Recovery is going well. Although I must admit that I struggle with the amount that I am running. I worry about losing fitness, only running 20k a week where I used to maintain at least 50k. But I made a promise to myself during my last training block. I had reached the inevitable low where I absolutely did not want to get my run in.
There’s a funny thing that happens when you’re training for an ultra. There is a tipping point where training becomes an obligation, even though you are doing it because you deeply want to run the race.
I told myself if I just keep pushing, I will reward myself with balance after I crossed the finish line.
Balance to me means moderation. Doing things because you deeply want to do them, not because of obligation. Doing a variety of things to keep the soul engaged. Moving between focused training and active recovery. A cycle that mimics the natural cycles all around us.
I know this on a deeper level because experience is the best teacher. My first year trail running I decided to run the Coastal Challenge. I had escalated from a 10k being my longest in April, to a 29k in July, to a 50k in August, and then the Coastal Challenge being 155k over six days in February. My build flew in the face of the standard “10% per week” dogma, yet it didn’t seem to slow me down.
I found myself waking up at 4am to get 42k training runs in before work and enjoying it.
This is not where things went wrong. There is nothing wrong with long training days, This is to be expected when you have your heart set on a goal and need to put in the hours to attain it.
Where things went wrong was when I didn’t pause to enjoy the accomplishment of crossing the finish line at the Coastal Challenge as third place female with a running resume as short as it was. I didn’t allow myself the recovery I had earned and that my body needed.
I arrived home and immediately started training for Blackfoot 50 miler. My body revolted. My iron dipped, I started to experience heart palpitations. I could barely get myself out of bed in the morning let alone out for a run. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, but my ego wouldn’t let me slow down. I showed up at Blackfoot and ran my worst race yet.
Blackfoot is called death by a thousand rolling hills. For me it was death by ego. I fought myself for months leading up to it, I didn’t want to be the one that rested, I didn’t want to acknowledge limitations.
By the end of loop two of three I was mentally toasted. I was weepy and emotional. I wanted to throw in the towel and never run again. Had it not been for some very stubborn and insistent friends, I would never have finished. They practically forced me out on the final loop.
I finished the race a broken runner, not only was my season over, but I lost faith and started to question what I was doing. What is the point? Why was I doing this to myself?
It took many months of recovery for me to come back from that and feel the passion again.
My experience taught me the importance of balance. It’s easy to get caught up in ego and wanting to be the one that never stops, the one that runs x many races in x many days without so much as batting an eyelash. But if you’re running for ego then you’ve missed the point. You’ve lost your why.
So now I choose to acknowledge limitations. I choose to embrace recovery and rest. Knowing that approaching my training cyclically will make me a stronger, smarter athlete. For the love of running. For my why.