Monday, February 9, 2015

Yard Sale for Dreams

"I wanted to do Yamacraw, but they sold out," Terry said.

"I signed up," I replied suppressing a grin.

"You want to sell your registration?"

I didn't answer immediately.  I'm behind on my training plan.  Knowing I'm not where I need to be made the out Terry was offering very appealing. 

"I'll let you know," I finally offered.

After I talked to my old friend Terry I went to the back quack.  Somewhere in the midst of the twisting and bending I felt my back slip into alignment.  Even before I got off the table I knew something had changed.

Lately I've had so much trouble motivating myself against cold, five o'clock dark, and a gimp hip.  To be honest I've not wanted to run.  The dream of running a 50k has been just a wisp of fantasy in my head and no actual trundling down the path shown on a clear map to race day.

The sixteen week to 50k schedule on the refrigerator taunts me.  In my mind I've felt like I could just go out and stomp my way to the goal distance.  I've not been putting in the miles though.  Sometimes the body can't go as far as the mind would like.

I beelined for the trail straight from the chiropractic table.  The first three miles were scorching.  I've never run that far that fast on trails.  My pace was better than 10:00/mile.  It didn't end as my strongest effort though.  But the run wasn't a wash.

I had been aiming for fourteen miles.  That would be the farthest I'd ever run.  It was still six shy of where I needed to be last weekend.  Running farther than a half marathon distance in the Red--heck, even getting to that distance--is no easy logistical puzzle to solve.  There are woefully few longer loop options.  The best involves three miles on the road and is terribly remote.

The other factor limiting distance (at least for me right now) is the rugged terrain.  There aren't many long stretches of trail without a lung and thigh busting climb.  Typically the trails travel a mile or two, drop into a drainage, and in less than a mile or two climb back out.  Repeat.

So within any given mile segment of trail there is the possibility of one or two goat-gagging climbs.  That reality ensures that a fourteen mile trail run is going to be too hard to go at without a full measure of power, tenacity, and the rugged-steel resolve to succeed.  And, for me anyway, the notion of going beyond that distance hints of suicidal tendencies.

I have to get to that level.  For myself I want to be able to do that kind of run. But simply to finish a thirty one mile trail run two months from now I'm going to have to step up my long weekends runs as well as commit to running more through the week regardless of conditions or lighting.  I don't have the luxury of feeding the aesthete anymore.

I designed my run to be trail-heavy for the first half and finished off by running out the relatively flat Tunnel Ridge Road and back to pad the miles.  Even giving in to my inner wuss the run nearly shut me down. Like I said, the first three went swimmingly.  Mile four included Cuss Joe Hill.  It dragged down my average pace, but I set a PR on that segment anyway.

I picked it back up all the way back to the road, but that's when I started to peter.  Somewhere after mile nine I crashed.  I'd only been able to get a single Larabar down and I know I was running low on gas.  I drank water, but I was slowing down.  By mile eleven I wanted to stop and text Terry that he could have my registration.  Running those miles on Tunnel Ridge Road was boring and demoralizing.

I really wrestled with the doubt and self-loathing as my mind spiraled in a blood-deprived tail spin into despair.  I choked down a second Larabar and finished off my water.

Almost instantly my head cleared and for a mile I had a slight boost of energy.  I was going to reach the car right at thirteen, I wanted fourteen, and the sun was setting as the miles staggered behind me.  The last few steps to 13.1 were mental anguish.  I was shut down.  Literally my head swayed and my legs lurched carrying me woodenly across the cold hard-packed travel to my car.  I had decided to cut it 0.9 miles short.

In the aftermath I had serious doubts that I should ever even begin to go down the ultra path.  It's long and it's sure to be harder than any other pursuit I've undertaken.  I was stupid bored running on Tunnel Ridge.  I obviously didn't fuel or hydrate well though.  I've got to maintain discipline on that or there's no point in going on with this.  And the boredom wouldn't be a factor if I'd just suck it up and run the trails I have in front of me instead of trying to dumb it down to feel like I'm going to succeed.  I've got to rise to the challenge.  No more worrying about failing to finish. 

I've not forgotten everything I've learned since I started down this endurance racing path.  I'm just a little lethargic at the moment.  Time to get up, blow out the synapses, and stretch out the limbs.  I know how to do this.  I have to get serious.  And I say that a lot.

Mandy and I went to a race directors' symposium on Saturday and Susan Howell-the Cloudsplitter 100 organizer-gave a great presentation.  We also met the guy who is organizing the Yamacraw race (Brian).  So I got hopped up to run these two events again so soon after my physical reality check.  I may need professional help.

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