Since my last long training run nine days ago, I’ve really been taking it easy, which has made tapering for the Ice Age Trail 50… well, EASY!
Having made overtraining mistakes in the past that left me feeling as stupid as I was hobbled, I made it a point to stay focused this time.
The most important thing about last week was preventing a nagging/weakened plantaris from getting worse by… just chilling out. As hard as it was on my psyche, I only ran three times last week: 10 miles on Wednesday, 12 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday.
And today, as I try to juggle the constant, vivid daydreams about Saturday’s upcoming 50 mile adventure with the actual preparation (gear, nutrition, instructions for crew), my body is thanking me for all the rest. For the first time since Earth Day, my right leg feels pretty strong. The plantaris strain has healed enough so that it isn’t painful. There are still some occasional signs that it is weaker than my right, but such orthopedic mysteries seem to always pop up for me during race week.
What matters the most is I’m gonna be good to run on Saturday.
For a long ass time too.
Since this will be my first dance with the 50 mile distance, I’m going to be conservative. I don’t want to screw anything up. My goal is to finish. That’s it. I won’t be racing or killing myself to stay with the lead pack. Having never run more than 32 miles at one time, I will be entering the unknown for at least 2-3 hours at the end of the day, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.
Hell, I’m just excited about everything associated with this event! I’m ecstatic that this is all finally happening! Finally! The day I’ve been looking forward to for almost a year now is finally going to be here. And while the race week nerves try to flip my stomach, an actual flip through my training log reassures me that I already DID all the hard work necessary to finish this thing strong, to accomplish what I set out to do.
And isn’t that what all this crazy running is about? Isn’t it about accomplishment? Isn’t it about surprising yourself? Isn’t it about nature and about community and about love?
Hell yes it is.
I can’t wait to share my experience!
In the February 2012 issue of Runner’s World, the featured celebrity runner on the back page is Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. In this brief interview, he mentions that he “hit the wall” in the L.A. Marathon and “had to walk a little.” He then offers this quip of philosophical brilliance: “How you transcend the wall, as a runner or a musician, defines who you are.”
Well, Mr. Gibbard, I hate to sound like an asshole, but if you think “how you transcend the wall, as a runner” is what “defines who you are”, then you are a complete idiot.
THE WALL IS AVOIDABLE! IT’S UNNECESSARY! PLEASE, STOP THE MADNESS!
Maybe you can tell already, but let me reiterate just how tired I am of hearing people talk about this “wall” as if it were some mystical obstacle that every runner must hurdle. It’s not! Hitting the wall is bonking, that’s all it is. It’s when glycogen stores are depleted and you don’t have any energy to continue doing rigorous exercise. And as all responsible runners know, if you bonk, it’s usually your fault!
I bonked once. And it was my fault! That day was hot and humid and the idea of putting any sort of food product in my mouth made me want to hurl, so I didn’t, and I paid the price. Thing is, I knew it was coming. Instead of slowing down or stopping, I braced myself for the experience and dealt with it the best I could.
I learned a lesson that day: if I can’t get gels down — if I can’t get ANY carbohydrates in my system — then I need to stop (or at least sloooow down considerably), or be ready for the consequences. Nowadays, I make sure I’m regularly taking in gels, drinking Gatorade and, in ultra races, taking the time to eat real food (cookies, bananas, whatever looks good) to avoid the unpleasant bonk experience.
I weigh 148 pounds and I know that if I’m running for more than an hour, then I need to be taking in 50-75 grams of carbohydrate every hour after that to ensure glycogen stores do not reach depletion level. Individual rates vary, but that’s what my body needs.
Every single marathon training book I’ve ever seen provides ample information on this valuable precaution, yet it seems that “hitting the wall” remains as some valiant badge of honor among those in the running community.
I see it as just being stupid.
*For more information on how to avoid hitting the wall, see Sunny Blende’s masterpiece from Ultrarunning Magazine.
As a 32-year-old runner, if I’m going to go long and far often, I need to be in tune with my body. It’s important that I understand and know its capabilities and its limits. I don’t have much room for error. I can’t screw this up because I’m one of those runners — the addicted type who has to do it to survive. You know, the runner you know whose sanity CANNOT AFFORD injury.
Serious injury means serious time not running.
And that is unacceptable!
I know because I’ve been there.
This past spring, after a few months of careless overtraining and a blatant disregard for my body for the sake of doing something I probably wasn’t ready to do anyway, I had to sit my running addicted ass down.
For six weeks.
No running. For six weeks.
I swam. Hated it. I biked. Hated it. Oh, and I pouted too.
The problem is: NO ONE LIKES A POUTY, INJURED RUNNER.
After that, I made it my mission to stay healthy first, consider performance second. And it’s working.
In fact, I am recognizing twinges and pulls and knots — all possible warnings of injuries that could come without immediate action. I am understanding my body in innate, primordial ways. It’s like being aware. I’m becoming conscious of what is going on.
Also, the following:
I avoid NSAIDS except for after really hard races where I’m expecting 3-4 days off from running for recovery.
I ice everything. If it even HINTS at aching I ice it.
I massage. Foam roller. The Stick. My own two damn hands. I’m working out knots like a boss.
I eat well. Whole foods. None of that corn syrup shit. No fast food. Just healthy and DELICIOUS stuff. Fish. Rice. Fruits. Vegetables.
I sleep. A lot. 7-8 hours every school night and 8-10 hours per night on the weekends.
And of course, if there’s ever a question that something will get worse if I run on it, I give it a day off. Yes. And I don’t get all pissy about it and act like a goddamn baby anymore.
I finally realized that one or two days off in a row isn’t going to hurt me. And if I think I might need to take a day off, then I just take a day off. I mean, if I even have to consider it then I just do it.
I’m doing all this and I’m also getting faster, stronger and more confident about where I can take myself. It’s hard to complain about that.