Savoring a fried egg sandwich at my bakery post race.
I've been throughly enjoying my off season. I've been basking in the down time, the lack of structure and enjoyed running when I feel good and taking extra days off when I don't. After a few weeks, I started to have the itch to sign up for more races. But I wasn't sure what to put on my schedule after such an epic win. Winning Leadville felt like the final chapter on a very epic comeback story. Cue the music, roll the credits.
But alas, it was not the end of my comeback story. PLOT TWIST!!!!
As I mentioned in my Leadville race report, I throughly expected my foot to hurt during the race. But it didn't. But it has been hurting since about one week before Comrades. After I was diagnosed with having broken my tarsal coalition back in March the day I left for Birdstrike, I was told to expect some arthritis pain where the break was. And so, for the past 7 months, I have dealt with pain. Mostly dull during runs (except when I step on a root!) and very tight making me hobble after the runs. Before Leadville I decided I would check back in with my doctors and see what was up.
Two weeks ago, I went back to Stanford and saw a foot and ankle specialist. He had reviewed my MRI from March and we got a new xray done on my foot. The doctor came in and gave me the biggest plot twist I could imagine: I had been misdiagnosed back in March. I didn't break my tarsal coalition, it is still there and even more crazy, I have a huge fracture in the anterior process of my calcaneus. So I have been training and racing on a massively broken foot. And some people say I am too sensitive (ha!). I thought the pain in my foot was just pain, not injury and I proceeded according to my doctor's advice back in March. Ultimately, I am happy this happened because I wouldn't have had the year I have had they correctly diagnosed me back then.
Having fun with Kara Goucher and the Akron Marathon race team!
However, now I have to deal with the consequences and have to take steps to keep my foot healthy in the long run. Continuing to run on it indefinitely is not sustainable and would likely result in my running coming to a complete stop at some time in the future. And I don't want that. So instead, I know must have surgery to remove the coalition and fix the fracture. I am going to be having surgery in mid October and will likely be back on my feet by Christmas, although I know I will ultimately have to be as patient as I need to be in order to heal right. Until surgery, I will be running and binge racing as much as I can to get my kicks. I look forward to finally running pain free again soon and writing another great chapter in my comeback story.
Racing the Akron Half Marathon. Race all the things!!!
Another day, another Brene Brown quote. While in the middle of being face down in the arena, reckoning, rumbling like I currently am, there is not a day that passes that I don't read and re-read passages from Brown's book Rising Strong. I can't say that March has gotten much better in the last few weeks, in fact, arguably it has just continued its slow descent towards my limits, like a boulder rolling down hill. There have been many moments in which I have faced yet another situation or thing and pondered, is this the thing that will finally break me? Is this the thing that will find my limits? Is thing the thing that I will not be able to bear? But time and time again, I've survived, found that I can bend and stretch and be elastic far beyond what I thought I could be. I've held on to the tiniest sliver of belief in my own resilience and whispered, "Just hold on. Don't lose yourself. Not to this thing, not to this person, not to this situation".
It may sound ugly, or dark, but I am not saying it to provoke, I am saying it to be real. When Brown talks about gold-plating grit, she says, "Rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I'm not sure if it's because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt, or if its because even when we muster the courage to share our still-incomplete healing, people reflexively look away". We like the survival tales after the battle is done, we show off our scars like badges of honor, our brains get giddy with the completion of the story. But the middle? The middle is messy and uncomfortable. Vulnerability- real vulnerability- and human failing and being a crappy version of ourself is scary and ugly.
This month has thrown so much at me and I have bent and bent and bent. Sometimes I feel like gumby, as I snap back and find grace and poise and badassery to handle something when the day before I could barely make it through the day. At a certain point, you just stop counting the minutes you've been barely keeping your head above water and resolve that there is no limit to how long you will continue to furiously paddle to stay afloat. There is a certain point when you stop trying to fix it; fix yourself, fix your feelings, fix your situation and just lean into uncertainty, the grief or the darkness. You bend, because there is absolutely no other choice.
But the reality is. Things break. And this month, I did. Literally. In the on going saga of my foot injury over the last 6 months, there has been a great deal of ambiguity, pain, set backs and disappointments. After Caumsett 50km, I felt exceptionally good physically. I felt like I was getting to a place of durability again and physical resilience. My initial two runs after Caumsett felt great, but I woke up the Thursday morning that I left for Bird Strike/ The Speed Project and while making my early morning coffee something popped in my foot. Snapped actually. It was unlike any pain I'd experienced in my months of injury, but hoped/begged the universe that it was just some "old" lady creaking and it was nothing. I went for my run with my friend Maddy anyways. And it was terrible. Everything hurt. I couldn't even figure out what hurt. But I got on my flight and headed to LA anyways. Hoping for a hail mary from some cosmic force that would render me perfectly capable for the 60+ miles I had in front of me. I even saw a very good PT in LA, who assured me, "well its not a muscle! Your muscles feel amazing". And off we went into the desert, taped up 110 different ways and doped up on ibuprofen. Naturally, that was not a long lasting strategy.
10 days later, after I finally had regained my strength from epically bad food poisoning and not eating for 5 days, I finally was able to venture out on a little run. I had gone to the doctor the day before because even after all the rest, I was still not able to run or even walk normally. They ordered an MRI and mentioned that it also seemed like there might be some plantar fasciitis going on. So I started mobilizing my foot and viola, running!
Back in November, I had seen the same orthopedist and the team at Stanford had discovered that I have something called a tarsal coalition. Basically, my calcaneus and my navicular bone have a bridge between them. It could be genetic, could have developed over time, could be made of bone, cartilage or strong fibrous tissue. Either way, it was fine as long as my foot was compensating for it, but in the fall, when I overstressed my foot/ankle with too much vertical, the compensation pattern was blown. The ortho said I would continually suffer from issues until I had it surgically removed. So naturally, I got 150 more opinions and didn't get the surgery. Especially a surgery such as this that doesn't seem to have the greatest surgical outcomes, I was not keen to go that route. And through diligent and slow rehab, things got better and I was up and running and racing! Take that tarsal coalition!
I wanted the issue in my foot to be some straight forward plantar fasciitis. Seemed like it would be nice for a change to have a problem with a name instead of the vague and nebulous injury I had been recovering from. And my foot seemed be, mostly, responding to treatment for such. I got the MRI anyways to make sure my "new" foot didn't have a stress fracture or arthritis or some other terrible thing going on. Just in case.
By the time I heard from my doctor on Friday, I had run a good 40 miles, mostly pain free, through the week, although it was "weird" feeling- aka sometimes weak feeling, sometimes just different feeling. I don't really know what I was expecting, ok maybe I was expecting the worst given my rough month wearing me down, but I wasn't expecting what she said. My tarsal coalition was gone. It had broken/dissolved. That morning, the day I left for Bird Strike, that intense pain was my tarsal coalition snapping. And apparently, this was good news. No more threat of surgery, no need to immobilize my foot (after all, we don't want it to heal). It meant the coalition was likely fibrous instead of bone and I was cleared to run. The only caveat is that I now possessed a new foot- two separate bones instead of one and thus, everything in my foot is different: proceed with caution, let pain be your guide. I broke and it set me free. But at the same time, the way forward is so unclear. One day I am busting out 21 miles without pain and a few days later, I am not even a quarter mile into a run when bone pain comes on so swift and intensely it makes me want to vomit in the bushes. There is also no real precedent for me to base expectations on, this is uncommon enough that I have not had a single doctor, practitioner or body worker who has seen it before. I'm sure it has happened, but perhaps not to someone who is about to go race a 56km and a marathon (albeit not at peak capacity) in 2 weeks.
This month has broken me but only literally. But mostly just bent me, wounded me. Pushed me and stretched my elasticity. For my foot, my heart and for my head, there is no perfect and clear way forward. There will be days of extraordinary pain, there will be doubts, there will be joy, there will be tears. All of it. There will be all of it. In running, we celebrate the middle miles, the hard sloggy miles, we scream "get ugly". We celebrate the ugly in running. Why not the ugly in life? Where is our cheer squad for that? I'm not going to gold plate grit anymore, I'm not going to only wait for the story to be perfect. I'm going to scream and cheer my brains out for anyone and everyone who is knee deep in it. Bending, breaking, rising, and just MF-ing surviving, that to me is true strength.
I have a pink mohawk. It is pretty fun. Before I got it, I thought about it for a long time. Wasn't it too drastic, what if I didn't like it, what if it didn't turn out well, what would people think, blah blah blah. But then I shrugged my shoulders and went for it anyways. And lo and behold, the earth didn't shift beneath my feet, my husband didn't divorce me and my mom simply responded "I am surprised you hadn't done this sooner". In fact, I found that I really loved it.
I just returned home from a 3 week sojurn in Colorado. I was there preparing for the Leadville 100 on August 20th. But that is not going to happen. I knew 3 100 milers in 10 months was ambitious but I was questing for my limits. Limits sought, limits found. I am just thankful that I decided to pull the plug BEFORE I started the race and buried myself so deeply that I might never recover.
Ultrarunning is a hungry beast. Photo by Galen Burrell
I came off of Western States, tired and satisfied. The tired lingered but the ultra culture encourages a more is more/it is never enough mentality which leads up to driving onward in an unrelentless fashion that can be quite unsustainable. Before you are done catching your breathe at the finish line, someone is asking you "what is next?". Because there is no true pinnacle, no one race, no Olympics, there always is the next thing, the next goal waiting for you to chase. But running yourself into oblivion or injury serves no one, proves nothing. I want to run for a long time and sometimes that means remembering that I don't have to do it all now and I don't have to force it. Ultrarunning is a hungry beast, unsatiable, always asking for more.
It is the pink mohawk that has taught me a few things. It is the pink mohawk that has let me change directions, DNS Leadville and feel nothing but calm confidence in my decision. Here is what I have learned/been reminded of/given perspective on:
Impermanence/ Mutability. When I finally decided to get the pink mohawk, the greatest diminisher of fear was realizing that if I didn't like it, I could change it. I could shave it off, I could color it differently. It is a bunch of dead cells hanging on my head, it is not going to last. And so should we see life. Everything will change. Right now, I feel like crap because I have asked my body for too much. So I have to change my goals. That's life. I don't like how I feel right now, so I am changing it by letting it go.
It is a lot less of a big deal than you think. I think we can all get worked up about thinking things matter way more than they actually do. We think people care. But that is just our ego getting all worked up, people are too worried about themselves to be thinking that much about what you do. I thought I was doing something wild and crazy by getting a pink mohawk and as I mentioned above, my mom simply said "I'm just surprised you didn't do this sooner." I could get all worked up thinking that the ultra world will think less of me if I don't run a race, think I should push through to prove something, but honestly, no one is really going to give it much thought at all. The people who really matter support me whether I have straight boring hair or wild and crazy pink hair, same for running.
Who you are is not defined by your hair (or your goals). I didn't get pink hair and become a different person. I didn't opt out of Leadville and become a different one either. I didn't change my values or go back on my principles. Too often in ultrarunning or sport I see goal odyssey, in which people define themselves by their goals. I am not defined by my goals, just as I am not defined by my pink hair. I read an awesome book on my drive home called "The Antidote" by Oliver Burkeman. He suggest you act like a frog: "you should sun yourself on a lily-pad until you get bored; then, when the time is right, you should jump to a new lily-pad and hang out there for a while. Continue this over and over, moving in whatever direction feels right." I pursued my limits this year, sought to see how big I could go. I asked myself what was possible right now. Asked and answered. Time to jump to a different lily-pad, a different goal- whatever feels right. In goal odyssey, you can over pursue your goals. Since I do not believe my goal of running Leadville defines me, I can walk away, knowing at some point in the future I can come back to it.
Effectuation. Effectuation is looking at what you have then seeing what you can do with it. I looked at my short head of hair and insatiable desire to shave my head (a lifelong itch a wanted to scratch) and thought, PINK MOHAWK!!!!! If I look at my current reservoir of resources after finishing Western States 100 and spending the summer traveling, not resting and moving rapidly on to the next goal, I will see that I am very low on physical, mental and emotional resources. Seeing what I have in those departments, I can see that running 100 miles is not something I can do with those reserves. I went to the well and the well was dry. So what I clearly need to do is refill my stores, build up my available resources to expand my potential for what I can do.
Now, I eat, sleep, recover, run when I want, pick new goals when I want. The color of the pink mohawk will fade, will change and I will have a new opportunity for fun self expression. Right now I enjoy it for what it is and I will welcome it when it is time for something new.
Six weeks ago I was in the best shape of my life. Workouts were going great. I was coming off a good training run at Kauai marathon feeling hungry to go after a PR in the low 2:30s at Chicago. Fit as a fiddle and ready to roll.
I was excited and motivated to keep pushing. But then I fell and then I was injured. A month ago, I was still hoping to be able to run on our wedding day. Instead, I had to watch from the sidelines (and shed some tears) about not being able to join my friends for some wedding weekend running. I had to withdraw from Chicago, cancel my trip and miss out on seeing my sister PR in the windy city on her birthday. The last six weeks have been filled with the best of times (getting married!!!) as well as some very rough times (it is not in fact just me that is injured, Nathan has a stress fracture in his foot).
With an injury like mine, there comes a point when you feel like you are no longer just trying to bridge the healthy running with intense cross training and instead are struggling to hold on to your goals. You come to a point where no matter how hard you workout in the pool or on the bike or on the elliptical, that you just don't feel fit anymore. It took me four weeks to get back to running and naturally, I went out of the gate pretty hard with it. The first week it felt blissful to just be back out on the trails again. I felt nervous and tentative about pushing my foot/ankle too far. But that blissful caution wore off pretty quickly with the reality of my upcoming goals. I am slated to do NYC marathon in less than two weeks. Last week I pushed myself like a crazy person and took risks that I might not have if I was simply focused on my healthy return. I was focused on the comeback, not moving forward.
The funny thing about the idea of a comeback is that it is not very forward thinking. It is a focus on getting back to a place of something, in this case fitness. Moving forward means letting go of where you were and focusing on creating something new; better, strong, faster. Because I have a race rapidly approaching, I have had a comeback mentality which ultimately a very short sighted approach. I could ready myself enough to run NYC in two weeks, but I wonder if it is worth it. I struggled really hard to let go of Chicago and am now faced with making the same choice again. I wonder if I will be fit enough to deserve to stand on the line with the elite women. I wonder if I will get dropped quickly and be bringing up the rear of the elite women's start. I wonder if I will wheezy and lumber myself through an embarrassing performance. I wonder if my ankle will flare up or if it will hold steady. I don't know the answers, but I know that I would make different choices if I had no races on the immediate schedule. It is a complex thing to decide whether to come back or move forward.
I want to make the right decision for my health, for my running, for my racing. Ultimately, I simply love to run and I love that my body has allowed me for so long to push it this way. I want to respect it and take care of it so I can do it for a long time.
After Comrades I had fully resolved to not train. I had been training and racing so hard for so long that I was ready for a break. I decided that I would take the rest of June to not train specifically, to enjoy my life (and my birthday) and get rejuvenated. I have run when I felt like it, listened when my body asked for extra long naps and slept in on a Sunday morning.
I haven't taken any real break like this in a while. From the time I started to focus on qualifying for the Olympic Trials in late 2010, I have been in near constant pursuit of the next peak of fitness. And although I haven't burnt out or overtrained in that period of time, I still think, in the long term, burning, burning, burning is not a sustainable strategy. I just want to WANT to run for as long as I am able, and sometimes feeding that want means doing less of it or backing off.
I gave myself the month and I have enjoyed it. I have had accidental double days and plenty of zero days too.
I was not completely satisfied with my race at Comrades. I know my fitness was much better than the day I had and part of me initially after the race wanted to, once again, leverage my fitness for another race. I wanted to prove how fit I was. But I didn't allow myself to pursue another race. I was very resolute before Comrades that I wouldn't simply rush on to the next race and I stuck to it. I am glad I did. There is no race or run or victory or time that can undo my Comrades race. Instead of trying to fill the unsatisfied feeling with something else, I simply let it be. I see that that dissatisfaction is fuel for the fire to come back even stronger and faster. It keeps you hungry. It keeps you pushing your limits. Now that I am starting to train again, I am motivated to reach for new heights.
This past weekend I decided that I would kick off my training as any zaney ultrarunner would do: by running a 50k. The week before Nathan and I had been running on the Flume Trail on my birthday and he said it would be fun to run a 50k together. I thought it would be as well and suggested the Inside Trail Race's Marin Ultra Challenge. I am pretty sure when he suggested it, he didn't mean the following weekend, but I had been pondering the race for quite some time and made a strong pitch.
Heading up Old Springs, mile 30
Photo by Gary Wang
The race itself was low-key and fun. Nathan and I ran with fellow ninja and good friend Peter the whole time and we made quick work of the 33 mile race with nearly 7000 feet of ascent. Going in I thought I would just cruise, but between the three of us, we managed to push the pace for such a stout course. I don't actually think I've ever pushed that hard in a trail race before. It was really fun to run together and play off one another, I would blame Nathan "the Hammer" or Peter "The half-stepper" for the pace but I know I am equally responsible (going up Heather Cut off apparently I got the nickname Devon "Two Switchbacks ahead"). We finished what we started together, even working our way up in to co-4th place (I was first lady from the start) after hammering down Redwood Creek trail in low 7's. Good friends, good fun, good trails, great race.
Photo by Tanford Tahoe
Photo by Tanford Tahoe
All in all, I am very thankful I took a little break from the constant focus and training. I am ready to train, excited to race again and ready to explore my own limits.
This past weekend, including Friday, I had the pleasure of getting some serious trail time in with Nathan and enjoying some of the best the Bay area has to offer in terms of trail running. These runs couldn't have been more different for me: one was pretty good, one was horrible and one was just right (aka awesome! aka a Devon Day!)
Friday trail tempo run with Nathan.
Nathan and I got up super early and headed up to Mountain Home Inn to do a nice 11 mile loop. Nathan wanted to run hard, so out of the gate I was killing myself to lead us at a good pace. The first 27 minutes we ran at a low 6 minute pace, I could handle it but it definitely didn't feel easy. We backed off a bit as we continued to climb up and around the top of Mt. Tam. Clearly my favorite part was popping out above the clouds at West Point Inn and then getting to dive bomb down Nora trail to Matt Davis. Once we were on Matt Davis, I got a bit possessed and started hammering away at a low 5 minute pace for a nice stretch of groomed double track. We covered 11 miles in 1:25 with 1660 feet of climbing. My glute/back felt good, my energy was decent. I was definitely enthused by the run. It helped diminish my trepidation about Saturday's run: The Rapture on Mt. Diablo.
Nathan ready to go with his new Black Diamond poles
Friday was decent, I felt pretty good the rest of the day and got busy on my one weekday non-cooking day. I was hoping Saturday would go well. We planned to run on Mt. Diablo and the last time I ran there, I was worthless. I was pretty good last week about listen to my body, fueling and recovering and generally giving myself a break after flying back from Australia (was that really just a week ago? I actually had to check my calendar!) and all of the craziness of the April and May. I have been feeling off and on worn out pretty constantly for two months and I am well aware that I need to be forgiving and take good care of myself after such a stretch, especially as I begin to think about actual training again. I told myself that I would just see what the run had in store for me on Diablo and respond accordingly and appropriately.
The run definitely had something special in store for me but I can't say I handled it with grace or style. It was an absolutely beautiful day out, not to warm yet and Brett, Nathan and I headed up Burma Road to do a 20-ish mile loop Nathan had mapped out. From the car we immediately went up a super steep grade and my calves cramped up horribly and my achilles felt ouchie. And we were less than 1/4 mile into the run. I felt absolutely drained on top of that and as I continued to power hike, Brett and Nathan became smaller and smaller specks on the never ending climb to the top. I wanted to keep up, I wanted to feel good and I couldn't even make a feeble effort from the beginning. I got really down on myself, felt sorry for myself and started to mentally talk down to myself a lot. So much for forgiving and taking care of myself. As I continued to climb, my stomach started to act up and it felt like I had a bowling ball flopping around in there- uncomfortable to say the least. Brett and Nathan patiently waited for me at a turn and I apologized for holding them up. I contemplated what to do but was being stubborn and said I would continue on the planned route (despite not "needing" the miles). The route now took us downhill steeply, which inevitably would lead to another very stout climb up to Eagle Peak.
As I ran downhill, my energy left me, my stomach was flopping around and I couldn't even keep pace running downhill which is my specialty. Brett and Nathan were pulling away and I stopped, yelled, "I am turning around" and did an about face to go back up the hill. I was a big falling apart mess and not my proudest moment. I couldn't handle my emotions well for some reason and I really appreciated that Nathan was so comforting and Brett was so understanding. We all have bad runs, I just need to not fall apart when they happen. I think sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to keep up or run well when I am with others. Having a crap run by yourself is one thing, no one is effected by it, but when you are with others, its harder not to be hard on yourself. At least for me. I am working on it. This was a lesson that I am not quite there yet. I am not sure where along the line I picked up this response (it never happens in a race or when I run by myself) but I am certainly not enthused by it. But like I said, I am working on it.
After splitting up with the boys, I kept climbing up to the summit of Mt. Diablo, cashed in 3500 feet and then got to descend for what seemed like eternity. When I got back to the car I was completely wiped out. I drank a half serving of Ultragen with coconut water, changed my clothes and pretty much passed out in the back seat. Or at least I wished I was. When the guys got back, I was bonking pretty bad and spent the majority of the car ride back loopy to do much more than stare out the window. Yes, I pretty much had a very winning day all around. At least, the day passed and I was still alive (it was after all the rapture) and could try again in the morning.
I still had managed to cover 15+ miles with 3500 feet of climbing in what seemed to be a very long time. And I ran into lots and lots of snakes.
I was a bit nervous for my run on Sunday but decided to be more resolute about accepting whatever I felt and whatever came up. I knew Nathan was going to do about 20 miles, so I aimed for a 15 mile loop out of Mountain Home Inn where we parked the car. It was a cool morning as we set off up Mt. Tam. I pretty much said, "see ya, have a good run" to Nathan before we left the parking lot, thinking he might want to take it out hard. Instead he said he'd like to run together for a while, so I figured I would just settle into whatever pace felt good and say goodbye whenever he was ready to take off. Since we had run counter-clockwise on Tam on Friday, we headed clockwise up Matt Davis which is very runnable and only a slight uphill.
I felt like a completely different person. I had energy, I had spring in my step, I had speed and no soreness. I glided along the trail and threw down a pretty fast start. We made it to the climb that goes 1 mile up to Rock Springs. Before we had started running, I had set a goal to run up this trail from bottom to top. I usually don't make it all the way up. But I did it. I got to the top and exclaimed, "yeah I made my goal". I was feeling good and Nathan suggested I continue on a bit farther with him instead of taking my turn onto Ben Stein. I figured I was feeling good and a few extra miles would be fun. I knew I would NOT be going the full distance with him since I had no desire to drop down cataract only to turn right around and do the steep climb back up to Northside. We jammed along and finally I took my turn up High Marsh trail which I had only been on once before and started flying along, really feeling good.
Goldilocks and the good view.
I really liked High Marsh trail and I managed to find my way back over to the Northside trail which is one of my absolute favorites on Mt. Tam. No mountainbikes are allowed and it is not near any parking or close trailhead, so it tends to be pretty empty. I zoomed along, rocking out to my music and picked up speed with the sun shining down on me. I had a geeky smile on my face I am sure. I hit popped onto the fireroads and flew back to the car, passing other runners and taking the time to make huge two foot leaping jumps into puddles along the way. It was refreshing. I just played and laughed and had fun. I let go of the previous day and remembered that this kind of moment was what I do what I do for. Its not about how fast or far its about how fun and beautiful. I definitely was having fun. I just kept picking up speed and came squealing in on two wheels back into the parking lot; 18.5 miles in 2:30 with 2,000 feet of ascent. It was awesome.
Speed on the High Marsh Trail
Since the craziness of races, work and sleeping at altitude began at the beginning of April, I have been doing my best to navigate all the things that have come up. Some days I am outrageously successful, some days there is much room for improvement. I am feeling, ultimately, that I have come out the other side in one piece and with the wheels still on. I am looking now towards the beginnings of training (transitioning back to real structured training-slowly!), a fun month of pacing gigs and many more great days out on the trails doing what I love to do.
April's "triple crown" of achieving my Olympic Trials Qualifier, winning the 100k National Championship and setting a CR & PR, and then 9 days later setting the FKT with Krissy at the R2R2R show my capacity to recover quickly and be ready to roll. My crazy race month in April was not by design, in fact, the only thing I had planned (at the beginning of the year) to run in April was R2R2R. LA came about after I didn't make the standard at Houston in January and Mad City came about because of the discovery that my spot on the 100k National Team was tenuous at best (as one of my 'A' goals for the year was competing at worlds). I knew as these plans all manifested themselves that I would be extremely lucky to get through all of these events unscathed. I told myself that I would focus on recovery, recovery, recovery. After LA, I did a good job basking in my success but was also able to put in some good 70-80 mile weeks between it and Mad City. After Mad City, I barely had time to land on the ground and repack my bag before I was off to Utah/Arizona for R2R2R. I don't think I even celebrated that victory as much as I should. My "recovery" was non-existent for the most part as between Mad City and R2R2R I traveled, worked my busiest week yet as a chef, slept at an even higher altitude and ran about 30 miles for the week. I was very tired for R2R2R and even more tired after the 42 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing. However, by the time I got back to SF, after a good massage and a few easy miles with friends, I was feeling much better. I even managed a fast 14 mile run on Saturday (the 4th day after R2R2R) with Nathan before heading up to Bodega Bay for some family time. I ran 70+ total miles for the week and tried to get back into recovery mentality. It was essential I do as I asked a great deal of my body in April and before I can even stop to take a breathe, I am on my way to my next race, leaving on Sunday for Australia and the North Face 100k which is on May 14th.
I say I tried to get back into recovery mentality because for some reason last week, I had a hard time pushing out the "I should be training" mentality. Because of all the racing, I don't feel like I've been doing a whole lot of running or had a whole bunch of feel good time in my body and for some reason, I figured a good week of training would be the cure for that. Why I thought this is beyond me. I didn't go too crazy, but planned a good 90-95 miles for myself for the week. Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty light, Thursday was our normal morning ninja run and Friday I did a double plus a gym workout= 19 miles and 1 hour of weights. So by the time I woke up on Saturday, I was worked. I was ready to go back to bed before I even got out of it. My body didn't hurt (except my hamstrings from the previous days squats) but I was all over tired.
Look a bobcat.
Or in my case, oh look, an excuse to stop while going up a steep hill!
I planned to get out with Nathan and run with him for the first 7-10, then continue on my own for a total of 25 miles. I thought I'd get a good 45 mile weekend in and that would give me a little confidence booster for NF100k (i.e. trail time confidence). The majority of the first few miles went like this: we run, we get to a hill, I start walking, very slowly and wishing I were dead.
Nathan and I started discussing just exactly what I was playing at with the my training schedule for this week (my coach has this time unstructured as I should be chilling out not training per se). I came to the obvious conclusion ultimately that I am way too hard on myself and just because my muscles/bones feel good doesn't mean that I can just jump back on the horse and keep going full throttle. This past month has been super taxing. This past month has been super amazing and rich and full of things to celebrate. And I should celebrate them and praise myself, not push myself until I do break. I have been very lucky to make it through the past month healthy and that is something I definitely need to be mindful of.
Needlesstosay, I decided to cut my run short. And it sucked, most of the way. I was not my best runner ever, I was tired worn out Devon (hence the death becomes her photos). I just need to cut myself a break which I use to be good at doing but haven't done in a while. I cut my run short on Saturday and changed my run plan for Sunday. I ate a half of my favorite kind of gluten free carrot cupcake to celebrate all I've accomplished (I usually don't have them except after particularly hard long run efforts or races & hadn't had one since last summer!). I refocused my energy on recovering. I am in recovery. I should be. I need to be.
When it comes down to it, the only way I can make it through my next challenge (NF100k) is not by training more but by maximizing how recovered I can get. I need to fuel myself, repair my body and rest, rest, rest. I am such a big proponent of rest (I take off one day a week) that it is funny to me how hard I find it to really rest or chill out sometimes. Ultimately, the changes I made in the weekend's run plans made the week an ideal maintenance week for me- about 80 miles. My run on Sunday was fast and felt really good, so I know that I am not too far gone. But Saturday's run reminded me not to push myself too far.
I know I am not invincible. I never intended to have the month that I have had. I don't want to become one of those people that gets sucked into chasing that high or racing too much. Instead, I want to be the type of person who cuts myself a break, rewards my good work and doesn't engage in self-defeating behavior or thought processes. I cannot continue to be the runner I am if I blindly press forward in haste, instead I must be patient, I must take a step back and I must take time to celebrate my accomplishments/ give myself credit for all I do. I think I am on the right track.
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.