overtraining

Boundaries

Road trip, South Africa 2003. Going outside of my boundaries and outside of myself.

When I was little, I loved to be outdoors much like I do now. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing, running, riding, swinging and exploring on Capitol Hill where we grew up. In order to keep us safe, my mom gave us boundaries. These boundaries were physical locations, streets that we could not cross, but we were free to roam about within those bounds. They changed the older we got but I found that even when I earned another street or my territory expanded, my go-to locations stayed the same and I found a great deal of comfort in routine. When I deviated, I always felt like a rebel, even if I was still within those boundaries and no rules were being broken.

As I grew up, I didn't realize it but I internalized this framework. I developed boundaries for myself, safe routes, territory in which I was comfortable in. In high school, the boundaries were distance and the territory large, so I never really even noticed them. But looking back now, I can see them. Looking through all of my journeys and all of the places I have lived, I see now that it has been part of my strategy, part of how I frame a place, it is an instant framework that I setup whenever I arrive in a new location. 

Examining it now, I can clearly see this play out. I have somehow managed to be bold and adventurous but at the same time somehow managed to instill boundaries wherever I land. It has been an amazing coping mechanism to get myself oriented and settled wherever I have gone. I can be very spontaneous yes, but subconsciously, I think I am more a creature of habit than I ever real imagined. I can remember living in South Africa and a few of us deciding to go on a road trip to 4 different countries. We had a rental van and a map and I remember being reluctant to go because we had no plan, we had no route, we had no boundaries. I went and it was one of the best times of my life, but I can see now how my subconscious is ordered when it comes to adventure and spontaneity.  

Nothing better in life than exploring new routes and trails with friends.

Looking back it is amazingly evident to me, though I never really thought about it. When I lived in Fresno, South Africa, Pittsburgh, London, Atlanta and when I first moved to San Francisco, my first order of business was develop standard routes to the places I needed to go. I always felt better once I knew exactly how to get to the grocery store or pharmacy or my favorite place to eat. In running it seems even more evident. I am a route girl. I find a route and I set my boundaries and I develop permutations of the route to suit my distance needs. Deviating from those routes always makes me feel like I am on an adventure or being a rebel even if I am not one. 

It is very easy for me to become a creature of habit. I come by that honestly. When a lot of things in life are up in the air and I feel like I am really going outside of myself to do something hard and new and different (starting my own business and writing a cookbook), familiarity is my equilibrium. The boundaries give me comfort. Or so says my subconscious. A few days ago, I set out for a run and realized that perhaps the boundaries, the routes I was limiting myself to were not in fact comforting me, but deadening my senses, allowing me to check out and zone out instead of being present. Its almost like I was sitting in front of the tv, shutting my mind down and allowing myself mindless time. And not in a good way. On that run, I decided to run a new route, I decided to be different. I didn't have a specific workout or speed to go at, so I was free to just explore. It was amazingly refreshing to come to a fork in the road and decide which way to go. I was present in the moment instead of somewhere else or nowhere at all. There is a time and place for routes but I realized that I need to be conscious of how I balance the two things. I think they have gotten out of balance more since I have been training for fast road marathons since the focus is more on paces, splits and miles than when I trail run. I have *less* of this problem when I am out on the trails though I see its presence too. I finished up my run and though it was not remarkable in any way, it felt liberating. Variety is the spice of life and I realize that I need to check myself and keep in balance. Boundaries are not inherently bad, but you have to find a healthy equilibrium between staying within them and pushing past them.

It's really hard to take a picture of yourself splayed out on the ground post long run.

This week I have also been wrestling with boundaries in my training. I am tired. As I mentioned last week, I have been pushing myself really hard and burning very close to the edge. I realized that I had never really stopped pushing the training since December when I started training for Houston. I haven't really taken a step back since then. I raced Houston, took a token light week and was back to it. In my head, I compartmentalized my training for Houston and for LA and didn't see the big picture. The big picture being that I have run well over 90 miles a week with 3 hard workouts a week continually for nearly 3 months. Leading up to Houston, the cycle was so short I never did a cutback week, there was never time. I was doing the same for LA. The only cutback weeks were the taper for Houston, and week following Houston. Not much of a cutback to race a marathon in 2:50. No wonder this week I felt like I just needed to not press into the 100 mile range. I needed to respect my own personal boundaries or likely I would fall to pieces before I was even to the start line. 

Yesterday, though it was not easy for me to convince myself to do so, I decided to take it really easy.  It became a relative rest day, running only once in the morning with Nathan who is tapering for tomorrow's Napa Valley Marathon. I knew I had a long run planned for today but it still took me nearly two full hours in the afternoon to talk myself out of a second run and I even had to text my sister to tell me not to run. My body was spent, my mind reluctant and my glute/hip thing was not happy. Hello, obvious much! I decided to opt for an ice bath and a concurrent cocktail instead. I have been living an austere yet strict life for the better part of  3 months trying to achieve my goals and really, sometimes you absolutely need to remind yourself that life is too short to be so serious and that being constantly rigid will drive you mad (and make you wander around in your running clothes for 2 hours while anxiously trying to decide if you should run or not).  Respecting your physical and mental boundaries in training is essential and as I sat there in my ice bath, sipping a cocktail, I realized I was doing way more for my training by NOT running, by not being rigid and ridiculous, by not pushing myself too hard and by not giving into neurotic behaviour. 

When I woke up this morning, I was ready to run. I felt refreshed, my leg wasn't bothering me and I was ready to push hard in my 2 hour long run. Since I hadn't been able to do my tempo run during the week, I decided to incorporate some hard tempo intervals into my long run. While last week, I worked on relaxing and not forcing myself to run every long run at or near marathon pace, this week I decided to really push my limits and push outside my boundaries. It was a perfect morning, shorts and t-shirt weather. Sunny and pretty still. I did an out and back into Sausalito. I hit around 6:30 pace to warm-up then once on the bridge started doing 2 mile repeats at 6 min/mile pace or faster with 1 mile recovery at long run pace (between 6:30-7:30). It was hard but it was awesome. There were moments when I just wanted to stop during the intervals and instead, I pushed harder, found the next gear. I went outside of myself and dug deep. I didn't limit myself, I just pushed and burned. My 4th and final interval, nearly 15 miles into my run I was able to clock back to back 5:50s. It felt really really good. 

In the end, I realize that boundaries can mean a lot of things and can exist concurrently. They can provide comfort and security, they can provide a way to navigate the world. They can be limiting or protecting. They can be respected and broken. And they can be all of these things all at once, existing in perfect harmony and balance, if we let it.

Confessions of a red-liner

I definitely don't have this kind of muscle tension right now.

I was going to entitle this post "recovery and adaptation" but that's boring and I don't want to start entitling my posts all with "this AND that". Plus, this title is much clearer: I have become a red-liner. What I mean is, I have been pushing myself to the brink and dancing on the edge of a very sharp sword for sometime. I think the only reason I don't go over is because I have a coach and his workouts kick my butt so hard I have to be judicious about my second runs and recovery miles. Since December, I have been running both faster (in my hard workouts) and slower (in my recovery runs). But oh whee, I have been burning since I started training for Houston. I feel strong, I feel fast, I feel light, I feel tired. My workouts are great, but the day after a hard workout I can definitely tell that I am dragging more than I like. As I mentioned in Friday's post, I did not wake up that morning feeling motivated. I listened to my body and ultimately it paid off with an awesome tempo run.

Yesterday, I woke up and again was not jumping out of bed, rearing to go. I only had recovery miles planned, so after a bit of lingering under the covers (it was cold out!) and a cup of coffee, the Baker and I headed out for a nice easy recovery run. I had all sorts of sore spots and various muscle aches but the miles generally felt good. I think my legs were more sore this week because I didn't have my usual Monday massage with Scott. No good! I need my weekly torture session! We had a lovely run, came home and enjoyed more coffee, oats and got ourselves sorted to enjoy the day. I planned to go out for another session in the evening while the Baker made dinner to get in some more mileage for the week.

It has been an interesting transition from ultrarunning to marathoning again when it comes to the weekends. No back to back 4 hour runs deep in the wilderness or in the Headlands. No hour of driving to get to the run. Only one long hard run per weekend. Since both the Baker and I are training for marathons right now (and he is in taper for Napa Valley) we suddenly have all this spare time on the weekend. It is freaking awesome! On Friday, I had suggested we hit up the Ferry Building farmers market, we both adore the market and seldom go because of the aforementioned ultrarunning reasons. But yesterday, we were determined.

Usually when we go to the market, we want to get there super early to beat the crowds of people. However, yesterday we banked on the predicted rain (or snow) and cold temperatures to keep the crowds at bay and made our way over there around 10:30.  I love the farmer's market!




We had decided to keep ourselves on a budget of $20 each so that we didn't go crazy over every delicious looking goodie at the market. It's a good thing too because I could have easily bought $20 worth of brussels sprouts alone. The Baker knows a lot of folks at the market including the one with the best kept "secret" there: Marianne Wiener, baker and owner of Anna's Daughters' Rye Bread. While everyone else is lining up for Roli Roti (which is amazing) or Blue Bottle Coffee (also amazing), Marianne is serving up the best cup of hot cocoa you have ever tasted. Seriously. I have tasted the sweet pure decadence and it is rich, creamy, chocolately but perfectly balanced. It took everything in my power to say no to a cup (since I am not doing dairy anymore or sugar right now).




Topped with a dollop of freshly made whipped cream, ah, heaven. One cup leaves you perfectly satisfied. Marianne is super sweet and we could have stayed there all day talking to her. Her rye bread is off the charts I hear, as well. However, we couldn't linger too long, we had an inspired lunch to make. As we wandered around the market, we each picked ingredients that caught our attention and slowly built a plan for a market inspired lunch. We grabbed Harissa spices, king trumpet mushrooms, spring onions, a mega bunch of kale, brussel sprouts and some lovely tulips.



We headed home a whipped up a spring onion scramble with Hungarian sausage and kale on the side. We wrapped it all up in some warm corn tortillas and it was simple bliss. I had fun taking pictures in the good afternoon light streaming through the kitchen window. So much for the predicted snowy dreary day!



It was an all around great day. I truly enjoyed the luxury of having run 7 miles before breakfast and having the entire day to interact with the world and do some of my favorite things! As the afternoon crept on, I started to think about that second run I had planned. I hadn't gotten more into the idea over the course of the day (I hadn't really thought about it at all), I actually had a bit of trepidation. My legs were feeling pretty sore and dead. I just couldn't get into the idea of running any more miles at any speed. But I also felt guilty. I felt like *should* (bad word I know) do more miles, after all, this was a peak week for me for the LA Marathon on March 20th. I wanted to get over 100 miles for the week and if I didn't run again, even with today's long run, I wouldn't make it. Then I had one of those, hello don't be an idiot moments. I realized that I was being ridiculous, really freaking ridiculous and dangerously stupid. I had arbitrarily decided at some point that my peak road weeks would be over 100 miles (and peak ultra/trail weeks over 140) even with a complete day off from running. 100 miles of road training a week is brutal and I have been doing it hard since I started my training for Houston in December. I did 414 miles in December, 403 in January and only 3 weeks this year have been under 90 miles, which were the two weeks before Houston and one week after. I know better. I just didn't realize that I wasn't taking the whole picture into consideration. The way I was looking at it was Houston through LA training standing alone, as opposed to my training leading up to Houston and continuing towards LA as one. That kind of longer push deserves more cut back weeks. In my head I somehow considered race week and the week after Houston as cutback weeks even though that definitely isn't the case. I can't count a hard marathon effort and a taxing experience as a cutback week even if the mileage number says it is so. Duh Devon.

Needlesstosay, I didn't run again yesterday. I took an ice bath instead to increase the muscle tension in my legs for today's long run. I may take a while to figure out the obvious but I definitely don't think twice when I do. I also realized in my contemplation of how hard I have been working that I have been running my long runs potentially too fast. I don't need to try and do every workout at marathon pace or have that be my goal. When I set out today, I first consulted my training paces and aimed to be in the mid to slower end of the 6:37-7:37 range that is ideal for my marathon goal. I planned to do a fast finish and ultimately had an excellent workout. I worked really hard and had a great week without being needlessly overzealous about mileage. It was a good week and I was able to pull myself back from a pattern of potentially harmful behavior and see the bigger picture. Ok, time to get out of the confessional and help with dinner.

I leave you with Scream Sorbet at the farmer's market. Non-dairy ice cream (macadamia vanilla pictured) because everyone needs more ice cream (or similar) in their lives and an exception to the rules every now and again.