Perspective and progress

I have not been posting frequently in recent times because I have been too busy doing nothing. That is not completely true, I have in fact been busy training as hard as I ever have as well as working hard on top of that, you know, work work. For the last three weeks, I have challenged myself to "run like it is my job". I have tried very hard to make my life centered around the pursuit of my goals at the trials. For me, that also means working very diligently to maintain my own balance, listen to my body and not get overzealous. Yes, I go out there and push myself as hard as I can when I am suppose to, but I am also remembering to not worry about the pace that comes up on my watch, if I am even wearing one at all. I don't go out and just hammer, hammer, hammer every day until I am dead. I am not trying to pound nails in here, I am trying to sharpen the edge of a blade.

Heading up Dipsea during TNF 50 with Nathan
Photo by Peter Duyan

Part of keeping my perspective means staying connected to my community and the trails. Just because I am pursuing a road marathon goal, doesn't mean I have forsaken the trails or ultras in general. In fact, the more I road run, the deadlier I become on the trails. The balance of roads speed and trail time that I find, increasingly, is making me stronger on the hills and more confident in my speed on any surface. I love the trails and I love the ultra community.

Leaving Muir Beach
Photo by Peter Duyan

This weekend was a great opportunity to bring this home once again with pacing Nathan at TNF 50. It was a crazy competitive race and it was incredibly fun to watch it unfold. It was also an opportunity to get to witness a fantastic performance by Nathan. He is an incredible closer and I felt more than once in the last 22 miles that I paced him that it was legitimate that he might drop me, and not because I wasn't running my ass off, he is just that fast. We passed at least 15 guys in those waning miles, even going off course at one point. He was charging and I am so proud of his effort in such an amazing talented field of runners. After the race, I got to catch up with so many friends and fellow runners. It was great to spend three hours hashing out the happenings of the day and catching up. We talked ourselves silly for three hours before we left the finish line. But when it comes down to it, that is what I love about trail running and ultras- the community. We are a community and even when we duke it out on trail, we come together at the end, as friends, and enjoy our accomplishments together. That is not something that is part of the road running world, at least not that I have found. Instead of feeling like I was lost in a sea of (proud) finishers and strangers, I felt like I was hanging out at an extended family barbecue. Everyone there is at least a bit familiar and probably related. I love it. I am so glad that that is part of the way I train, live and see the world. I can't imagine pursuing such a specific goal such as the trials without that to balance it out.

Crushing it
Photo by Peter Duyan

The other side of that coin is the hard specific work I have been doing in preparation for the trials. While the trail/ultra side keeps me balance, I know I will only progress if I attack my specific workouts with intensity and drive. And I have. I have up'd my intensity and specificity and I can feel the changes in my body. Paces that once felt hard are easy. I am more limber and flexible than I ever have been (yes, I have been focusing on stretching!). I feel like my body is working like a well oiled machine. 

There are tests in training. Key workouts you go through that the mind assigns more significance to than any other. For me that has been the mile repeat workouts. Earlier this year, before LA, I did an 8x1 mile workout that gave me a huge confidence boost in my upper end speed. I averaged just over 5:50 a mile for that workout, which was suppose to be race pace -5 seconds & -10 seconds. A week ago, I was up against the same workout. I was nervous because I knew if I was only able to hit 5:50s again then I would  question whether my planned race pace in Houston is too ambitious. But, I also knew that I just had to do the work and let the pieces fall where they could. One workout, one set of mile repeats, does not make or break the race. Suffice it to say, I nailed the workout. I average 5:29 pace for 8 miles, with a 400 meter rest. I was stoked. I felt pleasantly surprised at my progress. I walked away from that workout intensely satisfied.

Over the next 39 days, I will continue to work hard, progress and try and keep perspective. It is a fun experiment, an unusual journey and a unique opportunity to try and see what I can make myself into. I for one, am going to continue to enjoy the ride.