Sunday, May 30, 2010

Roller Coaster

It's been an interesting two weeks, definitely with some ups and downs, but fortunately, I feel like I am back to a good spot.

Two weeks ago, everything was just off. No, not just tired. You can't be an ultrarunner if you can't handle running tired. It was so much more than that. My hips were hurting; I felt like every run was a struggle; my legs throbbed when I ran; and they ached for hours after a run. This training requires riding a fine line of exertion, but I had passed my limit.

Still, these are the most important weeks of training and I felt like they couldn't be squandered. And so even though I wrote on my blog that I might take a few days off, every part of me was thinking,"Just pust through. It is only 20 more days till you start to taper. Suck it up and get it done!" And so that night I did eight miles on the treadmill, and tried to convince myself that was an "easy" workout because half of the miles were "power walking" with incline and not even running. Then on Tuesday, I dropped the kids off at school and set off for a run around town (I was home for the week single parenting while Mac did manly things in Alaska). Sixteen miles of pure misery. More achy, sore legs and complete exhaustion despite running over a minute per mile slower than usual for a run like that. My legs hurt all day afterward. Twenty days no longer sounded like a short period to train but a really long time to be miserable if I didn't do something. And so I took four days off. Yes, four, and there was no cross training, no walking, no lifting, no nothing - just rest.

This is a sport where more is better, where we all continually push ourselves to go beyond what we have done before. That is part of the appeal - to test your barriers and to find the inner strength to do things that you didn't think possible. Ultramarathon training constantly flirts with overtraining, but it feels like that is a bit of a dirty word, something people don't want to admit to. Because in some ways it feels a bit like failing, either physically or mentally it seems like maybe you just aren't tough enough to handle the training load. If a coach made the training schedule, maybe it feels like you aren't meeting expectations. If you made your own (like I did), it fells like maybe you over estimated what you could handle or maybe that you didn't know what you were doing when you made the schedule.

I tried to deny it at first, but eventually, I just needed a break. Yes, I was "overtrained." I think this was from the race schedule, but I don't at all regret piling American River, Capitol Peak, and MacDonald Forest into a one month period. Those races did so much for my confidence and strengthening my racing ability. Rather, I think my real mistake was not taking enough recovery after each race. I think if I had given myself 2 or even 3 days of rest after each race, I wouldn't have needed the rest right now.

The rest went well, and my body healed. It was hard to give up those days of training, but I don't regret it at all. The training at that point was doing more damage than good. I came back fresh and ready to run this week and that is just what I did!

Last Sunday, I paced a friend in the Iris Festival Half marathon and it was great! Yeah, I PW'd (personal worst, haha) by 8 minutes, but still running felt so easy and light (and I helped my friend PR by over 2.5 minutes! - 1:37:26). Monday easy, Tuesday did a double, Wednesday my training partner Steph and I killed the Titus Van Rijn one hour track time trial, typical Thursday and Friday and 32 at Macdonald forest for a great 98 miles! But better yet, I still feel good! I am ready for the last big week before starting to taper! Motivation should be pretty easy to come by as I leave Friday for a R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon!!

Overtraining is no fun and not something that is easy to accept. But at least I know I was training as hard as I possibly could. I did everything my body could handle and then some. And I feel like I have learned from my mistakes. Those things certainly make the idea more palatable. A top ten finish a Western States would also lessen my grief from this stumble. ;)

So anybody else want to admit to a period where they were overtrained? What did you do to get past it? For me, it was simple - time off. But now I am feeling better than ever and so excited for the next month!


SteveQ said...

When HAVEN'T I been overtrained? Overraced is even a bigger problem; last year's 6 ultras in 7 weeks (including first two 100 finishes) left me seriously burnt out. My method of dealing with it seems to be to declare my retirement from the sport - and then some time later the desire comes back.

btw, top 10 at WS is in the bag!

Olga said...

I am glad you listened to your body and took those days off. Flirting on the verge of over-training when hard-training is actually a pretty fun thing to do, as long as you can admit to the former:) I am looking forward seeing you and others putting work to test soon!

Goes On Runs said...

it is hard to admit when you make a poor choice. i love reading about your training. thanks for writing about it. i am never at risk of overtraining....