence has been increasing over the past month.

In summary, I realized at the aid station at mile 15 that I went out too fast. After refilling my bottles and adding more CarboPro to carry me to the end, I knew I'd need more than that to carry me the rest of the way. My legs were shot. Gone. I wasn't sure if it was the shoes (Salomons), or the fact that I was trying Nuun tabs in my bottles instead of using Succeed salt tabs, or that I was was running on a much flatter and runable course, but I knew it was going to be an ugly 11 miles.

I kept moving and tried to run as much as I could. I had my goal time that I wanted to reach, so I made it more of a mental run than a physical one. I managed to finish in 5:37, but I hurt. I hurt bad. I don't know what it is about that course, but my legs ache so much afterwards.

I tried to carry the mental training over to Sunday when I put in 16 miles on the MMT course. I started at 211 and ran up to Gap/Jawbone II, and saw part of the course for the first time in the daylight (Scothorn Trail). From Gap, I went up to Jawbone and came back down Kerns Mountain and to 211, as I would be doing on the first part of the course. The first part was tough going as the legs did not want to move, and when they did, they were pretty stiff. I was able to run most of Scothorn, which could be really muddy race day, and moved along at a good pace. The views atop Kerns Mountain are unbelieveable, as is the terrain. This was about a 5 mile section that started to drain on me, which is where the mental training kicked in.

I started thinking about how a handful of people I know doing MMT ran the 50k on Saturday and are probably putting in more miles on Sunday than I was. Thoughts like this would cause me to lose my concentration, stumble, kick rocks, get off course, or start walking. I would feel sorry for myself. I would feel undertrained, out of shape, and wonder if I have what it takes to beat the cut off time. These miles felt like junk.. worthless.. pointless.. if I wasn't getting any faster, and just getting heavy, lead legs.

There was a lot of self doubt, but something that kept me going; something that kept me moving. I decided to listen to that voice to keep me moving, keep me motivated. I also looked at my watching, knowing company would be over early in the evening and we still had a lot to do, so that kept me moving, too. Total time on the course was just under 5 hours for 16 miles.

It felt good, but I almost feel like I'm spending too much time out on the course by getting out there every weekend. What sort of training am I doing? Is it just time on my feet/time on the rocks? Will I be faster, or just have more knowledge of the course and time between aid stations? Is it making me tougher mentally, or breaking me down?

I hope I can answer these questions before May.