This year's off season has been a bit different than my two others of my ultrarunning career. My first year of ultrarunning, I needed a good three weeks of no running in order to rejuvenate, recuperate and feel ready to run again. After all, I went from running 2 marathon in a year to nearly a dozen marathons or ultramarathons in one year. No wonder I was tired.
Last year, I took a good week and a half off, I seem to recall. I didn't feel like I needed it much, but the break was good for me mentally, as where I was in life was just an exhausting state of being. I was moving back from Atlanta after a temporarily indefinite stay there and trying to figure out where I was going and what I was doing with myself. I got back to running pretty quickly and have been running ever since.
This year after JFK in November, I was looking forward to a nice recovery period for the first time this year. After every race this year I have had maybe a week or so to relax and recover (or less) before turning my sights towards the next race. It was nice to think about just running and not scheduling, planning and just running (or not) what I felt. I decided to signup for the last PCTR race of the year, Rodeo Beach 50k as all of my training partners and a bunch of friends were running and I wanted to join in the fun. Plus, I wanted to see if I could run a race without specifically focusing on the race and truly allow myself to just let the day bring me what it would. Deep down, I was also hoping I might earn a hug and a mug from co-RD Sarah Spelt. She gives awesome hugs. See...
After JFK, I took a nice easy week, running 60 miles including running around at Quad Dipsea and such. I ran when I wanted and my body responded. With all the work we've been doing on my muscles at Psoas Massage and Bodywork in my weekly sessions, my legs recovered phenomenally from JFK and I decided that I would just continue with my run what I feel "offseason". Since then I have run 91 miles, 50 miles, and last week 105 miles. I have been tired, energetic, dead legs and the freshest legs ever. The 50 mile week mentioned before was my moving week from Sausalito and Seattle to San Francisco. Moving is exhausting and while I got 50 miles in Tuesday-Friday, Sat and Sunday were full of nothing but moving boxes and furniture into my 18 foot rental truck and driving down from Seattle.
Fast forward to the following Saturday, December 18 and the PCTR Rodeo Beach 50k. After hauling, lifting, carrying, driving, cleaning, organizing the new house, not to mention trying to do things to prepare for Christmas, I was standing at the start line of the race wondering what the hell I was doing and how I was ever going to muster up the energy to run 50k let alone 5 cussing feet. I had been going full out all week, for more than a week really, and really hit the wall Thursday. I had a horrible run Friday morning feeling like after 2 blocks I should go home and never run again. Then I emotionally started crashing and that didn't buoy my energy either.
But I showed up at the race nonetheless. Why not? Either I was going to run myself out of my funk for a time, for good or I wasn't. I figured I wouldn't be any worse off trying. We arrived at the start line less than 30 minutes before the start and waded through the huge crowd of people to gather numbers and say hi to friends before lacing up the Salomon's and heading up the road. The course had been rerouted off of Wolf Ridge and now would pretty much identically resemble our Thursday morning 12.5 mile loop. That meant that Brett, Nathan, Larissa, Marla, Amy and I had no excuse not to know every turn, rock and roll in the entire course. The first loop also included a jaunt up Miwok out to Coyote, down Pirates Cove and back to Tennessee Valley. The 50k and 30k started out together and before I could think twice about changing my mind and hiding in the car for a few hours, we were charging down the road towards Rodeo Valley Trail and onward to Miwok. The first few strides were a marked improvement over the previous day, but I wasn't overly excited. I went from feeling like death to death slightly warmed over, so that is not much of anything. It was a music for motivation and distraction kind of day and I found my own pace and turned on my music. The wind was crazy for the entire first loop. There were points when I thought I was going to go flying backwards like the "others" in Mary Poppins. It was not a friendly wind, but I just went with it. Nathan took off with Pete (who was running the 30k) at a nice clip and Brett was not too far behind. I was hoping they would both have good days (as with my gals Larissa, Marla and Amy) since they are gearing up for HURT. Brett had an awesome race at NF50 which was a great indicator of his fitness leading up to HURT and I was hoping that Nathan would have a good run to indicate the same. As for me, I was just happy to run all the way up Miwok and start cruising down Old Springs. My philosophy was to just get through the first loop and then I could just phone it in since the second loop was exactly our Thursday route. Heading out to Pirate's Cove, Charlie Vazac a former triathlon teammate of mine who was running the 30k after finally coming back from injury and we chatted and caught up.
And from there well, I just ran. It was pretty uneventful actually. I just ran. I felt pretty consistently slightly better than ok. I didn't bonk or have any super lows. I just got into a groove and cruised. I just ran. It was nice. Once I was in the second loop, I started passing guys and moved up about 6-8 places without working any harder. I was happy to run all the way up Miwok the second time and appreciated that there was less wind. When I hit the final aid station with just 3.7 miles to the finish, I finally allowed myself to believe and marvel for a second at my ability to run a 50k on that little energy and still run pretty well (even though comparatively I was really just cruising).
I got out on the road and kicked it up a bit, heading in for the finish, excited to see how the guys did and to be done. While I was feeling very accomplished for running well, I was really looking forward to just being done. I cruised in to the parking lot and sashayed across the finish line (literally, not figuratively) in 4:28 and as the first woman, I think 11th overall. Nathan was there at the finish line and I immediately asked him how he did and he smiled and said casually, "I won". I was so excited for him because the men's field was really fast and he trounced them and PR's by 15 minutes in the process. He ran a 3:43!!! I was super impressed. Brett had a great day running a 4:12. All of our training crew finished and it was just a fantastic day all around. And in the end, I did get my mug and a hug from Sarah.
Whether or not this off season has been truly a break, it has been a good period of time for me. I have not had the additional stress of a training regime while trying to move, get settled and handle the holidays. I have been able to truly follow my bliss and run (or not) as I want to. It is really nice. I have enjoyed it. My first real race of the season is not until March, so I am looking forward to a nice slow long build up for that and seeing how a potentially VERY interesting 2010 shapes up!