December 13, 2013

The End of the Season

What can I say...this has been one wild training season. Officially over.

This running year consisted of:

January 27 - Yeti Chase 5K

March 10 - Running of the Green 7K

May 4 - Greenland Trail 8M

May 12 - Westminster Women's Classic 10M

August 10 - Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon

August 17 - Rocky Mountain Half Marathon

August 24 - Mountain Chile Cha Cha Half Marathon

August 31 - Black Squirrel Half Marathon

November 2 - Heart Half Marathon

December 7 - North Face 50M San Francisco

That's ten races. Four of those were in the same month, just a week apart. This hasn't been my smartest training season.

Here's a recap from the North Face race this past weekend. As I'm sure every one who I've talked to or has been keeping up with the blog knows, I was not going into this race with a crazy level of confidence. If anything, it was the complete opposite. I had resigned my thoughts on any expectations at all, and maybe that's where part of my downfall spins from.

It was a semi stressful travel day the Friday before the race, with an airplane delay, traffic, lines, no food, on and on. I don't do well with race stress in a normal situation, so factor in all of the traveling stress, new location stress...and we have me - the giant stress monster.

Once we got situated in our very roach motel, I started the process of packing my drop bags, finish line gear, etc...going back and forth on what to wear due to the frequently changing weather reports. The rain proceeded to wake us up in the middle of the night sounding like a monsoon.

I woke up at 3:20 to start getting my gear on and then head over the street to the nicer looking Holiday Inn to catch the race shuttle to the start. It was chilly and damp, but the rain had stopped. Weather reports were calling for a cool, but beautiful day.

Before I knew it, we were off and I was passing under the arch and right by Dean Karnazes, fitting since he is (partially) the man that started this whole journey for me. For those of you who don't know Dean, he's a very well known ultrarunner. He's written some books and has a good track record.

We all ran off into the darkness, and almost straight into an uphill battle. I could see the headlamps snaking up the mountain in front of me, deceived at the thought of the uphill ending when I stopped seeing lights. It continued up the backside. Up, up, up. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath. This is when I realized it would be a really tough breathing day for me. I made it to the top of that climb, alone, as the last 50 miler.

Then finally, the downhill. At first the downhill was fun. Then my body freaked out from the polar opposite effort of going uphill. It's not extremely easy to run downhill on a trail in the dark either. Add in a view of the Golden Gate Bridge every so often in between peaks and you got yourself a little trouble brewing. There were a few times I looked up to admire the view and WHOOP there's a rock. I had to remind myself to focus on my footing.

My hip felt like it locked at some point (in hindsight I believe it was a pinched nerve) and I slowed to a walk to calm a really terrible side stitch. I was clocking good time down the hill for a little bit. Then I noticed a headlamp running up from behind.

The sweep had caught up with me.

Some people might not mind being dead last and having the sweep constantly with them. Having been there more than once before, I can honestly tell you, I am not one of those people. For me, it is demoralizing. Can't they see me from a little bit behind, realize I'm still making progress and let me be on my journey alone? Why do they always feel the need to come up to me, make sure I'm okay, and then continue to walk/run with me? (I know, this is their job as the sweep...) Then I feel pressured to go faster than I feel like I should because here I am with a person who runs 100 milers for fun waiting on my slow butt to kick it in gear.

By the way, all the sweeps I have ever met have been some of the NICEST people. Salt of the running earth, I'm serious. This guy was no exception. We started chatting about how I was feeling and I gave him the quick run down: From Colorado. Hip locked. Bad training season. Not going to make it to the end. Already have a DNF with this distance.

He chatted a bit about how much he loves Colorado and how these hills must be nothing compared to where I live. I don't think people realize that the whole state is not one giant mountainous region and that I live in flat land.

He chatted about several prestigious Colorado races he has finished and attempted and then told me about how it took him four DNFs to finally nail down the 100 mile distance. He told me the first one stung like hell to quit (I can TOTALLY relate...hello cry fest at DC 50M), the second one was a learning experience, the third he shrugged off, and by the four he just didn't let it affect him.

He told me running needs to be fun. Why are we out there if it isn't fun? Or if it hurts? No one wants to drop out of a race. But as runners, you also don't want to continue on in a race which you know will do you harm and set you back. It seems to be one of the toughest things I've witnessed runners battle with. When is it the right time to bow out of a race for your own safety? Stubbornness often overtakes that logical part of your brain.

Then and there I had to ask myself:

Do I really think I can finish this race in the time allowed? No.
Do I think I can make it to the cutoff without inflicting more damage to myself? No.

When I put it that way, it left me with one option.

We ran into an aid station and I made the decision to bow out. I also made the decision that I would try my damnedest to not get upset over this.

I took a ride from the photographer back to the start and boarded the shuttle back to the hotel. I almost froze to death on the shuttle, returning to the hotel with blue lips. No joke.

I still think (mostly) that I made the right call. I have my moments where I have to listen to the battle in my brain saying I gave up too easily...that I didn't fight hard enough.

Eventually those voices quiet and I can concentrate on the road ahead.

So as we are turning the corner into a new running year, my focus will switch back to crossfit and overall body fitness. I am planning on running still once a week or whenever the mood strikes me. I want to enjoy working out again and look forward to it...not to have it as a chore. I want to gain some speed on my runs. I would like to do another trail half marathon to see the improvements.

And eventually, I want to rematch the 50 miler distance. I want to gain the speed necessary to keep me out of the very back of the pack, or at least not freaking out about time cutoffs and have a fully prepared body for the challenge.

Here's to new opportunities in 2014 and beyond.

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