Its five A.M. … my alarm goes off, sounding like an out of tune and slightly broken fog horn. I am groggy and I am sore, even though the day before was an off day. One week into the ultra training plan and my body is in full ‘complain’ mode. Last week I tackled three weekday runs greater than five miles in a row and a joint Saturday and Sunday long run, previously I spread out my runs across four or five days plus a long run on Saturday. But its all part of the plan, the plan that will get me through my 50k race in November.
I have been sore and tired before and I am aware in time I will adjust, but for now the change in routine and greater running mileage has chewed me up pretty good in my first week, good enough that a rest day exists just to allow me to move a bit more normally again. Of course the rest day also exists to allow me to do what I intend to do this morning… run a ten mile run in the middle of the week as if its a normal run workout and not a long running effort.
I get out of bed and begin the routine that will get me to the gym near my work, where I will run. I grab my coffee, a diet soda, a protein bar and some mixed nuts I get out the door. I used to eat a bagel and protein shake before my runs, but I have found this to be overkill. My drive is over thirty minutes long and as I motor down the interstate I think back to last year. It was last November that I ran my first double digit miles, barely getting over ten. Back then ten miles proved a huge challenge which I amazed myself when I finally breached the single digit limit. A few short weeks later I ran my first half marathon in a little over three hours. Back then five to seven miles still felt long and hard and difficult. I kept working, trying to figure out where running fit into my life.
At the beginning of this year I focused on increasing my running from a solid ten to fifteen miles a week into the mid twenties. I ran three half marathons, reducing my time by six minutes. Two of those half marathons I ran six days apart. I began to run on trails and slowly my concept of normal mileage continued to creep upwards as spring rolled into summer. As a runner I was slow but I discovered I could move and run for long periods of time. My long runs often hovered somewhere between twelve to sixteen miles, I was uncertain what I need the distance for but I knew I wanted to do something big at the end of the year. The biggest challenge was running my first twenty mile day, just to see how possible or impossible it was. It was difficult and it hurt, several times especially around mile fifteen I was ready to be done. But I discovered that when I hurt, my body screams from everywhere, I can push further, past the pain and hurt. At this point running became about defining and testing my limits… I don’t enjoy pain but in running I found I often had to embrace the pain to push beyond my limits and often what’s considered normal.
I get to the gym, and change into my running clothes. Exiting the front doors a few minutes later I realize I will not be back for two plus hours,as I have said, ten miles takes me some time to complete but I have to run my required miles. I start my run, deciding to try a 2:1 run to walk ratio, I usually use 1:30 :30 ratio. My legs feel heavy with a dull ache, a reminder of last weeks miles and the start of the difficult training plan I embarked on. Yesterday was an off day but that just gave me a little bit more energy to run today. I start slowly and let my breathing fall into the rhythm of the motion of running. I know what route I am taking, like any runner I always know where to run for various distances. Of course my plan now calls for longer running distances, so I have to modify known routes. I settle into the run and my body and mind merge and I start to loose myself, melting into my thoughts and reflections. I think about the difficulties ahead, the brutality of running a long run on Saturday and then running again on Sunday and sometimes I think of nothing and everything… its this point in the run I never remember later, or only remember sparse bits and pieces. This point in the run is why I keep coming back.
On my walk segments I try to speed up my walk, focusing on recovering yet still moving with purpose. As I encounter ascents I raise my legs, shorten my step and try to bounce on the landing, and I work to move my arms freely. Its all part of the running machine. On the descents I loosen up and let myself go, ignoring walk and run ratios and just loose myself to gravity’s downward pull. At this point I am fully lost to the run.
Before I know it I am at six miles, then seven. I am amazed at how freely I move and how little effort this distance took. I feel strong and while I am a slow runner I know I am a runner, a fact that can not be denied. I grin at the ticking away of the miles and scowl when I realize that due to time I have to pull up a mile short. Earlier in the morning this weekday ten mile run stressed me out and scared me, but now I understood that this will be a staple of my days, weeks and months to come. I realize now I am at the point where ten miles is equivalent to my earlier 5k limit… and I wonder where I will be after this challenging 50k race is complete. The sky is truly the limit proving that yesterday’s challenges now provide my current base. Til next time.